Ladies and gents, happiest of hump days! I hope you're surviving this yet another snowstorm with warmth and good cheer. I am certainly feeling cheery. Why? BECAUSE MY CISCO BROTHERS CHAIRS HAVE ARRIVED!
Yesterday, my impulse purchase Cisco Brothers Cordova chairs ARRIVED in plastic wrapped style, and it was magical! In fact, I am sitting in one as we speak (and it is seriously comfortable). Let me tell you all the exciting details, which also contain tips for your own furniture procurement. Ready?
The move was super easy -- much easier than expected -- and the movers were fabulous (as was my amazing super). I would totally recommend the movers to anyone doing small, local one-off moves (and I'm sure they could do big moves too). I found them on Yelp (I googled "man with van" and then selected the "man with van" with the best ratings and reviews). The winners were NYcityVan Man With A Van & Moving. They had a 4.5 star rating out of 211 raters, which seemed like a good bet to me. I called them, and I also contacted another moving company called Intense Movers who almost exactly the same ratings (seriously: 212 raters and 4.5 star rating) and were also really nice (had NYcityVan not been available, I would have used Intense Movers and probably been very happy). I ended up with NYcityVan because they were the first to respond to me (early bird gets the worm!), were super responsive throughout the appointment set up (Renee, the beyond friendly email corresponder, and I are basically BFF now) and also had the most reasonable rate (a flat $100). I was extremely worried that the chairs would not fit into the elevator or into my doorway, but the movers deftly choreographed the chairs around difficult corners (without hurting anything) and had them in the apartment in no time. The movers, Kellan and Gavin, were in and out of my apartment building in less than 15 minutes. It was brilliant. They charged a flat $100 for the move -- Morningside Heights to UES -- which I thought was completely reasonable, and I was so excited that the chairs had not only arrived but gotten INTO my apartment, that I totally over-tipped, but better to make someone's day, right? In my mind, I was going to give 20%, or $20, but then with the two guys standing there, I realized they each should probably get $20, and then I thought why not give them $25 each... so suddenly, I'd tipped 50% and couldn't backtrack. Whoops. Excitement can do that to you, I guess. But even at $150 for the full move, plus the $150 for each chair, I came out spending $450 for $5,000 worth of upholstery (not including taxes and shipping) and feel pretty darn good about the investment.
The chairs are big and super comfortable, and they're a slight off-white, almost beige color and slipcovered, which is a good thing when it comes to delaying the visibility of the inevitable stain. My hubby was in Boston last night for work, so I heated up some leftover chili that he'd made for the Super Bowl (Ina Garten's chicken chili - it is DELICIOUS), and naturally (because I am an adult and can make my own poor choices, and because I was alone and there was no one around to scold me) I wanted to eat my messy meal in the new pristine chair whilst enjoying an episode of Seinfeld. Hilariously (I'm sure to no one but me), it was the Seinfeld ("The Reverse Peephole") where the gang go in on a massage chair for Joe Mayo that George got "a deal" on and the chair accidentally gets delivered to George's apartment, and it's so comfortable that he doesn't want to give it up (I thought it was a fitting topic given my chair delivery and my compulsion to eat in the chair even though I knew it was wrong). The episode also involves so many of my favorite Seinfeld story lines: Puddy and the fur coat; Puddy and the 8-ball coat; George's exploding wallet; Jerry's European carryall; Joe Mayo's ridiculous "assignments" given to people at his parties... the list goes on. (I recommend watching "The Reverse Peephole" as soon as possible and laughing out loud, as I did -- it's good for your health!). Anyway, the moral of the story is that 1) I did not spill chili on my new chairs; but 2) literally within hours of the chairs' arrival, I was so tempted to eat a bowl of goopy, spicy, tomato-based food while laughing out loud at a Seinfeld episode -- alone -- in the chair that I could have spilled chili on my new chairs. It reminds me a little of those Sprint commercials with James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell: "I probably won't... but I might!" I probably will spill... but I might not! And that is why I'm glad they're slightly beige and machine washable.
I've included a few photos of the chairs. 1) The photos are taken at night (I'm sorry); and 2) the new chairs highlight just how horrendous our sofa's condition is in, so I've tried to artfully exclude it from these photos, but it unfortunately is just, you know, there all of the time. Just... really.... there. One of these days, we'll get a sofa that complements our new awesome chairs, but until then, we'll just enjoy what we have!
Tips for Craigslist Shopping
I saw on Apartment Therapy yesterday a great list of tips for saving time on your Craigslist purchase (5 Questions to Ask Before You Pick Up Your Craigslist Score), which I thought was a very useful list (I am automatically turned off by a seller who doesn't list the dimensions of the item they're trying to sell or who are greedily asking for more than the item is worth). I hit Craigslist gold when I found my sellers, and all 5 questions were essentially answered for me before I even had to ask them, but you should make sure to do your homework before trekking off to an unknown person's apartment, wasting your time and risking your safety. The list doesn't mention safety, but it is key, and you should know the neighborhood you're going to -- better yet, look the building up (sounds crazy, but I'd rather be crazy than dead) -- tell someone you're going, bring someone if you can, etc. 95% of my experiences on Craigslist have been positive (and those that weren't completely positive weren't necessarily negative, just a little "off"), but it always pays to be safe. I went alone to look at the Cisco chairs, which I will admit was risky, but I had determined based on the apartment address, the quality of the item being sold, and the seller's communication with me that is was a safe environment (she scolded me when I got there -- especially because I was extra vulnerable with a crutch -- and asked if my mother would approve - it was absolutely perfect and I felt instantly at ease).
After getting over the safety hurdle, you have to get over the cost hurdle. I always prefer when sellers price their items so low that I would feel guilty negotiating. I don't like when they're high and then you need to do the negotiation dance: ok, I'll offer half, then meet you in the middle, etc. After you secure cost, one very key thing is to ensure that you have first dibs on a piece if you schlep all the way to the seller's house. My seller told me that others were interested in the chairs, but she promised that if I came and wanted them, I had first dibs. That made the semi-pricey cab ride worth it in the end. I knew without seeing the chairs that I wanted them -- and I all but told the seller this over email (she very graciously accepted all of my exclamation points and said that her daughter too says "obsessed") -- but I wanted to meet her and confirm the chairs were what I expected them to be. In addition to the chairs being just perfection, I got to meet a super lovely couple and see their beyond gorgeous home. They were sad to see the chairs go, and I told them they could come visit them on the other side of the park whenever they wanted. This prompted them to ask if I'd like to meet their dog (they must have sensed I love dogs -- especially big ones) who was just the sweetest German Shepard ever. So, because I asked those 5 key questions and also ensured my safety, I got to get two Cisco chairs, meet a lovely couple, see their gorgeous home and hug a sweet German Shepard? It was an all around win.
I've encountered sellers who are very transactional and do not want to communicate much and sellers who want to get to know their buyer because either they love the furniture they're selling and want it to go to a happy home or because they like human interaction. Both methods work; you just have to figure out what you're working with -- and work it. How to work it? Some people try to play it cool; I prefer to lean in and make it clear I want the item more than anyone else does. It usually works. And then you're happy. And then it's all worth it.
Happy Wednesday, and Happy Craigslist Hunting!
I know I said I would write about entryways all week, but my week suddenly became consumed with a Craigslist purchase and now I can think of nothing else. Entryways will have to wait.
Here's the deal: At night, when I should be starting my bedtime routine, I like to canvas the Craigslist furniture ads. It's a little obsessive. Definitely compulsive. And I'm sure it's pretty creepy. Let's just call it meditative.
The thing is. Sometimes after digging through that giant haystack of mundane Ikea crappola, you actually, out of nowhere, manage to find the needle. And then you're faced with the question -- always the late night one, the one where you should be turning off the light and going to bed, but instead, you're thinking about that needle you just found: If you had one shot, one opportunity... would you capture it or let it slip away?
One such opportunity presented itself to me earlier this week, during my ritualistic evening perusal of search term: "chair." I can't even recall why I was looking, but then out of nowhere, I saw it: "Linen Sofa & 2 Club Chairs by Cisco Furniture - $600 (Upper West Side)."
CISCO FURNITURE? As in CISCO BROTHERS? This does not happen on Craigslist. It never happens on Craigslist!
You likely have not heard of Cisco Brothers. Before last June, I hadn't either. But then, as I do with things, I became obsessed. Matt's parents super kindly offered to buy us a new sofa as a dual graduation gift when we graduated from our respective institutions last spring, and when we started looking, we found a cool sofa we liked out at a home décor store in the Hamptons. It was the Cisco Brothers Cordova sofa (which I did not know at the time, but after much obsessive googling, I figured this out). We never ended up pulling the trigger, partially because there's the fear that everything is marked up in the Hamptons, but we never stopped thinking about it. I researched the company more and fell more in love with it - L.A. based, everything's made in the USA, everything's organic. It's just all around awesomeness. It's also horrifically expensive (as truly great upholstery is).
When we were on vacation in California, we made sure to stop at the flagship store in L.A. and once again committed to the idea of buying a Cisco Brothers sofa. This time, we fell in love with the Hayden Deluxe Sofa (and if all goes well, maybe one day we'll have it, shrunk down to 90"), but still, we never forgot the Cordova.
So imagine how I felt when I saw the CORDOVA on CRAIGSLIST. A SOFA. And TWO CHAIRS. All for $600??? HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS FABULOUS. I emailed the seller faster than you can say Cisco (and she emailed back faster than I could have imagined) and found out that the sofa had already been sold, but the chairs were available. So this is where the opportunity thing comes into play: we don't need two new club chairs. We need a new sofa. And we would like a new club chair and perhaps a smaller chair to complement it. Two club chairs is possibly too big for our living room (it's only 12 feet wide), but when presented with two chairs that you love, that retail for, like, $2,500 each, that are being given to you for $150 each (by my calculations that's a 94% discount), it's the difference between an extremely bad case of buyer's remorse and an extremely bad case of saver's remorse. And who wants to suffer from saver's remorse? Not I, said the fly. And so I took the leap of faith and bought the chairs (the seller and her husband, by the way, were just the loveliest people ever).
Below is a mock up of what our living room might eventually look like with the chairs and if we get the Hayden sofa. The painting and lamps, and some of the pillows, are things we already own, so I often play around with different furniture looks and colors using what we already have to get a sense for what works and what doesn't. I think this works! Though the pillows may need to change.
The chairs are going to be delivered at some point next week. I am totally excited and totally stressed. The chairs are quite large: 37"w x 32"h x 42"d, and our current elevator (our regular one is being serviced) is quite tiny. The door opening is 29" and then the interior space is 40"w x 34"d. Then you get to our tiny door, which is only 28" (and that's stretching it). So I'm moderately aware of how poorly this could all go down. But when you have an opportunity, you have to seize it, right? I'm hopeful. And trying to think positive! Thinking positive is a good thing! And I am just hours away (hopefully) from sitting on two down filled Cisco Brothers Cordova chairs!
Happy anticipating! Happy Craigslist scouring!
There are two things I learned very quickly upon moving to New York in 2006: when you live in an apartment the size of a postage stamp, armoires serve as excellent storage/hiders of things (they work great in large houses too); and, when you have a limited income/budget, Craigslist is an excellent source for finding said armoires and other delightful furniture at extremely reasonable prices.
I started this post with the intention of just focusing on armoires (there are, after all, billions of armoires out there that can be acquired via a variety of different vendors), but I very quickly realized that my love of armoires is very closely linked to my love of Craigslist. I love armoires, and I love Craigslist. Armoires, and in particular armoires purchased via the wild world of Craigslist, have made my life more beautiful, efficient, and organized (and I'm not going to lie... the Craigslist part is pretty exciting). Armoires allow you to have the illusion of cleanliness and sophistication while hiding a big ol' mess behind those gorgeous hardwood doors. They're the ultimate friend: open and welcoming when you want and excellent at hiding your (messy) little secrets when you need them too.
My mother is the one who taught me always to hide televisions in armoires or behind closed doors. When I was growing up, the TV in our house was hidden behind cabinet doors, and I learned that electronics were meant to be hidden in living areas where guests might visit. My parents had a giant built-in over the fireplace in our family room that they created around a massive tube TV purchased in 1988 -- which they adorably still have in place 25 years later and are finally going to replace this winter -- that had beautifully painted cabinet doors that could be opened or closed depending on whether the TV was to be seen or not. So when I moved to New York after college and was able to decorate my very first apartment, it was only natural that I thought to put my TV in an armoire and carry on the decorating TV peep show. My armoire was one of my first furniture purchases and it is one that will always make me feel warm and fuzzy because it was one of the first independent decisions I made post-college and the purchase experience was really great and seamless: I found the piece on Craigslist after obsessive searching for "antique armoire," and the seller was just the nicest guy ever -- he was a Sutton Place high-rise superintendent, his aunt in Mexico had painted the piece by hand, he negotiated on the price (I paid $500, down from his ask of $750, which I deemed reasonable), he offered to drill holes in it so I could use it for electronics and then delivered it himself to my apartment (truly a picture perfect Craigslist deal). It is a well-made piece that has served its purpose beautifully over the years.
Armoires work particularly well for electronics and for clothes (I have one for each, if your curious, but this post is more TV focused). When you have a lot of stuff in a small amount of space, and only a small area in which to entertain (when you live in a studio apartment, for example, your closet is in your living room), I think it's important to be able to hide that stuff, and it's a nice plus to be able to hide the stuff in a piece of furniture that elevates the look of your space.
I have noticed in recent years that with the death of tube TVs and the infiltration of flat screen TVs into the homes of everyone, everywhere, the trend is to stop hiding your electronics and to start hanging them on your wall for all to see. The conversation of "to hide" or "not to hide" was prompted over Thanksgiving weekend when my parents, Matt and I all went to Best Buy to check out the TVs. Matt and I wanted to buy each other a new TV (ours previously was 27" in -- top of the line in 2006 -- and I had to squint to see it from our sofa), and we diligently measured our armoire to figure out just how big we could go with the TV. I told my parents we could go do 40" - maybe 42" or 43" -- and nothing more. Otherwise, it wouldn't fit in the armoire. "Don't you want to get a really big one and just hang it on the wall?" my mom asked. WHAT?! Even my mother wants a giant flat screen TV hanging on the wall with nothing to cover it?! What about all of those childhood lessons I was taught? (Fast forward a few moments to the point of purchase and as Matt hands over our credit card, my dad swoops in and says that he and my mom want to buy the TV for us for Christmas. Unexpected treat! Thank you, Mom and Dad! And that is an excellent gifting idea if you want to go big for Christmas.).
I am not opposed to this TV-on-wall thing. My parents deserve to put a 60 incher up on their wall after having watched that eyesore of a boob tube for 25 years, and I am sure that in the next few years Matt and I too will slap our new 40 incher up on the wall and move the armoire elsewhere (especially if I could ever get my hands on a sideboard/credenza like this Danish rosewood piece on 1stdibs or this gorgeous buffet made by my friend Meg Piercy of MegMade -- more on her fabulousness coming soon!). I guess, as the saying goes, if you've got it, flaunt it. But I still find an armoire to be charmingly demure and a lovely touch that is particularly helpful for those like me who are not only messy by nature but also have, like, 1000 cords and random Time Warner Cable boxes that likely do nothing but might serve a purpose, and tampering with the evil gods of Time Warner Cable is just not worth it (I really don't want to mess with the functionality of my television and internet.). Armoires ground a room and give it weight and character. And they also add an element of height that adds excitement to a room's landscape and isn't otherwise attainable through other furniture means.
Let's face it: Armoires give a room two distinct identities and allow us to mix business with pleasure. It's fantastic! Let's take my living room for example:
95% of the time, our living room looks like the "Pleasure" side: Doors wide open (we have to prop the door open with that wire piece because the floors in our old building are slanted), TV on, feet up on the ottoman, it's a perfectly functional TV room. But for that 5% of the time that appearances matter -- when we have company over or when I just want to feel sophisticated -- we pop those doors back in place, and the living room is suddenly all "Business" and gorgeousness.
Eventually, we'll redecorate. I'll get my swanky midcentury credenza and hang our flat screen on the wall (I feel so hip just talking about it), and I'll remember my time with this trusty little armoire in the living room fondly. We'll paint it (though it would hurt to do so) and put it in our bedroom or in a future child's room, or anywhere, really. And it will stay in the family until it's time to move on (via Craigslist, I'm sure, if ever). Armoires -- if you get a solidly built hardwood piece that you love -- are pieces that can last for years and that is what I adore so much about them. They're like these big, oversized, looming members of the family, comfortably sitting in your living room, loyally hiding your electronic baggage when you want them to and comfortingly opening their big armoire arms whenever you want to hang out and watch TV.
If that doesn't defend the armoire, I don't know what will.
Where to Buy:
Armoires can be purchased from a number of vendors, but as I'm sure you've figured out by now, my favorite armoire finds are on Craigslist. It's convenient (i.e. local), and pricing is negotiable, and if you're discerning in your search, you can find something truly great. There's no shipping of course, so you either need to figure out how to transport it yourself or hire a small mover (man with van or TaskRabbit) to do the job for you - usually around $100. I did a quick search of the local NY Craigslist listings and was particularly intrigued by this antique French armoire -- I love that it has pretty wallpaper on the inside, the wood seems really beautiful, and the piece seems well-built and has some gravitas to it. It's pricey, but that's always negotiable if you go about it the right way (and it looks like it should be pricey). This solid pine armoire is also nice - a bit more plain, but also quite a bit cheaper. A good, solidly made armoire will run you anywhere from a few hundred to $1000+, but shouldn't exceed much more than that on Craigslist. Don't do particle board; only do hardwood. And if you can, try to find something that has a nice history to it. If you wait long enough, you should be able to find something that fits your budget and lifestyle perfectly.
You can also check out local flea markets, antique shops, Etsy, eBay and Chairish (with the latter three you'll be responsible for shipping costs, which can be high), and depending on your budget, 1st dibs and mainstream e-shops like Layla Grace and Horchow. But once you get to the Layla Graces and Horchows of the world, you're looking at $3000+, which is a very hefty investment indeed.
I am also of course more than happy to help you find the piece of your dreams! Just let me know what you're looking for!
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.