Happy Memorial Day!
Summer is upon us, which means it's time to talk summer hair.
Your hair is kind of a big deal. Cut and color can mean everything, and a good cut and color can change everything - your mood, level of confidence, outlook on life... the list goes on. (So can a bad one, in a bad way, so let's focus on the positive.)
The other thing that matters, like, a lot? The experience of having your hair cut and colored (and the dent that it makes in your wallet).
I was a loyal client of my friend and stylist Carol Clock in Kansas City for YEARS. She saw me at 14 when I wanted the Joey Potter haircut (yes, a simple, blunt cut, and yes, I brought a photo of Katie Holmes that I'd ripped out of Seventeen Magazine just to be crystal clear). She saw me through high school and college when I wanted Jennifer Aniston hair. And she saw me at 23 when I wanted Reese Witherspoon bangs and highlights (obviously, yes, I brought a picture - this time ripped out from Elle). Carol owns Moxie Studio in Kansas City, and if you live there, you should go see her immediately because she will make you very happy. Not only will the experience be super fun, but your hair will look great.
Now that I live in New York and am unable to get back to Kansas City every two to three months (as would be required to keep my naturally blonde hair looking, you know, natural), I have had to find a stylist here. Let me tell you, it has been stressful - but it has also been a super great learning experience! I am a hair stylist monogamist, but I've had to play the field for, like, years here, and it's terribly uncomfortable. Since moving to New York eight years ago, I've been a la recherche de the perfect stylist and have been to a distressing number of places (please don't judge): starting with Frederic Fekkai Soho (an awesome, horrendously hip, money hemorrhaging experience), I followed that colorist (Alex Safdari, who is phenomenal) to Pierre Michel (a much less pleasant, less cool and even more expensive experience), jumped ship to a mix of Mark Garrison (a rough go), Laicale (lovely and super hip, but my guy Jesse left so I too panicked and left), Vidal Sassoon (a standard upscale salon experience), John Barrett (ditto but with a smattering of celeb), and the Upper West Side Aveda (a truly horrendous color experience), finally settling on Frederic Fekkai Uptown for a year where I saw Brooklyn (who lived in Brooklyn) for color and the amazing Roz (who's married to my original colorist Alex - go figure!) for cut before coming to terms with the fact that I simply couldn't afford to be a Fekkai blonde. At that point, I followed a Gilt deal to Bumble and Bumble (where I attempted to do color at Bumble and maintain cuts with Roz at Fekkai because I loved her, but eventually I gave up), to then Oscar Blandi, Fekkai Soho once again and John Freida (a pleasant, hip experience, but too far for me to travel and too expensive post-Gilt deal). One of the hard things about finding the right salon is finding both a colorist and a stylist that are at the same place at of equally awesome caliber and enjoyable to talk to.
This brings us to last summer, when I found myself in a boot/crutches and unable to get around town. And so I made a switch to a sweet little local salon near my apartment... and I finally found The One. (That was long-winded and I probably could have just jumped right to this part, but no great love story -- that doesn't leave you sobbing -- starts at the moment that you fall in love, does it?)
Enter Alice Hair Care. It had amazing reviews on NYMag, promising uptown hair at downtown prices, and it did not disappoint. I made an appointment with Alice -- who gloriously does both cut and color and also charges the same as all of her stylists, which is fabulous -- and hobbled my way over to 70th & 2nd Ave. The salon is tucked behind some pretty horrendous temporary buildings that have been erected to support the Second Avenue subway construction, so you could actually walk past the salon without noticing it. As residents of the Far East Side, Matt and I make an effort to give business to Second Avenue stores when possible (e.g. , dry cleaning, and even then our sweet little dry cleaners just went out of business) so this felt like a perfect match!
You walk in the salon and are greeted by friendliness all around. Alice and a number of her staff are Irish, and I could just listen to them talk for hours. They are all so lovely. Alice sat down with me and went through my "Hair" board on Pinterest. I explained that I wanted blonde -- but not too blonde, more like bronde (I find that term both hilarious and grating) -- and a cut that could easily air dry because 1) I am eternally lazy and 2) I couldn't stand for very long periods of time to blow my hair dry. She listed, said, "I totally get it," then mixed up my hair concoction, which involved both highlights and lowlights and included -- in her words -- a "signature" color! I would get to have my very own signature color? Why, yes please, that sounds lovely! Fast forward a few hours, and I was released into the world with exactly the hair I'd requested. I was so happy. Even with my boot on, I had a skip to my step. And the rest is history. I've been back maybe six times now, and I am now delighted to be a "regular." People remember me, they remember my foot plight, they are all just so nice and wonderful, and I look forward to going every time.
Why do I bring this up now? Because Alice just brought me back to life last Friday, and I am once again reminded of how important a cut and color -- and the experience of having that cut and color -- are. What's even better? I can get a cut and color for something like $250 plus tip, and at the bigger, "fancy" salons, that wouldn't even cover color! She also gives 10% off for first timers and during ur birthday month (she loves birthdays)! We went blonder this time -- for summer and for my sanity -- and when Alice said this would require more upkeep -- "try to come back in six weeks" -- I didn't cringe with (much) pain. Full disclosure: Alice saw me cringe, said, "Don't worry, we'll just do it every six weeks for the next one or two and then I'll bring you back to something a little darker and more manageable for the fall" (all said in that charming Irish accent). "Ok Alice! Six weeks it is." I already can't wait to go back.
Alice Hair Care
1324 Second Ave., New York, NY, 10021
at 70th St.
Happy hair care!
Happy Hump Day!
I've been in an inexplicably cheerful mood this week. I think it's the hint of spring that is in the air. It's subtle -- I mean, really, you have to try to find it -- but it's there.
I've recently realized how dreadfully appreciative I am of the little things. As you know, I've had quite a year in the injury department, and on Monday I finally decided to ditch my cane and walk about town with two free hands. Don't get me wrong, the cane was great -- really, it was -- but it was time to say goodbye. I'd done a few test runs in my neighborhood over the weekend and felt satisfied with the result, and so, on Monday morning, as I rushed out the door (late, as always) to catch my far East Side van service, I took a look at my cane and, after a moment of silence and contemplation, decided to let it go. (RIP, dear cane.)
Once downtown, released by my van service on Water Street, I walked the remaining few blocks to my office, taking great pleasure in my newfound freedom and ability to swing my arms about as I walked -- not hobbled, but walked! The sheer joy! And, as I turned from Wall Street to Pine Street to William Street and passed under scaffolding and observed some business travelers milling about the strange hotel where I took GMAT classes just a few years ago, a Strokes song came on my Spotify playlist. And just then, at that moment, I was hit with a gust of brisk air and a wave of those business travelers' cigarette smoke that, together with all those other factors, brought me immediately back to my commute to school when I lived in Paris ten years ago. Not just the romantic Jardin des Tuilleries Paris, but the gritty, oft overlooked, outer edges of Paris that tourists rarely see. And suddenly I was there with my roommate Rebecca on our school-bound half mile trudge to the Gambetta metro stop from our host family's apartment in the faraway 20th Arrondissement (where we were known as "les Americaines" in the internet café and local bar and tabac because we were, in fact, the only Americans in the neighborhood), both of us shuffling in our black Converse, listening to the Strokes on our first generation iPods, complaining about our host mother's odd breakfast rituals (mostly to justify our daily stop at Paul for a Viennoise), and aggressively smoking Gauloise Bleues (when in Paris, do as the French do) in the brisk morning air that was always a little too damp and cold for our liking (because neither one of us had bothered to look up the weather before packing for "spring" in Paris). Little did I know that I would later cherish those long, cold walks so very much and that, on certain spring mornings in New York, with just the right mix of smoke and chill and damp air mixed together, I would remember those Paris days as if they were happening all over again.
On any other morning, I would probably curse the cigarette smoke or the drizzling rain and my failure to remember an umbrella or that it was April and I was still wearing a winter coat, but on Monday morning, the morning when I removed my cane-shaped shackles and strode through the streets like every other hurried person trying to get him- or herself to work in one piece, I was struck with that delightful notion of how great life is, how seemingly mundane things can actually be so special, and how the passage of time is at once so fleeting and so glacial.
As I came to from this fabulous memory and moment, I glanced up and saw that I was entering one of my favorite spaces downtown -- Chase Plaza -- which was closed for years (first for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and then for construction). Why is this a favorite space? Who knows. For one, it's a nice shortcut. For another, it has interesting art, like Isamu Noguchi's Sunken Garden and a sculpture by Jean Dubuffet (pictured above). And for another, I have always had a thing for carved-out public space. Whenever I cross into and through Chase Plaza (which I believe has now been renamed Rockefeller Plaza?), I appreciate how the space is both enduring (as it was thankfully landmarked in 2008) and incredibly temporal. It is not a destination, but a passageway. I think of the people who have traversed the space in the past, those that do now and those that will in the future, and I am moved by the massiveness of the space, the emptiness that immediately surrounds me (because it's never terribly crowded -- a novelty in this city), the sky overhead and the imposing buildings that loom all around just far enough away to let me breath a cleansing sigh as I either begin or end my work day. It is the kind of space that you don't realize you appreciate so very much until you no longer have access to it, and when you are once again able to traverse the space and be in it and feel that simultaneous sensation of heaviness and lightness, you look up at the sky, drizzle and all, you take in a deep, clean breath of chilly April air, and you say thank you for all things great and small.
Never did I think I would be writing about the beauty of a morning commute, but there is a first for everything. There can be such beauty in the mundane. And isn't that what life is all about? After all, it's often the little things that can have the biggest impact on us over time, that quietly stay with us as happy reminders of what once was and still remains somewhere deep within, that make life and the world around us so incredibly wonderful.
Happy commuting, happy remembering and happy appreciating the little things!
Let's talk about inspiring interiors for a moment. Specifically, other people's interiors. More specifically, interiors of people who do not live in the United States.
Interiors, like fashion and art, are a universal language, and voyeurism is a rather universal human trait (see: Marcel Proust; Rear Window; tabloids; and all forms of social media to name but a few examples of our voyeuristic tendencies). You give me photos of someone's beautiful home, you feed my voyeuristic craving to see that which is not mine. I will devour those photos with gusto, dream about what it must be like to live in such a space, and then go on a search for more interior heroine to feed my addiction.
Recently, a photo of a living room on Pinterest caught my eye (it was on Born and Bred Studio's board - Born and Bred is a great company to follow on Pinterest). As you may have noticed in my posts of late, I've been really into emerald green recently -- and as I've learned, more specifically emerald green as part of a semi-complex, preferably tetrad, color scheme), and the green velvet pillows (more specifically, the elongated pillows, especially the elongated pillows layered atop bold, almost rugby striped pillows.... contrasted with that stark white.... and that angular antique armoire....) in this image drew me in (see how this stuff gets me going?). The rest of the space seemed so different than many spaces I've seen lately, and that was both refreshing and captivating. I repined the image and planned to move on. But as I do, I thought about that living room and then began to wonder what the rest of the space looked like. Was it an apartment? A townhouse? Who lived there? Who decorated it? And why? What was the inspiration?
The caption describing the photo had been written in Spanish, so I was extra intrigued. (I love finding interiors from publications in foreign languages - it makes them feel mysterious and like I've stumbled upon something exotic and other-worldly; like my pinning is just so good that I've been rewarded with the fabulous European find.)
The space is featured in a story called "Un piso con carácter" in the magazine Nuevo Estilo. The interior, designed by interior designer Pepe Leal, with art curated by gallerists Damián Casado and Concha Santapau, is a lovely mix of lots of things. It is a home in Madrid, designed with a lot of influence from the 40s (but also the 30s and 50s... and today), which draws upon design from cultures like Morrocco and India for inspiration and mixes in local finds from artisans and artists.
I am drawn to this space for a number of reasons.
1) the "shell" (the ceilings, ceiling height, floors, molding - all of it);
2) the space-framing window treatments - they are masculine and weighty in velvet, which pairs well with the high ceilings and large windows, helping to "ground" the space;
3) the neutral base of whites, creams and tans layered with bold color and texture;
4) the use of warm colors (and a more complex color palette) in the "social" spaces and cool colors (and a less complex, calming color palette) in "private" spaces;
5) the mix of antique/traditional and contemporary pieces and shapes. It is serious and studied, but airy and lighthearted at the same time.
Let's take a look!
SOCIAL SPACE - Warmer color palette; tetrad color scheme.
PRIVATE SPACE - Cooler color palette; square tetrad color scheme.
As with most homes that have been photographed for magazines, some parts of this space appear to be a little too... staged. But there is still a rawness and authenticity to it that is also very hard to deny. Something about this space just works for me. Perhaps it's the tight color scheme's repetition (in variations, some subtle, some bold) throughout the home so that, from one room to the next, the flow is natural, effortless, but also purposeful. Maybe it's the mix of old and new, eclectic and traditional (I am particularly taken by that dining room). Maybe it's the foreignness of it all, but perhaps more likely, it's really the familiarity of it all. That sensation of "I've seen this before" when, really, you've never seen anything like it.
In any case, it's some tasty eye candy for the interior lover. Especially on a Friday after a long week. Hope it brought a bit of inspiration your way and hope you have a fabulous weekend!
You know that sensation where, once you notice something, you start to see it everywhere? That has happened to me, and now I need to share that something with you.
One of my favorite blogs, The Pink Pagoda, recently featured plates from the Bahia Collection by Alberto Pinto. I just died over the gorgeous emerald and blue colors and the beautiful brushwork (the paintings sort of have a peacock feather sense) against the clean white background. Just. To die. I looked the plates up, saw how expensive they were (they're a lot - like, a lot a lot), and so I decided just to pin the beauty on my "For the Home" board and moved on with my life. But then while having my foot zapped with electrical pulses at physical therapy earlier this week (a strangely relaxing 15 minutes), I browsed through a recent Architectural Digest issue (March 2014 I believe) and happened upon the plates again. (Architectural Digest says the plates capture the spirited beauty of the ceremonial feather headdresses of Northern Brazil.)
I think of beautiful china more as art than as something upon which to eat a meal. 1) Fine china is usually ridiculously expensive, so we are unable to purchase enough of it for more than one person to actually dine upon; and 2) in most homes (or at least mine), fine china is rarely used except on truly special occasions, which is a pity because it's gorgeous. My solution for this is to purchase small pieces of china -- bread and butter plates, even dessert plates or salad plates or rim soup bowls -- and put them out decoratively. One will do. More than one -- a flock, if you will -- is even better. They can hold small bits of jewelry on a vanity or be placed artfully on a coffee table or side table as an accent piece.
Here are some of my favorites from the Bahia Collection:
Bahia Dessert Plate, $238, at William Wayne
Bahia Bread & Butter Plate, $170, at William Wayne
Bahia Rim Soup Plate, $228, at William Wayne
And if you want to go big....
Bahia Charger, $315, at William Wayne
As the saying (sort of) goes, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and three times is a pattern. Seeing these plates featured twice is enough for me to see a pattern -- of fabulousness!! -- and so I have settled into a quiet obsession with the collection's gorgeousness and wish that one -- just one! the really, really tiny one, really! -- could make its way into my welcoming arms and onto an end table or coffee table that's yearning for some colorful, feathery companionship. It would add a little Brazilian flare to the space, elevate the overall look, and bring a smile to my face whenever I happened to glance its way. And perhaps over time, I could collect a few and place them artfully throughout the home. As they say, birds of a feather flock together. I'd love a whole flock of these puppies, but one would be just fine. In the meantime, I'll just ogle at images online.
What must-haves are you seeing more than once out there?
My dear friend Emily came over to visit the week after my surgery in December and gave me the loveliest holiday candle I've ever smelled. The scent is a seductive blend of pomegranate, mandarin orange, pine, cloves and cinnamon -- with just a hint of vanilla and amber (I truly despise vanilla-scented candles, and this one in no way smells like vanilla -- it just smells like wintery heaven). I loved the scent so much that in my Percocet-y state, I asked Emily to light the candle immediately so we could enjoy it as we ate the delicious dinner she had brought over and half-watched reruns of Dawson's Creek (noting just how absurd and implausible that affair between Pacey and the new teacher really was -- I mean, really!). The candle really added a warm, wintery spice to the ambiance, and since then I've burned it often to bring a little holiday cheer to the apartment (so often that, as I write this, it's burning down to the last bit of wick and wax and its 60-hour life is sadly coming to an end - though the glass can be repurposed for brushes and such on a vanity or pens on a desk!).
Obviously we are well past the December-themed holidays, but Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day are coming up (both holidays in my book), and it is still f*cking cold and snowy outside (excuse my French). And if we can't fight the freeze (or flee to the Caribbean), we might as well embrace it. This candle makes the weather tolerable and turns a dreary day into a warm, spicy burst of happiness.
Where to Buy
Nest Holiday Candle, $34 from Nordstrom.com (free shipping!)
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!
Happy Monday, everyone!
I am obsessed with entryways. They're the home equivalent of a first impression, greeting you and guests with an intriguing "Oh, hello! Welcome to this fabulous home!" Entryways serve as an immediate focal point when you enter a home and get you excited to see what else is inside. They're high impact and can often be achieved in a small space.
I am going to do a few posts on entryways, but thought I'd start with an overview of how our entryway came to be.
Our entryway has evolved over time, and I am really pleased with the results. It certainly came from humble beginnings (I would show you the before photos, but they're trapped on an old computer), and we've been working on "boosting its self-confidence" so now it can shine with the glamour and grace that a good entryway should have (it either has it, or it doesn't, right?).
When we first moved into our apartment three years ago, the entryway was a disaster zone. The previous owners had had huge ugly semi-built-in bookcases flanking the wall, and before considering the outcome, our first move was to ask the super to remove them.... which left gaping holes in both the wall and along where the baseboard should have been. Instead of actually fixing the offending wall, we dealt with the problem by covering it with whatever we could find. That red armoire (in the right of the photo - a $250 2007 Craigslist purchase that I recall required doorman bribery so the seller and I could haul it ourselves into my tiny apartment at 11pm on a week night... smarts and safety all in the name of décor, right?) flanked the wall around where the mirror now hangs (in part because the armoire won't fit through any other of our slim doorways to get into another room of the apartment - it is so fat that it is permanently stuck in our entryway). For several years, the armoire covered up the most egregious holes in the floorboard and walls, and we put up a room divider along the rest of the exposed wall, which served both to hide our suitcases and the wall. The room looked really strange and was not the first impression I wanted it to give. Every time I walked through it, I thought about how much I hated it and dreamed of one day changing it.
We lived with our bizarro room for the better part of two years, always apologizing to guests for the state of the entryway. But eventually "Oh, you know, we just moved in and..." wasn't really an excuse anymore. To me, there are three components to a great entryway: a great lamp (or pair of lamps), a great mirror (or art, though I prefer mirror for its functionality), and a great table. The additional requirement is that one of those items needs to be an antique of some sort. Below is the story of how our components came together.
In late 2012, when I was in Kansas City visiting my parents, my mom took me to the antiques district on 45th & State Line Road (if you live in/near KC, go here - it's awesome!). My mom's friend Barbara Farmer owns a ridiculously awesome antique shop called Perrin & Co. (1717 W 45th St, Kansas City, MO 64111; (816) 753-7959) that carries just about anything fabulous and European. I walked in with the "I have no money, I'm just browsing" mindset, but when I saw a pair of green antique Parisian opalescent lamps, I practically passed out. After coming to terms with just how little money I actually had in my bank account, I finagled a deal with my mom to split the cost with me because, now that I'd seen these lamps, I couldn't imagine life without them. Even splitting the cost stretched Matt and me pretty thin, but when it's love at first sight, there's really nothing you can do to change destiny. I knew I needed the lamps in my life, and it's one of the few home purchases that I didn't even bother to run by Matt -- I knew he'd love them (and honestly, I didn't really care if he didn't love them -- that's how into them I was), and I also knew they were the key to transforming our pathetic entryway. Also upon further research, I've realized that we got a seriously good deal on them. Truly great opalescent lamps do not come cheap.
When the lamps were delivered to our apartment, that was the impetus to get the entryway renovation going. As you know, once I get a home décor idea in my head, it becomes a mild obsession and I need to act on it as quickly as possible. We put the lamps in a "temporary home" as bedside lamps (they were huge but they looked sort of great) as we set out to finalize our mission of entryway awesomeness. I finally got around to asking our super to install a baseboard (learning later that you need to ask for it to be painted white or else it's just raw wood), and then I got my DIY groove on. Against Matt' wishes, I moved the armoire over to be where it is now (he refused to believe it would fit!) and caulked up and papered over the gaping holes in the wall (I wouldn't say it was a professional job, but it did the trick). I was totally pleased with myself.
Next we needed a table and a mirror. Mirrors can be very expensive. The one that was featured at Perrin & Co. with the lamps was an incredible Louis Philippe mirror (that I still, two years later, dream about) that was at least $2,000, which was about $1,900 more than we could spend. I searched high and low for a cheaper equivalent and couldn't find anything in the price range we could handle (it turns out that real Louis Philippe mirrors -- or even reproductions -- are a $2k+ investment). I gave up on Louis Philippe and finally just decided I wanted a gilded mirror of any kind and started scouring Craigslist for "gilded mirrors" (you get better results that way than saying "gold mirror").
When I finally found the one we purchased, I practically tackled the seller via email and dragged Matt immediately to the gal's apartment on 97th & 3rd to procure the majestically discounted piece. It was listed at $120, we offered $100, and I still fell like we stole from her... though she lived in a ginormous apartment, so I didn't feel all that bad about it. Though the mirror is clearly a reproduction, I have no doubt it would cost at least $1,000 in stores and I am very pleased with the quality. It's very heavy and really beautifully ornate without being too much (though if put with the wrong things, it could be too much). When we got home, I immediately ran to the bedroom to see the mirror next to the lamps (total excitement despite all the messiness) and did a little dance to celebrate our major score.
Then I became obsessed with finding a table.
With the lamps and mirror in our possession, things came together rather quickly. We were due to host a "Jack and Jill" bridal shower the next weekend, and it became suddenly clear that we needed to get an entryway table -- fast. I had for some time been eying the mirrored Parsons console table from West Elm (now $599) amongst other table options (I also would have loved an antique chest, but again, that price range is another ballpark), and as luck would have it I noticed that it was on sale at West Elm the same weekend that we had procured the mirror. I showed it to Matt thinking there was no chance he'd go for it, but he did! He loved it! "That's really cool, let's get it." Matt's home purchases are made exclusively on whether the item "looks cool" or "is comfortable" and this one looked cool (yes!).
We called West Elm with the idea that we could put it on hold and pick it up, like, immediately, but it turns out that's not how West Elm works. So we ordered the table online (first signing up to receive email, which gives you an additional 10% off) and crossed our fingers that it would arrive on time, and because we knew the table dimensions, we were able to hang the mirror without having the table in our possession. Sure enough, the next day, West Elm called to schedule delivery for that Friday. Matt's mom very kindly offered to wait at our apartment for the delivery and make sure the table was put in the correct place, and when we got home that night, we moved the green lamps into place.
When everything was in place, it felt downright magical. Nearly two years after we'd moved into our apartment, and we finally had an entryway that garnered a "wow" out of guests. I love the juxtaposition of antique and modern, high and low. I switch out the centerpiece relatively frequently depending on what we have around. Our Aunt Helen recently sent us that fabulous orchid as a "get well" gift after my surgery, and I'm horribly obsessed with it.
What's Next? A Bench!
I desperately want a bench or two to put underneath the table. I have two woven baskets (Neu Home Water Hyacinth Large Tapered Basket with Cut-Out Handles, $30.99 each from Casa.com) that we keep there to hold shoes and such (all of that stuff that gets removed when you walk in the door and that you need when you walk out of it), but I'd love to have a bench as well. I am currently eying this grey one with white piping from Lamps Plus, $179.99, and this Safevieh taupe grey Dante bench from Overstock.com. Thoughts?? Why are benches so darn expensive?
And that is my very long story about how our entryway came to be! I will post some more entryway ideas later this week. Is your entryway in need of transformation? Or is it already there? Tell me all about it!
Kate Kelly Design/A La Recherche is dedicated to the pursuit of finding inspiration in everything and of helping people find their happy. Normally the focus here is on interiors and shopping and other pretty and life-improving things, but I thought I'd take a little break from the visually stimulating today and instead share two articles that I found totally inspiring and that I hope I can internalize and call upon whenever I find myself mentally wavering in the happy category.
I'll call these lists a life-improving thing.
The following articles were published in Forbes in November (leave it to me not to find them until now) and are simply magical. They are about "mental strength" -- and "mental strength," to me, is happiness. It's freedom from unnecessary worry, from self doubt, from letting a "bully" type of person get to you (and somehow, no matter how old we are, this can unfortunately happen to us). It's the freedom to be in control of how we react and how we feel. The freedom to be the most positive version of ourselves.
The first is a list of 13 things that "mentally strong" people "avoid," and can be found here. The second is a list of "powerful exercises" that you can do to improve your "mental strength." It can be found here.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all peace, love, happiness and a dash of whimsy this year!
I recently happened upon a super fun peace sign hand sculpture that I hope will find its way to my home in the coming weeks. It just perfectly captures what I hope 2014 will bring: peace, whimsy, and strength... and happiness.
Matt and I were discussing New Year's resolutions yesterday, and I said that one of mine was simply to be happy. "Happy? Is that a resolution?" he asked. "Absolutely!" I said. Happiness, at least to some extent, is a choice and can at times require a great deal of resolve to obtain/maintain. The old adage "fake it 'til you make it" comes to mind here, and the payoff once you "make it" is enormous and enormously worth it. If that's not a resolution, I don't know what is. The universe can have a pretty sick sense of humor at times (and at others, a delightful one), and it's up to us to decide how to handle it. 2013 was a year of some pretty phenomenal ups and some pretty brutal downs, but even now, as I close in on month ten of a debilitating foot injury and finish up week three of a painful surgery recovery, I feel an extreme sense of gratitude for the hand that was dealt to me this year. I'll never know how it happened, or why, but I like to think there was a reason and that the experience will make me a stronger and more compassionate person (even though it is easy to feel pretty worthless and woe-is-me in my current state). Who knows? A girl can dream.
So how did I find that fun little hand? On a whim of course, which is my favorite way to find things. I'll take you on a little tour of my search (a window into my meandering, "creative" (i.e. mildly ADD) mind), because I stumbled upon some great blogs along the way! During a delightfully aimless Google search for gold side tables yesterday (I am planning out a reno of our living room - inspiration board coming soon!), I happened upon a fun blog entry on gold/brass and marble color combos (one of my favorite combos) on a fabulous blog called The Covetable. This led me to The Covetable's "Apartment Envy" section (OMG, what fun!), which featured the apartment of Amelia Canham Eaton, who co-founded the blog The CHICago Life (also a fab blog). In Amelia's apartment tour, I saw this image and thought the peace hand was just super fun:
Then I saw this image and knew I'd found a kindred spirit - she has my pig bookends!!
I separately had been looking at the Jayson Home website (a Lincoln Park based home décor store that I wish existed in New York) where a brass peace sign captured my attention. Could it be the same thing? I thought when I saw the hand in Amelia's Chicago home. I do believe it is! At $168 plus shipping though, it's not the steal of a deal that my $29 pig bookends were and thus not something I can just purchase on a whim. I did a bit more digging to see if this happy hand was sold elsewhere, and I think I've found the same one (or an excellent replica) at Zinc Door for $137 plus free shipping. Same dimensions and similar coloring (unclear whether the coloring is in fact different or the photography is causing the difference):
So, what can this funny little hand represent? Many things! For me, it will be my adaptation (plus an addition) of the "10 to Zen" that has been cheesily circling about Pinterest recently. In other words, the pursuit of happiness.
What are your New Year's resolutions??
Happy New Year! And peace, man!
Apologies for the radio silence, everyone! Recovering from surgery is a bit more intense than I'd anticipated, and I just haven't been up to writing. Basically all I am capable of doing right now is watching TV and pinning on Pinterest (apologies to anyone who follows me for overcrowding your feed!). I am going to take another week or so off from blogging while I continue to recoup, but I wanted to take a minute and share our holiday decor photos before they're completely outdated!
Matt and I put up our holiday decor the weekend before I went under the knife. The transformation was very quick and easy (and something I was somewhat capable of doing in a walking boot). We bought a ginormous tree from the nice tree sellers that come down from Quebec every year, and we also grabbed a bunch of loose greenery from them (free when you buy a tree or probably if you ask nicely) to use on the mantle and dining table.
On the tree we used white lights and ornaments that our families have given us over time. I love the feeling of history that a tree can have when you hang ornaments that members of your family grew up with and that tell a little story of who you are.
The tree is actually so large that I couldn't get a photo of it head on. This angle is from our foyer looking into the living room (the fireplace is to the left - you can see the rug in the bottom left corner).
For the mantle, we used oldies but goodies that we have "on file." A few years ago, my mom gave us a nutcracker (she used to take me to the Nutcracker when I was a kid) and my mother-in-law gave us some cute Noel and snowman clown figurines from the Taft Museum in Cincinnati. The colors all go great with our decor and make decorating each year super easy! We just added the greenery around the figurines to give everything a bit more life and to tie in the tree (I also used some to cover up the ugly wall hanging nail that shows on the top of the mirror - worked like a charm!)
For the wreath, I wanted something that was just really green and fresh - and easy. I bought a $20 wreath that our Quebec friends were selling and then I got about $10 worth of other boxwood-style greenery from the corner bodega. I hung the wreath over our door knocker and stuck the bodega greens into various parts of the wreath. I then curled the greens around the circle of the wreath and held it all down with a little wire that my Quebec friends gave me. I added a burlap bow (parts of it are braided but you can't see from here) for some rustic charm.
And that's a wrap, folks! What did you do for your decor? I'd love to know!
Hope you all are celebrating your various holidays and can hopefully enjoy a little time off from work. Happiest of holidays and I'll be back in the new year!
Merry merry and happy happy!
I am a designer and financial professional with a background in comparative literature, business and design. I live in New York with my overworked lawyer husband and sweet, art-and-design-loving toddler son 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.
Blogs/Sites I Love
A Lovely Being
Cote de Texas
Little Green Notebook
Paper + Pearls
Sadie + Stella
SF Girl by Bay
The CHICago Life
The Pink Pagoda