Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some Design BLogs, by request

People sometimes ask me what blogs I read and what sources I like for design inspiration. As mentioned, most of the blogs I've been browsing lately have been regular-people blogs, though the best ones tend to be ladies with some kind of design biz going on.

I'm liking:

Little Green Notebook

Making it Lovely (she's a stationery designer and is chrononcling the trandofmration of her own bungalow. She also does this fun thing called Making it Yours where she does several inspiration rooms based around one piece)

Young House Love is one of those success stories where the couple is now full-time blogging. They seem really sweet, they write well, and it's fun to see such a complete DIY makeover, but I have to say I find their taste a little uninspired. Very clean and fresh, just not totally my thing.

Simple Lovely is redoing a 70s house, which you don't see all the time. She also shares lots of tidbits about fashion, jewelry, craft, etc.

The winner of the most recent HGTV Design Star has a blog. So far, I'm not totally convinced, but I think this is a crazy time for her, what with starting up a new TV show and all.

I check in on Design Mom every once in a while. In addition to designy stuff, there's lots of mom stuff here, like birth stories, that kind of thing.

Then there are some of the "classic" design blogs, like designsponge, peak of chic, and apartment therapy. These are mostly larger operations with lots of content and different inspirations, as opposed to one person's journey/vision. And of course there's Lonny, the one-year old design magazine that is fully online and doing its darndest to fill Domino's albeit large footsteps. It can be uneven and the writing isn't the best, but they are definitely hitting their stride, and I am definitely psyched when I get the notice in my inbox that a new issue is up!

Of course, there are many, many others. There are two that I found, loved, and lost: one from a woman who is way into 70s glam-rock style and one from a hilarious British woman. Both I found my linking through blogrolls on design blogs (another great source!), but I have been unable to trace my steps back to either one of them for the time being. There are also lots of bad ones, but even those can be fun for what they provide: a window into the way people are living their lives and loving their homes.

Any favorites out there? Leave a link in the comments section!

Little Ballerinas

I got this red tutu for Clio's Halloween costume. She will be dressing up as Ladybug Girl, from our favorite books. She has suggested that Daddy be Bumblebee Boy. I do, in fact, have a bumblebee costume in a size 2T, so perhaps Eleri can fill this role, if she rejects the dragon costume I got her. Naturally, she would like to try it out. At first Eleri was pissed that she didn't have a red tutu, and one of the other tutus in the house would console her, not the multi-colored one with the flowers at the waist, not the little white one with glittery confetti in the hem, not even Clio's princess skirts, which are really halfway to being tutus, even though those are undeniably Clio's. But last night Eleri decided to get her some tutu action, and Dave convinced the un-photographable Clio to participate in a little photo shoot.

I couldn't edit the photos any further.

Can't hardly stand the cuteness!

(Eleri fell on the playground the other day, hence the beat-up nose.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Structual Improvements

Dave and I have never really been ones for making improvements to a house of any lasting nature. I think we think we're all DIY, yet the first house we chose to buy together had just been renovated and the next was brand spankin new. I'm hoping we're staying put for a while, and because we set aside a little budget to decorate, we decided to invest in some strategic upgrades. Like having an electrician work some magic in adding a chandelier in the middle of all the can lights in the dining room and tiling the backsplash in the kitchen.

I had never seriously investigated tile before, though I do know that the first time I went online to look around a bit, I chose a gorgeous limited-edition gold-leafed tile that retailed for about $200 PER SQUARE FOOT. In Boulder, our friends Amy and Justin did a gut renovation of their kitchen, and when deciding on tile they went for an option more in the $2/SF range, and Amy installed it herself. Our backsplash is 2 feet by 12 feet, and we settled on $5/SF for our budget. I found some tile outlets in Plymouth, MN, and away we went.

And get this: we came home with tile the very same day. You may or may not know Dave and I well enough to know that this is nothing short of a miracle. With no advanced research, we went into the field, visited three stores, and MADE A PURCHASE. Truly amazing.

Here's the thing, though. There are about 3 options for tile in the $5/SF range if you do not want white subway tile. (We are certainly fans of white subway tile, it's just that we needed a little more life back there.) We found these pretty glass tiles in the perfect shade of green, but I was almost positive that I did not want squares.

When we came across a glazed ceramic hex tile for $5.20/sf, it was only a matter of deciding between the smaller and larger sizes and the "moss" or the "milk." I found a birch cabinet in the store, plunked our countertop sample down, and proceeded to stand about 10 feet back while Dave switched samples back and forth. (Sometimes I do this thing where I turn around or go around the corner so I can "walk into the room" and let the material take me by surprise. I swear, it works.) Here's the penny tile from the same line.

(I will also point out that Home Depot had similar penny tiles for twice as much money. Home Depot! And they did not have the fabulous hex.)

And here's Dave with the small moss hex tile.

I loved the moss color, but ultimately felt the larger tiles were better and they didn't come in the greenish tone. Ultimately, viewed from a distance of 15 feet, we realized that the small tile would just read as a wash of color, whereas the larger tile would read as a white wall with a delicately drawn honeycomb pattern, and the answer was clear.

Install is tomorrow.

Related to this. We had been discussing some under-light cabinets, and realized we would have to put them in before the tile, so we scrambled and headed out to an electric wonderland where we picked up some stainless steel 40" xenon lights from counter attack. (get it? clever, no?) THEY went in this morning, and now I can actually see the dishes I am washing!

I never think of these practical things. I'm all: wallpaper! upholstery! let's make headboards! And Dave's all: wouldn't it be nice if these things functioned? Or, it's broke, let's fix.

We make a good team.

Now, if we did it ourselves, that would really be something. But that's the other thing about a nice, brand new house: it makes you nervous to go messing around.

Decorating and stuff

I've been looking at a LOT of home-grown design blogs lately, and I'm realizing that every other woman with half a design eye who moves into a new house starts a blog about its transformation. some of them have been super successful, and the homeowners are now full-time bloggers. I've been sort of storing up all these decorating posts, waiting until I could make them "right" or "decorator-y," and I mentioned to my friend Sara the idea of a spin-off blog to track the design process in the house. She very tactfully suggested that what is interesting about a person like me blogging about decorating is where these efforts intersect with life and family. Smart cookie, that one. And I have to say, after ODing on all these blogs, many of which are amateur hour (sorry, that;s mean), it was a terrible idea indeed. I'm obsessed with sourcing the perfect runner for the kitchen right now, but this, too, shall pass. It is a big part of how I'm spending my time right now, and it is an utter delight to settle in to such a great house, but really? It's not world changing. (Okay, duh.)

All that said, I'm going to stop saving my posts until they are genius design posts, because they just aren't going to be. My photography is weak and my eyes are often bigger than my stomach (meaning, my design ideas are often--make that always--bigger than the realized projects). So here it comes. My obsessiveness. I'll try to put it out there is fits and starts so as not to scare anyone away. Anyone left, that is, after my supremely spotty blog record these past few months!

What I Learned From Decorating a Rental

By the time we moved to Boulder, I had been a homeowner for 10 years, living for 5 years in each of two Brooklyn homes. I took decorating them very seriously (despite an utter lack of budget). When you're settling in to a place that you own, there's this idea that you need to get it just right because it is permanent. Of course, the upside is that you can do whatever you want without asking permission: Calypso Blue living room? Sure! (Did it in Park Slope when Dave moved in). Paint the vinyl tile in the kitchen? Of Course! (Did it when we moved out of Park Slope). But there is an inherent freedom in decorating a rental. It is temporary by definition. In Boulder, we knew we would be in that house for one, maybe two years before moving on from Colorado or settling down and buying a place there. While I knew that it didn't make sense to invest much in decorating a temporary place, I'm also not a person who can just live in an unfinished space, so I went to work making it feel like home using (mostly) things that I had.

And you know what? Just by easing up and playing it fast and loose (SO not my usual style), I learned some great lessons that I have brought into our new, "permanent" home. The main thing, of course, is to trust what you love and to try not to worry too much about what it is "supposed" to look like. Believe me, this was a HUGE lesson for old rule-follower me.

I started this post a month ago with so many "lessons," I got kinda overwhelmed. So lets consider this the first in a series. Who know is there will actually be a second.

Create Drama
Most rentals don't have much in the way of dramatic architecture or fabulous features. Create them! In Boulder, the girls were sharing a pretty tiny room, and to create visual interest and give a bit more separation to their sleeping spaces, I hung a $19 mosquito net from Ikea over Clio's bed. Instant drama.

While our new house has loads of light and great space and good, simple choices in fixtures and is really nothing like a rental, it is something of a clean slate: white or gray walls, pale wood, no flourishes, doo-dads or whimsy. The dining room and kitchen are one big room in the middle of the house, with somewhat awkward lines. The room, where we spend an awful lot of time, needed drama. To anchor the space, I turned to Ikea again and hung this enormous chandelier.

It's not to everyone's taste, but it's hard to deny that it offers some drama (a real conversation-starter, too!) Now, I love coming in the front door and catching a glimpse of this around the corner of the stairwell.

I love sitting underneath it's largeness. I love that Eleri calls it "Big Ball" and that Clio says it looks like snowflakes (I think so too.)

And it didn't even take all that much to convince Dave!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Big Girl Bed

This was almost another second-child milestone that went un-photographed but, at the last minute, I dug up the camera, feeling a bit guilty.

Eleri has been wanting to move on from her crib for ages, but we didn't want to do it in the midst of other big things--bigness, if you will--and we had the move, a trip to Illinois, school starting, visits from Grandma and Grandpa, bouts of strep throat, and so on and so forth. Finally this weekend I was able to dash off and (thanks to my mom and her SUV), bring home a new bed for Miss Eleri.

Frolicking ensued.

I love how much Eleri loves this, the way she announces "MY bed." or "Sleep in my new bed tonight." I love that she's content to stay in it (so far.) I love that, in the morning, I find her smashed against the wall, laid out along the short end of the bed and that she actually fits that way.

I love that, the absolute moment I leave the room from tucking them in, one of them says to the other "guess what?" and then goes on with whatever bit of gossip or joke, as if to signal they are equals now, in their equally twin sized beds. Bigness, you know.

I especially love that, after the excitement died down a little, Clio cocked her head to one side and said, "you know what I think we should do?" What, I asked. "I think we should give the crib to baby Oliver."

This is, indeed, exactly the plan, and for these last days before we dismantle it and help my brother get it to his house, I will look forward to Eleri pointing to it where it still stands in their room, and saying "baby Oliver. Sleep. In it."

Uh oh. I feel something coming on. I think an ode to the Stokke sleep system might be next.....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chutes and Ladders

There is an awesome playground out near my brother's house. We took Clio there, without great success, when she was 2. We returned a few weekends ago with Finn and Lucia, and the whole thing was a much bigger hit this time around.

Especially for Dave.


Eleri doesn't very much love all of our rules these days. Mostly she expresses this by hitting, though sometimes she diversifies with some biting or pinching. Last night she threw a wine glass--that was quite a crash. Apparently, though, sometimes a girl just needs to get away from it all. And that's where the laundry room comes in.

I would say that of all the rooms in the house, the laundry room sees the least action. I'm in there regularly enough actually doing laundry, but no one else seems to have much reason to go in there. Making it the perfect place to hide.

I found Eleri there, or, to be accurate, I found her feet there, the other day.

See her?

Do you?

She didn't love getting caught.

But somehow I avoided her usual gesture of displeasure, and I walked away without being smacked in the face.

On a completely unrelated side note, I'm thinking of "wallpapering" the laundry room with all of Dave's old concert posters. Thoughts? It's all blond wood and pale grey walls, and this maximalist is itching in all that minimalism.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The anniversary post

For the past few years, on September 24th, I have written a post reflecting on our wedding in particular and on marriage in general. This year, a week before our anniversary, our new friends and neighbors got separated. And then it seemed that everywhere I turned, the story was divorce. There were researchers on NPR talking about the contagion of divorce, and the greater likelihood that you will got divorced if people in your inner circle do. There was Christina, a character on Parenthood, being confronted so unexpectedly by the statistic that 80% of marriages with an autistic child end in divorce, that it felt like a slap, certainly to her, but also, somehow to me, a parent not faced, at the moment, with such challenging circumstances. And it left me feeling painfully aware of the fragility of marriage, and the wear and tear that our relationships withstand.

Last year, when I finished up my anniversary post, I decided that this year I would write about the honeymoon. I projected, as I have a bad habit of doing, that this year I would finally feel unburdened, that it might be time to take a vacation--mentally, if not physically. And of course, as always, when the time rolled around it turned out that my projection was way off. After all the changes we have gone through in the past few years, I feel further away from a honeymoon than ever. I feel weathered. Though I will say, I am thrilled that Dave and I have managed to weather it all together. We may be worse for the wear, but we are also still doing whatever it is that we must do to be married, to make it work, each and every day.

I've been struggling with this post because I did not want to go all doom and gloom on marriage, did not want to think about all these threads of divorce in our culture. Then, the other night, I was down in the basement watching the girls throw themselves at the chair swing and threaten to fling themselves off the slide platform, and I noticed on the bookshelf the big photo album that my aunt Missy put together from our wedding, and I picked it up to look at it for the first time in a long time. And I found myself confronted by page after page of celebration. Not just the celebration of the vows, but I'm talking a full on party. With just about everyone in the world that we love and who loves us there to participate. And I found myself smiling. And I kicked myself for not trusting this annual exercise, which started as an experience of looking, using these photographs as evidence of something and extrapolating new meaning each year with my changing perception.

This year, I feel grateful to witness that party, to remember being at the heart of it. In an earlier draft of my divorce post, I was focused on this idea of choice: that Dave and I are often at loose ends to make choices, yet we knew enough to choose each other. Today, instead, I am interested in the notion of celebration. Or maybe not instead. Maybe it is the celebration of choice. Dave has a great sense of humor and is often doing his best to make me smile, to banish the shadows I manage to create for myself, and too often, I refuse to let this be a balm. So today I remind myself to laugh at his jokes. To laugh at myself! I know that nothing is this simple, and that marriage will always be hard work and come down to any number of factors. But I think I can give us a head start if I can try to remember to have a party once in a while, even if we're the only ones invited. If I can remember, as often as possible, to choose joy.

It is, after all, my middle name.

I am forever grateful to my friend Greg for shooting the wedding, for working his butt off to be, somehow, everywhere at once, and for giving me the gift of all these stories, and the right to share any and all of them with all of you.