29 June 2010

The Art of Making Do

Ever since I began my fascination with decorating, I have been using hand-me-downs, thrift stores finds, and estate sale bargains to complete my space.  I am no victim, I assure you.  I have more than I could ever need or want and I am grateful. (Thank you, universe) Instead, I am convinced that not much will change as both my design prowess and my bank account expand.  I will always be attracted to things that come with their own story and are, often times, older than me!  For example...
(DISCLAIMER: All of the pictures contained below may be considered "Before" photos, as many of them were taken months ago AND my home is still very much a work in progress and will not be ready to be viewed as finished  for months, maybe years!)

My headboard came from my aunt's neighbors in Cincinnati, Ohio.  That's right.  All the way from a damp Cincinnati basement where it had been left to mold and die.  When I rescued it, it was dark wood veneer and free of mold.  I sanded it down, repainted and then sanded again to make it look old and weathered.  It has been my faithful sleeping companion for almost five years now and I plan on having it for another 50!  

Our dining room server and matching china cabinet traveled roughly 500 miles from Yuma Street in Washington, D.C.  It was used by Tommy's three great aunts who lived in a home that had previously belonged to their parents along with all of its contents.  The lovely mid-century cocktail glasses on top of the server belonged to Tommy's grandfather - an architect for the Navy - he used to drink Manhattans out of these tasty little vessels. 

The sofa is a hand me down from a person who will remain unnamed.  The poor thing has seen her fair share and is nearing retirement, but I had her recovered one last time in something sassy to celebrate her golden years.  The lamps in this room (two of my favorites) were thrift store and yard sale finds.  The loveseat was "overstock" from my mom's house - I graciously accepted. 

My french style desk chair was a Goodwill treasure for less than 40 bucks.  She was stained very dark and covered with damaged green silk.  Although I'm sure she was fabulous in her prime, she was in need of love when I found her, but I never turn away a stray - especially one with this much potential! I am in the process of painting and recovering - I just haven't found the right fabric.  The desk is a MALM occasional table from IKEA. 

The "console" in our entry way is a dresser I found at Wilderness Way Girls Camp Thrift Shop in Seneca, SC.   The drawers don't quite work right, there are cracks throughout and parts of the pulls are missing, but every dog should have a few fleas and I think she's as perfect as could be!  But for real, this little lassy is as old as the hills.  I know that 'cause the engraving on the bottom drawer says 1893.  I bet she could tell a story or two.  The mirror I found at a yard sale for 10 bucks and spray painted gold and the two small oil paintings were buried in the corner of a shop in Montmartre. They too were a steal and I think they're just precious.

I love all of my formerly owned, gently used and much loved pieces.  For me, it is like filling my home with characters and memories and I don't plan on stopping!  Even when I can afford to outfit my space in Horchow and design originals, I will still hunt for bargains at my local Salvation Army. 

Here are some of my favorite ways to find bargains and undiscovered treasures:

  • Scour your local second hand stores.  A quick search on Google will reveal all the thrift and consignment shops in your area.

  • If you are lucky enough to have a flea market in your area, go!  Arrive early for a better selection.

  • Check out eBay and Craigslist for specifics and hard to find objects.  I recently got a patio set circa 1960 on my local Craigslist for only 50 bucks!

  • A recent favorite of mine is shopgoodwill.com.  It is set up similar to eBay, but uber cheap.

  • IKEA.  'Nuff said.

  • Check out children's furniture stores, like Pottery Barn Kids.  Often they carry the same items and styles, but have lower prices. 

  • Estate sales, garage sales, and yard sales are a great place to find treasures at dirt cheap prices.  You can search and sign up for updates on estatesales.net

  • Department stores like JCPenney's and Sears are a surprising and affordable place to find home accessories.

  • Don't be intimidated by "Antique" Shops.  Often times they offer lower prices and are willing to negotiate. 

  • If you are looking for something specific, but insist on buying it new, use sites like TheFind.com, which compile items from different retail stores and manufacturers and allow you to compare prices before leaving your home.
Happy hunting!

24 June 2010

[Re]creating a Masterpiece

I was recently rummaging through some old papers from my studies in France and came across a picture of a beloved painting I first spotted in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.   (Gustave Caillebotte, Toits sous la neige [Rooftops under snow], Paris 1878)

I haven't thought about this work in months and was happy to see it and dive into it just for a couple minutes to escape and reminisce.  I imagined myself bundled and blowing steamy breath, walking the snowy streets of Montmartre on a somber Parisian evening.  I would round the corner and spot the glow of candlelight coming from a small cafe on an empty avenue.  Inside I would take a seat in a corner near the window, order a glass of wine, light up a smoke and make up stories about the couple sitting next to me.  But back to reality.  My thermometer is registering 111 degrees and I dare not venture outside today.  So for now I will continue to dream inside and use this painting as inspiration to create an entire (imaginary) room. 
When first I thought of using this as design inspiration, I immediately came to a space designed by Sara Scaglione and featured in House Beautiful.

It is absolutely one of my favorite all time bedrooms and if you scroll back to one of my first posts, you will see it serves as the original inspiration for my own boudoir.  It is so sophisticated and very french, but relaxing enough to sink into and take an afternoon nap.  Unfortunately, the more I look at it, the less I think it resembles the painting.  This room is about comfort and luxury and,  however lovely and deliberate the painting might be, there is just nothing luxurious about it.  So, back to the drawing board in search of something grittier.  The room would need to be a little colder, not uninviting, but less plush, more industrial.  I think a metal bed is in order, like this one featured in Pine Cone Hill.

But we might need to paint it cloud white or a misty blue... or maybe gray?  The floors would be painted white and the walls, Farrow & Ball's Drawing Room (the color on the walls below).   The bed linens would of course be french and white with putty colored linen draperies and unfinished wood hardware.  Yumm... I can vision it all already complete with 12 foot ceilings, an old marble fireplace and all the french architectural fixins' complete with cracks and chips for character.

I would accessorize with ferns potted in old terra cotta, used books, and beautiful found objects like Anthropologie's Ameoba Bowl. 

The bed would be adorned with dusky orange and faded violet pillows and a vintage throw made by someones grand-mere.  An antiqued mirrored dresser (Anthropologie) is an obvious necessity and a desk would be in order for executing various tasks and important projects.  A side chair equipped with a place to rest your feet is needed for casual reading and reflection...  et voila!  I'm ready to move in.

(Draperies: Restoration Hardware, Terra cotta pots: Smith and Hawken, Hanging light: Anthropologie, Bed and linens: Pine Cone Hill, Paint sample: Farrow and Ball, Fabric swatches: F. Schumacher, Chest of drawers: Anthropologie, Spindle table: Wisteria, Marais char: Design Within Reach, Chair and ottoman: Serena and Lily)

22 June 2010

Eighties Flashback

In the spirit of nostalgia, I wanted to take a look back at the interior design that I remember from my childhood. I always wonder how much of what I like today will still be fabulous twenty years from now and looking through '80s design photos, I can't help but wonder, "What the hell were they thinking?!" I've convinced myself that the design I love today is classic and pulls from all different eras and styles, but the pictures I found serve as a blinking red caution, telling me to think twice before signing on to current trends. Here are a couple favorites (and by favorites I mean some of the most icky pictures I could find):

Perhaps more objective opinions might suggest that they aren't as bad as I think...  And maybe it will just take another 30 years for this stuff to come back full swing, but, in my opinion, the faux pas committed in these rooms far surpass teased hair and shoulder pads.   
The following photos are somewhat less bad, but scream 80s opulence. 

This one seems to have some art deco influence, but with ultra modern fixtures, as was so trendy in the 1980s.  There is a chance it could survive today without seeming too dated, but I certainly wouldn't call it classic.

This kitchen doesn't look too different from the ones featured in contemporary decor magazines, except for one distinguishing characteristic: it's overdone.  I would take a less is more approach when restyling this kitchen, but its got good bones and topiaries are always classic, just not 12 of them.

One of the least offensive of all the '80s photos I found, the designer has successfully mingled old and new.  The only real sign of the times are the refrigerator and some accessories.

And then there was chintz...  After doing some research on how it was used in the 80s, I'll never think of chintz the same.  Poor chintz.  I have to admit that I love me some chintz in small doses, but good gracious I think chintz threw up on the 80s (and continued the heaving into the '90s).  It is still a mystery to me how chintz came into play considering all the ultra (wannabe) sleek and ultra modern interiors I have seen from this era, but it was definitely there and it was proud. 

Despite the chintz overkill, there is something kind of elegant and fabulous about these rooms.  They call to mind garden life and English conservatories... maybe?  Enough about my secret chintz fetish.

Fortunately, not all of the design I found from the 80s was bad, some was very good indeed and even classic.  I discovered designer Angelo Donghia who seems to have been a man before his time and I would be glad to live with most any of his designs.

And then there are contemporary designers like Kelly Wearstler, who is pulling inspiration directly from this era and making it fabulous.  Like Donghia, she seems to truly understand what worked in the '80s and she graciously emphasizes the glamour and the luxury that characterized that era.

Many of her pieces are positively 80s, but there is something fresh and new about her designs.  And although I wouldn't want to live with most of them 365 days of the year,  I appreciate them nonetheless. 

17 June 2010

Wanderlust and Nostalgia Dust

The other night, we watched You've Got Mail (love that movie) and it prompted me to get on Amazon and make a list of books that I want to read to the baby. Looking through all of my old favorites was a surprisingly exciting and nostalgic experience. I distinctly remember all of the wonderful worlds created by the words and pictures contained in these books and how I would escape to them late at night after my mom had gone to bed. The dreamy plots of Chris van Allsberg were as good as a day of uncovering treasures in your Grandma's attic, full of mysterious legends and starry illustrations. The dark humor of Shel Silverstein, the fabulously French adventures of Madeline and Roald Dahl, who needs no explanation. Looking through all of my oldest and dearest haunts, I remembered going to brunch on Sunday morning after an evening of reading Dahl's The Witches and being convinced that the women at the next table were wearing hats to cover their baldness, gloves to conceal their claws and square tipped shoes to hide their lack of toes because, of course, they were witches. Looking back now I realize that all these books are partially to blame for the fantasy world in which I now and have always resided. This world is the root of my desire to make everything real as beautiful as it is in my mind. And so I leave you with rooms full of whimsy and wonder. Rooms that could spark imagination in even the grandest of dullards.

Every one of these spaces seems to have a secret and a life of its own. It is a quality not easily obtained, but one I will pursue with wreckless, whimsical abandon. And I will not rest until every room in my home has a healthy dose of wanderlust and nostalgia dust!

15 June 2010

Steal This Set Design

Two weekends ago, we finally got our hands on the film "It's Complicated" starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. It was funny and entertaining and I would highly recommend it, but what I couldn't stop thinking about after the movie wasn't the characters or the humor, but the set design. It was a feast for the eyes! Set near Napa, CA, the movie was just full of beautiful interiors and exteriors. Tommy and I both agreed that if we could have our house decorated any way, it would be exactly like the home of Jane Adler (Meryl Streep), a fabulous 60-year-old divorcee and successful bakery owner and pastry chef. It is California casual with a dollop of rustic Provence and a slice of sophisticated. Basically it's everything I love all baked into one fabulous masterpiece of a home complete with a full vegetable garden, a fabulous gravel courtyard and beautiful landscaping! Enjoy.

Photographs courtesy of Universal Studios via TraditionalHome.com

14 June 2010

Tickled Pink

That's right. It's a girl. We found out last week and wasted no time in beginning to prepare the nursery. I wanted the space to be neutral and full of light no matter the gender of the baby, but seeing the ultrasound made it so real and prompted us to spring into action. This weekend, we painted the wood floors white and it was quite the process: filling, sanding, cleaning, painting, sanding again, painting again... mylanta. But the result is beautiful and it was so worth it. I won't have before and after pictures for a couple weeks, but wanted to compile some of my inspiration today. One of my favorite looks is brought to you by Serena and Lily- the Marlo Nusery. The bedding takes my breath away, but unfortunately the price does too, so I will continue to keep my eyes on it in hopes of a markdown. The whole room is exactly what I want from the flokati rug to the origami birds and makeshift window treatments- I love it all. It is incredibly peaceful, yet full of wonder and whimsy. (sigh)

In keeping with this same color scheme, I found another piece of inspiration online that I particularly loved. This one also uses beiges and whites and is still quite beautiful despite the fact that it is missing one key element: the Marlo Nursery bedding from Serena and Lily... (sigh again) There is hope!

I have searched the internet and can't seem to find a wall mounted crib canopy like the one above. I love the dresser in this room and the chair makes it feel very french and sophisticated, but is just not practical. Rocking chairs are somewhat less pretty than this one, but they are a must in my opinion. We have a lovely one from Tommy's aunts that will look just perfect with a sheepskin throw.

I know that somewhere down the road, we will have to put a bed in this room and I had pulled this picture months ago because it was french and airy and inspiring. Tommy seems to think it looks like a hospital bed.

I am not deterred- I still love this look, but it makes me think that maybe I don't want perfectly coordinated crib bedding. Maybe I would prefer a "patchwork" of different old and new linens. I also really like the Afton daybed from Ballard Designs, but it would be a completely different look. With some ticking stripes and grain sack pillows, I'm confident I could bring it down a notch or two.

I wish I could lay on it. Perhaps a trip to Atlanta is in order... Anyway, my next crusade before I do anything is removing the ceiling fan in the nursery. There is nothing wrong with it, which is annoying because I know it's good for the baby to have a fan, but it's just too big for the room and ugly. I want to put a little chandelier in there and do a standing fan.

So many exciting decisions, but for now I'm headed out for another marathon brainstorming session. One last thing- did you know Topshop carries baby clothes? Here's one of my favorites. It is delish! Wish they made it in my size.