Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Temporary Turn of Blue

Sorry friends for the recent absence. Life has been busy and while I was hoping that my window treatments and new sofa would be ready soon, sadly none of it worked out. I actually purchased the Petrie sofa and twenty yards of flax linen to recover it. Then it sat in my house and felt way to big for the space. Finally I unloaded it on craigslist and it was gone in less than a few hours.

Update: Several months passed with no couch. I was perfectly happy with my chair by the fire {now moved to another room} but my friends were not. Yesterday I suddenly remembered the roll arm sofa I had upstairs in the master bedroom.

I was thinking of getting rid of it because it's not the shape or style that I would get now, but it does have sentimental value, not to mention I purchased it at Anthropologie and it cost a fortune, especially after I had it recovered in velvet. It's nice to have even a temporary sofa again and even though I was planning to go more neutral in color, I like the cooler tones for a change. I switched out all the art and recycled my old Magino lucite coffee table, a garden stool and rattan chair. If only getting window coverings were as simple as restyling a room--but more on that later.

For now I'll sign off with a couple of links:

* An oldie but a goody: DIY a Union Jack Pillow {like the one on my sofa}

* {Unrelated} but favorite quote of the week: "Palace of Versailles is the shit" ~ Kanye West
I love Kanye and felt kind of the same way when I was 9 and saw Versailles for the first time. I know it's so not okay to admit these kinds of maximalist feelings here in the bastion of California midcentury cool, but for me, that giddy feeling about all things over the top never really went away. Read more about The 9 Best Things Kanye West Taught Us About Decorating.
Friday, February 28, 2014

Magical Mind: Eva Zeisel

I came across an Eva Zeisel coffee table the other day in my furniture shopping/wanderings, designed in 1993 when she was 87 years old, and remember how discovering her designs was love at first sight.

Eva Zeisel is the definition of a magical mind. She lived to be 105 years old and her work spanned 9 decades. Everything about her life and creative output inspires me, and I've slowly been collecting pieces she designed through the years. 

This little cream and sugar set is something I picked up recently; they're from 1961 when Federal Glass added a second Zeisel design to their line in the more modern Stockholm shape. But this set hardly gives you a glimpse of the vast and beautiful body of work that she's known for.

Eva helped usher in the clean and casual shapes of modernist design, but was not afraid of baroque impulses and claimed that her playful quality is how she continued a long life of design without creatively drying up. She considered herself "a maker of things" and in her TED speech said that her intent was to make things more beautiful, elegant and comfortable. 

If you want to feel inspired, check out her working life at 102 years old!

Eva Zeisel: Distinguished By Design from Jeremy Bales on Vimeo.

Eva in her studio in 1926

Eva with her "Shamberg" designs in 1930

Eva's dishes featured in Vogue during the 1940s.  

In 1946, her all-white modern dinner service – a first by an American designer – was honored with an exhibition at MoMA. She was the first to ever have a one-woman show at the museum.

Eva with one of her designs for Hallcraft in the 1950s

Eva stopped designing in the 60s and 70s and returned in the 80s to work on numerous projects including glassware, ceramics, furniture and lamps for The Orange Chicken, porcelain, crystal and limited-edition prints for KleinReid, glasses and giftware for NambĂ©, a teakettle for Chantal, furniture and gift-ware for Eva Zeisel Originals, rugs for The Rug Company, one of Crate and Barrel’s best selling dinner services "Classic-Century" and a coffee table and stoneware/dinnerware set for Design Within Reach. She went on to design lamps, furniture, space dividers, wall tiles before passing away in 2011. 

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Eva at the Museum of Modern Art in 1997, with a piece from a porcelain table service introduced in 1946; behind her is a chair she designed.

Eva in front of her dimpled bellybutton rug in 2010 when she was 104.

Are you an Eva Zeisel fan? Would love to know your favorite home designer(s)!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Magical Obsession: Design Au Naturel

Bamboo, rattan and wicker pieces give me a bizarre rush of euphoria. I've felt this way for as long as I can remember.

Back when I was 12 years old, we got a beach house and I remember begging and pleading to please please put in a rattan sofa and chairs. It seemed to me that there would be nothing nicer than sitting in them and gazing at the ocean. There were much grander ideas in play--think Waterford crystal chandeliers and things that go with them, and my plebeian suggestion was kicked to the curb. All these years later I'm still not over my attraction to natural materials. My pinterest boards are littered with every shape and size of bamboo, rattan or wicker chair imaginable.

I don't know how much time I've wasted obsessing about finding a hanging bamboo chair or the perfect midcentury rattan pieces but as John Lennon said, 'time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.'

For reasons I can't explain, a little touch of au naturel at play with dark woods and the weird contrast it makes against metal pieces makes my heart skip a beat. 

I love mini woven accent pieces too and scoop these up whenever I find them.

With sunny days already arriving, I've started thinking about summer and patio living. In my part of the world, rattan sets are plentiful on Craigslist but veer to the mid-80s chairs-on-coasters-with- matching-glass-table variety so you have to be quick when something older comes up. 

Of course things on Craigslist rarely come looking like these posh styled magazine spreads...

The unfettered reality below is the slightly off kilter dingy picture you might come across online styled with lumpy pillows, faded carpeting and what appears to be a cane. It takes a little bit of imagination to see the possibilities, but two of these chairs {much better in person} are now in my garage awaiting a magical transformation.

And that my friends is how part of my week has gone so far. What have you been up to? Are you a rattan/wicker/bamboo lover too?

photos via pinterest

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bedroom Redesign: Let's Get Personal


Everyone has their own way of pulling together a color palette. I've never been able to connect with online palettes and color swatching, they just feel too unreal. Even painting a color palette never translates completely for me--the colors are always so far off in opacity and hue from actual leather or fabric swatches.  Since I started designing bags 14 years ago, I've always pulled from actual 3-D things. By the way, that pretty mint McCoy planter is a recent flea market find, not part of the color scheme--the blooming Narcissus just has such an amazing scent I couldn't resist moving it temporarily into the bedroom.


Ever since the walls changed from gray to white, I've been wanting to redesign my bedroom with hits of an amorphous color that I couldn't seem to name--rosier than nude, but not pink or peach. In the end, I looked to a couple of things on my night stand to help define my palette. 

The crystal is all about my attraction to white and light--I've got a few lucite pieces in the bedroom and this would probably explain how they've survived my endless de-cluttering and zhushing. The candle I picked up at West Elm a few months ago, thinking it was close to the color I'm looking for, but now it feels too's that for design direction? I am not sold on exact glib answers about design plans--they don't always seem to translate and it's important to have the freedom to change your mind as long as you have an inner sense of direction.

In some ways the color of the rock is closest to what I'm looking for. It's actually a sea shell morphing into a rock and was given to me when I was a little girl. I can still remember how awed I was by this object that was plucked out of the ocean maybe centuries ago as it was transitioning from shell to rock, and I still feel that same sense of wonder whenever I gaze at it. To me there's something so peaceful and magical about it.


Now that the house is white, it feels calmer and I've just been luxuriating in the pleasure of all this whiteness, barely re-hanging any art. That, and I'm addicted to Restoration Hardware white linen and couldn't be bothered to fix a good thing. But deep down I knew I was being lazy and luckily this gorgeous DKNY Harmony bedding arrived in the exact color I was looking for! The bedding color is called 'Ivory' but to me it's the perfect shade of--let's just call it pale blush.

You're getting just the barest sketch of the room today because it's so far from being finished. There's a headboard on order but it's waiting because the floor is about to get replaced and all the furniture in the house has to be moved out...ugh, the thought alone makes me want to crawl back under my new DKNY coverlet and pretend it's not happening. There's also a giant couch under the window {not pictured} - not sure what I'll be doing with it. And then of course, there's the whole question of switching out all the furniture for vintage midcentury walnut pieces...decisions, decisions. Thoughts? I would love to hear them. I'm serious, please weigh in before it's too late! {and keep reading, there's more}.

As you may have picked up if you've been reading for any length of time, I'm a fickle chair hoarder and am constantly rotating them out of my house and into the garage to make room for new ones. This Philippe Stark Ghost chair is the only one that always makes the cut and has yet to be sentenced to the garage, although it does change rooms from time to time. Right now it's in the corner of the bedroom with this soft and delicious Donna Karan Urban Oasis knit throw that I love. It's so soft I want to wear it, and I like the sandy color for a change of pace from all the white and blush. Remember the DKNY Raw Diamond pillow from Christmas? It made it's way in here too.


Maybe because I grew up in a house where flooring, roofing, shower doors, cabinets, cement slabs and light fixtures were nightly dinner table conversation, there's a nuts and bolts aspect of interior design that makes my eyes glaze over a bit. But I can never get enough of a soulful little corner of a house styled with books and flowers and knick-knacks. It's the same reason I've always loved fashion: styling a corner is a lot like putting together a great outfit. Something vintage paired with something new and something reinvented makes it totally wonderful and personal.

I thought I'd leave you with a little glimpse of some of my favorite treasures. A vintage horse head from the flea market, a vase I had sent over from Venice {Italy} - there were many more but sadly I've broken a lot of them...seashells in a salt dish I picked up when I visited Williamsburg in high school. The paper weight is even older. It's from a little gift store in Laguna - I bought it with my allowance money when I was around 10 or 11 years old. The store is still there only now it's a pizza place. Oh, and then there's the Ferruccio Laviani Kartell Bourgie lamps. I was having a baroque modern moment when I first moved in, and although they're not what I'd pick now, I don't really think about them much. What do you think? Yay or nay?

I keep a book of poetry written my friend Ron nearby. He passed away 2 years ago but whenever I need a hit of his voice, one that I used to speak with at least once a week, I can go here. Sometimes just seeing it on my nightstand is enough. 

What I Wanted by Ron Keyson

1. Everything
2. Nothing
3. Peace
4. Excitement
5. Vision
6. Acceptance
7. Love
8. Relevance
9. Distance
10. Days on earth, without regret, without confusion, 
without wars, long years that flow as rivers flow, 
when the sky is warm and a cool breeze plays over surfaces, creating patterns that announce 
all that is beautiful, effervescent and real.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on color, bedrooms, furniture and more!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's A Wonderful Life!

My new tray from the Novogratz Dinnerware Collection kind of sums it up; my offline life has been pretty wonderful lately and blogging has fallen a bit by the wayside, but it doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about you!

Since Valentine's Day is on Friday, I thought I'd feature the fun new collection that Courtney and Robert Novogratz designed for Macy's because it makes for some cool little gifts that you can easily run out and nab. The Novogratz' used elements of modern and vintage that make these pieces an easy fit into almost any home. It's very affordable {$9-$29} and it's the kind of design that will make you happy whenever you look at it.

I wrote about the Novogratz' a few years back when they rehabed a deserving school in Florida. I've always been a fan because they take big risks with their flips and design aesthetic. But mostly I adore them because they are the first contemporary interior designers I'd ever seen who weren't afraid of using cutting edge conceptual and pop artists as the focal point of their interior design plans.

If you watched 9 By Design on Bravo, then you know that Robert backed up traffic on the West Side Highway to bring in a Richard Woods faux wood installation for the exterior of their 6 story home--just the tip of the iceberg on that renovation. I love the boldness of their vision!

P.S. The simplest Valentine date ever:

Fill the Novogratz Melamine Popcorn Bowl {only $7.99 on sale at Macy'} and pull together your--I'd say 'romantic' movies, but my idea of a good film often involves guns, violence and a few French swear words, so I'll leave it at favorite movies--and it's the perfect Valentine Movie Night.

P.S. {The candies on the tray in the top photo are chocolate covered sunflower seeds from Trader Joe's; a handful is very satisfying and a good substitute for M&Ms.}

Hope your week is a wonderful one!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Magical Succulent Terrarium

When I saw this comment on a Pinterest DIY Terrarium tutorial it made me laugh: "Considering we have killed two succulents and a Venus fly trap in the past two weeks, we are pinning this for personal reasons..." Good news:  it's nearly impossible to kill succulents and making a terrarium is actually pretty easy once you round up the items. Before you start, you'll need some sort of container, gravel, cactus mix and something called "activated carbon" that was not so easy to find. I finally tracked mine down in the Pet Food/Fish section at Walmart's. 

I filled the bottom with gravel, sprinkled enough activated carbon to cover the gravel and then poured in the cactus mix until it felt about right. Arranging the succulents takes a bit of time, but it's fun. I also recommend using a couple of long spoons to hold them in place and make small holes for the plants. I used a soft Sumi brush I had laying around to brush potting mix from the sides of the glass because it can get a little messy pouring the potting mix/gravel in, but any paint brush small enough to work into your terrarium will do.

Moving on, I had a vision of making something elegant and sophisticated like this:

I scooped up a terrarium at West Elm thinking I'd add a cool little detail to my house like some of the ones I'd been loving here.

As you can see, mine came out more like a magical moonscape. It's more colorful than I anticipated, especially after I added the day glow green moss that I bought from some succulent sellers {yes, these unicorn/succulent people really exist!} in the downtown flower district. I suppose I did not have to buy little succulents that looked like bright toy dolls. But I couldn't help myself.

I know some would say choosing your succulents is where you need to pull back and use restraint, especially when going for a specific palette. I guess I'd fall into a different camp because I feel that if you let yourself have fun and play, this is where the magic comes in since everyone has their own inner pulls, especially when it comes to plants.

Do you make terrariums? Would love to hear your best tips!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Vintage Rehab: Cleaning Cloudy Crystal and Tarnished Brass

Brass pieces can be such great vintage finds and plenty of midcentury pieces have glass cabinets that need a bit of tlc. Here are some my recommendations for cleaning them up.

What to Do About Cloudy Crystal 
{this will work for goop covered glass too}

I inherited a lamp {sadly from the 80s so not really that cool or decor friendly, but sometimes you just can't say no}. It'd been in storage for a number of years and for some reason the crystal was covered in weird goop that I'd never been able to get off--I'm thinking maybe melted packing tape.

I was uncomfortable with the idea of using something like Goo-Gone on Waterford crystal, so after a little research, I made up a natural version using 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil mixed with 2 teaspoons of baking soda and scrubbed gently with a paper towel. It took about 15 minutes, but it worked!

Tarnished Brass Options

The rusted brass bottom plate was in even worse shape.

One of the issues with cleaning vintage brass is sometimes it's not really brass; it's metal that's been plated to look like brass, or it might be plated brass, but if you scrub too hard or use the wrong chemicals, it wipes right off, leaving plain metal--been there done that.

First I tried some all natural solutions. I dipped a vinegar soaked corner of a towel into salt and scrubbed. Ten minutes in I felt like I was losing my mind. A few places were okay, but mostly it wasn't working and the bottom plate was now a pink rust.  Lemon did not work on this either. I wiped everything clean and started in with Brasso. A little better but not much.

My last resort was Rub-N-Buff which I had on hand due to a failed brass-clean up on the handles of my midcentury hutch {do not ever soak vintage brass (looking) hardware in ammonia no matter what the tutorials on pinterest might say}. I spread a little Rub-N-Buff on a thin rag and used it to fill in the dark patches. Although it certainly does not gleam like new brass, I like the aged patina feel it has now.

Do you have any glass and/or brass cleaning success stories? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cozy Comfort

How is your new year going? Around here, there's been an amazing whirlwind of change, and to balance things, I've been craving comfort above all else, which means there's been no time for before-and-after projects and my upstairs remodel/painting/etc has been stalled once again.

I'd been intending to reupholster some sort of beautiful, deep and meaningful midcentury chair to put near my fireplace--but I was tired of searching and had a weak Crate and Barrel moment last week. I now have a Rochelle chair + ottoman, and also got the Petrie sofa that I'd been coveting since I moved in four years ago. I'm having it reupholstered, so no photos yet. One of my favorite new pastimes is to read in this very comfortable chair by the fire. The fireplace still needs the black stones--I keep forgetting about that. For some reason, I got a lot of letters from friends over Christmas and New Year, and I just love sitting by the fire and reading them.

This is non-decor related, but I'm probably most excited about those fur-lined moto boots photobombing the shot--they're an extravagant gift from Santa, who all on his own found Netaporter and left them under the tree. Santa truly gets me. I leave them here to distract Lady Jane from tearing up the new chair. So far, so good.

p.s. If you're in the mood for some late 70s eye-candy make sure to see American Hustle!

The sets are great--it's almost worth seeing just for the yellow bentwood barstools in Amy Adams' apartment or the brutalist mural in the office where she and Christian Bale run scams. I also wrote about the costumes today over on TrustYourStyle.

Hope your January has been one of cozy comfort so far!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Midcentury Slat Bench DIY: What To Do When Stripping Fails

There's nothing like saving a DIY-gone-wrong, so I thought I'd kick off the New Year with this project, just to show that there's always hope even for the most tragical events.


This slat bench seemed like a great idea when I picked it up at the flea a couple of summers ago, until I started stripping off the pea green paint. One of the legs came off it's thread in the process and was impossible to fix so I finally had the handyman do it, which cost more than the bench. So much for doing-it-yourself.


Ugh, stripping in between the slats was awful and I finally gave up and put it in the guest room, thinking it had a certain rustic charm, but it was in need of refinishing. As you can see, there's a little wave to the wood, so it was definitely a wabi-sabi kind of save, but somehow I still like it.

Update: it's been moved to the entry {note the new white walls, yay!} and this large mirror was finally hung. I designed it ages ago with the help of a friend, Nile, whose company Kipper, produces beautiful woodwork.

The mirror should probably be the real star of this post; it was made using some of the last living Chinoiserie artists in California. I asked them to use images from my Magical Mind textile and gild them on the handmade William and Mary style mirror frame that Nile made, keeping the traditional black stain.

The mirrored glass is a salvaged vintage school window that Nile finished and fit into the frame.

When To Stop Stripping:
* If you have a piece of half-stripped furniture that's not working out, I recommend 100x sand paper just to smooth it down a little and then add a few coats of paint. I have never gone wrong with Rustoleum 2x ultra cover Flat Black spray paint. Make sure to finish with Satin Sealer if you're using a flat color.

Do you strip furniture? Would love to hear your best tips!