Modern Chintz

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Lately, I have been trying to reconcile my love of traditional, chintz fabrics and mid-century modern and contemporary furnishings. The two seem inherently at odds, and yet, I love them both so much! However, a few interior images have made me think that maybe my two loves aren't incompatible, after all. Here are a few examples of what I am thinking of as "modern chintz:"

A clean-lined wingback chair in a room designed by Lauren Liess for the 2011 DC Design House. She notes that the fabric is a Michael Smith/Jasper linen floral.

A chic, little midcentury modern chair upholstered in a traditional rose chintz spotted by Jenny Komenda from Little Green Notebook. 

More mid-century-ish chairs with a traditional floral print (though not strictly speaking a "chintz") from the home of the designers behind the Pencil & Paper Co. 

Curtains made from Schumacher’s Pyne Hollyhock in charcoal juxtaposed with a mod IKEA bookcase and a Saarinen tulip table in the Lonny Magazine offices (via Cococozy).

Former Lonny editor Michelle Adams must have liked the look because she recreated it in her Michigan home (see here in House Beautiful). 
Fabulous Le Corbusier chairs upholstered in chintz (yes!) that Jenny Komenda bought at the Barney's display sale—I am so, so jealous of these beauties!

Craving more chintz inspiration? Check out this post from My Favorite And My Best.

Digest 5.7.16

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Here are some of the posts that have caught my eye lately—from IKEA's new collaboration to small space makeovers, there's a lot that has me excited. Plus, this kitchen built into a shepherd's hut is an old-y, but a good-y: It makes me want to paint our kitchen ceiling in that shade of blue!

The cutest little kitchen—on wheels!

A great studio makeover.

A shed converted to a guest house.

Tiny home survival checklist.

Naked essentials.

The high price of spare bedrooms.

Summer house dreaming.

Nice little desk.

Some serious food for thought here.

Me elsewhere.

$7 Hardware Store Clamp Lamp Makeover

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Looking for affordable clip-on style lighting for bedside reading, I was frustrated by the high price or ugly looks of the lamps available on the market. While researching options, I came across a post on Remodelista about upgrading a hardware store work light with spray paint. I decided to give it a try myself, and the results were much greater than I expected. Here's what I bought and what I did:

I bought a 75-Watt Incandescent Clamp Light ($7) and Rust-Oleum Gloss Protective Enamel spray paint at Home Depot. I decided I wanted to paint only the outside of the shade, so I used some painter's tape that I had on had for the masking.

To prep the shade for painting, I disassembled the lamp. Then I used pieces of the painter's tape to mask off the interior of the shade and to cover the lip of the shade. I used an exact-o knife to help get the tape into the seam between the lip and the shade's exterior.

I sprayed the shade using very light coats of paint to make sure I didn't get any drips. It takes some patience, but you'll be rewarded with a more professional-looking finish. Because it was cold out, I let the paint dry for two days before handling. Then, I removed the tape and reassembled the lamp. I spray for a fancy bulb since it is exposed and the lamp itself was so darn cheap.

Tips for Remodeling A Kitchen with IKEA

Sunday, March 27, 2016

At this time last year we were deep in renovation mode, getting our apartment ready for us to move in. If a year ever passed more quickly, I can’t remember it. Between the final months of my pregnancy and the last eight months of parenthood, I have rarely had a chance to sit down and write. That said, I intend to finish telling you about our renovation eventually. First, I want to share some tips for remodeling a kitchen with IKEA cabinetry.

This is our second IKEA kitchen, and I have learned a few things about how to get the best results (with the fewest trips to IKEA). Here’s my advice:

Go on a scouting mission
Even if you live far away from IKEA, I would highly suggest that you visit the IKEA kitchen showroom and look at their cabinetry in-person before making any decisions. Both times we have used IKEA cabinets, seeing the door fronts swayed our choices. Make this a quick-looking-only trip (don’t buy anything, so you won’t have to stand in line!), since you’ll definitely be back soon.

Comparison shop
We chose IKEA because it was literally half the price that a local cabinet vendor quoted us for the space. Many of the cabinets we wanted were considered custom elsewhere, but were available off-the-shelf at IKEA, meaning there was less lead time. However, friends of ours who used more common cabinet sizes found that IKEA was only slightly less expensive than cabinetry from a local kitchen design showroom, and I am sure it was less of a hassle.

Figure out how much additional space you need first
Your cabinetry and appliances will need a little extra room beyond their exact dimensions: Fridges need a few inches so the door can open properly, as do kitchen cabinets. When measuring your space, calculate these extra inches first, so you’ll be prepared to do your floorplan in IKEA’s planning software.

Use the IKEA kitchen planner
IKEA offers a kitchen-planning tool, which has greatly improved in the three years since I first tried it, but it’s still a bit of a hassle. Note that it works MUCH better on the Safari browser than Chrome. Also, SAVE OFTEN: I accidentally deleted my design several times. I recommended calculating your extra space first because IKEA has built in recommendations, which in some cases may be more cautious than you need to be (for example, IKEA felt the two sides of my galley kitchen were too close to one another, but there’s nothing I can do about that, so I had to ignore the program’s recommendation to place them further apart).
Get high
No, really, opt for the tallest wall cabinets. IKEA offers 40-inch tall cabinets that can be hung directly below the ceiling. This gives you the maximum amount of storage space, and eliminates that awkward gap between the tops of your cabinets and the ceiling. You’ll need a stepstool to reach those top shelves, but trust me, the extra storage is well worth it.

Order early
While IKEA kitchen cabinets are stocked in stores, it’s not a bad idea to order your kitchen several weeks to a month before you plan to install. There’s a good chance that a cabinet or a door you need may not be in stock in your local IKEA, which could cause delays. We had two cabinets that were not available at the Brooklyn location, and it would have been four weeks before the store had them in-stock again. Luckily, the New York City metro area has several IKEA stores, and we were able to find the cabinets at another store. If you live in an area with only one store, you’d be really frustrated to have a single cabinet hold up your entire renovation.

Make a plan for your countertops
IKEA has different countertop options in all its stores. If you’re lucky, you might be able to do them through IKEA and have one less vendor to deal with. In our case, it turned out our kitchen was too small to meet IKEA’s minimum for the quartz countertops. Then we found out that while the independent countertop installer could do the quarts we wanted it would be much more than the $89/square foot, we’d seen as the price at IKEA. Instead, we opted to use remainders from the warehouse that all matched, which saved us a significant amount of money. It all worked out, but we did have of a scramble figuring out the counters in a hurry. Plan ahead to avoid this. Also, the IKEA butcher block is tempting because it’s so cheap, but having used it once, I would never choose it again: Wood is just not a durable enough material for constant contact with liquids—and who has the time to reseal/re-oil every few months?

Think about the ends
If the ends of your cabinets are going to be exposed, you’ll probably want panels to cover the exposed cabinet ends.

Skip the hardware and the faucets
For me, most of IKEA’s cabinet hardware (pulls and knobs) leaves something to be desired style-wise. It’s super-easy to pick these up at a hardware or home improvements store where you’ll have greater selection. Likewise, I’ve never heard great things about IKEA faucets, so I would suggest looking elsewhere for your spout.
Avoid the white sinks
We bought one of IKEA’s very nice-looking white farmhouse-style DOMSJĂ– sinks the first time we renovated a kitchen. Unfortunately, the sink’s finish chipped almost immediately while one of us was doing dishes. It could have been a fluke, but I cannot recommend them because of it. Their stainless sink for Kitchen #2, however, has been great.

Know your whites
IKEA's white cabinet doors are not actually white—they're a significantly off-white. Looking at them in the showroom, this can be hard to see, but in daylight, it's quite obvious. This isn't a big deal, but it might influence your decisions about other materials in your kitchen, like say backsplash tile or wall paint.

Buy extra shelves
If you do opt for the 40-inch tall wall cabinets, remember to order some extra interior shelves! You’ll have more space, so you may need more shelves. I had to go back to IKEA, which took 3 hours out of a day to get $15 worth of shelves—don’t make the same mistake!

Listen to the sales associates
IKEA seems to place their best sales associates in kitchens, and if you get a good one, their advice can be invaluable. Yes, waiting is a pain; yes, you may not always get a good sales person, but for the most part, I have found that the sales associates know what they're talking about. If they suggest you might need something, you probably do. They're not trying to up-sell you, they're trying to help.

*All photos are from IKEA; photos of our kitchen coming some day!

Built-In Storage Headboards

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I'm constantly thinking about how we can use our space better and how we can accommodate our storage needs (right now we're pretty maxed out). One idea that I love is building out storage around the top end of a bed. The space at the head of the bed is often under-utilized, and adding storage there eats up very little usable floor space. Whether it's a custom cabinetry commission or something built from IKEA shelving, this is a great way to add storage to a small space. Maybe we'll invest in our own someday in the future! 

I've gathered a few images of bedrooms with built-in storage headboards; here the are:

This room from Better Homes & Gardens features built-in storage that goes from floor to ceiling and even covers the top of the doorway. Here the wall behind the bed appears to be padded and upholstered, which is a nice detail. I also like that there's a bit of breathing room between the bed and the built-in nightstand.

In Remodelista editor Julie Carson's bedroom, the storage is actually recessed into the wall--a clever way to pack storage into a space you can't normally access.

Another on from BHG, this is a guest bedroom designed by Eddie Ross appears to have a built-in made from IKEA cabinetry. I remember seeing this one in the magazine, but I can't find the details for the how-to on the site.

Featured on the One Kings Lane blog, this bedroom is in the Whitney Leigh Morris's "tiny canal cottage." Here the built-ins not only work with the bed, but also with windows to the outside. One detail I love here is the cutaways in the shelving that let's the sleeper access the nightstand.

A third BHG space, this room's built-ins are more wardrobe-like--a great solution for a room without closets. The pop of pattern from wallpaper behind the bed is a nice touch.

Last is the bedroom from my favorite small-space apartment, featured in Dwell magazine. Here the cabinetry surrounds a Murphy bed, for the ultimate space-saving bed-and-built-in combo.

On Rediscovering The Library

Monday, February 22, 2016

Moving to Queens has been eye-opening in so many ways—in many ways, I feel like I have a new lease on New York City. One of the many surprising things that changed about my life when we moved to Queens has been my book reading habits: I am suddenly a regular at my local library.

Here in Jackson Heights we have no local bookstore, which is a pity (hey, Greenlight, maybe you want to open a Queens outpost?). However, we do have a decent-sized branch of the Queens Public Library, and it is on my way to the subway or home, meaning it's super-convenient to pick up a book. Plus, our local library branch is open late two nights a week, and day care pick-up has me leaving work earlier than I used to, so the library and I are more in sync in our times than we were when I lived in Brooklyn. 

In addition to the newfound convenience of our library's location and hours, the app for the Queens Library has been a life-changer. If I hear about a book I'd like to read, I immediately open the app and see if it is available from the library—any book! If it is, I put in a request. It is so, so liberating to just get a book because I am mildly curious about it. I've borrowed tons of books that I didn't like, which, if you think about it, is great: I am so glad I didn't buy them. Many books come within days—others, like City on Fire, a newly published novel take weeks to get off the queue. I have explored so many books that I would have hesitated to buy because of this, and I am so glad that I have!

Four other factors have played into my borrowing-over-buying habit: 

1. Cost-savings: This one is obvious, but I have saved a ton of money borrowing books instead of buying them. 
2. Earth-friendliness: By borrowing books, I am creating less waste. And by previewing books I think I might like to own, I am avoiding the back-and-forth shipping energy that ordering from and returning to would entail.
3. Anti-monopoly sentiments: I hate to admit it, but I love I am a Prime subscriber and I use the site often for household goods I cannot easily find in my neighborhood, and also, of course for books, especially now that we do not live near a bookstore. But with my increased library habit, I'm diverting a little spending from Amazon, which feels good. 
4. Lack of clutter: Library books are wonderful because they don't take up any permanent space in our not-so-big home. 

I have a few other thoughts about the library, if you're still listening. Prior to this new-found love affair with our library, it did not occur to me that I could use the library for non-scholarly books. Now that I have, I frequently check out all kinds of leisure reading, including cookbooks and decorating books. Not to mention, there are stacks and stacks of CDs and DVDs to be borrowed.

Finally, on that clutter note, we have a lot of books—like A LOT. Both my husband and I are book-lovers and we are particularly weak in the face of cheap, used books. Anything I can do to reduce the inflow of books is good, and library use has certainly curtailed my accumulation. If I find something I really love, I could always buy it, but in my year of frequent-borrowing, I actually haven't found a single book I needed to buy after I was done with it. Food for thought, book hoarders, food for thought. 

Digest 1.23.15 - Small Space Edition

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A winter storm is brewing outside, I have a cup of nice, strong coffee, and my little guy is lying quietly next to me on the couch after waking up: It's a pretty great morning. I've got so many things bookmarked right now, that I am going to make this round of links all about smalls-space—and include some photos for a change!

This garage-turned-tiny-house in Berkeley, CA is not exactly my style, but oh, it is awfully cute. The inhabitants used all the classic small-space solutions: A Murphy bed, a folding dining table and chairs, and a day bed with storage for a couch.

Erin Boyle, of the blog Reading My Tea Leaves, has a new book, Simple Matters. In conjunction with the book's release, she has 14 tips for small-space living up on A Cup of Jo. I loved seeing how she and her husband reconfigured their one-bedroom to give their daughter the bedroom (a very common move for us New York City dwellers). Here's a link to the same apartment before the swap, if you're curious.

Minimal-chic Japanese brand Muji exhibited a trio of tiny, pre-fab houses earlier this year in Tokyo. Inhabitiat shared photos and information about the project. Designer Jasper Morrison's "Hut of Cork" (above) was my favorite of the three. Wouldn't it be great if these went into production?

Finally, Fast Co. shared a truly micro-house designed by two Polish students. When closed up the mobile, tiny houses measure just 33 square feet. That's a little small for my tastes, but I liked the plywood-clad interiors and the clever use of space, including fold-down elements like a bench and desk.

Foolproof Homemade Vinaigrette

Monday, January 18, 2016

Let's talk about salad dressing. On more than one occasion I have had friends as me to make salad dressing when I have visited their homes. While I like to imagine myself a great cook, my vinaigrette is in no way special. So, it always surprises me that people think I make "great" salad dressing.

Homemade vinaigrette is one of the easiest things to make (really!), and it is so far superior to store-bought, bottled dressing that I can't imagine why you wouldn't make your own. Plus, homemade versions are much healthier with far less sugar and sodium than most bottled options. Not to mention, homemade dressing creates less packaging waste and saves you money.

The easiest way to make your own vinaigrette is the jar method. You basically throw the ingredients in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and shake them until they are well-blended. Martha Stewart recommends a ration of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid (usually vinegar, I like red wine or white wine vinegar best). I personally like my dressing a little more tart and err more towards a 2:1 ratio. The beauty of a simple dressing like this is you can tinker bit by bit until you get a flavor that suits your tastes.

I almost always add a dollop of Dijon mustard to my dressing—both for the flavor and to help the oil and acid emulsify. For dressing, I prefer Maille, but I will settle for Grey Poupon (dear Costco, please start stocking Maille!). I add the vinegar and the mustard and a pinch of salt to the jar first and shake them until the mustard has incorporated itself into the vinegar, then I add the oil. If I am making a larger batch of dressing, I'll add the oil in a few stages, shaking after each addition to ease the oil into the vinegar.

You can customize a basic vinaigrette in dozens of way; here are a few ideas:
  • Swap lemon juice for the vinegar
  • Switch in grainy mustard for the Dijon
  • Add a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper
  • Grate in a half a garlic clove with a microplane grater
  • Mince a shallot and toss it in
  • Finely dice an anchovy or two for an umami kick
  • Add a bit of honey, maple syrup, or even sugar for sweetness
  • Chop up some fresh herbs (chives and tarragon are nice options)
  • Scoop a large pinch of dried herbs into the mix 
  • Grate in some fresh Parmesan cheese
Feeling fancy? Carmine's Caesar Salad Dressing is more complicated, but oh, so delicious.

Review: thredUP

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

I buy almost all of my clothing second-hand—both because it is inexpensive and because it's more sustainable (but mostly because it's cheaper). There is so much great used clothing available, that I rarely need to seek out something new. However, while I love the thrill of the hunt, shopping in thrift and consignment stores can be time-consuming. So, I was excited when I started hearing about online used clothing retailers last year.

There are many online retailers who are buying and selling used clothing, but I was drawn to and tried out thredUP; here's what my experience was like and some advice for buying and selling through thredUP:

Pre-pregnancy I ordered a closet clean-out bag from thredUP and sent off a pile of clothes. I was disappointed when my entire bag of clothing resulted in a sale of less than $20. (I would have been much better off taking my clothes to a resale shop like Beacon's Closet or Buffalo Exchange here in New York City.) However, I would later realize that if I had known more about thredUP, I would have had a better experience selling.

This summer I decided to try shopping the site, and I bought some baby clothes from thredUP. When the thredUP package arrived, I was very impressed: The clothes were pristine (one of three items still had its original tags on it) and the wrapping/collateral materials were just as nice as any major retailer's (if not nicer). When I saw the quality of the clothing, I realized that many of the things I had sent in were too used to be accepted. Here's my takeaway from my two experiences:

thredUP is a great way to buy like-new used clothing, especially if there is a brand whose sizing you know well.

And, if you've never shopped second-hand before, this is a great way to start!

Wait for a discount code! After signing up for thredUP, I received a discount code for my first order—I was glad I waited to make my purchase.

But be prepared to lose out. If you wait, someone else might buy the item you have your eye on.

Manage your expectations about selling. This site is a super-convenient way to sell used clothes, but it is not the most lucrative.

When selling, do your research. thredUP lists which brands it does and does not buy. Don't send things that aren't on the list. For example, I sent in a bunch of Anthropologie items that were in great condition, but thredUP doesn't buy Anthropologie, which I could have discovered beforehand (doh!).

Only send pristine clothing. thredUP does not sell clothing that looks used.

Curious to try it out? thredUP has a referral program for users. If you sign up using this link, you'll get a $20 credit and so will I—a win-win proposition if ever I heard of one.

Digest 11.8.15

Sunday, November 08, 2015

I'm back to work and trying to figure out how to juggle my new role as a working mom. So far it's been a pretty smooth transition, but I know it'll only get harder as work demands get more intense. Finding time to read and write blog posts will certainly be a challenge. I'm stealing a quiet moment this morning to share a few links, including three examples of teeny-tiny family homes:

A 1-bedroom house becomes a 3-bedroom—without enlarging the footprint!

A tiny European pied a terre that fits the whole family.

Five kids in a 2-bedroom condo.

VW camper bus 2.0. 

Cartoonist Roz Chast's take on Marie Kondo made me laugh.

Three cheers for grains.

Truly delicious fig-orange yogurt that's made right on Long Island.

5 ways to use mealy apples (I made applesauce).

3-ingredient pancakes.

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