Saturday, November 22, 2014

Simply Spotless Fabric Cleaner

Earlier this year, I was introduced to the Simply Spotless cleaning line, and I'll admit I was curious, but a little skeptical. Being eco-conscious, my curiosity was sparked by the company's achievement of the Environmental Protection Agency's Design for the Environment certification for all of their products. My skepticism was founded in the product's designer packaging. What can I say, it just didn't look serious to me, and I figured the chic design was just a way for the company to charge higher-than-normal fees for their cleaning supplies.

Well, boy was I wrong: Simply Spotless Fabric Cleaner is amazing. It has removed so many stubborn stains that it is now my go-to stain treatment, especially for upholstery fabrics because it doesn't need to be washed out. A half-full glass of wine spilled on our light-colored sofa (my fault!) and fear gripped my chest. Yes, the slipcovers are washable, but it was a lot of wine, and a couch is a major investment piece. I covered all the stained spots with the Simply Spotless, and the stains were gone in the morning--really, there was no trace of the wine. It has also worked on old stains that had been sitting for who knows how long. I think this fabric cleaner is so effective that the $18 price tag is a bargain.

The company was founded by a mother-daughter team and is made in New York City, which is another reason I am happy to pay the higher price for this product.

(I should note that I also tried the Simply Spotless Glass and Surface Cleaner, and while it worked just fine, I wouldn't spend the extra money on it; I have yet to try the Wood Cleaner.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Weekly Digest 11.21.14

Happy Friday! It's been a cold, cold week here in New York, and I'm excited for the weekend. We'll be finalizing our Thanksgiving menu and getting ready for our houseguests in anticipation of the mini-holiday next week. Here's what's been on my mind this week:

I seriously cannot wait to try these savory tart recipes from Pistache. 

For a slightly more healthy veggie dish, I've got my eye on Wild Apple's Celeriac Potato Gratin.

Renzo Piano's micro-home, 'diogene.' So. Chic.

The founder of the Container Store is working on a green alternative to Home Depot.

I bought a pair of Darn Tough Socks. Made in the USA, they have a lifetime guarantee.

I spied these gorgeous (but wildly expensive!) water filters at ABC Home--wow, right?

"Slow building" in Brooklyn.

These "tool pegs" from Brook Farm General Store are a great storage solution.

AirBnB is launching its own magazine! (AirBnB, if you need writers, I'm available!)

I'm intrigued by Vokashi, a compost service for urban dwellers.

...and a great design for a compost bin.

I've noticed a trend of winemakers going naked at our local wine shop.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Recipes for Broccoli Stems

I'm the kind of cook who hates to waste anything edible. Whether it's the last wedge of lemon, a heel of bread, or some leftover potatoes, I always try to find a way to use everything up. In the spirit of making use of every last bit, I want to share some recipes for broccoli stems.

Many people cut the crowns off their broccoli, cook the florets and toss the stems. However, the stems are perfectly edible. The simplest way to use them is to sauté or roast them right alongside the florets, but I was also intrigued by these dishes that use only the stalks. To prepare stems, I cut off the end and any protruding bits, and peel them with a sharp vegetable peeler (sometimes you need to peel more than one layer to remove the woody exterior). I hope these recipes inspire you to cook every bit of broccoli that you bring home from the store.

I made this Broccoli Stem Salad recipe from Quinciple's blog The Sift, and it was pretty darn good. I added some slivered kalamata olives for an extra kick of flavor. The trick here is to let the stems marinate in the vinaigrette.

Pan-Fried Broccoli Stems from the New York Times sound delicious (and easy to make!).

Bon Appetit offers Sautéed Broccoli with Floret Vinaigrette, a dish from Oxheart restaurant in Houston, TX. This recipe uses the whole broccoli, so isn't really a stem-only recipe, but I bet you could use the technique with a basic vinaigrette and get delicious results.

Also: This recipe from The First Mess for "green goddess" pizza is intriguing--broccoli stem pesto!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Weekly Digest 11.14.14

I'm going to try something new here on the blog. Every Friday I will post a list of links to things that have sparked my attention over the previous week. Most of them will have to do with living well in small spaces, but others might touch on food, entertainment, travel--whatever strikes my fancy. I hope you enjoy what I share.

I am in love with the design of the tiny Marmara house.

Joanna Goddard shared another small, but certainly not minimal home.

So simple, yet so powerful: How 'double bucks' for food stamps at farmers' markets. 

This non-electric espresso machine is genius.

A writer tries to green her beauty routine by buying products that create less waste.

I'm intrigued by this sustainable-meat company.

Lessons in small-space living from a woman who lives on a boat!

I am so curious about this laundry gadget.

...and about this alternative to plastic baggies.

Harper's Bazaar compiled a great list of interior designers to follow on Pinterest.

home exchange site for creative types is an interesting idea.

Sheila Lukins's simple recipe for "dress-up rice."

Saturday, November 08, 2014


I’ve been thinking a lot about less. Buying less, spending less, owning less, using less--generally being less of a burden to this planet. I’ve been living in New York City for sixteen years now, and in that time I have acquired so much stuff. Sometimes I look around, and I wonder, “Where did all this come from?”

It’s hard to remember what it was like living in my first apartment in a 6' x 8' room with a mattress, only enough clothes to fit in a very small wardrobe, a plank on brackets for desk, a chair, just four plates and four bowls, a single sauté pan—I owned so little, but my life was no less full.

I don’t aspire to return to my teenage lifestyle, but I do want to get back to the basics. And yet it is so hard to get rid of things, isn’t it? For example, why is it so hard to get rid of that shirt you only where two times a year? Is it because we worry that we might need it someday. Getting up the nerve to say to yourself, "No, I really don't need it," can be hard.

It’s not just about decluttering. Simultaneously, I am intrigued by the idea of creating less waste. Reading about people who aspire to a “zero waste” home (in other words, to create no trash) inspires me to do a better job of buying things that come with minimal and easily recycled packaging; it also helps motivate me to seek out less wasteful and more ecological alternatives for every item that comes into my home.

I tell you all this to let you know that I plan to write more about living with less. When I talk like this, my husband jokes about becoming minimalists, who live in a studio apartment with tatami mats as our only furnishings. That’s not the answer, but I do think that we could all think about how we might live smaller, lighter, and ultimately more freely, less weighed down by what we consume.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Small, But Not Minimal

I came across this tiny apartment on Refinery29, and I loved it right away because it shows that small-space living doesn't have to be minimalistic or impersonal. I think many people might see a small apartment like the Life Edited apartment, and find it hard to relate to. While this apartment, which was also featured on, really feels like someone's personal home, in part because it is inhabited by a couple, Jourdan Lawlor and Tobin Ludwig, who have filled their home with antiques, collections, and art.

Here are some of the smart solutions Lawlor and Ludwig employed to make the extra-small apartment livable:

The "bedroom" and "dining room" both fold away. This view of the living room shows the apartment with the Murphy bed and the dining table both folded away. It looks a lot like any New York City apartment's living room to me, which I like.

Here you can see the Resource Furniture bed folded down (I'm not sure what model it is). I have said it once, and I'll say it again: Murphy beds are amazing. They clear up tons of floor space during the day, and they are as comfortable to sleep in as a regular bed (I swear!). It's like gaining an extra 30 square feet.

Above you can see how close the kitchen is to the living space--close! In the right-hand corner the cabinet doors hide the dining table.

And here, you can see the table folded out; on the right are additional storage cabinets. Clever, right? I wonder where they keep their chairs?

This shot is looking from the "living room" towards the kitchen. If I were to do one thing over in this apartment, I would have suggested they run the cabinets straight up to the ceiling like we did with our small kitchen remodel. Not having pots stacked on top of your cabinets really streamlines the look of the kitchen--and you wouldn't believe how much extra storage space you feel like you have.

I love that the couple splurged on a nice stove (with what looks like a fancy, little exhaust fan at the back!), even though their kitchen is teeny-tiny. The close-to-the-wall pot rack, magnetic knife block, and wall-mount paper towel holder all make up for lack of drawer and counter space. 

Lastly, looking straight on at the Murphy bed with the bed folded away with storage on the left. 

Update: LifeEdited also posted about this tiny home and included a great overall room shot here.

Photos by Max Touhey.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tiny Kitchen Before and After

Speaking of kitchens, I was mightily impressed by this kitchen makeover that appeared on the One Kings Lane blog. A collaboration between two One Kings Lane employees, Danielle and Megan (both of who I happen to know!), this clever and attractive design makes the most of a teeny-tiny space. I should also note Danielle's kitchen has the exact layout of our kitchen, so it's a space that feels very familiar to me.

The coat of white paint really freshens up the space. Danielle also added white beadboard to the from of the island and a white subway tile backsplash, which she tiled herself.

Hanging cutting boards on the wall makes use of vertical space and adds a decorative accent to the room. A basket on top of the fridge can store pantry staples like onions and garlic.

Megan's genius white rack-and-board shelving (made from 4 small wine racks and a 1″ x 12″, cut to length) above the cabinets really maximizes the vertical space in the kitchen. I love how the semi-custom shelving makes it feel okay to put things on top of the cabinets. I've been using that space for years, but this looks so intentional and stylish.

The feather pendant lamps are gorgeous (and genius!), but I'm not sure they'd be my first choice for the kitchen. That said, I can imagine making one for a table lamp for a quiet corner. The step-by-step instructions are on Design*Sponge, if you feel inspired to try it yourself.

Photos by Manuel Rodriguez for One Kings Lane.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Mirror Backsplash in the Kitchen

Here's a small space solution that intrigues me: A mirror backsplash in the kitchen. I remember seeing photographs of designer Thomas O'Brien's New York City galley kitchen (above) years ago, and thinking that it was an interesting idea. The mirror reflects light into the room and gives a feeling of openess to the normally cramped-feeling space between the counter and the upper cabinets. Plus, glass is an easy material to clean (hello, Windex). On the negative side, the mirror could create visual clutter, if you keep a lot of things on your countertops.

It's hard to tell from these photos because they have been professionally lit and retouched, but I think they have me convinced that a mirror backsplash is a great idea for a small kitchen--or a big one for that matter! The mirror really does open up the space.

Thomas O'Brien must have decided a mirror backsplash was a wise choice because he repeated the mirrored look in this kitchen that appeared in Domino.

And another more recent interior by O'Brien, the kitchen design for the apartments at Greenwich Lane.

ASH NYC's Ari Heckman employed the same technique in his small West Village one bedroom, which was featured in Lonny

Not only space-enhancing, mirrors can give a kitchen a kick of glamor. Case in point: Mirrors line the walls in designer Stephanie Stokes's chic 48-square-foot kitchen in New York City, seen in House Beautiful

A mirror backsplash keeps the look clean in this white-on-white kitchen from Better Homes & Gardens. I like how the mirror does not continue behind the stovetop here.

What do you think? Does anyone have experience with a mirror backsplash? Is it practical? Better than tile? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Small Space Inspiration: Windsor Terrace

I read dozens of interior design magazines every month, and after pages and pages of home inspiration, it is rare that a house or an apartment really strikes a chord with me. This month's issue of Dwell grabbed my attention with its small spaces coverline. Inside I was disappointed to find that many of the "small spaces" were actually people's guests houses or other auxiliary structures. However, one apartment really caught my attention.

This one-bedroom apartment in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn belongs to a family of three (soon-to-be four), and it has completely changed my thinking about where we might live next. This apartment makes me believe less is more. I love the renovation solutions this couple employed -- and the spirit that guided that their choices. You can read the full story on

A floor-to-ceiling sliding wall panel divides the parents' "bedroom" from the main living space.

Custom built-in cabinetry hides the couple's queen-size Murphy bed. (I am a BIG believer in the magic of Murphy beds, by the way--and I speak from personal experience.) 

The Murphy bed in action!

A view from the bedroom looking out to the living area.

The apartment's kitchen is a clean and simple galley design. I love the idea that you can splurge on materials like a marble counter, if you opt for a smaller space. 

Find more of the space after the jump.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DIY Inspiration: Denim Quilts

I saw the photo above in Martha Stewart Living years ago, and I have been saving my worn out jeans ever since in the hopes of someday making my own denim quilt. After collecting for several years, I think I may have gathered enough to make one. However, my only quilting experience is a group project my Girl Scout troop made circa 1988, but I think I can manage it, especially since I'm most inspired by somewhat rustic-looking quilts, like the one below.

While Martha provided a gorgeous inspiration image, the directions are a little scant on details. A little sleuthing online lead me to a tutorial on the blog Little Birdie Secrets. I'm not crazy about the contrasting top-stitching she chose, but if I tried it with denim-colored thread, I think it might be a workable technique. However, I like the way the Martha team laid out their quilt: They made strips that run the full-length of the bed and stitched them together (the other blogger, made strips that were the width of the quilt instead).

Does anyone have any experience quilting with denim? I'd love to hear any advice! Here are a few more denim quilts that I find inspiring.

I love the bleached crosses on the one above and the dots below. I think the bleached denim technique might be a nice way to add pattern to the quilt. Note that Martha's version had sections of ticking stripe fabric and what appear to be dish towels to break up the sea of indigo. 

Photos from Martha Stewart Living, Jared on Flickr, Jo Simmons on Flickr, Mazama, and Tumblr.


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