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!
Gift Giving Season is upon us, which can be both exciting and totally daunting and stressful. I am here to help alleviate the stress!
Over the coming weeks I will share with you a plethora of fun gift giving ideas. Today? The perfect decorating book... for pretty much anyone who likes pretty books and likes to decorate their home (I feel this casts a rather wide net).
The perfect gift is the perfect combination of delightfully unexpected, delightfully perfect and delightfully what-we've-always-wanted. I also think it should be something you wouldn't normally buy for yourself. My friend Stephanie recently surprised me with a gift that was all of these things, and, as you might guess, I was delighted.
What did she give me, you ask? Why, I will tell you so that you too can purchase several and delight your friends and loved ones with this thoughtful and inspiring gift (and keep one for yourself, of course)! It is founding editor of Domino Magazine Deborah Needleman's fabulous book, The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well, $20.50 at Amazon.com (free two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members). The colors are fabulous, the writing is witty, the advice is practical, the little watercolor paintings are adorable... all of it is just perfect and perfectly delightful. The concept is: "Style is a luxury, and luxury is simply what makes you happy." How fab?! This is a very A La Recherche-y concept, and inspiration and quotes from the book will undoubtedly surface on this blog many times in the future. (Side note, if you, like me, were devastated when Domino Magazine rudely closed several years ago, you'll be as delighted as I am about the recent relaunch, which is just super fun to explore.)
Some gifts should be shrouded in mystery and others are just so darn cute that no wrapping paper or gift bags are needed, and this book is one such gift. Stephanie wrapped the book up in a big red grosgrain ribbon, which perfectly accented the colors in the cover art and also gave me a hint of the absolute joy I was about to experience upon untying the bow (also, who doesn't love to untie a fabulous red bow?). The colors of the cover go so well in my living room (in that imperfectly perfect sort of way) that I couldn't help myself and photographed the book on top of the new Turkish rug I purchased a few weeks ago from the ABC Home & Carpet Warehouse. (The colors are so universal though that they'll go gorgeously in any living room.) The book now sits proudly on my coffee table (an ottoman with a big tray on top), where I can reach for it and browse whenever I want some eye candy, advice or inspiration (which is often).
Where to Buy
The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well is available for $20.50 at Amazon.com
Happy Monday After Thanksgiving!
After such a gluttonous weekend (both in food consumption and Black Friday Weekend consumption, if you partook in the madness), I thought a little economical freshness was just the thing to cleanse the pallet and start the week and rest of the holiday season off right.
There is very little I love more than when my husband Matt gets excited about something for the home. I spend the majority of my life boring him to death with a constant barrage of ideas for the apartment, and he usually nods along nicely (or stares off into space), hoping that eventually I will forget about whatever grand scheme I've concocted.
A recent "idea" was about how I want lavender and/or rosemary to be everywhere in the apartment - preferably a hedge of it along the windowsill - so we can pretend we're relaxing poolside in Provence even though we're really in the middle of a very cold New York City. Lavender and rosemary are not only two of my favorite scents (rosemary lifts you up while lavender calms you down), but they are also two of the only scents I can tolerate when I have a migraine, and I like my apartment to be both a great smelling and an aggressively anti-migraine space. Per usual, Matt nodded: "Sure, that sounds great, Kate. Whatever you want." Excellent, I thought. Urban lavender and rosemary hedge, here I come. It ended there, but I'd planted the seed.
After a little research, I realized that an indoor hedge of any herb in the city would be a prohibitively expensive/time consuming endeavor for my immediate consumption given my budget and level of laziness. But let no dream be quelled by such constraints! There's always some wiggle room for a girl to dream a little dream and make it a reality.
About a month ago (on one of the rare occasions Matt wasn't working on the weekend), Matt and I borrowed his parents' car and drove up to Westchester so I could make some returns to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom (instantaneous credit to your card instead of waiting the week+ for a mailed return to be received by the distribution center and processed + ginormous, uncrowded suburban shopping mall experience = excellent idea), and so we stopped at Whole Foods on our way home (because when you can park a car at a grocery store, grocery shopping can be downright exciting - or at least tolerable).
When we walked into the store, something amazing happened: we were hit with an incredible scent of rosemary. We were both immediately energized and searched for the source of the amazing scent: whatever was generating that smell had to come home with us. Lucky for us, the scent generator was not only for sale, but also cheap! Matt was instantly excited (which makes me just brim with joy)... Whole Foods was selling little rosemary trees that look like mini Christmas trees... and to top it off, they were only $20?! I would be able to have the scent of rosemary permeating our home, and Matt would have the ability to use the rosemary when he had the inkling to cook (when he has the time, he is an excellent chef)?? Why, yes! Let's procure a tiny tree! Everybody wins!
While I happily would have bought ten of them and lined them up on the windowsill to make my "hedge," we compromised at one happy tree (an only child!), and it is surprisingly potent and quite cute on the windowsill now. It's also incredibly easy to care for, which is important to me (it makes me sad when I inadvertently kill plants - and I am unfortunately incredibly good at inadvertently killing plants). I've patiently waited for several weeks to ensure this statement about the rosemary's longevity-despite-my-care is true, and I can proudly assure you: it is. Matt has also already put the rosemary to good use, most successfully and deliciously in this Tom Colicchio's Herb Butter Turkey that he made last week for Thanksgiving! And even the guy who came to fix our heater a few weeks ago remarked upon the amazing smell and utility of the tiny tree ("That's incredible! You could make rosemary bread!").
The bottom of the tree is a little too big for any holder or cachepot that I own, but we plopped the tree into a champagne ice bucket for now (we got it from Pottery Barn years ago - it's not this one, but it's very similar), and it works just fine. Part of the charm is having a little imperfection to tame the tree's adorably manicured appearance (or so I tell myself).
Bonus: Given the tree's shape, it's a perfect accent for the holidays without really going there.
Where to Buy
Whole Foods Rosemary Tree, ~$20 (I can't recall the exact price), available at Whole Foods stores
If you can't make it to a Whole Foods, here are a few other options available online - not as cheap, but if you're in a pinch:
Harry & David Rosemary Tree, $49.95
The FTD® Rosemary Riches Tree by Better Homes and Gardens®, $59.99 plus $12.99 "service fee"
Side note: Those elephant bookends in the photo are another item that Matt got particularly enthusiastic about purchasing (he and I both seem to enjoy animal themed items). We got them from Joss & Main for $40, but I recently found them at Overstock.com for $60.99 (and you can usually use a discount code there for further savings). It wasn't intentional, but I kind of love how the elephants look like they are just soaking in the glorious scent of the little baby rosemary tree - it does smell glorious.
Now go get yourself a little rosemary baby... baby! And soak in the glorious scent!
P.S. I haven't forgotten about the lavender. No lavender plants in the works, but more info on that scent coming soon!
As a child, my parents' home was an endless place for exploration, and I remember going to great lengths to carve out cool secret spaces where I could hang out and just be. We all, children and adults alike, have a natural inclination to carve out our own space -- a room of one's own -- that we create -- that is ours -- and that allows us to find ourselves.
When I took a space-planning class at Parsons, one of the assignments was to figure out what you would do with an awkward, small, 6'x8' windowless alcove that branched off of a hallway. Thinking like a child, this would have been a no-brainer. It would be an empty canvas for play -- for forts and make-believe and escape from grown-ups. For an adult though, this assignment was a challenge. As adults, we are weighed down by practicality, and we need to find a way to be creative within those constraints. Would you make it an office nook? A closet nook? A storage nook? What about a reading nook? What practical purpose would it serve?
I have of course lost the assignment and can't remember what I chose to do (a comfy chair for reading?), but I decided to challenge myself again today. Let me tell you - it was FUN!
This is what I came up with: a space for creativity, comfort and inspiration. A space with a base of white where I can layer as much color and texture and pattern as I can muster. A space with furniture that has beautiful lines, that bridges the world between antique and
modern. A space that you could spend an entire day in and not even notice that time has passed.
A quick note on sourcing: the photo of the white desk with gorgeous ikat covered chair is from French Elle via the blog Absolutely Beautiful Things (fab blog, btw) (I would get two West Elm Parsons Desks, each $349 + $15 delivery surcharge, and since I can't find that exact chair, there is a French Louis XVI bergere chair for $800 that is not perfect, but similar conceptually). The chandelier is from 1stdibs (for "price upon request" = prohibitively expensive, but a girl can dream!). The sheer linen curtains are from Crate & Barrel ($39.95/panel). The sheepskin rug is from Overstock ($201.99 for 3'x5'). The Stacie 16x24" pillow ($129) and the Boho Chic 20x20" pillow ($129) are both by Kim Salmela and available at One Kings Lane right now (sale ends 11/20). The daybed is from Elle Decor via the blog Interior Walls Design (likely too big for the space, but I like the concept). The inspiration wall is from Pinterest. And are those twinkling stars on the ceiling, you ask? Why yes! They are! Click here to see how they're done. They bring both a child-like whimsy to the space and, when all the other lights are off, transport you outside so you can look at the stars and dream as you lounge on your comfy, pillowed daybed. Now - if only I had an awkward nook in which to bring this visual to life! Time to think like a kid again and create one for myself....
Now, here is the real question:
What would you do with a windowless 6'x8' alcove???
I can't wait to find out!
Remember: think like a kid!
Happy Challenging, Happy Imagining!
I have developed a healthy obsession with Eames or Eames-like molded chairs with sheepskin rugs artfully tossed on them. It's a mix of urban modern and rustic coziness. Love it. Especially as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter.
My husband Matt and I are lucky to have a working fireplace, but we still have never outfitted the area with appropriate seating. I've been trying to find the right chair "mood" on a scale of antique/traditional to modern/non-traditional. We want something with some coziness to it but with a good deal of non-upholstery (e.g. wood or metal) to break up the seating experience in our living room (our living room is sectioned into "dining area," "TV-watching/living area" and "empty space around the fireplace area" - the dining area is all loaded up with wood and everything in the TV-watching area is heavily upholstered). So, how to achieve non-upholstered coziness? French antique Louis XIV/XV/XVI chairs with light upholstery? Or something more modern and bohemian involving wood or metal or - dare I say - plastic?? Mix in a little furriness for good measure?
Because I have a lot of antique French and Italian going on in my apartment with a touch of Asian, I wanted to mix the overall aesthetic up with something a bit more modern but with the ability to blend into what I already have going on. The Eames chair achieves all that I was looking for: modern, but not glaringly so, and with a vintage throw-back quality; plus it's got plastic, wood and metal! It's all so very American! (Well, the originals were Fiberglass, but I digress.) Add in a cozy sheepskin throw (faux or real), and you're set for winter-time cozy fireplace lounging.
Full disclosure: I would always prefer to own an original. I am not usually one to promote knockoffs. We could go over the pros and cons and IP issues, but at $500 a pop for the real deal, it's just not in the cards for me right now (if you want the real deal, go here at Design Within Reach - they have the rights and the original chair molds). But for you "chipper" chicken fans (go to 3:30 in the clip!), read on about my hunt for affordable Eames look-alikes and cozy furry throws.
I found a pair of Eames-style Eiffel armchairs with wood legs on Craigslist on Sunday for $100 that I was pretty excited about, but I LOST THE SALE to an even more eager beaver Craigslist shopper than me (the horror). Sigh. Slight devastation, but obviously it wasn't meant to be. Fresh off of this loss, I decided that I need to own these chairs immediately and under mainstream, mass-produced conditions (I couldn't deal with the anticipation and high/low that comes from auction or Craigslist shopping) - so to established online retailers I went. After some Google searching and some helpful advice (and snobby comments) from Apartment Therapy, I settled on the Retro-classic White Accent Chairs (Set of 2) from Overstock.com for $166.99 (down from $219.91) with FREE SHIPPING (little in this world makes me happier than free shipping) and a DISCOUNT CODE that gave me an additional $20 off (the only thing better than free shipping is an additional discount code for extra savings!). (Note: White on White had good recs, but for $320 a pop, I'd rather splurge and buy the real thing.)
Just for fun, let's compare the cost of purchasing the Overstock chairs v. the
real deal from DWR (excluding tax).
Pair @ $166.99 (or $83.50 each)
Shipping @ FREE
Additional Discount: $20 off for spending $150+
Pair @ $998 (or $499 each)
Shipping @ $79.84
Additional Discount: None
What do we save?? $930.85! Man, I love deal hunting.
In addition to that sweet set of cheapo chairs, I am buying two lambskin rugs from a charming Canadian company called Southern Cross Sheepskins Inc. (website: Sheepskinstuff.com) to complete the look. The size (24"x42") runs a bit larger than the rugs I've seen on Joss & Main, Overstock, Pottery Barn, Ikea, etc. (all 24"x36"), which I think will work well with the chairs (I want some of the rug edges to hang over the chair edges). And the cost is reasonable ($67 on sale, plus $23 shipping in Canadian dollars, which is around $150 in total for two rugs plus shipping in USD). (All of the other rugs except Ikea ran in the $70-$80 range and become significantly more expensive when you add square footage. Ikea at $30 might have won my vote, but the items aren't sold online or at any store near me.)
I also appreciate that 1) I'm ordering from an adorable, family-owned Canadian company; 2) it feels like the rugs are not terribly mass produced (and I have to offset the feel of my chair purchase), which means I can pretend that everything was done humanely; and 3) they showed me a photo of the backside of the rug, which is hard to come by online (and was stressing me out); and 4) upon checkout, I got a free pair of sheepskin mittens! Oh, Canada...!
I can't wait to receive all of my loot and to try it out! Here is a mockup of what I think the chairs will look like in my living room! We shall see what really happens!
'Til then, here is some photo inspiration of cool modern chairs with sheepskin throws from Pinterest to get you in the mood!
Happy shopping and fireplace lounging!
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.