Sorry for the silence - things have been busy recently!
So, the East Coast is pretty snowy right now, eh? This Polar Vortex 2.0 has me thinking of nothing but cozy, clean winter white. Thankfully, January is also the season of white sales, so I am in fluffy white bedding and bath heaven.
I found myself on the Pottery Barn website the other night -- first as research for a client, but ultimately as research for myself -- and saw a couple of pretty exciting soft white things that were begging to be ordered and shipped to my home pronto (I had a very old merchandise credit that needed to be used, which helped promote this purchase). What did I get? Read on to find out! The items might seem a bit random, but I always wait until the January sales to pounce on items like these, and I've been thinking about these things for some time. So for me it was a no brainer - especially with that merchandise credit!
My Exciting Winter White White Sale Purchases
1) A New White Quilt!
I love Pottery Barn's pickstitch quilt. It is soft and luxurious, and it's also a pretty tolerable price point. We've had it in porcelain blue for years -- and the color has never felt quite right to me (Matt says it's a little like the color of hospital bedding, though it really has grown on both of us over time), so I have always secretly really wanted the white version. The thing is, even though it's a somewhat tolerable price point, at $179 it never feels right to just buy a quilt for the sake of buying a quilt. It feels like an unnecessary splurge. Discounted to its current price of $159 feels a little more tolerable, and with my store credit, I felt even better about the purchase. The quilt is linen-cotton and super soft, and it's a really nice weight for bedding. I layer mine either under a duvet in the winter or folded as a throw at the bottom of the bed over the duvet in the summer.
You may recall my post on our on-going bedroom makeover. This quilt is one of the steps to serenity!
2) New White Bath Mats!
I know, I know. How could I be excited about bath mats? Let me tell you, it's possible. We've had our current bath mats for maybe five years, and that's like 95 years old in bath mat years. They are very old and tired and ready to retire. I have been eying bright white looped bath mats for a while, which should complement our charmingly old white tiled floor. Our current mats are a sage green, which worked great in the modern sienna colored bathroom we used to have in our old rental and do not work so great in the purple and white bathroom we currently have (yes, it's purple, the wallpaper, counters and curtains are from the '60s -- we're talking flower power, sad plaid, formica counters, fluorescent lights, the works -- and until we are able to renovate, I'm doing everything in my power to make the room feel modern and light despite what's really going on). When we moved in, we got the Pottery Barn white waffle weave shower curtain, $59, which helped the room enormously, and I've been eying these Cotton Twist Bath Rugs, ($24 for the medium, down from $29) for a while to complement the clean white look. It's like a fresh start for the new year! I bought two - one for next to the tub and one for in front of the sink. It's going to be gloriously fresh!
Where To Buy:
Pottery Barn is my go-to for white bedding and bath staples - it's easy, good quality and the price is right. I particularly like their pearl-embroidered bedding, $17.99-$109, down from $29-129. An embroidered boudoir pillow is particularly fun. Monograms are $7, but worth it. I love a good monogram in a bedroom.
You can also try Restoration Hardware for some slightly more expensive options. I can't dig too far into this sale because it involves actual furniture items and makes me want things I can't afford. Like this dresser. In "antiqued natural." Which is sooo totally off topic!
Back to bedding and bath, Neiman Marcus is an excellent place to purchase Lauren Ralph Lauren towels at a discount in January. Things are more or less half price ($5-$25 instead of $8-43), which is exactly what I'm looking for in a sale. Go ahead and get them monogrammed. It's free, and everything is better with a monogram. It feels so grown up and sophisticated.
Stay safe and and warm... happy fluffy shopping!
Kate Kelly Design/A La Recherche is dedicated to the pursuit of finding inspiration in everything and of helping people find their happy. Normally the focus here is on interiors and shopping and other pretty and life-improving things, but I thought I'd take a little break from the visually stimulating today and instead share two articles that I found totally inspiring and that I hope I can internalize and call upon whenever I find myself mentally wavering in the happy category.
I'll call these lists a life-improving thing.
The following articles were published in Forbes in November (leave it to me not to find them until now) and are simply magical. They are about "mental strength" -- and "mental strength," to me, is happiness. It's freedom from unnecessary worry, from self doubt, from letting a "bully" type of person get to you (and somehow, no matter how old we are, this can unfortunately happen to us). It's the freedom to be in control of how we react and how we feel. The freedom to be the most positive version of ourselves.
The first is a list of 13 things that "mentally strong" people "avoid," and can be found here. The second is a list of "powerful exercises" that you can do to improve your "mental strength." It can be found here.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all peace, love, happiness and a dash of whimsy this year!
I recently happened upon a super fun peace sign hand sculpture that I hope will find its way to my home in the coming weeks. It just perfectly captures what I hope 2014 will bring: peace, whimsy, and strength... and happiness.
Matt and I were discussing New Year's resolutions yesterday, and I said that one of mine was simply to be happy. "Happy? Is that a resolution?" he asked. "Absolutely!" I said. Happiness, at least to some extent, is a choice and can at times require a great deal of resolve to obtain/maintain. The old adage "fake it 'til you make it" comes to mind here, and the payoff once you "make it" is enormous and enormously worth it. If that's not a resolution, I don't know what is. The universe can have a pretty sick sense of humor at times (and at others, a delightful one), and it's up to us to decide how to handle it. 2013 was a year of some pretty phenomenal ups and some pretty brutal downs, but even now, as I close in on month ten of a debilitating foot injury and finish up week three of a painful surgery recovery, I feel an extreme sense of gratitude for the hand that was dealt to me this year. I'll never know how it happened, or why, but I like to think there was a reason and that the experience will make me a stronger and more compassionate person (even though it is easy to feel pretty worthless and woe-is-me in my current state). Who knows? A girl can dream.
So how did I find that fun little hand? On a whim of course, which is my favorite way to find things. I'll take you on a little tour of my search (a window into my meandering, "creative" (i.e. mildly ADD) mind), because I stumbled upon some great blogs along the way! During a delightfully aimless Google search for gold side tables yesterday (I am planning out a reno of our living room - inspiration board coming soon!), I happened upon a fun blog entry on gold/brass and marble color combos (one of my favorite combos) on a fabulous blog called The Covetable. This led me to The Covetable's "Apartment Envy" section (OMG, what fun!), which featured the apartment of Amelia Canham Eaton, who co-founded the blog The CHICago Life (also a fab blog). In Amelia's apartment tour, I saw this image and thought the peace hand was just super fun:
Then I saw this image and knew I'd found a kindred spirit - she has my pig bookends!!
I separately had been looking at the Jayson Home website (a Lincoln Park based home décor store that I wish existed in New York) where a brass peace sign captured my attention. Could it be the same thing? I thought when I saw the hand in Amelia's Chicago home. I do believe it is! At $168 plus shipping though, it's not the steal of a deal that my $29 pig bookends were and thus not something I can just purchase on a whim. I did a bit more digging to see if this happy hand was sold elsewhere, and I think I've found the same one (or an excellent replica) at Zinc Door for $137 plus free shipping. Same dimensions and similar coloring (unclear whether the coloring is in fact different or the photography is causing the difference):
So, what can this funny little hand represent? Many things! For me, it will be my adaptation (plus an addition) of the "10 to Zen" that has been cheesily circling about Pinterest recently. In other words, the pursuit of happiness.
What are your New Year's resolutions??
Happy New Year! And peace, man!
Happy New Year's Eve!
New Year's Eve is a time for statements, and statement jewelry is a much safer way to say something to the world than overdoing it with the champagne (though there Is no rule against mixing statement jewels and champs!).
I love finding great steals, especially of the statement necklace variety. And statement necklaces that have a global, worldly feel to them. I also love finding statement necklaces that aren't too heavy. (I get headaches from too much weight on my neck, and because headaches trump fashion statements, that often gets in the way of my desire to wear big necklaces.)
So imagine my delight when I happened upon this gem of a globally inspired statement steal when I was browsing the J.Crew website the other day for some last minute Christmas gift items: the studs and stones embroidered necklace, $29.99 ($49.99 plus 40% off with code SHOPHAPPY) DOWN FROM $198! That's 85% off! $29 for a fabulous J.Crew necklace that otherwise would be $200? YES, PLEASE.
At the time that I found the necklace, J.Crew thankfully hadn't implemented its very annoying "final sale" situation to its sale item stock, so I was able to purchase the product risk-free (they've since turned on the dreaded "final sale" concept to clear out inventory). I ordered two: one for my mom and one for me (along with some "lumberjack shirts" for Matt). When the necklace arrived a few days later, I ripped open the package and was totally delighted (and my mom assures me she liked hers as well)! It's perfect! The orange is NEON, which is not clear in the picture, and the green is a little bit more muted -- almost a sage green -- than the photo leads one to believe. But I totally welcome the neon orange juxtaposed with the "pinot noir" color, and the green can read neon in certain light. It looks cool. Two other great parts? 1) the whole thing is backed in smooth fabric, so it doesn't scratch; and 2) it is not heavy, which was a delightful surprise (it does look like it could be heavy and many J.Crew necklaces tend to be on the heavy and uncomfortable side).
Tonight, as 2013 comes to a close, I hope you put on whatever baubles you have, clink a glass of bubbly with a loved one or a stranger, and ring in the new year in whatever way feels right (I'll be at home still in "recovery mode," but I'll definitely be wearing this necklace while I drink a little champs with the hubs!). And if you're daring, click on over to J.Crew and grab one of these fab necklaces! Beware - it's unfortunately "final sale" now, so it's more of a gamble than it should be - but for $29, I think it's worth the risk!
Happy Celebrating! And Statement Making!
Apologies for the radio silence, everyone! Recovering from surgery is a bit more intense than I'd anticipated, and I just haven't been up to writing. Basically all I am capable of doing right now is watching TV and pinning on Pinterest (apologies to anyone who follows me for overcrowding your feed!). I am going to take another week or so off from blogging while I continue to recoup, but I wanted to take a minute and share our holiday decor photos before they're completely outdated!
Matt and I put up our holiday decor the weekend before I went under the knife. The transformation was very quick and easy (and something I was somewhat capable of doing in a walking boot). We bought a ginormous tree from the nice tree sellers that come down from Quebec every year, and we also grabbed a bunch of loose greenery from them (free when you buy a tree or probably if you ask nicely) to use on the mantle and dining table.
On the tree we used white lights and ornaments that our families have given us over time. I love the feeling of history that a tree can have when you hang ornaments that members of your family grew up with and that tell a little story of who you are.
The tree is actually so large that I couldn't get a photo of it head on. This angle is from our foyer looking into the living room (the fireplace is to the left - you can see the rug in the bottom left corner).
For the mantle, we used oldies but goodies that we have "on file." A few years ago, my mom gave us a nutcracker (she used to take me to the Nutcracker when I was a kid) and my mother-in-law gave us some cute Noel and snowman clown figurines from the Taft Museum in Cincinnati. The colors all go great with our decor and make decorating each year super easy! We just added the greenery around the figurines to give everything a bit more life and to tie in the tree (I also used some to cover up the ugly wall hanging nail that shows on the top of the mirror - worked like a charm!)
For the wreath, I wanted something that was just really green and fresh - and easy. I bought a $20 wreath that our Quebec friends were selling and then I got about $10 worth of other boxwood-style greenery from the corner bodega. I hung the wreath over our door knocker and stuck the bodega greens into various parts of the wreath. I then curled the greens around the circle of the wreath and held it all down with a little wire that my Quebec friends gave me. I added a burlap bow (parts of it are braided but you can't see from here) for some rustic charm.
And that's a wrap, folks! What did you do for your decor? I'd love to know!
Hope you all are celebrating your various holidays and can hopefully enjoy a little time off from work. Happiest of holidays and I'll be back in the new year!
Merry merry and happy happy!
It's Day Three of Kate's Favorite Things (and likely the final day... but who knows, there might be more)! I had high hopes of doing many days of this (it is seriously fun to log all of my favorite things), but I'm getting foot surgery tomorrow and will need to take a little hiatus from the blogosphere. I had hoped to cover clothing gifts at some point (amongst many, many other things!), but I just haven't gotten my act together. Forgive me, please? I promise when I'm back to blog all about my favorite fashion picks! In the meantime, I'll give you a tip: Whether you're shopping for a guy or a gal, just go to J.Crew and call it a day. Cashmere sweaters and accessories. Plaid shirts. 30% off. Done. Everyone loves themselves some cashmere sweaters, cozy accessories and wintery plaid shirts come December, and I'm sure that whatever you choose will look ravishing on the recipient and envelop them in your friendly, loving gesture.
But if you don't necessarily want to give clothes... read on! Today's topic is HOME, and I am super excited about everything on this list. Prices range from $10 to $160, and you can't go wrong with any of these items. Enjoy!
Kate's Favorite Things - Home Edition!
Crate & Barrel Camille 23 oz. Red Wine Glass, $10.36 each (on sale from $12.95), from Crate & Barrel
Are you a Scandal watcher? I thought so. I'll bet you've noticed that Olivia Pope likes to relax at the end of the day with a ginormous glass of wine. I'll bet you like the glasses she drinks out of. Who wouldn't? They're awesome.
THIS THE GLASS SHE DRINKS OUT OF. Unfortunately, I'm not the only person who figured this out, and the rest of the world has placed an order and drained C&B's supply, so they're backordered until March. But I have hope that they'll ship sooner. If you've got a real Scandal fan (and a fan of elegantly ginormous wine glasses), I'll bet they're willing to wait a few months to get their hot little hands on these bad boys so that they too can relax at the end of a hard day of crisis control and totally inappropriate affairs whilst wearing the white hat.
Crate & Barrel also has a smaller 13 oz. white wine glass that's a little less cool and isn't quite what Olivia owns, but it has the bonus of being available for consumption now and also isn't so comically large.
Compagnie de Provence Olive Lavender Perfume Diffuser, $25.00, from Compagnie de Provence
I recently tested every lavender scented diffuser that the Gracious Home store had to offer. I bought two, this one (which I'm raving about now) and this one (beautiful and smells amazing up very close, but it overall packs very little punch - also beware that if it drips on a wood surface, it will eat away the finish). The Compagnie de Provence Olive Lavande diffuser is far and away the most incredible scent I've ever smelled. You know by now that I love lavender... but I never would have thought that mixing it with olive would produce such an intensely delightful experience. It smells like fresh air and Provence. It's refreshing, relaxing and just generally amazing. I put ours in the bedroom and plan to place a few more throughout the apartment. Give this to any Francophile or lover of things that smell amazing. And trust me: buy one for yourself.
One note: The company claims that this will last 8-10 weeks. I don't know how that is possible. Mine lasted almost exactly a month (I distinctly remember buying it on Veterans' Day), and the oil has been aggressively wicked away to the last drop. I don't know if I had particularly thirsty reeds or if all of the diffusers are like this, but it's worth mentioning. And perhaps that's why it makes a room smell so darn phenomenal (the other diffuser that I bought has barely budged, but you also barely notice the scent). I am not a fan of how quickly this diffuser must be replaced, but it certainly hasn't stopped me from placing another order (and I just learned that they sell a refill, though it's out of stock). Once you smell this scent, you won't be able to live without it.
Venturi Wine Aerator, $29.95 (on sale from $39.95), from Williams Sonoma
This little thing is just awesome, and everyone should have one in their home. It's a little wine aerator and it works magic by frothily aerating your wine as you pour it into your glass. It makes a very bizarre and distinct sucking/gurgling sound that you'll come to associate with the delightful experience. Give it to everyone on your list who likes wine; buy one for yourself too.
Mariposa Individual Pearled Wavy Bowl, $48.00, from Mariposa
My obsession with Mariposa began in 2010 when my friend Stephanie gave us this bowl as a shower gift. The undulating lines paired with the pearl trim are just gorgeous, and the silver is beautiful. It's a great piece to have in the living room. I like to leave it empty, but it would also beautifully display nuts or candies for a party.
Jo Malone™ 'English Pear & Freesia' Scented Home Candle, $65 from Norstrom.com
Jo Malone is just synonymous with luxury. I've been giving the Lime, Basil & Mandarin candle as a gift for years whenever I want to give something extra special, but I actually did not get to have the privilege of owning one of my very own until last year, when my friend Emily gave me the English Pear & Freesia version. OMG is it incredible. I actually squealed with glee when I got the package -- the package comes just bursting with beautiful scent (I think they spray the box down so it's extra scentsational) and triggers instant euphoria, and as you tear into it, the scent just gets more magnificent, decadent and all-consuming. Emily also gave me the Lime, Basil & Mandarin body crème, $75, which I am pretty certain is heaven in a jar.
Waylande Gregory Green Leopard Print Coasters, $90, from Zhush.com
I'm moderately obsessed with Waylande Gregory pottery and home goods. I learned of him for the first time when Matt and I were in California over the summer, and now I am hooked. Waylande Gregory (1905-1971) was an artist and art deco sculptor from Kansas (yes!) credited with revolutionizing art deco ceramics sculpture. Now his name lives on with Waylande Gregory Studios after the great-grandnephew discovered "a treasure trove" of Waylande's work. Everything from the collection is fantastic -- I seriously cannot pick a favorite, as you'll see below -- but these coasters are a nice price point, super useful (we all need coasters and never think to buy them for ourselves) and that emeraldy green color is just incredible. As is the fabulous leopard. I'm obsessed.
Simon Pearce Woodbury Bowl - S, $95.00, from Simon Pearce
Everything about this piece is beautiful and elegant and would fit into any home. Our Aunt Susan gave this to us as an engagement gift, and I've just loved it ever since. Simon Pearce is a sure bet for holiday gift giving.
Waylande Gregory Small Tiger Gray Bullet Bowl, $135, from Orange and Pear
These little bullet bowls are adorable and a nice little size (4.5" across) to add a pop to your side table. They're also great for holding little things like earrings or rings next to your bed. There are a lot of different options, but I like this tiger. Its lines are very elegant and feminine, but the coloring is masculine, so the overall look of the bowl is not overtly girly. This brown leopard version is also really great.
Note, the bowl is a little bit elevated (1.5") and tapered on the bottom. It's hard to see in the photo, but it's an elegant touch and helps the bowl look a bit more dainty.
Waylande Gregory Gold and Orange Small Square Elephant Tray, $160, from Zhush.com
I'm just obsessed with every aspect of this dish, for reasons you can probably guess based on my previous posts: elephants, orange, gold, whimsy, and a touch of practicality. I love when whimsy and practicality meet! This dish is just the shizz. We happened upon it when we were in San Francisco and bought it as a wedding gift -- and liked it so much that we bought an extra one for ourselves... it's a tad embarrassing to admit, but having this dish in my living room is totally worth the shame.
I'm sure I will be back in a few days, but if not, I hope you have the happiest of holidays!! Let me know what you give as gifts!
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
At some point in recent history, I decided that I have no patience for makeup. In part, I like to sleep as late as humanly possible and still make it to work on time; in part, my bizarre foot problem (avascular necrosis of the sesamoid) has rendered me much less capable of standing in front of a mirror for any period of time that an extensive beauty routine might require; and, in part, I've decided that "natural" is so much, you know, cooler than "done up" (you see how one excuse justifies the next). I also like to bring my makeup with me "on the road" and apply on the go if necessary. Thus, I've arrived at a very speedy and foolproof makeup application process and lineup of products (all for around $100 in total and nothing more than ~$30 individually, but some items will last you for a really long time and are well worth the investment).
There are three keys to makeup success: bronzer, a worthy bronzer brush and eyes.
Bronzer is hands down the fastest way to bring your face to life. In a few quick swipes, you can go from sickly ("Oh, goodness, you just look exhausted today" - Gee, thanks...? You... too?) to glowing ("Oh my goodness, you look fabulous!" - Why, thank you! I do just naturally glow, don't I, dahling?). There are many great bronzers out there - Cargo, Smashbox, Bobbi Brown, and Benefit all make lovely ones - but I've recently come back to an oldie but goodie and am pleased with the results (I ran out of it last month and bought another brand in a pinch to make do, and it's just not the same). For my pale complexion, I love bareMinerals All-Over Face Color in warmth, $19.00. The loose powder may seem unwieldy, but once you get the hang of it, you'll appreciate the control it allows you to have in terms of saturation and placement. Also the color "warmth" may seem like a lot for a pale, semi-freckly face, but it works well on skin with a pink undertone and really does add warmth to your appearance (if your skin's undertone is a bit more yellow, I might recommend the "faux tan" color instead). When going for gold in as little time as possible, I'm not a fan of "matching skin tones" (unless you're just trying to even out your complexion). I put bronzer on for a reason: to look more bronzed.
The Bronzer Brush
It may not seem like it, but splurging on the brush is really worth it - I have cheaped out on a "natural kabuki brush" at Duane Reade to keep at work and lived to regret it. After enough painful applications, it ended up in the trash and I ended up buying a good brush. I used to keep drug store make up at work and keep the "good stuff" at home, but I've since changed my tune. We all spend the majority of our lives at work and deserve to have some nice make up around to spruce up in the morning or before going out at night. A good brush will last you years (provided you clean it appropriately) and will feel lovely on your face (you'll thank yourself with every silky swipe of bronzer). If you want something small for on-the-go or for work, this bareMinerals Full Coverage Kabuki Brush, $28.00, at Sephora, is great. It gives you the benefits of a full-sized brush, but fits somewhat compactly in a makeup bag. This Sephora Collection Classic Must Have Large Powder Brush #30, $36.00, is also really nice (but more space intensive). Throw on a few light swipes of bronzer with these bad boys and don't look back.
While bronzer and the bronzer brush are key to the success of any makeup routine, the eyes are where you can get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of time spent and immediate facial improvement, and it can be done very quickly and will few tools. My favorite quick-and-dirty eye routine is as follows (this is again for someone with relatively pale skin, blue eyes and lightish hair, but is so neutral that it could be used on a variety of complexions, and shades can of course be varied to fit your personal needs and skin tone):
1. Apply this Sephora Collection Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner, $13.00. I use the "10 Matte Brown Black" and on occasion the "21 Matte Deep Plum" (great for blue eyes). It is super easy to use and stays on. I also like that this pencil is retractable and thus does not require sharpening.
2. Using your finger, swipe your lids generously with this amazing Benefit Cosmetics Creaseless Cream Shadow, $20.00, in "R.S.V.P." (a sparkling champagne color). It is literally foolproof and instantly brightens your eyes and face. This goes on so easily and has a lovely shimmer to it to add just a glimmer and a nice "I'm awake!" pop of sheen. Darker skin tones can try "rich fawn."
3. Comb brows lightly and sparingly apply this amazing Benefit Cosmetics Instant Brow Pencil, $20.00. You think you don't need an eyebrow pencil? You do. It will change your life. Get this one. It is so easy - so much easier than using powder - and it makes an insta-difference to your face. It goes quickly, so make sure you have a pencil sharpener handy because you'll need to sharpen every week or two (I normally wouldn't force you to buy something that requires sharpening, but this product is that good). I use the light-to-medium. I have tried to medium-to-dark as well, and it is nice if you want a more dramatic eye, but I prefer the light-to-medium.
4. Finish eyes off with a quick lash curl (if you have a curler) and a few swipes of this incredible Givenchy Noir Couture 4 in 1 Mascara in 1 Black Satin, $15.00. I have the mini (I bought it on a whim while waiting in line at Sephora) and love, love, love it. Buy it. You'll thank me.
Steps 1-3 can be done in any order, but I usually like to end with Step 4. How long did all of that take? Like, maybe a minute. Go from blah to Blake Lively faster than your Keurig can make your coffee.
All of this is available at Sephora in stores or online. If you order online, all orders over $50 receive free 3-day shipping. I like to try things in store though. Make up is a personal choice and what works great for me might not be quite right for you, so I always recommend trying (some) make up out before making a big investment (if you'll recall my issues with sponges though, you'll understand why I recommend just buying the mascara and eyeliner without trying them - the germiness and possible contamination is just not worth it to me, and the mascara and eyeliner I've recommended are universally flattering and not wallet denting). Also, all of the products that I've suggested are so darn neutral too that they should very easily and flatteringly work on a variety of skin types.
Another plus? These are all excellent stocking stuffers and gifties for friends!
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!
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.