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.


IKEA Sniglar Crib

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Okay, here it is: my first baby-focussed post (written on my last day of maternity leave!). When it came time to furnish our little fellow's room, we opted for as much "grown-up" furniture that could grow with him. However, we needed a crib for the first few years, and wanted one that would convert to a toddler bed. While I have written about and admired many beautiful cribs, we couldn't stomach spending a ton of money on something our son would outgrow in a few years. We opted for IKEA's cheapest and most simply designed model: Sniglar. It was handsome, and we liked that it was made of solid hardwood and free of any paint or finish—plus, it fit our modest budget. So far, we love it.

A funny side story about IKEA cribs: Years ago, I worked at a wonderful design shop in the far West Village called auto. The shop sold the then-cutting-edge DwellStudio crib bedding, and the owner displayed it on an IKEA crib. I cannot tell you how many times someone would come into the shop wanting to buy the crib and how surprised they would be to hear it was from IKEA. The owner joked that we should buy a dozen cribs, scrape the IKEA logo off them and sell them to people for a serious mark-up.
An IKEA assembly veteran, this crib should have posed no challenge for me and my husband. (I once spent an entire week of my life assembling IKEA furniture in a storage room in the Mall of America for a Budget Living magazine show house.) However, Sniglar mysteriously came without any directions! The only ones included were the directions for converting the crib to a toddler bed, in which you start with an assembled crib. I figured a little Googling could solve the problem, but it took a surprising amount of effort and uncovered this very funny video that told us that our struggle was not unique. For any parents out there searching for Sniglar assembly instructions, here they are: IKEA SNIGLAR crib assembly pdf.

Fall 2015 Decorating Books

Friday, October 16, 2015

This fall is one of the most exciting seasons for decorating books that I can recall. So many decorators and stylists whom I admire have had books published that I can't decide which titles to spend my leisure book budget upon. Here are a few of the new books that I have my eye on:

Life | Style: Elegant Simplicity at Home by Tricia Foley
I've long-admired editor and stylist Tricia Foley's simple, clean aesthetic, and while I'll never probably embrace the white-on-white-on-white look as fully as Foley, I love to dream of an "elegantly simple" home.

Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms from Tabletops to Bookshelves by Emily Henderson
Everybody's favorite home blogger finally has a book out. Beyond the excitement I share with everyone for Emily Henderson's first tome, I am particularly excited by this title because it was produced with two of my favorite work pals: stylist Scott Horne and photographer David Tsay.

Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating by Lauren Liess
From my first encounter with Lauren Liess's blog, I have loved her earthy-yet-simple vibe. (I also love that she seems like a real and relatable working mom.) I can't wait to see a full book of her interiors.

In Pursuit of Beauty by Timothy Whealon
Timothy Whealon came onto my radar this summer when his amazing apartment was featured in ELLE DECOR. When I heard he had a book coming out this fall, I immediately bookmarked it for my to-read list.
Carrier and Company Positively Chic Interiors by Jessie Carrier and Mara Miller
I met Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller last spring when I wrote about their Kips Bay Decorators' Show House room for Curbed.com, and I have been a huge fan of their work every since (I've pinned dozens of images from their portfolio to my inspiration boards online). 

Cabin Porn by Zach Klein
I'm apparently the last one to know about the Cabin Porn Tumblr. I read about the site and the book in the New York Times a few weeks back (the article is worth a read!), and decided I was very curious to see the book that was born out of the site. 

Digest 10.13.15

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My maternity leave days have been consumed with caring for my baby, but I've had some time to read a little and bookmark a few things to share with you. Here's what's been on my radar lately:

If you can still find any plums, this simple torte is to die for.

I love these suggestions for using up kitchen scraps.

Plus a whole bunch of ideas for cilantro stems (which I will never throwaway again!).

The dreamiest little beach cottage.

Worn Wear Project.

Chic flat-pack furniture (not IKEA!).

A DIY concrete desk.

I've been admiring these purse inserts for baby gear.

A collection of Halloween ideas.

My Pinterest account featured on the Grace and Glory Home blog.

Oh Boy!

Monday, October 12, 2015

A little over two months ago, my husband and I welcomed our son William into the world. He is the sweetest, most wonderful boy, and I am filled with unspeakable joy to be his mother.

I kept quiet about his impending arrival, but now that he’s here, I’ll likely write some things about becoming a mother and sharing our home with a tiny, little human. But don’t worry, I won’t stop writing about recipes, DIY projects, and living well in small spaces: The posts just may be a little less frequent in the months ahead.

Ode to a Robot Vacuum

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Should I buy a Roomba? Is a Roomba worth the price? I asked myself those questions many times, and now that I have an answer, which I want to share it with you. I’ve been curious about robot vacuums since they hit the marketplace 13 years ago. However, the high price of the machines always deterred me from buying one.

When I saw a used Roomba for sale at a yard sale earlier this year for $30, I jumped at the chance to test it out. (The previous owner said that the Roomba could not keep up with her shedding dog, but I was willing to give it a try.)

Because my Roomba was previously owned, I had a few hiccups with it at first. A little sleuthing on the internet and some helpful YouTube videos helped me trouble-shoot some problems (the brush heads needed to be cleaned, which involved tweezers to remove hair and debris, and later battery charging issues). I have had nothing but good experiences with Roomba since, and I can now say that I think these machines are worth their retail price tag. If my used model died tomorrow, I’d definitely replace it with a new one.

My husband, on the other hand, does not share my affection for the Roomba, which is what prompted me to write this post. His complaint is that the Roomba doesn’t do a meticulous job, but I would argue, that’s not the point of a robot vacuum. It’s never going to get every corner and nook that you could tackle with a broom. What it is going to do is lengthen the time between deep floor cleanings and cut down the weekly maintenance you have to do yourself. If you run the Roomba once a week, it will keep your floors reasonably clean. Up that to twice a week, and you’re in really good shape. It'll also tackle spots you would need to move furniture to reach, like the spaces under beds and sofas.

I usually set the Roomba to work when I leave for work in the morning, since it’s pretty noisy while it runs. When I get home, I’m always surprised at how much dirt the machine has managed to pick up in its travels, and I’m thrilled that it wasn’t me sweeping it up. Confession: I was never the kind of person who swept or vacuumed the whole apartment every week, so the Roomba has seriously upped the cleanliness of my home.

I like using the Roomba for another reason: It forces us to be tidy. To get the most out of a robot vacuum, you need to offer it a clear path, and to do that, you can’t have tons of crap piled up on your floor. When I run the Roomba, I put all the chairs up on the coffee table, dining table, and desk, which in turn means that those surfaces must also be clear of piles of crap. See what I mean? To have our apartment ready to be cleaned by a robot means our apartment must be in order.

All in all, I think a robot vacuum is a great addition to our small two-bedroom apartment. It might not be the best solution for everyone (like the dog owner I bought mine from), but for me, it's been a great way to cut down on my housekeeping time.

Digest 7.18.15

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer seems to be flying by. The last few days in New York City have all been perfect days with blue skies, low humidity and bearable temperatures -- let's all hope this weather is here to stay.

I'm so in love with Food52's staff kitchen -- so many smart solutions!

Tiny Parisian apartments.

A minimalist cooking and designing set. 

Summer nights have me thinking of linen bedding.

Rag rugs, yes please!

Making me want to get back to the West Coast.

How to save for a down payment on a New York City apartment. (Great advice.)

The Sacrificial Chair is a pretty funny idea.

On the reading list: Calder at Home.
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