A Tale of eBay Alerts and Wishes Fulfilled

Friday, August 12, 2016

A couple years back, I wrote about my search for a Rand McNally star chart similar to designer Thomas O’Brien’s. At the time, my search had lead me to a company that makes reproductions of the Rand McNally charts and sells them for $175. Eventually, I bought one, but it remained unframed (a 36”x36” print is not cheap to frame, I discovered).

All the while, I had an eBay alert set to notify me if a Rand McNally chart should ever come up on eBay. I had the alert set for nearly ten years before the magical day when the email arrived in my inbox. There it was: A genuine Rand McNally star chart—and it had a “buy it now” option. I nearly fainted when I saw it.

Unfortunately, my husband and I were on vacation at the time, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway with spotty cell service. I had to wait a desperate 30 minutes before we were in an area with reliable enough service for me to purchase the chart on my phone. (I was certain some other star-chart-obsessed person like myself had simultaneously gotten the same notification from eBay. Thankfully, this was not the case.) For a mere $50, plus shipping, the chart was mine.

Once again, the cost of framing prohibited me from getting the chart out of its mailing tube and onto our walls. It languished for nearly 2 ½ years before I decided to take action. An attempt to DIY a hanging system similar to one I’d seen on Pinterest turned out to be a complete failure. Fortunately, I came across a square frame that was big enough to hold the chart on PotteryBarn.com and it cost just under $100—an incredible deal.

After my failed DIY framing, I didn’t even want to attempt to mat or mount the chart myself, especially since it is in rough condition (and I have a toddler at home). On the recommendation of my parents, we used a local framer who worked out of his basement in our neighborhood. The matting and mounting of the map into the frame cost double what the frame and four times as much as the chart itself, but it was well worth it. The star chart looks amazing. It has become the focal point of our living room—even of our whole apartment.

I tell you all this to say: never give up on your second-hand dreams! And set up eBay alerts for those hard-to-find vintage items that have captured your imagination. You never know, they might just turn up one day.

Also, the eBay alert pinged again today: Apparently someone else has gotten into the reproduction game and started hawking their prints on eBay. I've never seen these in person, but unlike the Municipal Prints Company reproductions that I wrote about before, these are full-scale at just over 4-feet square, and the extra foot really does make a difference in scale.

Review: Sombrilla

Friday, July 15, 2016

Five years ago I spotted an adorable beach tent on Pinterest. At the time, the Sombrilla was not available stateside, and I blogged about what a great DIY project it would make. A project is always a great idea in theory, but actually gathering the materials and executing the project is not always so easy.

Luckily for me, Hollie and Harrie's Sombrilla became available in the US. two years ago, and I took the plunge and bought one—even though it cost nearly $200 (gulp!). Now in my third summer with the tent, I can say with confidence that it was worth the investment. The tent and its poles are very well made, and much nicer than a DIY version would be. The lightweight aluminum poles are much like camping poles and they make set-up a cinch. Plus, the canvas cover would cost a lot to DIY, since it's a couple yards of nice, heavy-weight fabric. My family will have this tent for many years to come.

I love that the Sombrilla is impervious to wind, unlike an umbrella, and I like having big area of shade that up to four people can share. The only downside is that you need a pretty big space to set it up, which can be tricky with New York City's crowded beaches (seen below last summer).

Pro tip: Buy yourself a basic mallet to pound the upright supports and the tent stakes into the sand.

The particular Sombrilla we bought is no longer available from the retailer from which we purchased it. However, Terrain is selling two leaf-printed versions ($198), and a shop called Scenario Home is selling five other patterns ($240; ships free). 

Recipe: Spicy Meatballs

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Three years ago, I received a review copy of One Good Dish by David Tanis, whom I absolutely adore. One of the first things I cooked out of the book was his recipe for Tunisian Meatballs. It was a weeknight, my sister and her husband were coming over, and I thought, "Meatballs, no problem!" However, the recipe as written was an awful lot of work, and we ended up eating very, very late. It was a bad foot to start off with the book, but the flavor of those meatballs was delicious enough to leave an impression.

A couple weeks back, faced with a pound of ground turkey, I once again thought, "Meatballs, no problem!" and this time, it really was. With a faint memory of the Tunisian Meatballs, I grabbed my copy of One Good Dish. I didn't have all of the ingredients, but we were talking about meatballs—not exactly precise science, so I went ahead. They turned out great. Really great.

Then tonight, I went to make the meatballs again, and didn't quite have the right ingredients (again!), but still ended up with a great dinner. I thought to myself, "This is a really forgiving and wonderful recipe—I should blog about it." So, I sat down to write this post. To my amazement, I discovered, there was a second page to Tanis's recipe that I had completely ignored the last two times I made the recipe! Seriously, I'd been merely glancing at the ingredient list, unconcerned with directions. (Again, we're talking about meatballs! I knew I could bake them instead of pan-frying them.) So it turns out, these yummy meatballs that I have cooked twice aren't really what David Tanis had in mind at all, but, gosh, they were delicious. So here is the "recipe," but be loose with it—it is (very) forgiving.

Spicy Meatballs (adapted from David Tanis)

1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
generous splash milk
1 lb. ground turkey
1 egg, beaten
2-4 garlic cloves minced
1 t. salt
1/4 t. ground black pepper
2 t. smoked paprika
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground tumeric
1/2 ground cumin
1 c. chopped cilantro (about half a large bunch)

Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Combine all the above in a large bowl (I use my hands). Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 15-20 minutes.

Michelle Adams's Michigan Home

Thursday, July 07, 2016

When I first saw former Lonny editor Michelle Adams's house in House Beautiful back in February, it didn't really make a big impression on me. However, when I leafed through the issue again this week, I was struck by the nice balance between the contemporary and modern design and the traditional—and that is a hard balance to strike (see previous post)!

Adams' cites the J.K. Place Capri hotel, as her main source of inspiration, but I spy influences of other decorators, as well. Here are a few of the rooms that caught my eye:

The dining room was clearly at least partially inspired by the Lonny office, designed by Flair Home. (I suspect those actually are the original Lonny drapes.) The contrast of antique-looking pieces and the totally trad drapes with the clean-line chairs and china cabinets is great here.

This living room by Tom Scheerer seems like the inspiration for the master bedroom, and Scheerer's Sag Harbor project from his book Tom Scheerer Decorates, could also have been an inspiration for much of the house.

As Steve Jobs is often quoted as saying, "Good artists copy; great artists steal." And I would say Adams has successfully stolen ideas in a way that makes them truly her own: I love this house. See the rest of it on HouseBeautiful.com.

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 Amazon.com would entail.
3. Anti-monopoly sentiments: I hate to admit it, but I love Amazon.com: 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. 
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