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!
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!
I know I said I would write about entryways all week, but my week suddenly became consumed with a Craigslist purchase and now I can think of nothing else. Entryways will have to wait.
Here's the deal: At night, when I should be starting my bedtime routine, I like to canvas the Craigslist furniture ads. It's a little obsessive. Definitely compulsive. And I'm sure it's pretty creepy. Let's just call it meditative.
The thing is. Sometimes after digging through that giant haystack of mundane Ikea crappola, you actually, out of nowhere, manage to find the needle. And then you're faced with the question -- always the late night one, the one where you should be turning off the light and going to bed, but instead, you're thinking about that needle you just found: If you had one shot, one opportunity... would you capture it or let it slip away?
One such opportunity presented itself to me earlier this week, during my ritualistic evening perusal of search term: "chair." I can't even recall why I was looking, but then out of nowhere, I saw it: "Linen Sofa & 2 Club Chairs by Cisco Furniture - $600 (Upper West Side)."
CISCO FURNITURE? As in CISCO BROTHERS? This does not happen on Craigslist. It never happens on Craigslist!
You likely have not heard of Cisco Brothers. Before last June, I hadn't either. But then, as I do with things, I became obsessed. Matt's parents super kindly offered to buy us a new sofa as a dual graduation gift when we graduated from our respective institutions last spring, and when we started looking, we found a cool sofa we liked out at a home décor store in the Hamptons. It was the Cisco Brothers Cordova sofa (which I did not know at the time, but after much obsessive googling, I figured this out). We never ended up pulling the trigger, partially because there's the fear that everything is marked up in the Hamptons, but we never stopped thinking about it. I researched the company more and fell more in love with it - L.A. based, everything's made in the USA, everything's organic. It's just all around awesomeness. It's also horrifically expensive (as truly great upholstery is).
When we were on vacation in California, we made sure to stop at the flagship store in L.A. and once again committed to the idea of buying a Cisco Brothers sofa. This time, we fell in love with the Hayden Deluxe Sofa (and if all goes well, maybe one day we'll have it, shrunk down to 90"), but still, we never forgot the Cordova.
So imagine how I felt when I saw the CORDOVA on CRAIGSLIST. A SOFA. And TWO CHAIRS. All for $600??? HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS FABULOUS. I emailed the seller faster than you can say Cisco (and she emailed back faster than I could have imagined) and found out that the sofa had already been sold, but the chairs were available. So this is where the opportunity thing comes into play: we don't need two new club chairs. We need a new sofa. And we would like a new club chair and perhaps a smaller chair to complement it. Two club chairs is possibly too big for our living room (it's only 12 feet wide), but when presented with two chairs that you love, that retail for, like, $2,500 each, that are being given to you for $150 each (by my calculations that's a 94% discount), it's the difference between an extremely bad case of buyer's remorse and an extremely bad case of saver's remorse. And who wants to suffer from saver's remorse? Not I, said the fly. And so I took the leap of faith and bought the chairs (the seller and her husband, by the way, were just the loveliest people ever).
Below is a mock up of what our living room might eventually look like with the chairs and if we get the Hayden sofa. The painting and lamps, and some of the pillows, are things we already own, so I often play around with different furniture looks and colors using what we already have to get a sense for what works and what doesn't. I think this works! Though the pillows may need to change.
The chairs are going to be delivered at some point next week. I am totally excited and totally stressed. The chairs are quite large: 37"w x 32"h x 42"d, and our current elevator (our regular one is being serviced) is quite tiny. The door opening is 29" and then the interior space is 40"w x 34"d. Then you get to our tiny door, which is only 28" (and that's stretching it). So I'm moderately aware of how poorly this could all go down. But when you have an opportunity, you have to seize it, right? I'm hopeful. And trying to think positive! Thinking positive is a good thing! And I am just hours away (hopefully) from sitting on two down filled Cisco Brothers Cordova chairs!
Happy anticipating! Happy Craigslist scouring!
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!
There are two things I learned very quickly upon moving to New York in 2006: when you live in an apartment the size of a postage stamp, armoires serve as excellent storage/hiders of things (they work great in large houses too); and, when you have a limited income/budget, Craigslist is an excellent source for finding said armoires and other delightful furniture at extremely reasonable prices.
I started this post with the intention of just focusing on armoires (there are, after all, billions of armoires out there that can be acquired via a variety of different vendors), but I very quickly realized that my love of armoires is very closely linked to my love of Craigslist. I love armoires, and I love Craigslist. Armoires, and in particular armoires purchased via the wild world of Craigslist, have made my life more beautiful, efficient, and organized (and I'm not going to lie... the Craigslist part is pretty exciting). Armoires allow you to have the illusion of cleanliness and sophistication while hiding a big ol' mess behind those gorgeous hardwood doors. They're the ultimate friend: open and welcoming when you want and excellent at hiding your (messy) little secrets when you need them too.
My mother is the one who taught me always to hide televisions in armoires or behind closed doors. When I was growing up, the TV in our house was hidden behind cabinet doors, and I learned that electronics were meant to be hidden in living areas where guests might visit. My parents had a giant built-in over the fireplace in our family room that they created around a massive tube TV purchased in 1988 -- which they adorably still have in place 25 years later and are finally going to replace this winter -- that had beautifully painted cabinet doors that could be opened or closed depending on whether the TV was to be seen or not. So when I moved to New York after college and was able to decorate my very first apartment, it was only natural that I thought to put my TV in an armoire and carry on the decorating TV peep show. My armoire was one of my first furniture purchases and it is one that will always make me feel warm and fuzzy because it was one of the first independent decisions I made post-college and the purchase experience was really great and seamless: I found the piece on Craigslist after obsessive searching for "antique armoire," and the seller was just the nicest guy ever -- he was a Sutton Place high-rise superintendent, his aunt in Mexico had painted the piece by hand, he negotiated on the price (I paid $500, down from his ask of $750, which I deemed reasonable), he offered to drill holes in it so I could use it for electronics and then delivered it himself to my apartment (truly a picture perfect Craigslist deal). It is a well-made piece that has served its purpose beautifully over the years.
Armoires work particularly well for electronics and for clothes (I have one for each, if your curious, but this post is more TV focused). When you have a lot of stuff in a small amount of space, and only a small area in which to entertain (when you live in a studio apartment, for example, your closet is in your living room), I think it's important to be able to hide that stuff, and it's a nice plus to be able to hide the stuff in a piece of furniture that elevates the look of your space.
I have noticed in recent years that with the death of tube TVs and the infiltration of flat screen TVs into the homes of everyone, everywhere, the trend is to stop hiding your electronics and to start hanging them on your wall for all to see. The conversation of "to hide" or "not to hide" was prompted over Thanksgiving weekend when my parents, Matt and I all went to Best Buy to check out the TVs. Matt and I wanted to buy each other a new TV (ours previously was 27" in -- top of the line in 2006 -- and I had to squint to see it from our sofa), and we diligently measured our armoire to figure out just how big we could go with the TV. I told my parents we could go do 40" - maybe 42" or 43" -- and nothing more. Otherwise, it wouldn't fit in the armoire. "Don't you want to get a really big one and just hang it on the wall?" my mom asked. WHAT?! Even my mother wants a giant flat screen TV hanging on the wall with nothing to cover it?! What about all of those childhood lessons I was taught? (Fast forward a few moments to the point of purchase and as Matt hands over our credit card, my dad swoops in and says that he and my mom want to buy the TV for us for Christmas. Unexpected treat! Thank you, Mom and Dad! And that is an excellent gifting idea if you want to go big for Christmas.).
I am not opposed to this TV-on-wall thing. My parents deserve to put a 60 incher up on their wall after having watched that eyesore of a boob tube for 25 years, and I am sure that in the next few years Matt and I too will slap our new 40 incher up on the wall and move the armoire elsewhere (especially if I could ever get my hands on a sideboard/credenza like this Danish rosewood piece on 1stdibs or this gorgeous buffet made by my friend Meg Piercy of MegMade -- more on her fabulousness coming soon!). I guess, as the saying goes, if you've got it, flaunt it. But I still find an armoire to be charmingly demure and a lovely touch that is particularly helpful for those like me who are not only messy by nature but also have, like, 1000 cords and random Time Warner Cable boxes that likely do nothing but might serve a purpose, and tampering with the evil gods of Time Warner Cable is just not worth it (I really don't want to mess with the functionality of my television and internet.). Armoires ground a room and give it weight and character. And they also add an element of height that adds excitement to a room's landscape and isn't otherwise attainable through other furniture means.
Let's face it: Armoires give a room two distinct identities and allow us to mix business with pleasure. It's fantastic! Let's take my living room for example:
95% of the time, our living room looks like the "Pleasure" side: Doors wide open (we have to prop the door open with that wire piece because the floors in our old building are slanted), TV on, feet up on the ottoman, it's a perfectly functional TV room. But for that 5% of the time that appearances matter -- when we have company over or when I just want to feel sophisticated -- we pop those doors back in place, and the living room is suddenly all "Business" and gorgeousness.
Eventually, we'll redecorate. I'll get my swanky midcentury credenza and hang our flat screen on the wall (I feel so hip just talking about it), and I'll remember my time with this trusty little armoire in the living room fondly. We'll paint it (though it would hurt to do so) and put it in our bedroom or in a future child's room, or anywhere, really. And it will stay in the family until it's time to move on (via Craigslist, I'm sure, if ever). Armoires -- if you get a solidly built hardwood piece that you love -- are pieces that can last for years and that is what I adore so much about them. They're like these big, oversized, looming members of the family, comfortably sitting in your living room, loyally hiding your electronic baggage when you want them to and comfortingly opening their big armoire arms whenever you want to hang out and watch TV.
If that doesn't defend the armoire, I don't know what will.
Where to Buy:
Armoires can be purchased from a number of vendors, but as I'm sure you've figured out by now, my favorite armoire finds are on Craigslist. It's convenient (i.e. local), and pricing is negotiable, and if you're discerning in your search, you can find something truly great. There's no shipping of course, so you either need to figure out how to transport it yourself or hire a small mover (man with van or TaskRabbit) to do the job for you - usually around $100. I did a quick search of the local NY Craigslist listings and was particularly intrigued by this antique French armoire -- I love that it has pretty wallpaper on the inside, the wood seems really beautiful, and the piece seems well-built and has some gravitas to it. It's pricey, but that's always negotiable if you go about it the right way (and it looks like it should be pricey). This solid pine armoire is also nice - a bit more plain, but also quite a bit cheaper. A good, solidly made armoire will run you anywhere from a few hundred to $1000+, but shouldn't exceed much more than that on Craigslist. Don't do particle board; only do hardwood. And if you can, try to find something that has a nice history to it. If you wait long enough, you should be able to find something that fits your budget and lifestyle perfectly.
You can also check out local flea markets, antique shops, Etsy, eBay and Chairish (with the latter three you'll be responsible for shipping costs, which can be high), and depending on your budget, 1st dibs and mainstream e-shops like Layla Grace and Horchow. But once you get to the Layla Graces and Horchows of the world, you're looking at $3000+, which is a very hefty investment indeed.
I am also of course more than happy to help you find the piece of your dreams! Just let me know what you're looking for!
Gift Giving Season is upon us, which can be both exciting and totally daunting and stressful. I am here to help alleviate the stress!
Over the coming weeks I will share with you a plethora of fun gift giving ideas. Today? The perfect decorating book... for pretty much anyone who likes pretty books and likes to decorate their home (I feel this casts a rather wide net).
The perfect gift is the perfect combination of delightfully unexpected, delightfully perfect and delightfully what-we've-always-wanted. I also think it should be something you wouldn't normally buy for yourself. My friend Stephanie recently surprised me with a gift that was all of these things, and, as you might guess, I was delighted.
What did she give me, you ask? Why, I will tell you so that you too can purchase several and delight your friends and loved ones with this thoughtful and inspiring gift (and keep one for yourself, of course)! It is founding editor of Domino Magazine Deborah Needleman's fabulous book, The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well, $20.50 at Amazon.com (free two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members). The colors are fabulous, the writing is witty, the advice is practical, the little watercolor paintings are adorable... all of it is just perfect and perfectly delightful. The concept is: "Style is a luxury, and luxury is simply what makes you happy." How fab?! This is a very A La Recherche-y concept, and inspiration and quotes from the book will undoubtedly surface on this blog many times in the future. (Side note, if you, like me, were devastated when Domino Magazine rudely closed several years ago, you'll be as delighted as I am about the recent relaunch, which is just super fun to explore.)
Some gifts should be shrouded in mystery and others are just so darn cute that no wrapping paper or gift bags are needed, and this book is one such gift. Stephanie wrapped the book up in a big red grosgrain ribbon, which perfectly accented the colors in the cover art and also gave me a hint of the absolute joy I was about to experience upon untying the bow (also, who doesn't love to untie a fabulous red bow?). The colors of the cover go so well in my living room (in that imperfectly perfect sort of way) that I couldn't help myself and photographed the book on top of the new Turkish rug I purchased a few weeks ago from the ABC Home & Carpet Warehouse. (The colors are so universal though that they'll go gorgeously in any living room.) The book now sits proudly on my coffee table (an ottoman with a big tray on top), where I can reach for it and browse whenever I want some eye candy, advice or inspiration (which is often).
Where to Buy
The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well is available for $20.50 at Amazon.com
Happy Monday After Thanksgiving!
After such a gluttonous weekend (both in food consumption and Black Friday Weekend consumption, if you partook in the madness), I thought a little economical freshness was just the thing to cleanse the pallet and start the week and rest of the holiday season off right.
There is very little I love more than when my husband Matt gets excited about something for the home. I spend the majority of my life boring him to death with a constant barrage of ideas for the apartment, and he usually nods along nicely (or stares off into space), hoping that eventually I will forget about whatever grand scheme I've concocted.
A recent "idea" was about how I want lavender and/or rosemary to be everywhere in the apartment - preferably a hedge of it along the windowsill - so we can pretend we're relaxing poolside in Provence even though we're really in the middle of a very cold New York City. Lavender and rosemary are not only two of my favorite scents (rosemary lifts you up while lavender calms you down), but they are also two of the only scents I can tolerate when I have a migraine, and I like my apartment to be both a great smelling and an aggressively anti-migraine space. Per usual, Matt nodded: "Sure, that sounds great, Kate. Whatever you want." Excellent, I thought. Urban lavender and rosemary hedge, here I come. It ended there, but I'd planted the seed.
After a little research, I realized that an indoor hedge of any herb in the city would be a prohibitively expensive/time consuming endeavor for my immediate consumption given my budget and level of laziness. But let no dream be quelled by such constraints! There's always some wiggle room for a girl to dream a little dream and make it a reality.
About a month ago (on one of the rare occasions Matt wasn't working on the weekend), Matt and I borrowed his parents' car and drove up to Westchester so I could make some returns to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom (instantaneous credit to your card instead of waiting the week+ for a mailed return to be received by the distribution center and processed + ginormous, uncrowded suburban shopping mall experience = excellent idea), and so we stopped at Whole Foods on our way home (because when you can park a car at a grocery store, grocery shopping can be downright exciting - or at least tolerable).
When we walked into the store, something amazing happened: we were hit with an incredible scent of rosemary. We were both immediately energized and searched for the source of the amazing scent: whatever was generating that smell had to come home with us. Lucky for us, the scent generator was not only for sale, but also cheap! Matt was instantly excited (which makes me just brim with joy)... Whole Foods was selling little rosemary trees that look like mini Christmas trees... and to top it off, they were only $20?! I would be able to have the scent of rosemary permeating our home, and Matt would have the ability to use the rosemary when he had the inkling to cook (when he has the time, he is an excellent chef)?? Why, yes! Let's procure a tiny tree! Everybody wins!
While I happily would have bought ten of them and lined them up on the windowsill to make my "hedge," we compromised at one happy tree (an only child!), and it is surprisingly potent and quite cute on the windowsill now. It's also incredibly easy to care for, which is important to me (it makes me sad when I inadvertently kill plants - and I am unfortunately incredibly good at inadvertently killing plants). I've patiently waited for several weeks to ensure this statement about the rosemary's longevity-despite-my-care is true, and I can proudly assure you: it is. Matt has also already put the rosemary to good use, most successfully and deliciously in this Tom Colicchio's Herb Butter Turkey that he made last week for Thanksgiving! And even the guy who came to fix our heater a few weeks ago remarked upon the amazing smell and utility of the tiny tree ("That's incredible! You could make rosemary bread!").
The bottom of the tree is a little too big for any holder or cachepot that I own, but we plopped the tree into a champagne ice bucket for now (we got it from Pottery Barn years ago - it's not this one, but it's very similar), and it works just fine. Part of the charm is having a little imperfection to tame the tree's adorably manicured appearance (or so I tell myself).
Bonus: Given the tree's shape, it's a perfect accent for the holidays without really going there.
Where to Buy
Whole Foods Rosemary Tree, ~$20 (I can't recall the exact price), available at Whole Foods stores
If you can't make it to a Whole Foods, here are a few other options available online - not as cheap, but if you're in a pinch:
Harry & David Rosemary Tree, $49.95
The FTD® Rosemary Riches Tree by Better Homes and Gardens®, $59.99 plus $12.99 "service fee"
Side note: Those elephant bookends in the photo are another item that Matt got particularly enthusiastic about purchasing (he and I both seem to enjoy animal themed items). We got them from Joss & Main for $40, but I recently found them at Overstock.com for $60.99 (and you can usually use a discount code there for further savings). It wasn't intentional, but I kind of love how the elephants look like they are just soaking in the glorious scent of the little baby rosemary tree - it does smell glorious.
Now go get yourself a little rosemary baby... baby! And soak in the glorious scent!
P.S. I haven't forgotten about the lavender. No lavender plants in the works, but more info on that scent coming soon!
I have developed a healthy obsession with Eames or Eames-like molded chairs with sheepskin rugs artfully tossed on them. It's a mix of urban modern and rustic coziness. Love it. Especially as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter.
My husband Matt and I are lucky to have a working fireplace, but we still have never outfitted the area with appropriate seating. I've been trying to find the right chair "mood" on a scale of antique/traditional to modern/non-traditional. We want something with some coziness to it but with a good deal of non-upholstery (e.g. wood or metal) to break up the seating experience in our living room (our living room is sectioned into "dining area," "TV-watching/living area" and "empty space around the fireplace area" - the dining area is all loaded up with wood and everything in the TV-watching area is heavily upholstered). So, how to achieve non-upholstered coziness? French antique Louis XIV/XV/XVI chairs with light upholstery? Or something more modern and bohemian involving wood or metal or - dare I say - plastic?? Mix in a little furriness for good measure?
Because I have a lot of antique French and Italian going on in my apartment with a touch of Asian, I wanted to mix the overall aesthetic up with something a bit more modern but with the ability to blend into what I already have going on. The Eames chair achieves all that I was looking for: modern, but not glaringly so, and with a vintage throw-back quality; plus it's got plastic, wood and metal! It's all so very American! (Well, the originals were Fiberglass, but I digress.) Add in a cozy sheepskin throw (faux or real), and you're set for winter-time cozy fireplace lounging.
Full disclosure: I would always prefer to own an original. I am not usually one to promote knockoffs. We could go over the pros and cons and IP issues, but at $500 a pop for the real deal, it's just not in the cards for me right now (if you want the real deal, go here at Design Within Reach - they have the rights and the original chair molds). But for you "chipper" chicken fans (go to 3:30 in the clip!), read on about my hunt for affordable Eames look-alikes and cozy furry throws.
I found a pair of Eames-style Eiffel armchairs with wood legs on Craigslist on Sunday for $100 that I was pretty excited about, but I LOST THE SALE to an even more eager beaver Craigslist shopper than me (the horror). Sigh. Slight devastation, but obviously it wasn't meant to be. Fresh off of this loss, I decided that I need to own these chairs immediately and under mainstream, mass-produced conditions (I couldn't deal with the anticipation and high/low that comes from auction or Craigslist shopping) - so to established online retailers I went. After some Google searching and some helpful advice (and snobby comments) from Apartment Therapy, I settled on the Retro-classic White Accent Chairs (Set of 2) from Overstock.com for $166.99 (down from $219.91) with FREE SHIPPING (little in this world makes me happier than free shipping) and a DISCOUNT CODE that gave me an additional $20 off (the only thing better than free shipping is an additional discount code for extra savings!). (Note: White on White had good recs, but for $320 a pop, I'd rather splurge and buy the real thing.)
Just for fun, let's compare the cost of purchasing the Overstock chairs v. the
real deal from DWR (excluding tax).
Pair @ $166.99 (or $83.50 each)
Shipping @ FREE
Additional Discount: $20 off for spending $150+
Pair @ $998 (or $499 each)
Shipping @ $79.84
Additional Discount: None
What do we save?? $930.85! Man, I love deal hunting.
In addition to that sweet set of cheapo chairs, I am buying two lambskin rugs from a charming Canadian company called Southern Cross Sheepskins Inc. (website: Sheepskinstuff.com) to complete the look. The size (24"x42") runs a bit larger than the rugs I've seen on Joss & Main, Overstock, Pottery Barn, Ikea, etc. (all 24"x36"), which I think will work well with the chairs (I want some of the rug edges to hang over the chair edges). And the cost is reasonable ($67 on sale, plus $23 shipping in Canadian dollars, which is around $150 in total for two rugs plus shipping in USD). (All of the other rugs except Ikea ran in the $70-$80 range and become significantly more expensive when you add square footage. Ikea at $30 might have won my vote, but the items aren't sold online or at any store near me.)
I also appreciate that 1) I'm ordering from an adorable, family-owned Canadian company; 2) it feels like the rugs are not terribly mass produced (and I have to offset the feel of my chair purchase), which means I can pretend that everything was done humanely; and 3) they showed me a photo of the backside of the rug, which is hard to come by online (and was stressing me out); and 4) upon checkout, I got a free pair of sheepskin mittens! Oh, Canada...!
I can't wait to receive all of my loot and to try it out! Here is a mockup of what I think the chairs will look like in my living room! We shall see what really happens!
'Til then, here is some photo inspiration of cool modern chairs with sheepskin throws from Pinterest to get you in the mood!
Happy shopping and fireplace lounging!
I am an artist/designer and former financial professional with a background in comparative literature, business and design. I live in New York with my overworked lawyer husband and my two boys Michael and Theo and spend much of my free time dreaming about how to enhance the aesthetics of our little world. I am endlessly inspired and always in search of something new. This is a blog about my search, my inspiration and things I just really, really like or want.