Saturday, January 31, 2009

Love in the time of coffee tables

Here is our "new" glass-topped wrought iron coffee table that I bought last weekend from the Housing Works thrift store on Montague Street. It is also solid 40-pound evidence that my husband loves me.

I found the table in a corner of the store marked down to $30. It was so wobbly that if you touched it, it did a kind of hula dance, and it was covered in dust. We each took an end and carried it down two blocks of Montague Street. Then we changed strategy. Tom, who was perfectly happy with our leather ottoman as a coffee table, took the frame and put it over his shoulder while I carried the glass top down three blocks of Columbia Heights. I expected to trip on a historic slate sidewalk slab and drive a shard of glass through my heart. But we all made it. Also, did I mention it was really cold?

Thankfully, I have a husband who knows how to use an allen wrench. In 20 minutes, he had the coffee table fixed. Although it's bigger than our leather ottoman, it doesn't seem as "heavy" because of the glass top and airy legs.

Rule #17 of small space living: If you bring a piece of furniture into your home, you will have to move every other stick of furniture to make room for it. Rule #18, subsection c states that for each item brought into your apartment, an item of equal or larger size will need to exit.

The ottoman went into the foyer.

The bookcase that was in the foyer went into the bedroom.

The porch, a favored storage spot in some communities for non-functioning washing machines and broken-down sofas, became the repository for our displaced chairs. In this case, they were deck chairs anyway, so we weren't totally trashy about it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Amy Samelson's small space living

Since last month's Elle Decor never arrived, I picked up a back issue of Better Homes & Gardens, which normally bores me to death. But here was designer Amy Samelson's awesome 600-square-foot apartment. The sofa in the living room doubles as a guest bed. The desk doubles as a dining table. Love the neutrals, the unassuming coolness, the adjustable arm lamps, and the multipurpose stools.

Images are from The story is at

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

That was kind of lame

How about another one?

"This may be a broad statement, but . . . I don't like Europeans."


Starbucks home brew cup quote

Sorry, gotten behind on these.

"As much as I loved other people, there always came a point when I thought they should go home."


Monday, January 26, 2009

How to make a faux zebra hide rug

Like a lot of people, I'm fond of graphic zebra stripes, especially when they are on the irregular shape of a hide rug. But $2,000 for the real deal is out of the question (or even $250-$700 for a nice knockoff made from Bessie the cow like the one above from Horchow.)

Another "You know you are cheap when . . . " You know you are cheap when you could buy a faux zebra hide rug on clearance at Target for $50 but instead you make your own for 50 cents.I made my rug using white vinyl fabric that I already had on hand and a 50 cent permanent marker.

A small rug like mine (3 x5) will require about 1 yard of fabric, and a larger one (5 x7) will require about two yards. Microsuede and fabric paint or a fabric marker would probably give a more "hide" like effect, but the vinyl will wipe clean with a damp rag (and it was free).

1. Find an image of a zebra hide and project it onto your fabric. Trace the outline of the hide and the stripes using a washable pen or marker.

2. Color in the stripes using a permanent marker or fabric paint. Allow the marker to dry completely before cutting the fabric.

3. You're done. If the edges roll up a bit, try rolling the rug the other direction and letting it sit overnight.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why is House Hunters always on?

It's like the Walker, Texas Ranger of HGTV. Ubiquitous yet inexplicable. Every time I turn the TV on, it's on. Is there such a vast audience for watching whining childless couples who require three bedrooms and two and a half baths?

What about Chuck Norris as the host of House Hunters? "Don't like this house? How about a roundhouse? I think you'll get a real kick out of it."

Now this I would watch.

Buying some chocolate-covered happiness

"Considerable evidence suggests that if we use an increase in our incomes, as many of us do, simply to buy bigger houses and more expensive cars, then we do not end up any happier than before. But if we use an increase in our incomes to buy more of certain inconspicuous goods - such as freedom from a long commute or a stressful job - then the evidence paints a very different picture."

Robert H. Frank, Daedalus, 2004

My income increased this week by $50 due to the good folks at Dodge being willing to give me some money to test drive a Ram truck, a Ram truck being a practical vehicle for someone living in Brooklyn who would make a trip to a Dodge dealership just to get $50.

I spent all of it this weekend and then some. As follows:

$30 - wobbly wrought-iron coffee table from Housing Works thrift shop
$2 - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
$17 - 2 lbs Sahadis espresso malted milk balls, 1 lb dark chocolate covered raisins
$10 - snow leopard print skirt from Housing Works
$10 - 4 boxes Barilla multigrain pasta that I thought was on sale 4 for $5
$4 - O at Home magazine
Total: $73

But am I happy?

Carrying the coffee table down Montague Street with Tom, I was not happy. Later, when he fixed the wobbliness and we confirmed that I had indeed purchased a splendid table for such a low price, I was filled with joy.

Then Tom left town for two days and I did what I often do when blessed with an opportunity for productive solitude: eat, spend money, stay up late, eat, spend more money, rearrange the furniture.

I made a big dent in the choco raisins. The leopard skirt is too tight. The novel is depressing. I need a cigarette, even though I don't smoke. Thinking about switching the end tables. Forgot about my O magazine. Joy! Tom will be home in 17 more hours. Sure hope the money holds out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Free redecorating - rearranging the room

There's nothing cheaper than taking what you've already got and putting it somewhere else. However, I find that rearranging furniture is fraught with emotion. Do other people stress about it like this? I worry that the housemate won't like it. The housemate feels a great disturbance in the force everytime his landing strips are relocated for purely aesthetic reasons. We get out of sorts and a little lost. We bump into things. We lose things. We are annoyed by the other person's choices. And then after a few days, we're fine.

Before: I didn't like the wood chairs (which are actually outdoor furniture) crammed so close to my beloved media center. I didn't like the lamp in front of the window or the angle of the leather chair. And there was no room for a future dining room table. Tom did not like that the TV was plugged into a power outlet on a circuit where the fuse blows every week.

After: Sketching a room layout on paper never works for me. I have to see it in action. So Tom dutifully positioned the media center on every possible wall. We took Karen McAloon's suggestion for small spaces and angled it. She says angling keeps the eye moving around the room. Initially we were freaked.

We tested Law & Order at an angle.

Then, just like Karen, we stole items from other rooms. The Hovet mirror was raided from the bedroom.

Now that a few days have passed, we like it. The focus is on the window. The mirror brings in light. The room looks more open. Total cost: $0. Now we just need Karen to drop by with some lovely accessories.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A thousand splendid fabrics part 3

In which our heroine finds her one true fabric for less than $20 a yard.

For the amount of time I've spent looking for pillow fabric, I should have invented a solar-powered cure for cancer. Since I started, the country got a new president, the days got short and long again, and gas dropped back down to two bucks.

Anyway, thanks to the design blog Elements of Style, I got a lead on Imperial Trellis fabric at for about $20 a yard. I upholstered my own bar stools. A friend helped me with the pillows since the zipper foot frightens me. Fabric and supplies totalled $80. End of story.

Except now I'm feeling like I need a floral print . . .

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Life with Boy

Here are some recent pics of our great-nephew Tayten. Not only is he beautiful, he's a genius. Besides speaking fully formed sentences, he's also learning ASL. Here is an actual bedtime conversation, as reported by his mom:
Mom: I love you
Tayt: I love you more
Mom: I love you most
Tayt: I love you to the moon
Mom: I love you to the stars
Tayt: I love you to the sun
Mom: I love you to Pluto
Tayt: I love you to MICKEY MOUSE

Darryl Carter's net neutral

Three very cool rooms by designer Darryl Carter. Love the 1. white 2. wood 3. sparseness 4. nailhead trim. Repeat after me: Neutral is not wimpy. So, why does my place look like starch?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hi/Low/Way Low/JLo: Zebra Hide Rugs

Clockwise from top left: Real zebra skin rug, $1,600-$2,000; Horchow cowskin rug $700 (Similar at for $500; Pony hide at William-Sonoma for $800); JCPenney washable nylon rug $300; Ebay faux fur rug $70 (see similar at; JLo as a blond; handtufted wool rug $106; DwellStudio for Target clearance sale $52; Jonathan Adler hand-loomed llama wool $875

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What to do when it's icy cold

Make ice. Here's Tom working on a DIY ice sculpture out on our deck.

And here it is:
Another view:

Historic moment in our personal blogging history

47 posts. Two months of blogging. Broke our first dollar on Google ads.

Might have done slightly better investing with Bernie Madoff.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A thousand splendid fabrics part 2

With the confidence of a smart, urbane, over 40 female, I have narrowed my throw pillow fabric choice down to this:

This is Kelly Wearstler's Imperial Trellis, which according to some sources has been overdone and has gone the way of pointy toed shoes. (But then again, my house guests, if they've heard of Hollywood Regency at all, will think it is a hotel.)

I think. Maybe. Oh, I don't know. Is it too graphic? Too black? Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I can actually see this fabric used in different rooms. (Via Turquoise Chic and Freckles Chic.)

Ah, but then there's the fact that it is $100 a yard. Oh no, crushing unrequited love again. Do I deliberately seek out fabrics that are unavailable to me? Why am I not attracted to the nice affordable fabric who bores me just a little?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Baby Brock's first "formal" photos

Finally received my Brock photo. What a cute little puppy. Amazing how they got his head propped up. And yes, the eyes are wiiiiide open. With just a little digital editing, the child is totally Margaret Keane.

Oh, while we're at it . . . Brock as seen by Renoir and Andy Warhol respectively.

I'm going to be in so much trouble.

A thousand splendid fabrics

This is a little story about what happens in the new Information Age when you have someone:

1. Aspirational
2. Indecisive
3. Cheap
4. With a 3G Internet connection
5. Who is looking for fabric for a throw pillow

Result: You will spend a billion hours online. Your wrist will swell. Your butt will get gangrene. And you still may not find the Absolute Ultimately Most Perfect Fabric in the Universe.

It all started with this, our sofa:

Nice enough, but a bit bland. What it needs is some pattern, e.g. throw pillows. Then I discover The Most Beautiful Pillow Ever Made:

This is Thomas Paul's reef pillow in Java. Amazing. But it costs more than a barrel of oil. If I spent $100 on a pillow, I would have to put it in a glass case with a light on it. So, I went looking for a knockoff. I started innocently enough with Guess what - there's a lot more than your mother's Waverly out there these days. From there I jumped to other fabric sites, took a long detour through quilting fabrics and then back to decorator fabrics. Anne Marie Horner, Joel Dewberry, Robert Kaufman, Robert Allen, Braemore, etsy, Mod Girls, Moda. After days and days, I narrowed my selection down to this:

Dear Internet: I hate you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Where bloggie worlds unite

Mr. Bromeliad doesn't 'get' why I can spend hours looking at home decor. I don't 'get' that he can spend hours reading posts on about the dinner menu on British Airways. We fight over the laptop. (He's bigger, but I'm quick.) Then he introducted me to Still boring, until you stumble on the likes of this:

Singapore Airlines first class cabin.

It will only cost you about 20 thousand clams for this kind of ride. For 1/20th the cost, I offered to sprinkle our bed with rose petals, wear a little hat, bring him dinner on a tray and bump the mattress every 10 minutes to mimic turbulence.

Hint: For more good airliner stuff, search "Dubai"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ode to bad food with girlfriends in DUMBO

First Doris
For Wicked Hot Chocolate at Jacques Torres
Whom she sometimes calls "Jacques Cousteau"
We swirl our cups like scotch
Not so much diving as slowly sinking in
Then Kathleen at Almondine
Where the quiche is so rich we taste the cream
She opens her new red leather bag and pulls out
a shopping tote, three glossy pouches, a polar bear whose head lights up and stories about where she found each thing
Voices low, gestures muted
Still we make a scene.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

On Columbia Heights after our snow and ice storm