Happy Monday, everyone! Since you were probably up late watching the Super Bowl -- and, like me, New Girl! -- (and may have overserved yourself a bit with either food or bev... or both), I thought I'd try to brighten your day with a little Before & After action.
Our apartment has what I believe would be called a "dining alcove" or "breakfast nook" by real estate professionals. When we moved in, we made an executive decision not to use the space for dining purposes because you would basically be looking straight into the dated (and inevitably always messy) kitchen, and the space also isn't large enough for the number of people we would want to seat for gatherings. We like to entertain and, before our current apartment, had never lived in an apartment large enough to allow for a big table; and we also have always liked the open layout concept (especially when you have limited space) because it can feel relaxed and like less of a production when you entertain (e.g. let's start with drinks and cheese in the living area, move over to the dining area for dinner and then back to the living area to hang out post-dinner). So we were excited to turn our new living room into a living/dining room and fulfill our dream of having a big extendable farm table at one end of it (after much searching, we ended up with the Cortona table from Pottery Barn).
Because of this, though, the "alcove" became a sort of no man's land of random storage and nothingness. We would have people over for dinner, make our dining table look awesome, and then realize as we all sat down for dinner that the alcove provided a serious eye sore that detracted from the dining experience (I'm sure our guests didn't care, but I could think of nothing else!). The alcove desperately needed an upgrade, and after two years of living with the no man's land, we finally got to give it a makeover.
The Story of Awkward to Awesome
Every room needs at least one antique or vintage piece to bring it to life. And our alcove was begging to be brought to life. My parents, as a dual graduation gift for Matt and me, offered to get us a nice piece of furniture -- specifically an antique -- for our apartment, because they thought it would be a lasting ode to what we had accomplished and also would be something that we could not afford ourselves. Obviously, this excited us very much.
When I was in Kansas City last winter, my mom brought me to our friend Scott Lindsay's phenomenally amazing townhouse in midtown Kansas City. The townhouse is in a historic district of Kansas City and is truly one of the most gorgeous homes I've ever seen. Scott is a beyond talented antiques dealer and interior designer who is that type of wonderfully gracious old school charmer who refuses to let you leave an appointment without sitting down for tea (served in gorgeous china) with delicate cookies from André's, a delicious Swiss pastry shop in Kansas City. (Photo to left is of Scott and me at my wedding - isn't he adorable? Photo credit: Isaac Alongi.)
Scott sells out of one of the apartments in his townhouse, and he spent literally hours with me walking through the space, showing me each piece and allowing me to ask every question that came to mind. I love to know the story of an antique - where did it come from, how was it made, what was it used for originally, does it have any special meaning, how did you come across it, etc. etc. If you end up getting to have it in your home, its history adds so much to the story of your home and your décor... and you.
Scott's collection is seriously museum quality, and he has impeccable taste. I left our get-together wanting basically everything I saw, but there was one piece in particular that I couldn't stop thinking about. My mom had originally wanted me to see a Provençal cherry armoire from the 1780s (you know my family and our armoires), which I did really like, but I was concerned that it would be too tall for our "barely legal" 8.8' ceilings (which are even shorter in the "alcove"). Instead I zeroed in on a Florentine buffet from the late 17th century (Scott says circa 1680-1700). It was ornate, but masculine enough that I thought Matt would like it (I was right - he loves it), with a carved crest and a carved sort of Boticelli-esque lady. It is a looming piece -- a bit oversized -- but very friendly and welcoming. It has an incredible amount of storage -- and you know I like my furniture to be useful. It is just all around cool and the kind of piece that needs its own room, so when I saw it, I could picture it instantly in our awkward alcove area.
Getting the piece from KC to NYC is something I never want to discuss. Let's just say that it involved me, in my boot, standing on the sidewalk, with a massive crate, in the rain, and that I may have verbally assaulted via phone the owner of the local UPS store (Riaz from UPS Store 5899, if you're curious) to the point that I can never ship something from there without using a fake name and address. I reserve my verbal assaults for only those that are truly deserving, so you can draw your own conclusions about Riaz from UPS Store 5899 and his inability to get the contents of said crate from the sidewalk to my apartment. But once we got the buffet up to our apartment and in its new home, our buffet felt right at home and my anger with Riaz from UPS Store 5899 melted away. I just felt bad that our 325 year old addition to the family had such a rough trip to the Big Apple. But I assure you the buffet is very happy now. I honestly feel like hugging it sometimes (and maybe I actually have), I love it so much. Its name, like many oversized things I love, is Buddy. Not terribly Italian, but he's an international fellow, you see - and anyway, Buddy is a New Yorker now. Every morning, while I'm waiting for the Keurig to make my coffee, Buddy gets a little hello and a pat.
Before & After!
We moved the books from the bookcase to the window sill to the left (as you might remember having read here), and moved the bookcase to our bedroom. I also had fun "outfitting" the top of the buffet with a mix of high and low things that mean something to us and tie the piece in with the rest of the apartment. That champagne poster was just too annoying to move (we did this when I was in a boot last summer and Matt was too busy studying for the bar to "deal" with it), so we worked with the off-centered nature of the poster (and the fact that it looks like it's sitting on the buffet) and did some layered art instead.
On the inside, we've put every piece of china and serveware imaginable that we received as wedding gifts, and then some. It's huge and perfect for storage of such things, and makes the piece feel even more meaningful.
A quick overview of what we have on top of our awesome buffet (in case you're curious). A lot of the items are things I purchased a long time ago or that we received as wedding gifts, so they're not readily available. But if there's anything you love, let me know and I can help you find something similar.
1. Anthropologie "gaggle of geese" measuring cups (no longer sold online).
2. William Yeoward decanter (wedding gift).
3. Annalisa Barelli "Lullaby Dreams" print. Annalisa is one of my best and oldest friends and an INCREDIBLE artist. She gave me this print for my 30th birthday this year, and I immediately had it framed and just ADORE it with all my heart. I will be blogging much more about her soon!
4. Poster from Allposters.com, which I bought at some point during my first post-college year. If you get a poster with extra matting, it can elevate some so-so to a bigger statement.
5. A watercolor by me! Matt had it framed for me with white matting and gilded frame. Want something like this? CONTACT ME!
6. Waylande Gregory Large Chubby Bowl, $695. We got ours at Gump's in San Francisco, but I can't find the exact one online anywhere. Here is a similar one from Michael C. Fina.
7. Pottery Barn tray. This was a wedding gift, and I can't find anything like it online right now!
8. Varga Captiva Green Wine Goblet, $230 each. These are probably the fanciest thing we own (again, a blend of wedding gifts) and I'm afraid to actually use them, but they sure are pretty to look at!
9. Waterford Decanter (wedding gift!).
And that is my Before & After of our awkward alcove made awesome! What do you think? Do you have any spaces in need of upgrades or a new "Buddy"?
Happy Monday and hope you have a fabulous week!
It's Day Two of Kate's Favorite Things, and today I've moved from home gadgetry to kitchen fixins.
We tend not to buy ourselves items for the kitchen, but we certainly need them. Giving whimsical kitchen accessories is a nice way to give something fun while also giving something practical. Below is a list of some of my favorite things, some things I'm giving this year, and a few things I'd love to have. They're great for people who love to cook... for people who wish they liked to cook a bit more than they actually do... and for people who just generally, you know, use a kitchen from time to time.
Read on for some ideas at all types of price points. Again... these are great gifts for others... and also for yourself!
Kate's Favorite Things - Kitchen Edition!
Alma Mater Tervis Cup, $13 for 16 oz, $17 for 24 oz
I gave Matt some NYU Law Tervis cups last year for Christmas and personalized them with his name (it seems strange for a gift, but when you buy two and personalize them, the cost can add up - Matt is also very difficult to shop for and appreciates function and practicality over anything else). Glasses that I can't shatter on our bedside table in the middle of the night seem pretty practical to me, and over time, I've realized these Tervis cups were more a gift to me than to Matt.
Tervis cups are awesome. They're big, indestructible and dishwasher safe. I use mine for water or for the fruits of my Sodastream labor. Icy cold and refreshing.
The cups come in all shapes and sizes. I have the 16 oz. and am planning to procure the 24 oz. in the near future. As of last year, Tervis didn't sell Dartmouth branded cups, so I am pretty excited right about now about this Big D addition. There are all sorts of ways you can order a Tervis cup, but the collegiate branding is my favorite. I also like the classic clear and colorful options. Clean, simple, and durable.
Ginormous Coffee Mugs, ~$15.00, from dartmouthcoop.com (amongst other places)
You know what I like with my Keurig machine in the morning? A ginormous coffee mug to hold my coffee. Any big coffee mug is great, but I love a good alma matter nod every now and then, and a coffee mug is a great way to show your spirit and also claim your cup. Like all the gifts listed here, coffee mugs are something I don't normally buy for myself, but they are also strangely personal: The cup has to have the right look and feel, you know? Something that makes you think, I'm not happy to be out of bed, but at least I can drink coffee out of this awesome mug.
I splurged on two of these Dartmouth Brazo Mugs, $14.99, when I was up in the Hanover area over the summer (one for Matt and one for me) and wish I'd gotten two more so I would never wake up to find that yesterday's mugs were still in the dirty dishwasher. They're awesomely big (18 oz.), so they can hold a healthy pour of milk on top of your largest Keurig coffee cup button brew, but they're not so wide (like café au lait mugs) that you can't hold the cup with one hand. This Juliska mug, $30, is a close second.
Most college and university bookstores sell some version of coffee mugs, and I always think a mug is a nice thing to have around the house or the office. Sports teams and personalized mugs are also a great option. And I am also on occasion a fan of moderately humorous mugs, like these grammatically correct mugs for grammar freaks.
Good Home Co. Lavender Hand Soap, $16.00, from goodhomestore.com
This soap smells amazingly pure (and is totally organic). My mother-in-law gave it to us, and we have it next to the sink. After doing the dishes, it's a delight to wash your hands in this lovely lavender scent. All of the Good Home Co. products are great, but this one is my favorite. I also like to keep the lavender surface cleaner, $18.00, around so I can wipe down the counters whenever they need a swipe of cleanliness (and every evening).
Le Creuset Stoneware Spoon Rest, $22, from Williams Sonoma
Someone in my family might be receiving this for Christmas after mentioning it several times, and I've since realized that it's a truly excellent gift to give and receive...because who buys themselves a spoon rest? And how delightful is it to have one?
If the recipient already has Le Creuset cookware, go ahead and match the color! If not, go wild or stay safe depending on the recipient's personality. FYI, "flame" (orange) is the "signature" color (my pots and pans are flame, and it's a very classic color), and the red is also a safe bet for a kitchen.
Le Creuset Oven Mitt, $15
I'm having a bit of a love affair with Le Creuset at the moment (triggered by someone's desire for a spoon rest, which snowballed into a full blown assessment of everything that Le Creuset makes - and everything they make is very good, so my list grew quickly). Oven mitts -- good oven mitts, that is -- are hard to come by and should be acquired when found. I gave my mom oven mitts for Mother's Day last year from Williams Sonoma and while she was pleased (they were simply a replacement of what she already owned), she said that the quality isn't as good as it used to be. Le Creuset knows bakeware, and thus I feel they know how to protect your skin as you handle their hot bakeware. Hence the addition of an oven mitt to my favorite kitchen things list. Get two. People tend to use two hands when they handle heavy, hot things. And throw in a few potholders while you're at it. What color? Doesn't matter. I of course love the flame (orange has long been one of my favorite colors, and I hear orange is the new black), but the black is pretty great as well. I've never seen a black oven mitt before, and now I think I really want a set of them. It feels chic.
Le Creuset Kitchen Towels - Set of 3, $25 (down from $30) at zappos.com
While we're on the subject of great kitchen necessities... and my obsessions Le Creuset... and my obsession with orange things... let's take a quick gander at these fabulous towels. Everyone could use a few more kitchen towels, and who wants to buy them for themselves? $25 for 3 towels? In flame orange? Done. Add in some other Le Creuset accessories, and you're set.
Le Creuset Large Utensil Crock, $29.99, from zappos.com
We registered for this on a whim (actually I forced the registering for it, Matt argued with me), but it's turned out to be one of our favorite items in the kitchen. We have the red, but all of the colors are great (I'm pretty smitten with the white). It's perfect to keep next to the stove to hold all of your cooking utensils.
If your recipient doesn't have any utensils at all, then pop for the Le Creuset Revolution™ 6-Piece Utensil Set, $85. White, Flame and Marseille are my favorites.
Juliska Thread & Berry Ramekin, $15, from juliska.com (but buy at least two!)
I have four of these and wish I had about 15 more. They're so useful for everything, food or otherwise - small servings of food for yourself, dips and whatnot for groups of people, and things like sugar packets by the Keurig. Really, anything. Stinge not and buy a few -- your recipient will thank you.
This Quotidien Collection ramekin, $12, is pretty great too.
Measuring Cubs, $36, from Anthropologie
I mean, there are no words. These are just too darn cute for words!
They are hand-wash only, which is a downer, but they're so cute I think I just don't care (and I care very much about things being able to go in the dishwasher). They have a bit of a vintage feel, but also feel modern in their simplicity; and they also remind me of the Pillsbury Doughboy (vintage and modern in his own right).
Get these for someone who finds regular measuring spoons a bit boring.
Le Creuset Heritage Deluxe Round Trivet, 9", $65 from Williams Sonoma
Trivets are one of those things that you never think to buy for yourself and that you then realize you desperately need when you're about to serve something piping hot and just out of the oven. Give the gift of planning ahead with a trivet like this fabulous one from Le Creuset. It comes in a variety of colors, but I'm currently digging the Aubergine (and of course my favorite Flame). With a trivet, you can either try to match the color to the recipient's cookwear or go for something entirely out there... because, why not go there when you can?
Ceramic Cookie Jars from Anthropologie, $68-$128
Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? Something tells me this guilty little bow-tied guy could venture a guess or two. You don't need to be a cookie baker or Cookie Monster to want to have this Pedigreed Cookie Jar, Bulldog, $98, in your kitchen. I haven't seen a cookie jar actually used for cookies in maybe 20 years, but I love a good cookie jar with great personality. And this little guy is just brimming with personality. He's also just begging to be named something like Humphrey or Sir Grumperton... or Sir Humphrey Grumperton...
Sir Humphrey Grumperton could hold any number of things, like k-cups for your Keurig (he won't judge how many cookies you eat -- in fact, he'd appreciate if you'd share a few with him too -- and he certainly won't judge how much coffee you drink) or a boatload of loose change or dog treats for your pooch. His neutral coloring of whites, tans and greys with shots of blue and red will work in a variety of kitchen color schemes. Just make sure the recipient's tongue is located somewhat near their cheek.
If you don't want your gift recipient to feel a little bit sorry for their new cookie jar (as Sir Humphrey Grumperton is wont to do), then perhaps a prim and proper cookie jar is the way to go. This Pedigreed Cookie Jar, Spaniel, $128, is a pretty phenomenal knockoff of antique Staffordshire figurines like this Delightful Pair of 19th Century Staffordshire Pottery Dogs, $3,058.00 (left) (I mean, seriously, look at that!). And it serves the extra purpose of holding things. A thing that holds other things? You know I'll like it. And if your gift recipient is a bit of a traditionalist who likes a touch of whimsy in the kitchen, then they'll like it too.
Juliska Dessert Plate Set (4), $168, from juliska.com (each plate individually sold for $42)
Matt and I use these as everyday dinner plates rather than dessert plates (they're 9.5" wide!), and we save our dinner plates for larger occasions. I just love the detailing on these. They make every meal seem special, even if it's seamless.com delivery (which it often is). You can buy these as a set or choose certain plates individually. We have four of the Villandry collection plate and two of the Gardens of Heligan plate (my secret favorite), but they're all really beautiful. Choose one or choose the set. You can't lose, and your recipient will be very happy.
Simon Pearce Hartland Candlestick Set - S, $215.00
These aren't totally a kitchen item, but they're certainly related - especially if you have a breakfast nook or eat-in kitchen. We received this candlestick set from Simon Pearce as a wedding gift (off-registry!), and we were totally thrilled. I love getting off-registry gifts because, when they're right, they're memorable and and soo something you would have registered for if you'd thought of it. This is one such example. I have them on our dining room table and just love looking at them. They're a perfect combination of casual and elegant and go great with our Juliska dinnerware when we have dinner parties and want everything to be nice but not formal. They're also just great for an everyday look for the table (whether you use the table often or not). Bonus? Simon Pearce customer service is just delightful. One of the candlesticks shattered recently after a taper burned down too close to the glass (had I known that could happen, surely I wouldn't have let it burn down so far), and customer service replaced my broken candlestick with a new one - and told me never to play with fire again.
Feeling inspired??? I certainly am. Now get cooking!
I am an artist/designer and former financial professional with a background in comparative literature, business and design. I live in New York with my overworked lawyer husband and my two boys Michael and Theo and spend much of my free time dreaming about how to enhance the aesthetics of our little world. I am endlessly inspired and always in search of something new. This is a blog about my search, my inspiration and things I just really, really like or want.