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!
I don't know about you, but this week has felt particularly long. And during weeks like that, I tend to forget to appreciate life quite as much as I should. It is so easy sometimes to get wrapped up in being busy and to forget to be grateful for the present. Just a little reminder to be grateful for today... everyday. Happiness is being grateful for the now.
Happy Friday! Happy weekend!
Daylight Savings Time seemed to come inexplicably early this year (perhaps it was the snow on the ground or the fact that I'm still wearing a winter coat that threw me off?), but I'm not one to complain about a little more light at the end of the day. Matt and I spent the majority of our Sunday binge-watching True Detective on HBO Go, and at 6pm, I looked out the window to see that IT WAS STILL LIGHT OUT. OMG. It's cold, but it's light. I will take it. Warmth must follow, right? It simply must.
But back to light.
Light is very important for our well-being. And when it is not readily available to us, we can create it in spaces. I made this little watercolor when I was taking an interior rendering course at Parsons and we were instructed to paint something using only grey tones. For my inspiration, I had torn out a page from Elle Décor (back in 2008, when there was no Pinterest) of a kitchen in the Hamptons by Emma Jane Pilkington (it is the home of Emma and Chris Cuomo, all of which is drool-worthy), and I loved it because there was so much light, like the outdoors were just flooding into the interior space.
I remember the instructor noting that the painting seemed unfinished and that I must not have had enough time (which was true), but I actually like that it's not finished. It's a bit sketchier that way and more about capturing the light rather than the detailing on those rattan bags.
I could have at any point in the last 6 years chosen to "finish" it, but I've decided not to (partly because of laziness and partly because I don't want to "ruin" a good thing).
The painting sat around in our apartment since that class -- on a desk, on a dresser -- and this year it finally found its way onto a wall in our bathroom. Our bathroom has only one tiny window and one fluorescent light, and adding this little painting (it's 9x12") felt almost as if we'd added a window to the space!
See below for the before and after.
It's not a huge change, but it makes me happy. It sits opposite the mirror (with the single fluorescent light), and when you look in the mirror now, you get a burst of Hamptons light coming at you instead of just that single source of bad lighting. And somehow that little grey tone painting draws on the lovely purple wallpaper that our previous owners left behind. Happy accidents!
Happy Monday and Happy DST! Enjoy the extra light!
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!
I have been feeling a not-so-healthy dose of stress recently. Maybe it's all the snow. And my foot - while healing - is still, you know, une problème. I was talking to my mom about it yesterday, and she said, "Kate, do what you tell me to do: go find your happy." And she was so right.
I decided to take a quick gander at my Pinterest boards and see if anything might get me going. My "Home Inspiration" board is my most "free-wheeling" board, if you will, and contains all sorts of things that inspire me, many of which are not at all home-related, but which, in my mind, inspire the way a home might be decorated. I found a collection of pins that all fell within the same sort of color family - a hot pink meets coral meets peach meets sunset - and suddenly inspiration hit.
There is a perfect color of orangy-pink that only a truly perfect sunset can produce, and that has long been my favorite color. When I was a child, my parents decided to call the color "Kate Hufft Pink" (Hufft is my maiden name) because I'd get so darn excited about really good sunsets (still do), and now, in my adult life, Matt has, in jest, decided to call it "KHP" (Kate Hufft Pink) and mocks me mercilessly whenever we see a sunset (the running joke of our vacations now is that we always end up going to places that supposedly have incredible sunsets -- Bali, California, etc. -- and then never see a sunset because of clouds or fog). I used to hate when he joked about KHP, but I've since learned to embrace it and allow the experience to further hone what I do believe to be the most perfect color on earth.
"Is that KHP?" (said in the Zooey Deschanel "Is that rain?" voice from the 2012 Apple iPhone commercial)
"There's not enough orange."
"Yes. It's not even close. Not every sunset is KHP."
"It's too pale. The color isn't saturated enough."
"I don't know why, ask a scientist. And that purply-blue color is gross."
"Because it is."
"Don't you think it's gross? It's murky and sad without a deep orange to offset it. I want it to be vibrant and happy."
"[Sigh.] I don't know, Matt. I just do."
He asks "why" like a 5-year-old (purposefully), and I allow it to happen until I hit the end of my ability to critique the not-quite-right sunset. Often it's not the sunset that makes the color. It's the sunset juxtaposed against whatever else is going on. It's the textures, the patterns, the feeling of being outdoors in the warmth of fresh air. It's the sensation of spring and summer. Of a day ending and an evening just beginning. It's the need for darkness and shadows to be present to bring out the vibrancy of the light but saturated bright, pink-y orange. It's that bright pink-y orange. Really, it's that deep, reddish orange. But more than that, it's realizing that, when we're not able to chase down the perfect sunset (or even have a chance to see one), we can help create our own -- through imagination, inspiration, and the beauty of the world that surrounds us.
And that is what inspired me for today's post. It's not just sunsets that can create the color. It's flowers and fashion and textiles and... everything else. No single image is quite right, but together they start to paint the picture of my favorite color. A color that's ephemeral, that must be chased, that doesn't truly exist on its own, but that nonetheless surrounds us and reminds us of the passage of time (in a good way, in a carpe diem kind of way). It's the color that reminds me of childhood and vacations and chasing dreams. The color that combats the winter blues and inspires me (and hopefully you!) to keep looking for all that is beautiful in the world. The color that makes me truly happy.
Below are some representations of my favorite color. What's your favorite color? And why?
(Thanks, Mom, for helping me find my happy.)
Happy inspiring! Happy color hunting!
Happy Valentine's Day! Happy Friday! And Happy Long Weekend!
So much to celebrate today. Love, Fridays, weekends... three of my favorite things. And my favorite things make me pretty darn happy, so I am in good spirits.
But let's be honest: this time of year blows the big one. It's freezing outside, the heater's blazing inside, and our skin and emotional well-being suffer. Valentine's Day carries with this this massive burden of expectation -- will I have a Valentine? Won't I? If I have one, will he/she actually do something for me? Will he/she do enough? What should I do for him/her? What if I don't do enough? It's all just too much.
And to top it off, my skin is so dry I can think of nothing else! I'm serious. Skin. On the mind. All the time. And not in a sexy way.
I have naturally dry skin, and in the winter, it is uncomfortably so. By this time every year, all I can think about is simultaneously lying on a warm, sunny Caribbean beach and bathing in a deep vat of heavy moisturizer (that's disgusting, I know, but I'm serious, my skin is that unhappy, and I haven't truly seen the sun since, like, September, so this really is my fantasy right now). My skin is dry, itchy, flakey, whiter-than-a-ghost... It's just all around unpleasantness for everyone involved. It's a vicious cycle. My skin bothers me. I complain incessantly to Matt. Matt's skin bothers him. He complains incessantly to me. And so on. It's a fun, sexy time for us here in the Kelly household:
So given all of that, why am I so happy on this glorious Valentine's Day that is also a Friday that is also the Friday before a long weekend? Because soon -- not now, but in, like, the next 3-5 business days depending on weather patterns -- my over-parched skin is going to get hydrated in disgustingly luxurious style, and I just can't contain my excitement. Matt and I are not doing Valentine's Day gifts for each other this year, but he ordered this Jo Malone's Lime Basil & Mandarin Body Crème, $75, from Nordstrom.com yesterday as a sign of love and affection. I got stressed, because I have not ordered him a gift, and this crème certainly seems like a gift, so the balance of love and power is all off suddenly, but he claims it is not a gift because I would have ordered it for myself anyway (true), so really it's a wash. I also think he ordered it so he could secretly use it on his own lizard-y skin (much like I enjoy buying things for him that really I want for myself). This non-gift is due to arrive early next week, and I am very much looking forward to ripping open the box and luxuriating in the heavenliness that is this body crème. My skin desperately needs a little lovin'.
Which brings me to this: Love is a many-splendored thing, and it's important to say "I love you" daily to others and to ourselves -- and that means our skin. And often, we forget to do just that.
As you may have guessed by now, nothing says "I love you" quite like this Jo Malone moisturizer (many might argue with me that there are other ways to say it, but I stand by my word). I have tried many a moisturizer in my life, and none has ever actually uttered or compelled my skin to utter the words "I love you," but Jo Malone has come close. Actually, I take that back. Jo Malone has.
Allow me to explain: You twist off the cap of this large glass tub and are immediately hit with the most heavenly scent ever. Music starts to play, slowly and quietly at first, and you're confused because you certainly did not turn on any music and it was definitely not Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons. "You're just too good to be true..." you hear. You shake your head, but decide to move on. You dip your finger in the pot of heaven -- careful not to take too much, because that sh*t ain't cheap and you want that pot of gold to last for as long as humanly possible. "You'd be like heaven to touch..." the music continues. You shake your head again. This music is weird, but it's true, this luxurious crème actually feels like heaven. You slather it on your dry, thirsty skin, and suddenly the song fast forwards two minutes and fireworks are going off around you and your skin is shouting "I LOVE YOU, BABY...!" from the rooftops as you pat yourself on the back for being such a great inhabitant of your previously love-starved body. You're still a little confused about how a body crème managed to serenade your skin (or did your skin serenade it? it's all very unclear), but you're thrilled because you feel human again and suddenly the fact that it's February and you haven't experienced climate-produced heat or daylight in half a year doesn't seem to matter quite so much.
You've said "I love you" to your skin. And your skin has said "....ditto."
Before this year, I never would have spent $75 on body cream for myself, but my dear friend Emily (yes, the one who gave me that lovely candle I blogged about earlier this week) gave it to me last year along with the Jo Malone candle that I blogged about in December (she is a really good gift giver!), and I have since become addicted. Nothing else will do. I ran out of it a few weeks ago, and have been just distraught ever since. So distraught that even Matt has attempted to justify the crème's practicality. Why, it's so practical that I actually need it. And as he has generously pointed out, the last pot lasted for over a year, so really, on a per-use basis, it's not that expensive it all. Excellent point indeed, my husband. And so, when the box arrives next week, I shall say to him -- and to the crème -- "ditto."
You're worth the splurge. Go for it. Your skin will thank you. And your state of mind will improve drastically. Sometimes you can buy happiness. And love.
Happy Valentine's Day! Happy lovin'!
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! Since you were probably up late watching the Super Bowl -- and, like me, New Girl! -- (and may have overserved yourself a bit with either food or bev... or both), I thought I'd try to brighten your day with a little Before & After action.
Our apartment has what I believe would be called a "dining alcove" or "breakfast nook" by real estate professionals. When we moved in, we made an executive decision not to use the space for dining purposes because you would basically be looking straight into the dated (and inevitably always messy) kitchen, and the space also isn't large enough for the number of people we would want to seat for gatherings. We like to entertain and, before our current apartment, had never lived in an apartment large enough to allow for a big table; and we also have always liked the open layout concept (especially when you have limited space) because it can feel relaxed and like less of a production when you entertain (e.g. let's start with drinks and cheese in the living area, move over to the dining area for dinner and then back to the living area to hang out post-dinner). So we were excited to turn our new living room into a living/dining room and fulfill our dream of having a big extendable farm table at one end of it (after much searching, we ended up with the Cortona table from Pottery Barn).
Because of this, though, the "alcove" became a sort of no man's land of random storage and nothingness. We would have people over for dinner, make our dining table look awesome, and then realize as we all sat down for dinner that the alcove provided a serious eye sore that detracted from the dining experience (I'm sure our guests didn't care, but I could think of nothing else!). The alcove desperately needed an upgrade, and after two years of living with the no man's land, we finally got to give it a makeover.
The Story of Awkward to Awesome
Every room needs at least one antique or vintage piece to bring it to life. And our alcove was begging to be brought to life. My parents, as a dual graduation gift for Matt and me, offered to get us a nice piece of furniture -- specifically an antique -- for our apartment, because they thought it would be a lasting ode to what we had accomplished and also would be something that we could not afford ourselves. Obviously, this excited us very much.
When I was in Kansas City last winter, my mom brought me to our friend Scott Lindsay's phenomenally amazing townhouse in midtown Kansas City. The townhouse is in a historic district of Kansas City and is truly one of the most gorgeous homes I've ever seen. Scott is a beyond talented antiques dealer and interior designer who is that type of wonderfully gracious old school charmer who refuses to let you leave an appointment without sitting down for tea (served in gorgeous china) with delicate cookies from André's, a delicious Swiss pastry shop in Kansas City. (Photo to left is of Scott and me at my wedding - isn't he adorable? Photo credit: Isaac Alongi.)
Scott sells out of one of the apartments in his townhouse, and he spent literally hours with me walking through the space, showing me each piece and allowing me to ask every question that came to mind. I love to know the story of an antique - where did it come from, how was it made, what was it used for originally, does it have any special meaning, how did you come across it, etc. etc. If you end up getting to have it in your home, its history adds so much to the story of your home and your décor... and you.
Scott's collection is seriously museum quality, and he has impeccable taste. I left our get-together wanting basically everything I saw, but there was one piece in particular that I couldn't stop thinking about. My mom had originally wanted me to see a Provençal cherry armoire from the 1780s (you know my family and our armoires), which I did really like, but I was concerned that it would be too tall for our "barely legal" 8.8' ceilings (which are even shorter in the "alcove"). Instead I zeroed in on a Florentine buffet from the late 17th century (Scott says circa 1680-1700). It was ornate, but masculine enough that I thought Matt would like it (I was right - he loves it), with a carved crest and a carved sort of Boticelli-esque lady. It is a looming piece -- a bit oversized -- but very friendly and welcoming. It has an incredible amount of storage -- and you know I like my furniture to be useful. It is just all around cool and the kind of piece that needs its own room, so when I saw it, I could picture it instantly in our awkward alcove area.
Getting the piece from KC to NYC is something I never want to discuss. Let's just say that it involved me, in my boot, standing on the sidewalk, with a massive crate, in the rain, and that I may have verbally assaulted via phone the owner of the local UPS store (Riaz from UPS Store 5899, if you're curious) to the point that I can never ship something from there without using a fake name and address. I reserve my verbal assaults for only those that are truly deserving, so you can draw your own conclusions about Riaz from UPS Store 5899 and his inability to get the contents of said crate from the sidewalk to my apartment. But once we got the buffet up to our apartment and in its new home, our buffet felt right at home and my anger with Riaz from UPS Store 5899 melted away. I just felt bad that our 325 year old addition to the family had such a rough trip to the Big Apple. But I assure you the buffet is very happy now. I honestly feel like hugging it sometimes (and maybe I actually have), I love it so much. Its name, like many oversized things I love, is Buddy. Not terribly Italian, but he's an international fellow, you see - and anyway, Buddy is a New Yorker now. Every morning, while I'm waiting for the Keurig to make my coffee, Buddy gets a little hello and a pat.
Before & After!
We moved the books from the bookcase to the window sill to the left (as you might remember having read here), and moved the bookcase to our bedroom. I also had fun "outfitting" the top of the buffet with a mix of high and low things that mean something to us and tie the piece in with the rest of the apartment. That champagne poster was just too annoying to move (we did this when I was in a boot last summer and Matt was too busy studying for the bar to "deal" with it), so we worked with the off-centered nature of the poster (and the fact that it looks like it's sitting on the buffet) and did some layered art instead.
On the inside, we've put every piece of china and serveware imaginable that we received as wedding gifts, and then some. It's huge and perfect for storage of such things, and makes the piece feel even more meaningful.
A quick overview of what we have on top of our awesome buffet (in case you're curious). A lot of the items are things I purchased a long time ago or that we received as wedding gifts, so they're not readily available. But if there's anything you love, let me know and I can help you find something similar.
1. Anthropologie "gaggle of geese" measuring cups (no longer sold online).
2. William Yeoward decanter (wedding gift).
3. Annalisa Barelli "Lullaby Dreams" print. Annalisa is one of my best and oldest friends and an INCREDIBLE artist. She gave me this print for my 30th birthday this year, and I immediately had it framed and just ADORE it with all my heart. I will be blogging much more about her soon!
4. Poster from Allposters.com, which I bought at some point during my first post-college year. If you get a poster with extra matting, it can elevate some so-so to a bigger statement.
5. A watercolor by me! Matt had it framed for me with white matting and gilded frame. Want something like this? CONTACT ME!
6. Waylande Gregory Large Chubby Bowl, $695. We got ours at Gump's in San Francisco, but I can't find the exact one online anywhere. Here is a similar one from Michael C. Fina.
7. Pottery Barn tray. This was a wedding gift, and I can't find anything like it online right now!
8. Varga Captiva Green Wine Goblet, $230 each. These are probably the fanciest thing we own (again, a blend of wedding gifts) and I'm afraid to actually use them, but they sure are pretty to look at!
9. Waterford Decanter (wedding gift!).
And that is my Before & After of our awkward alcove made awesome! What do you think? Do you have any spaces in need of upgrades or a new "Buddy"?
Happy Monday and hope you have a fabulous week!
This New Yorker cartoon always makes me laugh and seems perfectly fitting for Super Bowl Sunday, also known as the Day When Excessive Overeating Is Totally Acceptable ("Diet starts Monday!"). It's also the Day When I Actually Want To Watch Advertisements (like this unbelievably cute one).
Happy pigging out and enjoying funny ads!
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!
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.