"" MaDDI: September 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Look: Despana

One of my favorite commercial spaces in Manhattan is Despana. Located in the neighborhood called Nolita (just east of SoHo), the food shop carries a variety of imported Spanish goods and features a small tapas bar in the back. I find myself stopping by anytime I'm in the area for a quick snack of pintxos-- or choriza a la sidra if I'm especially hungry. It's an opportunity for me to re-stock on their tiny little cartons of garlic aoli and olive oil by ArteOliva. I recommend both as a pantry staple and an absolute must-have if your future travel plans involve an apartment rental. (I have to credit my dad, the family chef, with this golden rule: unless you're traveling to a country with incredible olive oil, stop by Despana before your trip. They sell super high quality olive oil in perfectly portioned cardboard cartons. Enough for a 1-2 week trip, small enough to pack in your checked luggage and unlikely to break in flight. If you're an aoli person, pick up a carton of their garlic aoli too. Especially tasty with rotisserie chicken.)

I also like to pretend that their tapas annex is my kitchen in the Spanish countryside. The design incorporates country elements, with the hand glazed subway tiles, exposed beams and beautiful terra cotta cookery on display. But it also feels thoroughly modern and liveable thanks to the industrial touches: barn lighting, tolix arm chairs and that killer steel mirror in the right of the frame.

Source: Grubstreet

While I'm unlikely to have a Spanish country house any time soon, it would be possible to re-create the look-and-feel in Brooklyn without breaking the bank. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Elusive Quest for Originality

This is a bit a rif on a comment I made in an earlier post, but in the past few years, I've frequently found myself frustrated by the elusive quest for originality. I've lost count of how many times I've been inspired to try to make something that struck me as an original DIY, only to discover it's old hat in the blogosphere.

Admittedly, it's sort of a weird concept because most DIYs are by definition a Do-It-Yourself version of an existing object. So while the design or concept may not be original, some component of the process is  original-- for example, the construction method or the materials you use. Maybe it could be likened to coming up with a new shortcut for a baking recipe? The desired end result is a cake that is indistinguishable in appearance and flavor, but that replaces an expensive ingredient with a cheaper substitute. Or introduces a novel way to combine ingredients that cuts down on the prep time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My (Imaginary) 3-month Trip to Japan

On balance, I am grateful for my overactive imagination. If I finish my book on the subway or have a bout of insomnia, I have endless hours of entertainment powered by nothing but my own brain. It never runs of batteries and requires only about 6 hours of recharging a day to operate at maximum capacity.

My imagination has also proved to be a valuable escape during stressful periods. If you've ever experienced a loved one's surgery, you know the hardest part is sitting around the hospital waiting. And waiting, and waiting and waiting. You're too strung out to read a book, you're afraid to fall asleep lest you miss an important update from the medical staff. Imagining away the down time during my father's heart surgery allowed me to retain a modicum of calm and be very present when it was required.

That said, an overactive imagination can be a curse. I inherited many things from my mother. (Regrettably, not her sky-high Danish legs. I take after my firmly-rooted-to-the-earth Polish ancestors in that department.) But the way in which we're most alike is our paranoia. We are chronic worriers. If a family member doesn't pick up after the third ring, my brain has already assumed the worst and started asking questions like, "would I take a leave of absence from work to deal with my grief?" and "who could I ask to help me sort through their possessions?" #Crazytown.

I only wish I had better control of when my head spins out of control. For example, I was browsing my old pins before bed last night (around 11:45 pm) when this image launched a very vivid and extended daydream:

Source: Muji.net

Thursday, September 20, 2012

An Antique Headboard Gets a Modern Makeover

There is a marked difference between design objects I like and design objects I'd want to bring home. An antique bedframe popped up on the Apartment Therapy Classifieds the other day. It's definitely not for me. I live nearly 900 miles away. And I'm not into traditional antiques. Upholstered antiques + raging allergies = real bad news. But it definitely appealed to my imagination. I kept thinking about how I'd fix her up. I think the appeal lies in the challenge of taking grandma's carved wooden headboard and adapting it for a young, modern home.


Source: Apartment Therapy Classifieds

Modern Update

Disclaimer: Please excuse the quick-and-dirty photoshop job on the headboard. This was a quickie.

Kitchen Facelift: Accessories Update

A couple days ago, I did a round-up of kitchen accessories for Ryan's spruced up pad. Although I'm not sure a clock is a real necessity with all the electronic gizmos in our lives, I do like a clock in the kitchen or the entry.

As of my last post, I was gravitating towards this clock from the Etsy shop Uncommon Goods:
Modern Numbers Clock, Uncommon @ Etsy - $65
But when I stopped in the West Elm in Dumbo last night, I spotted this number:
West Elm

I like both. Maybe the West Elm clock slightly more? I wonder if I could spray paint the hands of the clock red. That might seal the deal for me.

Round-Up: Walnut @Etsy

Cliche as it may be, walnut makes my knees weak. Etsy has a wealth of offerings in both solid walnut and walnut veneer. Walnut is expensive no matter how you slice it (no pun intended, honestly), so if I'm going to spring for walnut, I'd like to support small-scale craftsman.

I'm especially coveting the nightstand with exposed joinery (bottom left below). I know half-blind joints are standard for a drawer unit, but something about seeing the joints from the outside reminds me to appreciate the man-hours that went into the piece.

Items (Clockwise from top left)

1. The Butler, Micklish - $170
2. Walnut Wood Turned Fruit or Salad Bowl, JLWoodTurning - Sold. Similar here.
3. Modern Floor Lamp (Natural/Red), Ample Furniture - $595
4. Danish Modern Inspired Walnut Night Stand/Side Table, Sukrachand - $1,100
5. 12" Walnut Pepper Mill - Banded, Studio44Eighty - $175

For a complete list of my Etsy picks, including plenty more Walnut, check out my Etsy favorites.

Side note: It occurs to me, particularly as a female that enjoys,  albeit does not excel at, woodworking that these terms are pretty gendered, i.e. "craftsman" and "manhours." I'm definitely not one to get up-in-arms about terms like "mankind"-- because really? Are we any less a part of humanity because of a linguistic historical legacy? But in the case of furniture design and construction, particularly woodworking, I'm willing to be more conscious about language because I do think it's an industry that can still be tough for women. Are there more neutral alternatives that don't sound awkward? 

Ikea Hektar Lamp

I'm intrigued by Ikea's Hektar floor lamp. (Not be confused with Hektor, the puggle.) I spotted it on display at Ikea's Red Hook store. The shape is neat and the dark charcoal color is practical. And most importantly, at $70, the price is right!

Source: Ikea.com

I'm hesitating because I've been disappointed in the past by the type of light that Ikea lamps throw off. Their LED lamps, in particular, are harsh and sterile. We bought the Stockholm for Ryan's living room, but never turn it on for fear of imbuing the room with a dentist's office vibe.

The Hektar isn't an LED, but I'm still skittish. And realistically, what we need is something to throw off ambient light. The Hektar is clearly a spotlight.

Then again, it does look great. Michael of 47 Park Avenue recently posted on the purchase of two grey lamps. I'm not sure if they are the Ikea lamps, but the Hektar is a nearly identical match. The style and "oversized" look meshes perfectly with Michael's awesome off-beat modern home:

Source: 47 Park Avenue

Does anyone have this lamp? If so, any feedback-- positive or negative-- on what it does for the feel of the room?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recap: Summer Vacation

Every summer, I like to spend at least a week at my parents house. Every year I pray for sun. And every year it rains.

The town my parents live in is swarmed with people during the summer months. We adopt something of a bunker mentality come August. My dad stocks up on wine, bottled water and local produce. My mom hits up the library for romantic comedies, often with a theme, for evening entertainment. This year's theme was Woody Allen. We rarely leave the premises, except for the occasional early morning or evening beach excursion. And we have a blast!

This year, we even started a vegetable garden in the yard so we could withstand the blockade for longer. Note: Viewer discretion advised. These chronological photos get pretty "Little Shop of Horrors" towards the end. We're still getting a handle on the whole pruning thing.

Three beds on the left for tomatoes, veggies, herbs and lettuce greens. Long bed on the right for flowers.

Opposite view of beds. Garden shed in background. Sign on the gate says, "The Early Bird Gets the Worm."

Heirloom tomatoes ripening on the vine.

Italian eggplant.

Almost there!

Little Shop of Horrors.

This year, I hoped to multi-task relaxing with running errands beyond the walls of our fortress, so I planned to visit the week after Labor Day. Predictably, it rained. Looking on the bright side of life, the rain did contribute to my productivity on the errand front. Once I checked off the final item on my to-do list, I set out on a self-guided architectural walking tour of the area. Here some houses I'd happily move right on into:

And, of course, this house. Oh god, this house. I love this house. My parents love this house. Who doesn't love this house? We've eagerly watched every step of the building phase-- since the "For Sale" sign came down on the lot. I have no idea who owns it nor do I know who the architect is, but I feel such an inexplicable personal connection to it. I feel a part of it solely because my mom and I watched every phase of the construction process with mounting excitement.

Then, in the last 24 hours of my vacation, the sun miraculously showed its face. And it was glorious.

While at my parents, I took a few interior shots of the house. I understand that when you care about interior design, you never feel like your space is really "finished." Instead, we tend to dwell on the imperfections. I know I feel that way in my own space. But whenever my mom and I chat about how her house looks, I wish that for one day, she could see how it looks to everyone else. Or even just to me! To her, it's "dated", "frumpy" and in need of "sprucing up." To me, it's comfy, timeless, charming and filled with lovely memories.

Plus, four additional vignettes from my bedroom, including a money shot of a very lazy doggie at 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday (!). As the adage goes, "a tired dog is a happy dog." At the beach, Hektor is one very happy puppy.


Top Left
1. Oil on cavas by Jim Gingrich
2. Vintage iron jack, Coastal Home
3. Teak 3-drawer dresser, Crate & Barrel - $1,299 at full price (purchased on sale)
4. Wicker hamper, Pottery Barn (No longer available)
5. Vintage vases

Top Right
1. Duvet cover,  WS Home (No longer available)
3. Italian Hotel Stitch White Sheet Set, Restoration Hardware - $250
4. Hektor (No longer available)

Bottom Left
1. Oak Wishbone Chair, Fisher's Home Furnishings - $295
2. Rens Sheepskin, Ikea - $29.99
3. Orange alpaca throw blanket, Elementos Argentinos
4. Oblong driftwood lamp, West Elm (No longer available)
5. Desk is a salvaged farmhouse table

Bottom Right
1. 1930s Studio Task Table Lamp, Restoration Hardware - $189
2. Wicker basket, Pottery Barn (No longer available)
(See "Top Left" above for all other items)

Meet my Nemesis

To deviate from design briefly, I am having a moment with a J. Crew model. Not a positive moment.

I am in constant awe of J. Crew as a company. Their evolution since I was in high school (or perhaps even middle school?) is extraordinary. CEO Micky Drexler is a thing of wonder. To say nothing of media darling/President and Creative Director Jenna Lyons. Not only does J. Crew have brand loyalty and a clearly defined point of view that strike me as virtually unparalleled in the fashion industry (at least within their price point range), they continue to successfully branch out into new and exciting areas. I admit, I was skeptical when they debuted their Collection line. I balked at the price points and wondered if their Upper East Side store could compete with its Haute Couture neighbors. But I was dead wrong. Their merchandise flies of the shelves (or etageres to be precise) and the Jimmy Choo crowd practically trample each other to scoop up new season duds. And In Good Company is pure marketing genius.

So now that I've praised J. Crew, here's my problem. Her. She is my problem:
Source: J. Crew

Why is she looking at me like that? It's so...smug.

None of the other J. Crew models have a problem with me. In fact, they're all pretty chill and fun to hang with.
Source: J. Crew
See? Sure, she's got awesome hair and perfect style, but she's not afraid to laugh at herself. Or at Peanuts comics. And sometimes she runs out of the house without brushing her hair in the morning. Hey! It's what busy, laid-back girls do.

Source: J. Crew
Or her! She is listening so intently to my story about the sweaty guy on the subway who did not respect my personal space. And when I finish piling on the excessive detail, she will look indignant and say, "Oh my god. I can't believe he did that. That is SO gross" because she is a kind, diligent and sympathetic friend. With a fabulous colorblock sweater.

Source: J. Crew
And this girl's got some pretty wild ideas on eco-friendly cleaning: "Personally, I like to bring all my dirty dishes into the shower with me to conserve water." Personally, I prefer to limit dishwasher use to 1/wk, but whatever floats your boat! Major props for walking the walk on green living, lady. (I just hope she doesn't extend the shower power principle to Leather Trim Peacoats. Dry clean only, please.)

Source: J. Crew
This lovely lady was so excited to see me on my recent trip to Tokyo, that not only did she meet me at the subway station with flowers, she wore her best sparkly pants for the occasion! You really just can't have enough girlfriends like that.
Ms. Stripey Shirt at my recent dinner party: "Did you seriously make this onion dip from scratch? Wow. Alex, remind me again why you're not a professional caterer? Get thee to a culinary institute!" Oh stop. Flattery will get you everywhere.

But let's check in on my nemesis again. What's she up to?

Well, here she's just finished yawning because my hair color is so dull she claims it's "literally" putting her to sleep:
Source: J. Crew

Here she's judging me because my hips are 6x the width of her hips. (Side note: they have to make these clothes custom for her, right? Because J. Crew sizing has increased considerably in the past 5 years. And I don't think I've ever seen a 0000 on the racks...)
Source: J. Crew

Oh and here? Here she's plotting to steal my boyfriend and my job:
Source: J. Crew
And my little dog too?! Yup.
Source: J. Crew

Seriously. I love J. Crew. But someone has got to tell this model to smile and cool it with the judgy eyebrow raise. If I wanted to feel bad about myself, I would go buy Vogue.

FYI, this does not count as smiling. It's called gloating. And it's not appreciated.
Source: J. Crew

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Girlie Moment?

I have a challenging relationship with objects that are overtly feminine. I am a woman and happy to be one. But whether it is the texture, pattern, shape or material that conveys a heavy-handed "womanliness," I can think of no single characteristic that evokes such a guttural response in me.

This is true in the realm of both interior design and fashion. These days, my visual response tends to be stronger to images of Versaille-like interiors-- anything baroque, gilded, pink velvet, lavender, "romantic" (whatever that means), just to name a few.
Image from Marie Antoinette Motion Picture (2006)

It's roots, however, are in fashion. My first conscious memory of this bizarre aversion is from high school. I was invited to a very fancy birthday party for a schoolmate at which the fashion stakes were high. There was a red carpet and a slew of hired "paparazzi" to photograph the guests as they entered the party. Quite a departure from my favorite birthday party, which featured cardboard cut-outs of R2-D2 and Chewbacca. In an early homage to masculine style, I borrowed my mom's riding boots and vintage RL military jacket and went as this guy:
Source: Google Images

Back to the party: there was also an aspiring fashion designer, now quite successful with a store in SoHo, an up-and-coming accessories editor and a legendary fashion editor in attendance. (Side note: my high school was a weird place.) My friends and mom talked me into a pretty pastel blue dress with a full skirt and pintucking. It was sweet, very retro. It was also very in style, according to the magazines. But it didn't feel like me. I felt like an imposter when I tried it on, but what do I know? Everyone at the party was going to be far more fashionable than I, so I decided to defer to my more fashion-conscious loved ones. The dress looked vaguely like this Tracy Reese number, but with a printed (not lace) floral pattern in baby blue:
Source: TracyReese.com

Predictably (in hindsight), when I showed up at the party all my schoolmates were in tight, short, decidedly not retro dresses. I think I was at the party all of 15 minutes when I suddenly developed a splitting headache, extreme nausea and shortness of breath. I jumped in a cab and very nearly made it home before the nausea won out. Needless the say, the cab driver was not sympathetic to my teenage angst.

Maybe it was just a classic case of teenage social anxiety, but regardless of root cause, the enduring legacy is an aversion to overt femininity in design. To date, I have only purchased 1 floral patterned clothing item and that was about 3 weeks ago. I almost returned it within the first 24 hours. But in the spirit of moving on, I kept it and actually love it. I wear it all the time:
Floral Ava Blouse by Equipment (@Steven Alan)
Source: Google Images

I suppose if I had to define my style, I would say I like balanced interiors with a healthy dose of traditionally minimalist materials. For example, I've learned that I enjoy pastels-- but only when tempered by leather, wood, concrete or steel. Marimekko (and other modern textile designers) even make floral patterns that don't jump start my gag reflex. My new Equipment blouse is a perfect example! So is Marimekko's famous Unikko pattern, which I learned from Apartment Therapy's Quick History today, was explicitly designed to be the anti-floral-pattern floral pattern:
Source: Google Images

So in light of my complicated history with feminine design, imagine my surprise when, inspired by a coffee table on Etsy and a photograph on Cup of Jo, I started absently-mindedly throwing together this room:

To most people, this room might not read as overtly feminine. But to me, it screams, "A LADY LIVES HERE." The chandelier might as well be made of Tampax. I even tried tempering it with with those funky vintage bucket chairs (also an Etsy find). What is it that's striking me as being so ladylike? I'm not quite sure I know. My best guess is the interaction between the mint green tones in the photograph and coffee table props, brass accents and ethereal blown glass. None of those elements resonate as being particularly feminine on their own, but together I was shocked that this room came from my brain. Not only did I fail to have a psychosomatic reaction, you know, the truth is I really like it!

For readers more comfortable with gender norms, here are the sources (clockwise from top left):
 1. Photograph -  Deer Beds by Katherine Wolkoff, Available at Sasha Wolf Gallery. (20% until Sept 30 for Cup of Jo readers.)
2. Window Treatment - Links Printed Roman Shade, West Elm - $119.99
3. Light Fixture - Original Bubble Chandelier, Pelle Designs - $750
4. Dining Chairs - Vintage 70s Saarineen Inspired Chair, Belated Designs @Etsy - $150
5. Dining Table - Docksta Table, Ikea - $199
6. Coffee Table - Live Edge Walnut Slab with Brass Base, Dylan Grey @Etsy - $950
7. Sofa - Flip Sofabed, Gus Modern - $1,999
8. Throw Pillow - Modern Bohemian Handwoven Kilim Pillow, Pillow Store @Etsy - $50.99

Despite my girlie moment and possible progress, I'd still choose to live here any day of the week:
Screen Depiction of Millenium Falcon Interior. Source: Seansgallery.com

Monday, September 17, 2012

Round-Up: Live Edge @Etsy

I rounded up a few of my favorite Nakashima-inspired live edge pieces on Etsy:

Black Walnut Folded Slab Coffee Table - BrentGableWoodworks ($1,200), Etsy.com

Live Edge Headboard - GreenwoodBay ($1,200), Etsy.com

Maple & Mahogany Accent Console Table - VoumiciPadaci ($275), Etsy.com

Live Edge Pointed Cabinet - mcmetzger ($2,500), Etsy.com

Live Edge Wall Shelf - Shuey Fine Furniture ($575), Etsy.com

Live Edge Coffee Table - BrandMojoInteriors ($1,950), Etsy.com

Acero Steel Base Coffee Table - BrandMojoInteriors ($950), Etsy.com

Ambrosia Maple Bench - ElpisWorks ($555), Etsy.com
Teak Coffee Table Inlay with Lucite and Crystal Quartz - ckidzac ($420), Etsy.com

Funky Coffee Table - LeeCowen ($525), Etsy.com

Brice Maple Burl Long Coffee Table - Elpis Works ($1,375), Etsy.com

Lodgepole Slab Modern Console - MezWorks ($995), Etsy.com

Live Edge Walnut Table - JRishelWoodworks ($850), Etsy.com