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!
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.