Mice, cookies, and other tales of home…

If you are unfamiliar with the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, I should warn you that things do not stop at a cookie. He will then require a glass of milk, a straw, a napkin, a mirror, some scissors… the dominoes begin to fall, and it’s all downhill from there. If you ARE familiar with the book, then you may well know where I am going with this. My dear readers, I must confess: I am a mouse. A house mouse. I am not sure if it was the dawn of the New Year or the profound anxiety and subsequent relief of the changing of the guard, presidentially speaking, and along with it the shiny sense of a new day, but I have been on an absolute bender of a home refresh. Nothing as calculated as a specific room, mind you. No, no, it has been as meandering and quaintly maddening as the cookie mouse’s whims. Buckle up, my friends…

Quarantine has been a weird time. Most of us have been lucky enough to stay healthy — home and bored and feeling cramped while the world falls apart outside our doors and friends or loved ones fall ill. Boredom and doom see-saw for our attention. What has remained constant, though, is our collective need to make our homes work harder for us. Dining rooms have become home offices. Home offices have become playrooms and homework rooms. Bathrooms have become many of our sole opportunities for solitude. My own January saga began when the bottom drawer of my dresser broke. Ugh. Dressers are surprisingly expensive, folks. After some online browsing I turned to Facebook Marketplace, bought a dresser for a fraction of the price of a new one that I was assured was solid wood, and then once I got it out of the car the following morning, realized it surely was not. The broken one I had was much sturdier. So. We put or heads together, moved a few little things out of the living room, and voila! An underutilized space in our living room was suddenly rife with functional storage. AND with some elbow grease and wood glue, I was able to fix my old dresser. Win, win!

My appetite was whetted, folks. Soon I was mentally lamenting the wasted space that our pair of mismatched desks left in our “study,” aka the small area between our dining space and our bedroom. My desk was too deep and too tall for me — a kind hand-me-down from my in-laws at least a decade ago. Maybe I could get our home office space to work harder for us, too? An L-shaped desk could help perhaps? I was on a budget, but I thought a pair of simple Parsons-style tables could work if I couldn’t find an L-shaped desk to fit the space properly. Ikea had a ton of different options to customize last I knew, so I hopped online and found just the right sized items. Except… they were all sold out. Every style. Every finish. Most leg options. Currently unavailable. COVID-19 had hampered supply chains AND there are a ton more people working from home, so I was out of luck there. One excruciatingly long internet search later for something inexpensive, inoffensive-looking, and the right dimensions, I eventually found a pair of desks on Amazon. They arrived two days later, and victory! I listed our older two desks for sale and had buyers within a few days, but we had the too-big desk smack in the middle of in a major walkway for a way too long while we waited for it to be picked up. Wah-wah. It made me crazy for those few days, but the payoff was worth it! Functional new desks with room for both of us, and no space wasted.

Not long after this episode I was sitting on my couch, looking through the doorway of our kitchen. My admiration for all the various glass display cabinets popping up in beautiful home spreads magically collided with my continued desire to use our spaces more effectively, and *lightbulb* I knew what I wanted to do. Another comically exhaustive internet search followed, resulting in my procuring the very last display cabinet in stock of any model at any Ikea in California. The black framed glass Milsbo was MINE ALL MINE and it was perfect. I was elated. Drunk on victory. Rearranging and plate-stacking and styling made our kitchen prettier AND more functional. Success (again) was sweet. Wasted space begone! Storage is here! Except now I had a spare side chair to find a home for…

I began adding and subtracting and moving and shuffling in the living room. I wondered if perhaps a small table and pair of chairs would work at the far end of our living room. (I should mention that around this time, the striped side table I’d been wanting to add to our living room had arrived. So now I had a spare side chair AND an extra side table, full disclosure.) In the end, a pair of our dining chairs and a stool migrated and made a nice bit of additional seating in our living room, the original extra chair was rehomed at my dining table, and my sweet niece inherited the side table for her new bedroom. All was well. Except…

Again, while lounging on the couch scrolling through my Insta feed watching Netflix my gaze wandered, and it occurred to me that out of all the artfully mismatched chairs around my dining table, none of them were actually the ones I loved anymore. My favorites now were residing in the living room for the guests we’ll get to have once upon a dream and far far away. I started thinking a matching set of chairs could be a fresh, harmonious change of pace after going with mismatched chairs all these years… you see where this is going, don’t you? Spoiler alert: our hero bought a set of chairs. Beautiful mid-century ones. Except now she (I) had 6 (six!) extra chairs to find homes for. Up for sale they went. And my sweet niece now had a pretty velvet chair to go with her new table.

Same tale for the DIY mirror on the dining room wall that I replaced with a sleeker, more geometric option. My cloud mirror now lives in my bedroom, but to make room for it, I had to move an old TV that I hated having out in the first place. So then I thought, well, why don’t I use this opportunity to make room to store it by cleaning some things out? I was selling my dining chairs anyway, so I figured I could get rid of some items I had languishing, disassembled in the back of the closet. Up for sale went a couple end tables, an old art print, a wall hanging, the faux fiddle-leaf fig that I relocated earlier in the pandemic… I was on a ROLL. Out with the old, in with the new, bitches! This girl was on fire!

Then, while proudly showing my mom a photo of our newly freshened dining room, I decided realized our entryway cabinet was now “too much brown” with our new dining chairs. Eye roll. Forehead slap. Yep, I even annoyed myself. Yet another exhaustive search ensued, except this time… I came up empty! Nothing attractive, affordable-ish, and the right size materialized. I was stumped. My phone was crying for mercy with low-battery warnings after repeated searches, because I was SURE I just had to figure out a slightly different search criteria to find the right thing. Google would not fail me, right? And yet, still nada. Finally, I had a sudden surge of creativity born out of desperation. A small cabinet I was using for odds and ends near my desk, freshened and beautified with a whopping $8 investment in forest green spray paint, became the perfect answer to my entry conundrum! And goodbye to the too-big, too-brown old cabinet. VICTORY! All it took was yet another round of shuffling things into different storage spots. Eeesh.

By this time, however, I was starting to get frustrated by the fact that our theoretically freshened, beautified, more functional home was actually starting to feel like a cluttered warehouse. Some but not all our old things had sold, and extra storage or the luxury of a garage are not part and parcel of our 1920s home. Today, after a buyer bailed at the last minute AFTER I assembled a table for them to pick up — dear reader, I snapped. SNAPPED. I was cranky and annoyed and my poor long-suffering husband had to listen to me very un-gracefully rant about people who don’t follow through while I piled as much extra furniture as I could into the back seat of my little car, just to get it OUT OF THE HOUSE.

And here we are. If you have made it this far, I salute you and offer my thanks. All this to say that home — and our concept of it — is ever-evolving. There often is no such thing as “done” or completed or finished. We are living, changing beings with a myriad of needs and wants and aesthetic desires, and it’s okay to change our minds, or refresh and refocus what our homes are and how they function. Also, the middle is always the messiest! To make changes you need to pull things apart and rework things before they come together, so don’t despair if you are in the middle of a project — whether it is a large scale remodel or some small-scale organization — and you want to tear your hair out. It will come together. Trust. I know my house will feel more “done” soon. And it will be worth it — it will be the home I need and love right now.

Rustic retreat

Going into this new year, I’m stretching my aesthetic muscles a bit! My sister is moving into a new house, and asked me for a bit of help getting it decorated. She is looking for a farmhouse sort of vibe — clean, light, a little rustic, and a lot cozy. Our styles are very different, so I’m excited to stretch myself a bit AND give her family a fresh new start. Without further ado, let me show you what we’re planning. First up, the main bedroom!

I love bold color, pattern, and modern quirk, so a more minimal and rustic look is a fun challenge. She had already picked out a bedroom set in a grey-toned wood, so I pulled in some warmer wood tones to give the room a cozy, layered feel. A patterned rug gives some interest as well as some brightness to the space, and a little hit of black in the bedside lamps adds depth. Being me, I had to add a little bit of pattern mixing — a sweet floral block print sheet set is just interesting enough with the geometric rug, and when paired with a fluffy white quilt, it feels super home-y. She also wanted some added shelving, so a low bookcase at the foot of the bed it just the ticket. Plus it can double as a bench! Win-win!

The main bedroom in their new house is much bigger than her current space, so she has room for a sitting area in here as well. A blue velvet slipper chair, an airy accent table, and a natural wood floor lamp make for a great spot to sit and read, unwind a little, and decompress from the day, or perhaps to get the day going with a cup of tea. Either way, I hope this bright, serene bedroom provides them a with lovely retreat, and a happy new place to call home!

Five fun things: stripes edition

Striped boatneck tee

There is very little I find easier or more chic than a perfectly Parisian striped shirt. Black and white stripes are graphic, sophisticated, fun, and besides being easy to wear, they are an excellent pattern for layering with your home decor to get that certain je ne sais quoi. Even a small pop of black and white stripes can bring the most considered interior to the next level. With that in mind, here are five fun ways to incorporate stripes into your home inspired by my favorite basic, the striped Breton shirt.

I haven’t been able to get this beautiful inlay side table out of my head for months. It would be a great punch of pattern in an otherwise minimal room, or equally good layered into a more maximal design, with some jewel-toned velvets and bold florals. Yes, please!

For a similar look with way less commitment, this just-funky-enough graphic pillow cover by Margo Selby is a real winner — and it’s on sale!

I love the subtle narrow stripes on this beautiful handmade box. Use it to stow keepsakes or photos within easy reach on your bookshelf, and stack it on top of a few art books. (May I suggest this and this?) Boom! Functional, easy AND stylish.

These classic serving bowls by Danish design duo Stilleben are just perfection. Inspired by a talented woman painter? Check! Free carbon offsetting on all deliveries? Check! On sale for a whopping 50% off? Check! Are they on their way to my house as we speak? Ummm…. check! Mix and match these with your existing dinnerware for an “oh, I just threw this together, *wink wink*” level of sophistication.

Last but not least, this cotton and chenille throw blanket is gorgeous. Lightweight enough to use year-round, neutral yet graphic, with cute chunky tassels to make you smile. I’d drape this over the end of my couch and cozy up with it every evening.

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!

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!

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!

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!

A little oasis

August means long summer days, a slower pace, warm sunshine — and trying to keep cool. I was inspired to update our small outdoor space, and managed to create a sweet little oasis for us to kick back and relax, sip a cool beverage, and float our cares away.

A couple comfy chairs are great for sipping something cool while enjoying the sunshine. I love the modern shape of these — style without sacrificing comfort.

Our biggest update is this small pool that packs a big punch. This is the deepest inflatable pool I could find at or under 6 feet in diameter, and it is big enough for me to float in on this without touching the edges or the bottom. With my eyes closed, I could be anywhere from Hawaii to Bali.

Our hammock we bought years ago is still going strong, and we love to hang out (wink wink) and relax. This one doesn’t take up much space, and it is sturdy enough to allow two adults to lounge together.

A ceramic stool or two can be versatile as well as beautiful. These make a ideal spot for your aforementioned cool drink, magazine, or in a pinch, extra seating.

A mosquito net over our little pool gives a dreamy cabana feel, plus it keeps the bugs away. A set of solar string lights makes it even dreamier at night.

Leaf-print outdoor pillows make our outdoor space feel extra tropical.

And some beautiful planters make the perfect finishing touch. What would an oasis be without greenery? I love the sophisticated shape and subtle geometric designs on these.

Go forth, relax, and have a great weekend!