My Inspirational Story of Hope and Perseverance

A little over five years ago, I spent a month in Paris and discovered a magical Japanese shop called Muji. Contained in this store were exciting things, such as translucent organizational bins, tiny packs of colored pencils, fancy stationary, and origami paper. It might give you an idea of what sort of teenager I was that while the other students were busy spending their days trying to get wasted and then sober up again enough to avoid suspicion from the counselors at nightly check-in, I spent mine in the company of Asian office supplies.

It was instant love between Muji and I. Right before I came back to the States, I picked up a white duvet cover made of gorgeous and super soft cotton. When I got home, I stripped the Pottery Barn duvet off my comforter and replaced it with that one. Newly fancying myself ever-so-slightly French (and, therefore, automatically sophisticated), red ticking stripes no longer suited the decor of my childhood bedroom. It was white, all the way.

I’ve clung fairly consistently to white linens over the years, partially because I like the way they look, partially because they were the only thing that didn’t get ruined by the peroxide-laced products I used to treat my teenaged pizza-face, and partially because, in my book, there’s not a scent in the world more beautiful than that of Clorox bleach. My sister recently reported that she watched an episode of My Strange Addiction in which a woman was addicted to bathing in bleach. Now, before you get all uppity, I’ll admit that it sounds unhealthy, sure—and I’m sure they told her as much. But the fact that this woman apparently did this both frequently enough to warrant calling her habit an addiction rather than, say, a quirky hobby, and managed to avoid instant death in the process has me thinking it might not be such a bad thing to try every now and again.

But for at least two years now, I’ve had a vision in my head of a perfectly grey duvet cover. It had to be light but not too light, warm but not too beige and cool but not too blue. It had to have a nice substantial texture, preferably linen. Since that time, I’ve searched high and low for hours online, multiple times. As it happens, Max enthusiastically supported this goal, motivated mostly by his open disdain of the white one I already owned. Which was fair, seeing as the multiple coffee and food stains (yes, food. I can feel your judgment from here, and it hurts) made its further categorization as “white” generous at best.

We searched and searched. We found. We found this:

It is from area. It is perfect. It is $255 for the duvet alone. It was not happening.

As usual, heartbreak and sticker shock was mentally retooled as a fabulous DIY opportunity!, and a plan was born in a crazed fit of desire. We would make it. We would buy a plain white IKEA duvet cover. And then we would dye it. And then all of our dreams would come true.

With the best of intentions, we bought both the duvet and the dye (Rit Dye in Pearl Grey from Amazon), and were planning to complete our scheme last night when, as fate would have it, my dear (cyber)friend Morgan of The Brick House, tweeted a link to exactly what I’d always wanted yesterday morning. Hands shaking as I clasped my iPhone, I wept. On the inside. CB2 had heard my prayers and answered them with a product called Coast Bed Linens:

Grey linen? For $139? I guess could get into that.

Then, yesterday afternoon, Anna from Door Sixteen asked if I wanted to meet at CB2 to check out this mysterious new duvet in town. I might buy one. She might buy one. Let’s making shopping a team sport!

And then… we saw it. And it wasn’t the stuff that dreams are made of. Well, not my dreams. Or Anna’s dreams. It was darker and had an odd sheen to it and the linen texture just wasn’t all that nice. So we passed on that grass.

Luckily, in the five years since I went to Paris, Muji has found its way to the US of A, with a big ole store right next to CB2. Feeling dejected, hungry, and sad, we decided to pop inside for a second and I SAW IT.

I love spending time with Anna, but this was a moment in which I probably should have been alone, since she was introduced to my “maniacally excited voice,” something that apparently bears a disconcerting resemblance to a “heaving growl.” This is why:

Yeah. It brings the hotness.

For real. It does. It’s not linen, but more of a texture-y (but soft!) cotton. And it was half the price of the CB2 one. I’m so smug about it.

Oh, and in case you think I’m the greedy bastard that I am but pretend not to be, I picked one on Morgan’s behalf, too. And one for Maya.Grey duvets all around!

And because I’ve been a lazy lazy blogger lately and HAVE SO MUCH TO POST ABOUT but haven’t gotten my act together to take pictures of any of it, I guess I’ll just make up for it by showing this hot pink geode coaster I picked up recently at Evolution. I’m into hot pink right now. Oh and half of that girly silver box to hold watches and stuff. The box might be heinously ugly, I’m undecided.

Now what do I do with this?

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78 Comments

  1. I feel soooooooo left out now. WHY DIDN’T I GET ONE, TOO?

    • Not enough “planning” or some bullshit. I can try to grab one for you next time I’m down there!

    • OMG, what is wrong with my son. Of course, he owes you one (and more). What WAS he thinking? I am embarrassed for him.

      • HAH! No no, I was with him—I could’ve bought one right then! I opted not to because I actually don’t really need a new duvet cover. I just wanted to fit in with the cool kids.

  2. Muji (and Uniqlo) are two of those things I miss about living in China! Uniqlo seems serious about expanding in Europe and Muji already has a few stores in Germany & France, so I hope that they will expand to Switzerland soon. Switzerland is so tiny, so we don’t have that many different furniture stores, so I always feel so left out when bloggers tweet what cool things they found at stores like Muji, CB2, West Elm, Habitat…. Well, at least we do have Ikea.

    • Well, I live in Austria, you think it’s better there? ;)

      • Well I’m in Oslo and we have MUJI AND Habitat AND all sorts of beautiful design stores (smug). Pity the prices here are HORRENDOUS (not so smug)

      • maybe we have some of them in the capital, but i get there rarely.. so for me it’s anyway like we dont have them ;)

      • Well, Vienna is a pretty big city so maybe you do have some more stores there just because you have an oversized capital compared to your country size, but generally, no, I don’t think its better.
        Aber ihr seit immerhin in der EU. Ich muss häufig einen ausserhalb der EU Versand-Preis zahlen um mir Dinge aus z.B. Deutschland oder Frankreich schicken zu lassen obwohl ich in 5 min. zu Fuss in Frankreich bin und in 10 min. mit dem Fahrrad in Deutschland. Oder eine Bekannte in Deutschland bieten ob ich das Zeug biete zu ihr schicken lassen kann!

  3. Pearl grey shower curtain? Made from an ‘upcycled’ Ikea duvet cover?

    Take the other bits, and turn into a big batch of fabric napkins. :)

  4. was it the muji on rue des ternes? i fell in love w muji in that store too…

  5. OMGeode (yes, i said that!) I just bought a hot pink geode bookend at Homegoods. It was an impulse purchase and love at first sight.

  6. I’m thinking you should have bought two … that way, when version one has “multiple coffee and food stains” you can introduce version two. Or maybe you will have tired of grey by then?

    ps. finished reading your archives between your last post and this one – add me to your list of readers clamoring for more regular posts!

  7. c’est tres chic to eat and drink in bed, a la francaise! the french do everything in bed!

  8. Oh man I love that.

  9. Im right there with aly_mac in the same way I’m always checking your site for new posts.
    And im in like (Ya, I said like) with the “watch” box on your night stand. I think it goes well. But then again you don’t know me and I might have horrible decor sense.

  10. What I need to know is, “DO YOU HAVE A LINK FOR THAT DUVET?” The Muju catalog is entirely not in English. Help a girl out?

  11. Ah, Muji, that’s where I go when I feel like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s :) I love those sheets, that grey is fantastic. Sadly the duvet covers are too small for my comforter. They also have super cute wooden trays and ceramics and acrylic office organising stuff and I could go on forever… I guess that calls for a little shopping trip tomorrow….

  12. I have this one from h&m, it’s pretty dreamy! http://www.hm.com/gb/product/91471?article=91471-A

    • Oh, that looks so nice! I don’t think H&M even HAS houseware-anything in the States!

      • Aw I was just about to say I got one in a beautiful warm soft grey from H&M and its in LINEN!!!! Haaaaaaaaaaaaa just the right weight for winter too… bought a set in white white I was at it ;) The only thing wrong with it (and HM linens in general is the teeny tiny size of the pillow covers:( I’m also into dyeing everything in grey right now) I got a whole bolt of white linen from IKEA in the ‘broken’ section (nothing wrong with my linen but a little dust) for…. $10. One dark grey crushed linen floor length table cover coming right up :)

  13. if i could fill my house with crystals and geodes, i would.

  14. OMG don’t use the Rit pearl grey – I used that exact color last week on a beautiful 100% cotton t-shirt that had suffered an unhappy but minute meeting with a library printer and thus needed a dye job to hide the tiny black dot on its edge, and the entire t-shirt turned lavender. The entire t-shirt, truly hideously lavender, without even a hint of grey anywhere. LAVENDER. I don’t know about the rest of the world but in my head, there is nothing purple about a color called pearl grey. Now I have a clown t-shirt I’m scared to use. Maybe if I soak it in bleach? On my body? While taking an inspirational bleach bath? Ha. :)

    • Good to know, thanks Emma!! Yeah, I was super skeptical about the dye, but that’s worse than I thought!

      In that case, I guess I’ll just toss it.

      • Or save it for when hell freezes over and you need a clown-purple duvet cover to signal the recue helicopters?

      • Had the same horrible experience when I wanted to dye a less-than-white duvet set this summer (not with RIT) the duvet set turned a very un-lovely shade of mauve/purple. Depends on the brand though because I have also had much success with other brands of grey dye.

  15. Total tease for us Muji-challenged folks!

    Cheers!

  16. Totally feel you–my favorite store as a kid was the Container Store. The window display of colored hangers always warms my soul. I discovered Muji in New York; I bought all my cleaning supplies there (because a lime green swiffer DOESN’T MATCH my decor, horror!!). I’m glad to know I’m not the only weirdo in the world!

  17. Another huge Muji fan here – it’s one of the places I tend to go to whenever I’m in New York. Love their office and organisation supplies.

    That duvet looks incredibly nice in your bedroom!

  18. “white” made me laugh out loud. I am also guilty of eating breakfast in bed (breakfast only though, what do you take me for?).

    I was also obsessed with Muji as a student. Indeed all French stationers are amazing. And German for that matter. So it’s not just an Asian thing.

  19. Answer: mail it to me! In an effort to convert my entire wardrobe to neutral colors to facilitate my manic lust for garish makeup (red eyeshadow! fuchsia lipstick! teal eyeliner! but not all at once please, only drag queens make that look good, damn them) I have come to the conclusion that rather than part with my beloved favourite jersey cardigan I must dye it. It is currently a sort of mustard-y green (a previous dye job, over canary yellow–I’ve had this thing a while) and I figure over-dying it with something neutral will make it brownish enough to suffice.

    *holds out hands*

    Seriously though I’m with Emma above, I’ve used Pearl Grey alone and it was AWFUL. Great for overdye projects though. I’ve successfully used it over a yellow head scarf. I cannot fully describe the resultant color but it’s awfully pretty.

  20. What is it finding a nice duvet? I’ve been looking for years! But they’re all covered with patterns or to fluffy or not fluffy enough. Funny to hear you talk about Muji though, I remember when it first came to Sweden,maybe 5 years ago, they had these awesome striped soft slippers that I bought for my brother for Christmas. Looking forward to see more from the new apartment! :)

  21. Suggestion:
    Take that Rit and some painter’s canvas and make floor to ceiling curtains.
    Pretty please? Would love to see you whip that up so I can copy you.
    Or better yet, floor to ceiling curtains with a bold black horizontal stripes?
    Putting it out there…

  22. Love the duvet and I totally dig those floating side tables! It is terribly hard to find a quality duvet cover for a reasonable price…I really like these

    http://www.roughlinen.com/products.html

    but crazy expensive…will be making one from vintage sheets instead!
    Can’t wait to see what you do with that whacked out hallway-subtle hint on needing to see more!

  23. Bedroom looks terrific, obvio. Bedroom pic two, where you can see the rug, with the duvet action, and the shelves, and your matching bedside table frack-hack lamp action? Ugh. I died a little bit of happiness. EVERYTHING LOOKS SO PERFECT. Sorry. Indoor blog voice…. Can’t wait to see how the rest of the apartment is looking.

  24. Daniel, I’ll say it again and again, I love your blog. You made me laugh yet again (bleach bath). I have to say though, I like Max’s side table arrangement better than yours… please don’t hate me but it had to be said.

  25. OMG.

    Literally years, YEARS, I’ve searched and hoped and waited and wrote about my need for a perfectly simple mid-gray duvet. They have either been so crazy expensive or weirdly sheened or had a weird purple cast that I was forced to buy less than perfect Ikea duvet after duvet in pure hopeless despair.

    I never understand how companies could miss out on this market and get the gray duvet so very wrong ALL THE TIME. I had really high hopes for the CB2 version and I was so pissed to hear that when you guys saw it, that again, this was another design failure.

    I cannot wait. CAN. NOT. WAIT. I seriously can’t decide which bedroom will get this perfect piece of cloth, but now I feel like I need to buy 10 to cover me for the rest of my life.

    We need MUJI on the west coast. The website is not enough.

    Thank you duvet angel! I cant wait to have my bed look as good as yours. Also, I am dying for that rug. It’s amazing.

    Best of luck with the crazy hurricane. I hope it ends up being an over hyped rain storm.

  26. The grey duvet is wonderful. I once had something similar. Love the geode but ditch the trinket box you say is possibly quite ugly. It’s not you at all. LOve the site and wish you’d write more often. You’ve inspired me

  27. I wish I had a MUJI in my area. Maybe if I’m ever in NYC I’ll stop by. I was also craving gray bedding. I bought the gray/white stripped duvet from West elm and the Henny bedspread from IKEA.
    http://www.westelm.com/products/stripe-duvet-cover-and-shams-b561/?pkey=cduvet-covers
    http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20171294

  28. I LOVE Muji. They’ve had a store in Dublin for years, and I often go in to satisfy my creepy stationary fetish and drool over their lovely notebooks and pens.

  29. Love the duvet! As usual, you make a possibly boring subject amazing and even more interesting than I could imagine. “Passed on that grass” HAHAHA!!
    I have a decent grey duvet that I got from Bed Bath & Beyond. It’s flannel, a bit on the warm side in terms of color.

    I would like to second the notion that MUJI should expand to the West Coast, particularly in north and south CA.

  30. I’m so glad you’re blogging and not being swept away by a hurricane. Did I tell you about the time I walked into the laundry room and found Adrian holding a package of RIT dye, pondering if he should put it in with a load of towels? It was pretty much a miracle that I stopped him considering I’m terrified of the basement and avoid it at all costs. It was like a voice was saying, “He needs help. He’s not ready to do laundry on his own.” Very Field of Dreams (which I just watched and it’s great btw).

  31. Love it, the duvet looks great. Not to brag … well, ok, maybe just a bit … I live in Tokyo and bought a couch in that same fabric. Muji is The Best.

  32. yeah, I’m seconding the warnings of using that RIT grey. I tried to dip-dye some RITVA curtains and they turned out purpleish. It took 3 soakings in delicious Clorox to get them back to white-white.

    also, I am SO with you one the love of bleach and all-white bedding. Love it.

  33. Congrats! I love Muji too! The gray looks fantastic.

  34. That box is hideously amazing. Every house needs something like that.

    Full disclosure – I love both that scrolling vine motif and tarnished silver. Double plus love!

  35. ahhhhh, insanely jealous. can totally relate to you on this one, sir – the elusive perfect grey cover has been a five year long trek across two states and four apartments for me. a good find for you, well done.

    when i get my ass to NYC, i’m buying you a beer.

  36. Ohhh that is lovely grey color! And I lurve Muji, I discovered it on a trip to London. Although I love salivating over the CB2 catalog, the couple times I have been there, it seems the products don’t look like they do in the pictures. I am always sorta dissappointed.

  37. HOW CRUEL. NOT AVAILABLE ON MUJI WEBSITE.

    :*(

    (another person who spent more time than normal salivating over organizing porn … there should be a tumblr for us)

  38. With your talent for DIY, how did you overlook the option of stalking your dream fabric in the discount aisle of shops in the garment district and sewing up your own duvet – it’s all straight lines! Perhaps you don’t have a sewing machine….this would be a pretty high barrier to duvet from scratch.

    • Oh, TRUST we thought a lot about it, but I don’t know where to buy fabric that comes wide enough for a duvet without doing a big seam down the middle. You could also just sew two flat sheets together, but we couldn’t find any sheets we liked either (that were cheap-ish)! I actually do have a sewing machine though! Maybe someday I’ll use it!

  39. I love the idea of a grey duvet. It pairs so well with a brighter pillow, rug or window covering. Plus it’s gender neutral and doesn’t show dirt. So good.

  40. Lovely duvet, it looks like it’s meant for your room and now I’m missing Muji! I discovered it in London and it’s full of such wonderful things. Thankfully I’m in a city with Daiso. Daiso is sort of like a dollar store version of Muji. The one in Ricmond, BC (near Vancouver) is 25,000 sq feet. Shopping there is as thrilling as thrifting for me. If you’re ever in the neighbourhood you should think about having a gander.

  41. Is there a good way to get the blanket to stay put in the duvet cover? I love the look, but hate that phenomenon of the blanket scrunched inside the cover after a while. The room looks amazing by the way. Looking forward to more pictures.

    • Yes! Most duvet covers I’ve ever owned have small cotton ties in the interior corners, so when you’re putting it on the comforter you just tie the corners of the comforter to the corners of the duvet. If the duvet doesn’t come with these, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to just stitch some in yourself, even if you can’t sew!

  42. What a beautiful duvet! I love your style and your posts, which read like essays. Enjoy your new space!

  43. May I ask what you were doing in Paris five years ago for a month? Funnily enough I was also there for a month five years ago, doing a volunteering/academic/language program where I was living in a residence (embarrassingly I admit I was among the ones who were fighting their hangovers during French class in the morning..). It’s probably unlikely we did the same program but I am so curious to know…

  44. The grey duvet paired with the chrome crown light bulb and the frackenstein light fixture are, indeed, high hotness. You really have a level of cool about your aesthetic. No wonder you and Anna are decor twin souls.

  45. GREY GREY GREY. We love grey, and some of our Cadets love MUJI, too. Glad to see so much of both represented here. Juliet has been telling me all about your site and I’m finally checking it out, love it and those lights. I’m trying to make something like this… http://www.dwr.com/product/lighting/wall-sconce/prouve-potence-lamp.do?sortby=ourPicks

  46. I thought I would add another option to the mix: http://www.addonovo.com/index.php/sleeping/bedding/dover-duvet.html. It’s the Ocean color. It doesn’t compete with the price of the Muji (however, it’s cheaper than the CB2), but the quality seems really high. It’s a great option for all the Bostonians out there. Check it out in person in the South End – it looks great. I saw it as I was perusing their store last weekend. No weird metallic sheen – just soft, pleasant, beautiful gray. Non-Bostonians can get it online – something I’ve gathered cannot be done for the Muji.

    • Thank you, Taylor! Ocean is a little too blue, but Cinder is great.

  47. Daniel where are you?! I have been so eager to see what other great changes you have made:-)

  48. love the color. never been to muji, but now i wanna go.

  49. Daniel! We’re dying out here…..please write some more sooooon!!!!

  50. I have the same exact deer embroidery hanging in my bathroom that you have next to your bed.

  51. You’ve been tagged in my comment on Apartment Therapy, because who else could make the search for the perfect duvet more entertaining than you? http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/la/good-questions/linen-bedding-source-similar-to-this-good-questions-155726 It only took me two years to find the cover of my dreams…

  52. That box is clearly superfug and you should give it to me so I can dispose of it posthaste. Thanks.

  53. you are so funny I choked on my lunch :)
    I fell in love with Muji in Paris too, a bit longer ago
    can you come down to SC and hang out for a while?

  54. Is this duvet full size? I’m hoping that it comes in queen or king. It’s perfect!

    • yes, mine is full/queen size (they’re usually the same for duvets and comforters)… I don’t know if it comes in king though!

  55. Hi – just checking some blogs today – I always love your stories! I adore your duvet – I have a linen duvet in a gray/blue – more gray than blue and I love it. Here is the problem though – getting the comforter into the duvet! I think Martha has a trick for this – for me it is craziness. Does anyone know the “trick”? – she made it look so easy! Thanks for your always interesting blogs!

  56. What insert do you have in your Muji Duvet. Whered you get it from?

    • Oh, it’s just a pottery barn comforter I’ve had forever, nothing special. You can buy plain white comforters anywhere…IKEA is probably the biggest bang for your buck, but Target, Bed Bath and Beyond…

  57. Omg Daniel, you are hilarious. I can’t believe I just discovered you and your blog. I so enjoy how you write. So, so funny. I was literally laughing out loud. Btw, I have a pair of the cork lamps (you have one in your living room) and I totally love mine too. Stealing your idea for stripping the paint of my old door hardware. Thanks for the tip.
    You are amazing!!! Love you!!!

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