In the gallery

Lately I have been super inspired by bold gallery walls. The kind that are a focal point for the room, make a statement, and look collected and eclectic… like some kind of old world library, an art collector’s studio, or maybe an intimate salon (SAH-lon, if you’re fancy!). Here are some spaces I can’t help but swoon over right now:

via: Chairish, my scandinavian home, Lucky magazine, and sfgirlbybay

This week I decided to start over from scratch with my own gallery wall. I’ve had a mix of art up in my living room for quite some time, moving pieces in and out as my tastes or whims have changed. This time, instead of swapping out a piece or two, I took down everything and thought long and hard about what I really wanted for the end result. I framed several items I’ve be wanting to hang for ages, laid everything out on the floor, and then added, subtracted, rearranged, and shifted everything until I was really thrilled with the arrangement. Next, to get everything spaced out properly on the wall, I made templates out of newspaper for every frame and hung them on the wall with a bit of tape. This method works especially great when you are hanging a lot of items. Also, you can mark on the paper where you need your nails or hangers to go! Then just affix your nails while the paper is up, pull down the paper, and hang your frame. Here is my end result, and I couldn’t be happier with it!

Our living room feels fresher and even more personal now, just in time for the holidays. This Thanksgiving I’ll be giving thanks for our health and safety in my own little private gallery — I hope you can do the same!

Light it up

Let’s talk lighting! I have a healthy (unhealthy?) love for lamps. Warm, cozy lamplight is all I want for my home, especially when the days grow shorter and twilight descends earlier and earlier. This time of year I just want to curl up, my hygge-ified home aglow, and enjoy long slow evenings.

How can I make my house glow-y and cozy, you ask? Try lamps over overhead lighting, and swap out your bulbs! What should I look for, you ask? Well, here we go!

Most commonly we think of wattage when looking for lightbulbs. When bulbs were universally incandescent, wattage sort of interchangeably described both electrical power and bulb brightness. With LED, incandescent, and fluorescent bulbs all on the market now, there are actually three main factors to keep in mind when buying light bulbs: wattage, lumens, and Kelvin rating.

Wattage actually refers to the electrical power the bulb needs to operate. You should make sure to only use bulbs that require a wattage less than or equal to what your fixture is built for. Easy, right? And with so many energy-saving bulbs on the market these days, you’ll likely be using a bulb far lower than what your lamp lists as its maximum.

Lumens refer to the brightness of your light source. The higher the lumens, the brighter your light bulb. Here is a handy list to give you an idea of what brightness you can expect, based on the wattage of traditional incandescent bulbs.

  • To replace a 100 watt (W) incandescent bulb, look for a bulb that gives you about 1600 lumens. If you want something dimmer, go for less lumens; if you prefer brighter light, look for more lumens.
  • Replace a 75W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 1100 lumens
  • Replace a 60W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 800 lumens
  • Replace a 40W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 450 lumens.

Lastly, Kelvin (K) refers to your bulb’s color/temperature. By far the most important factor for me these days is my bulb’s Kelvin rating. Warmer Kelvin ratings feel cozier, and while dimmers allow you to control how bright you’d like your light to be depending on your need or mood, Kelvin can’t be changed unless you buy a smart bulb that allows you to change its colors. Kelvin is measured on a scale from 1,000 to 10,000, with most lightbulbs falling between 2000-6500K. For a cozy feel in your living spaces, 2700K is a nice, warm-feeling Kelvin rating. 3000K will give you a whiter light, and anything above 3500K is bluer and can feel rather “sterile” or harsh to me. 3500K or above is usually best suited for hospital or other commercial applications. Bulbs labeled “daylight” often fall into this category, and while they may be less desirable for spaces you want to feel home-y or cozy, they can come in handy for task lighting, kitchens, or workspaces where bright light is needed. For “warm” vs. “cool” lighting, think about the glow of candlelight vs. the bright white of an operating room. The lower the Kelvin, the more amber your light will be.

Recently I swapped out the cooler LED bulbs in this lamp with these warmer Edison bulbs, and I am so happy with the result! They are 4 watt bulbs, but because they are LED, they compare roughly to the lumens output of a traditional 40 watt bulb. 2700K is a good Kelvin sweet spot for me, so I love the warmth of these bulbs in my living room.

Here are a few of my favorite lamps right now to get you going, some that I have and others that I’d love to:

Directional

The Domes black marble table lamp from CB2 is sculptural and stunning, and lucky for me, it came with a pair of 2700K bulbs. It catches my eye every time I walk into my living room, in the best way.

When I was a kid I had a banker-style green lamp on my desk that I loved. I’d turn it on to do homework, and it had such a satisfying *click*. This olive Clive desk lamp has all the same vibes with a more modern sensibility, and would look just as good on an end table as on your desk. Give it a low Kelvin bulb for a sweet glow, or swap in a higher Kelvin option for a great task light.

Floor lamps

The Harriet floor lamp from Anthropologie had me at hello, with it’s graceful modern curves and stylish pleated shade. If I had space for a floor lamp, she’d already be mine. The pleated paper shade will give any room a lovely, diffuse light.

Likewise, the Yoji floor lamp at Urban Outfitters would be mine in a heartbeat if I had a place for it. These frosted glass globes paired with some warm light bulbs would make for a gorgeous ambient glow.

Table lamps

I know I already posted about these, but my Snake table lamps from CB2 are still making me super happy. I have them sitting on my console flanking a gallery wall, and they are just the right mix of antique and glam. The off-white linen shade gives a nicely diffuse light.

This adorable little Danish modern lamp by &tradition comes with a 2700K LED AND has a built-in dimmer switch. Perfect on a mantel, side table, bookshelf — anywhere! I would expect nothing less from the country that brought us the hygge concept. Plus, I can’t get over that chic rust and slate-y blue color combo. Love.

I love all of these Modern Totem table lamps from West Elm, although if I HAD to choose, I think I’d go with the blue black blue black. The shapes are clean and interesting, and would go with a wide variety of styles. Again, a linen shade is a great option for a luminous glow.

And here we are! Beautiful lighting and some cozy vibes — what could be better? Happy hygge-fying!

Out of my head

Blue moon, 10/31/20

Votes are still being counted as we wait and hope, stress and wonder, cross our fingers and keep looking forward. Here is a poem I wrote some time ago that seems to fit my mood this week. I’m craving some mental quiet as we hope and wait, wait and hope. Wishing you some serenity this weekend.

____________

I want to

peel off my skin

get out of my own head

escape into silence

for a while

find the quiet stillness

that my restless

spirit so 

craves.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Delightfully spooky

It’s spooky season! Normally I don’t do a lot of decorating for holidays other than Christmas (small house = small amount of storage!), but with all of us staying at home so much more this year, it seemed like a fun way to get into the spirit of things. I love John Derian’s aesthetic, so his collection for Target was a delightful surprise. Some skeletal branches on the table, a few John Derian trays and eyeball coasters, and some floating candles? Poof! Spooky, creepy, Gothic-y good fun.

I tried Mallory Fletchalls floating candle DIY idea as featured in Domino, and it was well worth the effort. I used these battery-powered candles, and hung them from the ceiling in my dining room with this clear fishing line. Now I feel like I’m in a haunted house and/or the great hall at Hogwarts — both of which are a total win this time of year, don’t you think? I especially like that these candles come with a remote control, which makes turning them on and off a breeze.

Even though Halloween will look different this year, I hope you all have a spooky good time this weekend. Pop some popcorn, get dressed up, and watch Hocus Pocus! And may I also suggest this awesomely witchy cocktail? Happy Halloween!

Three great new books

Three great new books have graced my shelves over the past couple weeks, and I just have to share!

One of the small perks of this “new normal” is the plethora of book talks available online, and I was delighted to be able to attend a talk with Kate McDermott on her new book, Pie Camp. Besides being a wizard with all things pie, she is a gem of a human being who finds so much fun and enjoyment in what she does, it is hard not to share her enthusiasm. I am always a fan of people who enjoy what they do, and McDermott is no exception. I had no less than three, “wow, that is genius!” moments in the charming hour we spent together, including this: McDermott tossed together an incredible-looking berry crostata in the last 7 minutes, with which she encouraged everyone to just have fun with fillings. Marionberry preserves, fresh raspberries, and (what?!) dried blueberries tucked into the center of each raspberry, JUST FOR FUN? Genius.

If her previous book, Art of the Pie, is the “why” of pie, then Pie Camp is indubitably the the “how.” Over three hundred pages of methods, recipes, tips, and beautiful photography make for as thorough a primer on sweet pies as anyone could ask for. Fruit pies, custards, creams, crisps, crostatas — oh my! Lattices, braids, and crimps, too! I am more of a cake baker, myself, but I hit the checkout button before I even got halfway through her chat. Now I am looking forward to a pie-filled holiday season — and beyond.

Poet Maggie Smith of “Good Bones” fame has delivered us her genre-defying book, Keep Moving, at just the right moment in time. Originally spurred by her divorce, Smith’s “notes on loss, creativity, and change,” are precisely what many of us need to hear as this pandemic continues to turn our lives inside-out and sideways. Many of the entries are tweets to herself, encouraging reminders to “keep moving.” They are interspersed with the occasional meditation on a beautiful moment, a creative reflection or learning opportunity, or perhaps a small rumination on fear or hope. Whatever the you want to classify this book as, Smith’s grace in the face of change shines through in every page. She’s the encouraging voice reminding us, quietly, than even if all we can do is keep moving, it’s more than enough.

Finally, I could not be prouder of Henry James Garrett and his book, This Book Will Make You Kinder. Garrett may be better known to some as the artist behind Drawings of Dogs on Instagram, with his delightful art and his knack of piercing to the heart of so many social issues with a wittily observant caption or pun. (If you spend even just a couple minutes watching his Instagram stories, you can see what a genuinely kind and lovely person he is, and why I am so proud to hold his book in my hands.)

Now, building on his academic studies and keen interest in ethics, kindness, and morality, Garrett has graced us with an “empathy handbook” — a guide to developing our moral kindness and confronting cruelty in our world. His animal cartoons are peppered throughout his well-considered tome, but he goes far beyond his online art presence to bring us a book I think everyone can and will benefit from reading. Part philosophy, part sociological observation and critique, and entirely accessible, it is as timely as Maggie Smith’s book, but in a different way. Smith reminds us how to keep going, and Garrett reminds us that we need to do so together, with kindness and empathy. And I think McDermott has the right idea — let’s do so with a warm slice of pie.

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Casual Friday: Voter Edition

Today my sartorial choices are skewing slightly fall-ish and decidedly voter-ish.

A printed dress is still easier than easy for pandemic staying-at-home working and lounging — while still looking polished if you venture out.

This snappy tote and black and white I Am A Voter strap make for a stylish and comfortable way to schlep your ballot to the nearest polling station or post office.

Don’t forget to wear your mask when you go! Stripes with a heart are as cheery as can be.

Pink ankle socks paired with a classic flat loafer are a fun nod to fall while still being comfy to wear, just in case there is a line at the voting booth.

A beautiful pen makes filling out your mail-in ballot a pleasure. Plus it is refillable, so you can use it for years to come.

This terracotta-meets-poppy nail polish feels perfect for early autumn — and the name Yes, I Can(yon) is just the inspiration we need to carry us through this election.

For voting resources, visit I Will Vote.com. Let’s make our voices heard!

Best of: Makers I ❤️

Some of the makers I love have been up to fun new somethings, and I just had to share!

Block Shop is offering a free VOTE pin with every order shipped from their studio this month, and it is seriously the cutest version of this hugely important message I have seen so far. Also, if their Instagram is any indication, they will have masks back in stock next week! All mask profits go directly to support meals for garment workers in LA, plus they are super stylish and adorable. Win-win.

Heath Ceramics just debuted their 2020 Winter Seasonal Collection, and I couldn’t love it more. Dubbed “The Season of Hope & Love,” it is full of stunning icy whites and greys along with the happiest buttery yellows and a hint of wildflower purple. Gradations in glazes are meant to signify transition, which I find beautifully poetic for this tumultuous time. I think we can all use some hope and love right about now, and the gradient yellow trays and vases in particular are perfectly sunny and delightful.

Finally, Baleen Jewelry has some beautiful new arrivals to peruse. I am in love with the organic simplicity of the pebble necklace, and want to add the sweet little XYZ studs to my rotation immediately. As always, all of their pieces are sustainably handmade in the USA, with zero-waste manufacturing and recycled materials.

Enjoy!

Grief and respair

  • respair: the return of hope after a period of despair

This week, a post on anything but grief feels wrong. We lost the formidable Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week, and Breonna Taylor’s murderers walked free — charged only for the bullets that missed. I am gutted.

Instead of trying to parse my own grief into words, please let me share novelist Jesmyn Ward’s piece On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by Pandemic. Ward loses her husband, suffers through the pandemic in a grief-fueled depression, sobs and bears witness to racism protests — and does so with lilting grace and courage.

I hear you, Breonna. I hear you, Jesmyn. I hear you, Ruth. We are here. We aren’t going anywhere, except forward.

Shelter and place

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing truly luminous readings from an incredible line-up of California poets: Dana Gioia, Garret Hongo, Robin Coste Lewis, Luis J. Rodriguez, David St. John, and Gail Wronsky. Cartography of Poets, a virtual poetry event presented by Visions and Voices at USC, centered around the ways history and place shape the poetic experience. The idea that writers and their work are shaped by their environments is certainly not groundbreaking — what would Henry David Thoreau be without Walden Pond? — but this event got me thinking about things in a more contemporary, more personal way.

Fires are still raging in the West. California is on fire, breaking records and breaking apart lives. Amidst this landscape, this small reflection by Dana Gioia reminded me of the beauty of our summers:

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.
An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.
. . .
And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

from “CALIFORNIA HILLS IN AUGUST”
by DANA GIOIA

We continue to shelter in place, and meanwhile, I am contemplating shelter and place, and the way we inhabit both those spaces. Our shelters — the homes we have been confined to and seek succor in. Our places — the solidarity of New York on 9/11, the orange glow of San Francisco’s skies, the hazy rain of ash in Los Angeles, and the ways we shape and are shaped by them. I think of how we are all nesting, all trying to make our homes work better for us — dining rooms becoming offices, offices becoming playrooms, kitchen tables becoming classrooms — and how beautiful the adaptability of the human spirit really is. The way we keep working, toiling, and finding joy in between.

I put up new lamps this week that I love. Something to bring a small joy in a small way. I think I am puttering, not doing much of import, and yet my friend exclaims over how productive I have been. And I think, well yes, I suppose I have. To shelter and find small joys is no small thing, today, yesterday, or tomorrow. I am here in this place, California sunshine streaming through my windows, and I think, I am lucky. I am of this place, I have shelter, and I am learning to find joy.

Yippee, chinoiserie!

Heron wallpaper in green via Gucci

I think I might be a little late to the party on the “grandmillenial” design trend, but I am here now — albeit with my own twist. I have always been a fan of mixing styles, and lately, my “old-meets-new” aesthetic is skewing decidedly 18th century, with dashes of Victorian and Belle Époque for good measure. Think less granny, more great great great great granny.

Chinoiserie is not so much actual Chinese style as a European imagining of Chinese decorative style. It originated in the 17th century with a Western fascination with the Far East, and became wildly popular through the 18th century. The fanciful designs featuring plants, birds, fruit, and animals in stunning colorways make for beautiful companions to the glamour of Hollywood regency, or a sumptuous counterpoint to clean mid-century modern furnishings. And I am HERE for it.

I have had a design crush on Theobert Pot for some time, and his sunroom always makes me swoon. The Gucci heron-print wallpaper panels, the paper lantern, the Danish modern elements, that glorious green Togo lounge? Perfection. He has an amazing eye for color and style. More and more lately, other jewel-tone florals have been catching my eye, too, as well as patterned lamp shades and animal-themed lamps. House of Hackney, for example, can do no wrong for me at present. How stunning is this cheetah lamp?! My heart! Also cue the sound of my wallet screaming, but I digress.

So, what’s a girl to do? I’ve scouted around and come up with my own shortlist of items to make my Victorian and chinoiserie dreams come true, at a much lower price point.

I also have a few items I have added to my decor: a had-to-snag-it vintage painting, a lovely tray my mom stitched years ago, and a pair of small reproductions painted on wood (hi, Pinky and Blue Boy!). Emily Henderson says vintage and antique items help give soul to a space, and I couldn’t agree more.

I am planning to custom frame a few wallpaper panels for a chinoiserie feel in our living room, mix in the snake lamp near a 1970s-esque round mirror, and hang that gorgeous heron wallpaper behind my bed. Wish me luck, and yippee for chinoiserie!