Storage Beds For Small Homes

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My bed frame is a hand-me-down from my parents, more specifically from my mom, who had it back in her single days in New York City in the 70s. First, I'd like to say that any bed frame that lasts nearly 40 years and multiple moves (at least 10 by my count) was a fine investment--so thanks, Mom!

The bed is a wooden captain's bed (a combination of solid wood and plywood) with three large storage drawers embedded in one side. The platform is split into two pieces, making it easier to move. Those three drawers give us almost as much storage as an extra bureau, without taking up any additional storage space, and because they are built into the bed, they're much easier to use than some makeshift under-the-bed storage.

I think anyone living in a small house should seriously consider either a Murphy bed or a storage bed--if you don't, you're underutilizing a serious amount of floorspace, people! Storage beds are also great for guest rooms because you can store the bed's linens in the drawers and leave your guests the bureau drawers to use. In kids' rooms these handy beds can store toys.

The only drawback of my bed is that its a double, and I'm considering an upgrade to a queen, so I thought I'd investigate the world of storage beds on the market today.

Gothic Cabinet Craft still makes a model very similar to my mom's old bed: the Queen Captains Bed with 6 Drawers, $589. Yes, you can opt for drawers on two sides, doubling your drawer space. I'm tempted to go this route because I know I like it.

I've also long been drawn to IKEA's Malm storage bed (I've even blogged about a similar model before here). My sister's roommate had one of these, and while it doesn't give you the dresser-like storage, it gives you a ton of space to store unwieldy things you don't use everyday, like out-of-season clothes, luggage, Christmas ornaments, and the like. It also features IKEA's slat-platform, which I have discovered I like very much. At $449, this is definitely a contender, though I fear it would be a bear to move, and I also hesitate to invest in any more particleboard furniture from Big Blue.

Pottery Barn's Stratton Bed with Drawers is another handsome model, and it's made from hardwood, which I like, and the option to add a headboard is nice. Harder to like is the $1,699 price tag--gulp!

CB2 offers a sleeker, more contemporary storage bed that is also made from real wood and plywood with hi-gloss white lacquer finish. At $799, The Stowaway is also pretty competitive price-wise.

A spendy-but-sophisticated option is Room & Board's Wyatt Bed ($1,799), which has an upholstered frame and headboard and one massive drawer that pulls out from the footboard. It's not for me, but if you wanted an upholstered look, this, or West Elm's Pivot Bed ($1,399, below) would be your best bets.

Cookbook Review: A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus

Sunday, January 25, 2015

This past holiday season my family had a no-gift Christmas (which, by the way, worked out splendidly), but I will confess to having purchased myself a little gift just days after the holiday. I had read about Renee Erickson's new book A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus, and when I saw its lovely cover at my local bookstore, I couldn't resist--and I wasn't sorry I didn't. Bon Appetit described the book as having, "an Ina Garten–like blend of effortlessness and luxuriousness that makes you believe that king salmon with walnut tarator will practically cook itself." A big fan of Garten, I was intrigued, but that's not quite an accurate description of the book. Many of the recipes do walk the line between effortless and luxurious, but the comparison between the two ends there. 

Erickson was a new-to-me chef when I bought her book. She owns four beloved restaurants in Seattle, and the book is a collection of recipes from the restaurants and her personal life (though it sounds like there is very little distinction between her personal and professional lives--her parents even works for her restaurants!). The book includes inviting glimpses of the restaurants (above), what appears to be Erickson's home and the surrounding area. Even before I'd started cooking from this book, photographer Jim Henken's photos make me want to book a flight to Seattle. 

Erickson's cooking style is distinctly French-influenced, and as such it is not for those afraid of fat (there's a LOT of butter in this book). She's also much more serious (and at times almost-but-forgivably snobby) than a cookbook author like Ina Garten. Garten makes me feel like it's okay to pick up a leg of lamb at Costco, but here's Erickson on buying meat, "On a very basic level, finding a butcher you trust—someone you feel comfortable interrogating and who only buys well-raised meat—is a crucial part of cooking." Yes, yes, yes, she's right, I know that, but I will confess we hear all of this so much in our food-obsessed culture, that I don't necessarily want to be preached to in every cookbook I buy. Erickson is also very exacting about the ingredients she calls for, and even provides resources for some of her favorites in the back of the book, which I loved. 

The book is broken into four seasons and a section of "staples" recipes. Within each season there are individual menus for everything from a lamb and rosé dinner (with harrissa-rubbed roasted lamb) to a pickling put-up party (a clever way for her to get in all her favorite pickle recipes, which apparently are a highlight at her restaurants). I wished that I'd had the book before the holidays because I would have made her entire holiday menu for my family, but will save it for next year instead. However, picking it up after the holidays, I found I had a week off when it was awfully cold outside, so I cooked a lot of recipes from this book.

Most of Erickson's recipes are excellent. Roasted chicken with capers and preserved lemon was a triumph, though I admit I hesitated to add both a 1/2 cup of olive oil and a 1/2 cup of butter to the pan when my usual Zuni roast chicken uses no fat at all. Grilled rib eye with anchovy butter was exactly the kind of effortless luxury that Bon Appetit described (we cooked that for New Year's Eve). The zucchini bread was probably the best recipe I tried (I confess, I made it with quite-out-of-season squash), and it was so tasty my husband accused me of putting drugs in it because he couldn't stop eating it.

There were very recipes that I wouldn't make again, though a celery root salad was a total miss. I'd also advise against trying to make Erickson's recipes more healthy--just accept them for what they are: treats. After plowing through a bunch of rich dishes, I thought I might lighten up the kale gratin by using some whole milk instead of a full three cups of heavy cream, but the results were a little watery, and in hindsight I should have just enjoyed it as Erickson prescribed.

Overall, I'd say this book is an excellent addition to my cookbook library. It's the kind of book from which I can imagine cooking almost every recipe--not just a handful. (I also recently bought the Prune cookbook, and while I love it as a book, there aren't a ton of recipes that jumped out as make-me-now meals.) It's also filled my head with dreams of a food-filled trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Digest 1.23.15

Friday, January 23, 2015

Oh, winter--it can seem endless. However, each day we get a little more light, and that's something to celebrate. Plus, the relatively warm weather has meant I've been able to get in some running time. How about you, how are you making it through these cold months? Here are some of the stories and ideas that have caught my eye in the last couple of weeks:

Country Living's current issue is all about small spaces, including this amazing one from Heirloom Tiny Homes. 

Potatoes might keep you skinny!

The innovative company is keeping electronics out of landfills.

How to change your life with meatballs.

IKEA's new line (launching in February) looks fantastic.

Cookbook author Ted Lee's incredible kitchen.

A sophisticated take on a classic, camp craft.

Not to be too pushy about this, but plastic--even BPA-free versions--is really bad for your health.

A lovely renovation and decoration project by the Jersey Ice Cream Co. design team.

Valentine's Day ideas.

The publication I work for got nominated for an American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) award for general excellence. (This is like a movie getting nominated for best picture--it's a big deal!)

Plastic-Free Alternatives to Plastic Wrap and Ziploc Bags

Saturday, January 17, 2015

One of my goals for 2015 is to consume less, and in particular to consume less plastic. If we didn't already have enough reasons to avoid plastic, the latest news that replacements for BPA are just as dangerous as BPA certainly has me weary of any plastics that come into contact with my food.

 I've already donated by plastic tupperware to the Goodwill in exchange for glass and stainless steel containers, but I am on the hunt for alternatives to plastic baggies, cling wrap, and even wax paper and tinfoil. Here are a few of the products and projects that have caught my eye:

DIY produce bags made from dishtowels
We have tons of old dish towels that I could easily stitch into produce bags. I love the idea of upcycling towels instead of buying something new to replace our plastic bags.

Ambatalia Linen Dish Covers
Non-coated, these linen covers are elasticized to stretch over bowls.

This company sells fabric infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin in a variety of sizes.

Similar to beeswrap, Abeego is also fabric coated with a blend of beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin that is available in a variety of sizes.

Weekly Digest 1.2.15

Friday, January 02, 2015

Happy New Year! Here are this week's links:

I deviated from our usual Bob's Red Mill pancake mix and tried Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Flapjack and Waffle Mix. Packed with protein, the mix made the best-tasting pancakes ever. Hello, running fuel!

Why we must say no to plastic.

There are no grown-ups.

This clothing rack (above) would be better than throwing your clothes on a chair, right?

Why I don't own a TV: Research shows the more people watch TV, the more materialistic their values.

I am bookmarking this renovation advice.

A great idea to get behind: Waste-free school lunch programs.

Indow Window Inserts are an intriguing energy-saving idea.

Commune: Designed in California is another design book to add to my wish list

4 out of 10 of TreeHugger's top posts of the year were about tiny houses. Hurray for little houses!

A significant step forward in animal welfare.

How to Avoid Dry-Cleaning and Make Your Clothes Last Longer

Monday, December 29, 2014

Do you want to know how to avoid dry-cleaning and make your clothes last longer? Unlike most New Yorkers, I rarely dry-clean my clothes. I avoid dry cleaning to save money, to preserve my garments, and to avoid the toxic chemicals, namely perchloroethylene, used in the dry cleaning process. (Read more about why the EPA is concerned about dry cleaning here.) The exceptions to my no dry-cleaning policy are a few items like party dresses with complicated construction and my husband's suits. I thought I'd share some of my tips for how to avoid the dry cleaner and some alternatives to dry cleaning that you can try at home.

Don't buy dry-clean only clothes.
This is the simplest way to avoid the dry cleaner: Don't bring anything into your home that requires professional cleaning. This advice is easy to follow for most garments, though it is nearly impossible to find things like blazers, suits and winter coats that can be washed at home.

Ignore the label.
Many manufacturers label clothing items as dry-clean only that can actually be washed. Manufacturers err on the side of dry-cleaning to avoid unhappy consumers who might wash something incorrectly and ruin a garment.

Instead, look at the fiber content and garment construction.
Take a look at the materials that make up your garment. Wool, cotton, linen, silk and many synthetic fibers can all be washed -- either in a machine or by hand. The trick is knowing the best way to care for each fiber. This "Can I Be Washed?" chart is a very handy guide to what fibers can and cannot be laundered. In terms of construction, anything with padding, boning, pleating or elaborate detail is going to be challenging to wash (again, avoid buying these items in the future).

Learn how to hand-wash.
Sweaters can be easily hand-washed at home. The key is to use lukewarm water, gentle agitation, a neutral soap (I like The Laundress's Wool and Cashmere Wash), a place to  and some patience. Here's a great video in which Martha Stewart shows you how to wash and block a sweater. 

Wear garments multiple times.
Not everything needs to be washed every time you wear it -- really! Laundry has become so easy today that people throw even the most minimally soiled garments into the wash. If you've only worn something once, it may have another wear (or ten!) in it. If you wear a layer under a wool or cashmere sweater, you can probably get at least a dozen wears out of it, if you don't spill on it. Dark jeans can be word until they show dirt or have lost their shape altogether.

Refresh your garments between uses.
To extend the time between washings or dry cleaning, do a little maintenance between wearings of a garment. If I have wrinkled a skirt, blazer or pants, but not really gotten it dirty, I will lightly mist the piece with water from a spray bottle and hang it in a place where it can fully dry. I find the water gently refreshes the fabric and loosens the wrinkles; you can also purchase various "refresher" sprays, but I would check with the Environmental Working Group's ratings for fabric and upholstery deodorizers before purchasing anything (Febreeze products, for example, contain hormone disrupters and carcinogens). I'm also curious about DIY options, but have never tried them myself.

A little steam goes a long way towards reviving a garment. I've had a My Little Steamer for more than a decade and I can't recommend it highly enough. It is almost as powerful as a professional steamer and is so easy to use. After you've refreshed a garment with a little water and some airing, a steaming will make it look truly fresh again. I imagine the steam also has some sanitizing properties. One tip: After you steam a garment, let it rest for 20-30 minutes, so that the moisture evaporates. If you put on a freshly steamed garment, it may just wrinkle back up if it's still damp.

Spot clean.
If you get a small stain on a garment, you may not need to wash the whole thing. Instead, dab the dirty spot with a barely damp cloth to remove any visible dirt. I'm also a big fan of Simply Spotless's fabric cleaner, which can be applied directly to a stain and does not need to be rinsed out.

Gentle wash and air-dry shirts.
Almost anything made of linen or cotton, or a blend in which linen or cotton is more than 50% of the fiber content can be machine-washed in warm water. For anything delicately constructed, use the "hand washable" or "delicates" cycle. For regular old button-down shirts and other sturdier garments, use the "permanent press," which is a bit more gentle than the regular cycle. Then, air dry the garment to save it the abuse of the dryer. I dry all my shirts on a regular hanger buttoned up. I find that oxford cloth shirts come out looking almost wrinkle-free using this method, but thinner weaves may need a pressing or a steaming after they have dried.

Cold wash and line-dry jeans.
I doubt you'd dry-clean your jeans, but here's how to make that dark wash last longer. Wash your denim turned inside out (zippered and buttoned) in cold water. Turn them right-side out, give them a hearty shake and dry them on a rack or a clothesline.

Air-dry all your delicates.
We refer to bras and panties as "delicates," but the truth is that most of these garments are pretty sturdy because of their elastic content. I find it's okay to wash them in warm water. Be sure to hook all your bra clasps to avoid snagging. Experts recommend placing them in a mesh bag to wash, but I have yet to invest in one (I find that tangling isn't too much of an issue if you don't overload your washer). Always air-dry bras and panties to make them last longer.

For more tips on how to make your clothes last longer, check out Martha's advice.

Bean + Protein Dinners

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Recently, I tried out two recipes that make use of a can or two of beans paired with a piece of protein that cooks on top of the beans. It's a technique that could be used for an infinite variety of legume and protein combinations. The two dishes I made were very different from one another, but both were delicious: The first is a white bean and lamb dish from the late great Everyday Food, and the second is a Bobby Flay recipe for slow-roasted salmon with chickpeas and greens from Bon Appetit. These are the kind of meals that make a better-than-average weeknight dinner or a fairly impressive entrée for guests. 

A few quick notes: I halved the lamb recipe, and I would recommend you stick to the full four-serving version, so you can really get the beans nice and thick and saucy (it worked on a smaller scale, but it got a little dry with less in the pan). For the salmon recipe, I couldn't find mustard greens, so I used a bunch of chard and one bunch of red chard, which worked out beautifully -- I'd definitely do two bunches of greens, not just one. I also upped the garlic to three cloves because, well, I like garlic. Here are the recipes; give them a try:

Lamb and White Beans with Rosemary
From Everyday Food, November 2006


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 loin lamb chops, (each about 6 ounces and 1 1/4 inches thick)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, (or 1 teaspoon dried), plus more for serving (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1. In a large skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium-high. Season lamb generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Place in skillet; cook until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side (lamb will finish cooking in step 4). Transfer chops to a plate (keep oil in skillet); loosely cover with aluminum foil, and set aside.
2. To skillet, add onion, garlic, rosemary, and red-pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low; cook until mixture is slightly thickened and saucy, 4 to 6 minutes.
4. Place chops on top of beans in skillet (adding any juices that have accumulated on plate). Cover skillet, and simmer until meat is medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve chops with beans, and garnish with rosemary, if desired.

Serves 4

Slow-Cooked Salmon, Chickpeas, And Greens
From Bon Appetit, March 2014

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
1 15.5-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 bunches small mustard greens, ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 heaping teaspoon honey
4 6-oz. skinless salmon fillets
Vinaigrette and Assembly:
½ small shallot, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, patted dry

1. Preheat oven to 250°. Brush a large baking dish with oil. Combine chickpeas, cumin, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl. Mash about half of chickpeas with a fork; season with salt and pepper. Transfer chickpea mixture to prepared dish.
2. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mustard greens and cook, tossing, until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Add honey and ¼ cup water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until greens are completely wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to dish with chickpea mixture. Season salmon with salt and pepper; arrange over greens and chickpea mixture and drizzle with oil. Bake until salmon is opaque in the center, 30–35 minutes.
Vinaigrette and Assembly:
3. Whisk shallot, lemon juice, mustard, and honey in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
4. Heat vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook capers until opened and crisp, about 30 seconds; drain on paper towels.
5. Drizzle salmon with vinaigrette and top with capers.

Serves 4

Weekly Digest 12.19.14

Friday, December 19, 2014

There are just a few days left until Christmas. I'm excited for the break and for all the holiday fun. My parents arrived yesterday, and we're getting a tree tomorrow, so it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Here are some of things that are on my mind this week:

How did I miss Sir Terrance Conran's new book, Plain Simple Useful?

This tiny Manhattan apartment got a major makeover. 

Should I buy this?

A brilliant campaign for ugly vegetables.

You can now buy Maille mustard on tap in New York City.

Great advice for buying vintage rugs on eBay.

Let it go. 

A gingerbread brownstone!

Two favorite Fenton family recipes for the holidays: Cranberry bread and cranberry cookies.

I asked the experts how to decorate for the holidays like a grown-up.

DIY Cardboard Rudolf

Sunday, December 14, 2014

In a moment of inspired craftiness, I made this cardboard Rudolf as a decoration for our annual Christmas party. I thought it would be funny to hang it in our entry hall alongside my husband's actual roe deer antlers and hunting prints.

I'd spotted the idea on Pinterest, and followed the link back to, which had instructions and a very good template to make the craft.  (See the original below.) Note that you'll need 11 x 17 paper to print out the template. I was able to make this cute creature out of one wine box. I'd say it took me less than an hour to make it; I used hot glue to attach the various pieces, and since we didn't have a wreath to act as the base, we wrapped a Christmas-y scarf around his neck.

Check out more of my holiday decoration inspiration on my Christmas Pinterest board. 

Weekly Digest 12.5.14

Friday, December 05, 2014

The weekend is here--hurray! I'm looking forward to getting in some long runs this weekend, and spending more time with my husband's family. Holiday decorating in on my list of to-do's, as is planning the menu for our annual holiday party (Monte's Ham is, of course, a must). I hope you have some fun planned for your weekend. Here's what's on my mind this week:

A charging cable key chain that's actually pretty cute.

Three questions to ask when decluttering.

Leather boot care--from people who know boots.

A virtual visit to the famously hard-to-enter Gramercy Park.

I'm interested to check out Simplicity by Nancy Braithwaite.

A sweet DIY idea: Cinnamon-Applesauce Ornaments.

Bedside lighting advice (a subject near and dear to this reader's heart).

The best shades of white paint to use when selling a home.
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