Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Light, Kjerstis Lykke , and snow days

We've had snow for the past few days, which this year with Rich working in education, means snow days!!!! I totally love it. I think I'm more excited about them now than I even was as a kid. They are magical, especially now that I notice things like how beautiful the light is when it snows.

Beautiful winter light always reminds me how much I love northern European and Scandinavian interiors. And ever since discovering Kjerstis Lykke (above), I'm 100% more smitten... and I was a little crazy in love to begin with. She is a total beast. Her photographs are incredible at capturing that crisp magical light, and her beautiful Norwegian home with all its simple natural and rustic industrial touches are a little what I picture homes in heaven to be like :)

Well, back in reality, we've been having our own little chilly version of heaven...

complete with winter light...

snow forts....
 the occasional power outage ( afterall it isn't heaven yet), but even so everybody has managed to stay cozy...

and well fed...

Friday, January 28, 2011

My DIY Sisal Globe Pendant Light Revisited

Thanks to Ally for mentioning my pendant light on From the Right Bank, I hope that she's managed to salvage hers--I have faith Ally! I've gotten a few requests for more details on how I made mine, so I though I'd revisit the process, BUT before I do, I have to show you its new home...

Originally I made it for above my reading chair in our living room:

But I'm not sure I ever totally loved it there, and once I decided to switch out the shades for curtains (which are really just canvas painters drop cloths), the light didn't look quite right, so it got replaced by another homemade reading light (more on that later)

So I began to look for other places to put the sisal pendant. It sat on my craft table for a few months before it hit me, here, this dark little hallway that has sported a stylish bare compact fluorescent bulb since we moved in...
 It's kind of an awkward little spot between our kitchen and addition. It also leads down to the basement. While it's not huge, it's big enough that I always feel like it should have some reason for existing other than a pass through:
One day when I was going crazy with chalkboard paint, it got a coat of paint and became the spot where I write out our weekly menu (when I'm not being a slacker which often happens). Well, once the space actually had a function, it needed something besides a bare bulb, so the sisal pendant got a home. I just inserted longish screws into the case around the bare bulb, and worked the sisal around the opening of pendant light until it rested each of the three screws.
And now we have a nice semi-used menu spot!

Thank you for indulging me, now onto the practical details of making the pendant.

I used this type of sisal twine:

It's pretty thick and much stiffer than hemp twine but it wasn't super hard to manipulate.

I used gloss mod podge because that's what I had, and I had and used A LOT (I think 2 jars):

I literally shoved my whole hand into the jar and pulled it out dripping with mod podge, and then coated the sisal twine a few inches at a time by running it through my mod podge covered hands (very messy so you want to be sure to put down a dropcloth of some sort). As I covered the twine in mod podge I began winding it around the ball in a haphazard criss cross pattern. I left a few inches uncovered at each end so that I could get the ball out later, and also so you have a place to reach in and change the bulb once it's hanging.

I let is dry for 2 full days before touching it.

Then I poked the ball with my index finger through the little openings to get it to un-stick from the ball. This was pretty time consuming. I just kept poking until I was pretty sure there weren't any areas of the ball still sticking to the ball.

Then I deflated the ball (stuck it with a knife....if I had been more patient I would have tracked down our ball pump needle and drained the air that way, but alas I'm impatient and so I just popped it).

Once it was deflated I gently peeled the ball out through the opening very carefully making sure not to yank any areas that were still sticking to the sisal.

And that's pretty much it!

If you make one, I'd love to know your thoughts and any new ways that you learned to make it easier.

My friend Molly made one for her living room and it turned out great:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pam's home tour!

 A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of photographing Pam's home for Apartment Therapy. I learned about Pam through the lovely Danielle of Fresh Quince, and I'm ever so grateful! Pam's home was absolutely fantastic, but I think meeting her family was even better. As a design junky I expect to love getting to see all the unique decor choices people make in their homes, but I'm always equally excited to meet the people who live in the homes. It's interesting being invited into a stranger's home and having them explain the reasons they've chosen to create their home a certain way--a wonderful little glimpse into the way people live. People I probably wouldn't have met otherwise, and even if I did, getting to talk about things that don't usually enter small talk/ first meeting conversations.

Pam's eldest son, Sawyer, was especially delightful. I don't think I've ever met a more creative little soul who was so unselfconscious or confident about his enthusiasm for art. His work was really awesome, and so unlike what you'd typically expect from a 9 year old. He was so interested in the process, and didn't seem the least bit concerned with the representational aspects. I suppose I expected him to say something like, "this is a picture of a dog" but instead he said things like, "I love to make mixed media work like this one made from coffee grounds which has a great texture"--whoa! So cool. He made one of his sculptures by collecting glass from a car crash and crafting it with glue into a beautiful luminescent form.

Pam has hung his art throughout her home, and it fits right in. Not in a cute or humorous way, but really fits in (like the ones below above his parents bed). I have a feeling Sawyer will be doing some pretty extraordinary things with his life.

I left the home wondering how to foster that kind of creativity in my own kids. Sometimes I get really carried away with having them make something (an actual identifiable form) that I don't think about letting them really learn to enjoy the process. 

Aside from the great family living in the home, the house tour was great from a design perspective too. They put a really awesome addition that houses one of the best little mudrooms. I l.o.v.e. mudrooms, and theirs was pretty perfect with its slip resistant, stain hiding, and very cool river rock floor.
 Check out the full tour on Apartment Therapy.  Special thanks and a big hug to Danielle for the introduction!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Homemade Valentines: The Aldous Huxley Edition

Our epic weekend cleanup yielded some interesting finds, some of which went straight to the giveaway and trash piles, and others that I couldn't let go just yet....

One was an old copy of some Aldous Huxley essays that I've been keeping in a box of sentimental high school items. I remember reading the essays when I was a freshman and thinking I was really deep and really cool. Well, time has taken its toll on the book and on me and now I realize that I probably won't be making the time to go reread the essays anytime soon. And even if I did desire to, the book was in bad shape to begin with when I found it at a yard sale, and after about 10 years in my in-laws basement, the pages have all fallen out and most are so brittle that they crumble with the slightest bend.

But my hoarding sensibilities run deep, and I couldn't just toss them....but I couldn't re-packrat them for another 10 years either so we decided to make some early Valentines, naturally. I'm not sure that Mr. Huxley would approve, but I think they're turning out to be quite lovely....

Monday, January 24, 2011

Storage...and is it really necessary?

 (image: moomah via design*sponge)

Last week was madness, and this week looks like it will follow suit. We are still recovering from the fun and frenzy of Christmas, and we've either been away overnight or hosting over night guests almost every weekend for the past few few months. All that to say, our is a disaster! Or...should I say, was a disaster! Last week we slowly tackled the piles of things that have been accumulating since Thanksgiving, and yesterday Rich and I went on an official cleaning binge! Nothing, nothing my friends feels better!

Seeing the piles for weeks on end made me crazy, really crazy, but even that turned out to be a good thing because it forced me to do something about it. In our current house storage space is very limited, and crazy as it sounds, we've actually eliminated some of the biggest storage spaces we had to begin with.

See, I'm a pack rat by nature, and I'm also quite sentimental, so given the opportunity I'd probably be a hoarder (and while I was growing up, my parents probably thought that would be my fate as they witnessed my ever-growing collections of old rusty things and broken things that I wanted to "fix up"). But given the lack of storage in our new house and my utmost desire to have some semblance of peaceful order in my home, I've had to change. It is a slow process, but we're getting it. If we had deep closets, a pantry, or some fabulous basement storage space I'm sure they'd all be filled to the brim with forgotten stuff. But as it is, with very few places to shove things accumulate (sometimes to the point of overwhelming me), but I have to do something about it. It's almost not a choice.

Reflecting on this, I wrote an article for Apartment Therapy last week on the topic which you can check out here.

The bottom line was that "in short, lack of storage has forced me to finally get organized, think more aesthetically, and be a little more creative...or at least be more aware of the need to do so."


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Marya's Home Tour

Today Marya and Rick's home tour that I wrote and photographed for AT went live, and I am in LOVE. I say that a lot about the homes that I photograph, but it's true. I love everything about Marya's, and could have stayed all day. It's such an art to pull off fresh and homey.

I met Marya when I was working at the design center a few years ago, and it was awesome to get back in touch in such a fun contex--photographing her lovely home! Marya is upbeat and totally unassuming, and it was a treat to see how she translated that into her design aesthetic. While I loved so many of the details, the most amazing part was her subtle fresh use of color. The house doesn't get a ton of natural light, but you don't notice it at all because her color choices are that good...light creating good, that's a feat! Rooms glowed! And it's funny b/c when I went through her source list I was expecting to see more of a high end paint listed (something that would make me go, "oh yes, of course, that's why.) but in the rooms that were most luminous she used Behr. Totally affordable, home depot Behr. Being especially smitten with Farrow& Ball and Benjamin Moore's aura paint I think I've become a little bit of a paint snob, but this has me rethinking my  prejudice big time.

Go check out the full tour for yourself, and if you are looking for a very talented designer to help you with your home then look her up, here's a link to her facebook page until she gets her website up and running. Having worked for one of DC's top designers for the past few years, and recently branching out on her own, she has plenty of experience and I can only imagine how great it would be to work with her.
Images are my own.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

a peek into progress (and why perfection is the enemy of the good)

(Twig Hutchinson)
 In this house life moves fast but design moves slow...very, very slowly. Tragically slow I often think. Mostly because things always seem to be in flux (a long term guest or a new baby or a stomach flu or...), and I am my own worst enemy when it comes to executing designs in my own home. Many times I know what I want, but I usually convince myself that I can create it by myself...afterall I love the creative process and using things for other purposes, which means lots and lots of projects. I'm happiest when I'm creating. But starting the creative process is one thing, and finishing them is another. My perfectionist tendencies often convince me that a project is far from finished.

Well, last night Rich reminded me that one of the reasons I started my blog and my design business was to meet people where they are. People without perfectly deep pocketbooks or perfect homes. It was really because I realized that beauty is essential and attainable....regardless of budget or time constraints or "the perfect." It had nothing to do with the perfect and everything to do with the real. Most of us don't really desire a magazine home, even if sometimes that seems very nice. But in reality we'd be perfectly happy with a comfortable home that invites relaxation, creativity, and peace.

So on that note, over the next few weeks I'd like to share a few points of progress on the home front, however far from finished they seem to me:

First up, our den:

 My computer crashed shortly after we moved in taking nearly all of my beloved "before" pictures with it. So I don't have many that accurately show what the house looked like originally. This room started out as our bedroom. It came with 3 blush pink walls (and blush ceiling) and one purple brick wall (looks black in this pic but with the light on it was definitely purple):
 Shortly after moving in it became my office, and then a craft room, and then a giant closet, then a work out room, then a playroom...
 ....and then our nanny's room, and then a giant closet again, and then what eventually became known as the "man room" where all things Rich went--skate boards, snow boards, guitars, books, power tools, bikes, get the idea. Then we received some very nice gifts form family: a real tv and media console, and we began to think about how we could turn this exceptionally long and narrow space into an inviting space for watching movies and hanging out. A place that wasn't too grown up or too kiddy... and that worked aesthetically with the random mix of furniture and accessories that we already had. No small task!

First addition was a Craigslist sofa....Rich insisted on comfortable, and I agreed despite my aesthetic reservations....

We debated over colors for many months, out up tons of swatches (why is decorating your own house so much harder than decorating for someone else????) then realized that other places in our old house demanded more attention. So anything we did to it had to be free or really really inexpensive and by that I mean basically free....and so it stayed like this for many months....
I came up with some ideas of how I wanted it to look, which you may remember from this post.

And recently we picked up the pace, and with some left over paint, a DIY rug (more details on that later), discounted indoor/outdoor pillows from restoration hardware, and fabric from calico corners, we moved right along
 We have some loose ends to finish up, but for now as you can see it has become one of our favorite spots.

The room still has many functions: bike (and skate board and snow board) storage, Rich's dressing room, family tv room, music room, play area, so I wanted to keep the colors simple and mostly neutral and let the functional objects also be the main decorations. I'll explain more details later but the wall mural (which still needs to be finished) was inspired by the one at the sub*urban trading company in Kensington, and the poem that I stamped on the wall is one of my favorites. I first spotted it in Rich's parents house:

William Henry Channing's, "My Symphony":

To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich;
to study hard, think quietly,
talk gently, act frankly;
to listen to stars and birds,
to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
await occasions, hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual,
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fresh Start Whites, Lights, and Brights

I thought that I would be very sad to see the Christmas season go, but I love that feeling of lightening that comes with packing away all the decorations. Suddenly our home feels sparse and filled with light (especially since our Christmas tree was right in front of our living room window). We still have the fire burning so it can seem cozy, but it's fresher and airier and lovely in its own spare way.

The quality of light during this time of year is subtle and beautiful, not so much on the super gray days, but on the ones with at least a little bit of sun. It's cool and quiet and fresh, unobstructed by leaves on trees. It's the best part about the cold winter months. About this time every year, I get the urge to paint all our walls white like a few of my favorite rooms:

(I've been hearing about her blog for a long time, but only recently delved into it. Wow! Incredible, incredible transformation)
 or at least something ultra light and fresh:

As much as I love deep colors, I cannot see a fresh bright light room without feeling an enormous sense of calm...they're like the visual equivalent of a deep breath. Perfect for January, which I'm really trying to use as a time to re-embrace simplicity.
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