Thanksgiving + Ferm Winner + Discount!

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Even though Max and I campaigned hard to get everyone to come to Kingston for Thanksgiving this year (which, admittedly, might have been a little crazy given the current state of the house!), that didn’t happen. Instead, we all ended up convening at my parents’ house in northern Virginia, which, come Monday, will belong to someone else.

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When I tell people that my parents just sold the home we grew up in, they tend to get this look of deep sympathy and sadness, as if somebody died. But it isn’t really like that. More than anything, it’s just sort of disorienting seeing the house so undone. It’s weird to walk into empty rooms that I’m used to seeing full of furniture and things. It’s weird to open closets or cabinets that have always been packed with stuff, or to be unable to locate a tube of toothpaste. Not sad, just…odd.

I don’t think I’ll miss this house—the actual bricks and mortar structure of it, that is. Like so many other similar houses in this area, it was built in the 90s in that strangely conservative style that I’ll never totally understand the mass appeal of (I think it was described by the builder as “French Colonial”). As we were the first occupants, the house was a blank canvas when we moved in—nothing to fix or undo. As I slowly understand more and more of the unique challenges that old houses present, I’ll admit that there’s something sort of nice about that——a complete set of double-glazed windows, modern electrical and heating systems, walls that can be simply painted without being entirely reconstructed first, that sort of thing——but I still can’t say it’s something I’d choose for myself.

Still, I’m thankful for this house. There isn’t really anything I can say that’s more cliché than this, but I’m thankful for the memories my family made here. I’m thankful for the bedroom that my parents let me fill with whatever would fit (unless it was a TV). I’m thankful for the backyard where we buried deceased pets, and for the long summers that I spent gardening carefully around their graves. I’m thankful that this was a place where we were encouraged to become the sorts of people we wanted to become, and I’m thankful that this was a place where we could comfortably, safely, and confidently bring home the people we love.

My parents are headed to a cool, super modern new condo right in the heart of Washington, DC, and I’m so excited for them. They’ve lived in this area for about 30 years at this point, but they’ve never actually lived in the city, and I think it’ll be a great change for them. So I’m thankful for that, too. I’m thankful that they have the good sense to move on, downsize, and let somebody else enjoy this place now. It’s time.

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I’m thankful for so much this year that I guess I should just say that I’m thankful that I have too many things to be thankful for to list them here. If you’re reading this post, though, you’re on that list! Thank you for being here, and I hope you have a terrific Thanksgiving (and if you’re not in the States, I hope you just have a great day!).

FERMDISCOUNT

ALSO——judging from the oodles of entries to the giveaway, I guess I’m not alone in loving Ferm Living Shop! Even though there could only be one winner (congratulations, Shauna!), we can all enjoy this handy discount code. Yay!

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Tagged:

GIVEAWAY: Ferm Living Shop!

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Treasure DiamondTea Pot |Brass Hexagon Pot | A Week of Dish Cloths | Advent Calendar | Marble Silk Pillow | Dots Pillow | Twin Triangle PillowMint Wire BasketCones Stuffed Ornaments | Happy Flags

Confession: I want to live in Ferm Living Shop. I’ve been afflicted with this fantasy ever since the moment I found Ferm years ago, and it hasn’t exactly let up—what with the passing of each new collection bringing more beautiful Danish things into the world. When it comes to making super nice, super adorable, and super Danish housewares, wallpapers, and textiles, nobody does it better than Ferm! All the stuff in that round-up above is just a slice of the new fall/winter collection and the holiday collection, and it’s all so beautiful. And YES, in case you were wondering, even if this Jew is still a little unclear on what exactly an advent calendar is, I still want that one because it’s so damn cute. SO THERE.

Maybe you also want to get in on that action? I thought so. It’s giveaway time, folks! Not just any giveaway, but my favorite kind of giveaway, because the magical unicorns at Ferm Living Shop agreed to give away ANY ITEM IN THE SHOP to one of you lucky, terrific Manhattan Nest readers. Yeah. For real.

TO ENTER:

Step 1: Go over to Ferm Living Shop, poke around, and find your favorite item! I have no idea how you’ll choose, but good luck…

Step 2: Come back here and leave a comment telling me what your favorite item is and how you’d use it! In your home? Holiday gift for special someone? You decide!

Step 3: For an extra entry, go follow Christiana’s Ferm Living Shop board on Pinterest! Then pin your favorite item with the hashtag #ManhattanNestFest, and leave a second comment here telling me you did so!

International entries are welcome and Ferm Living Shop will pay the shipping, however the winner may be responsible for international duties & taxes. Please note that wire baskets and special order items cannot be shipped internationally. 

This giveaway ends TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 26 at 9 PM. A winner will be chosen at random and announced Wednesday!

Get to it!

This post is in partnership with Ferm Living Shop.

You’re so Fine, and You’re Mine.

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When I was little, there were two semi-weekly activities that I engaged in with each of my parents. With my dad, I played on a soccer team that he coached. Begrudgingly, and with my feet dragging, I’d go out to the fields week after week (except on the frequent occasions when I pretended to be ill and got away with it) to take part in something that I generally regarded as a waste of my time. Apart from the sliced oranges and bottomless cooler of Capri Sun, soccer combined a lot of things that I just couldn’t get behind: what with all the running around, the focus on teamwork with other boys, the outdoors, the unsightly footwear. I strove to play as little as possible, and when I did play, to do as little as possible——up to and including planting my butt on the field during play and weaving delicate tiaras out of grass for myself to wear at halftime. Hopped up on orange slices, Fruit Roll-Ups, Gushers, and Capri Sun, sometimes we’d go to Subway afterward and I’d be allowed to get a sandwich filled with nothing but ham and a truly appalling slathering of mayonnaise on white bread, which made the whole ordeal moderately worthwhile in my eyes. This was the 90s, and nobody cared too much one way or the other what kids ate so long as the product could reasonably be branded as food.

On Sundays, though, there was a weekly antiques fair in a strip mall parking lot near our house that I went to with my mother, which suited me much better. Here, you were expected to move at a pace slower than a walk, which appealed to me, and you could wear whatever you wanted to. Further, my people were there, which is to say kooky old people who wanted to get chatty about even older stuff. Because I was as much a novelty to them as they were to me, we developed a nice sort of symbiosis——I got to study adults that normally might have ignored me, and they got the pleasure of my youthful company and, sometimes, a hug. I developed a series of collections——first there were dog figurines, then there were wooden boxes, then milk bottles——that I’d keep my eyes out for, and I was great at using my childhood innocence to win me good bargains. It’s hard to say no to a little gay boy with bad hair who just can’t live without a porcelain dachshund, even if he only has three dollars to offer. I was a champion, and I knew it.

Like my athletically-inclined siblings, I was a competitive child, and I think my parents always hoped they’d find a way to parlay this into the sort of passion required on a soccer field (or, for a brief period, in a hockey rink). But it never came to pass. We all have our strengths, and buying old stuff instead of playing sports is mine.

It wasn’t until nearly two decades later, though, that I’ve finally found a way to combine all the fun and excitement of shopping in the company of weird old people with all of the high-stakes, fast-moving competition of a sport. Auctions, y’all. It’s what I was born to do.

Sure, I’ve played the whole eBay game a time or two in my day, but the real thing is approximately 4,000 times better. I’ve only been to two auctions, but allow me to break it down anyway like I know anything:

1. Auctions take forEVER, which I personally enjoy. It starts off a little boring, but then you get to know people in the audience. There’s that guy who will always bid on a box of costume jewelry, or that lady who will buy anything so long as it’s rusty and serves no evident function. There are the gaggles of old ladies who go solely for the entertainment. It becomes a kind of game, anticipating how much a given item will sell for and who in the room will bid on it. You begin to ask yourself a series of questions——who are these people? what brought us all into this room? what makes you interested in spending money on that garbage?——which lets your imagination really soar about the lives of your comrades. They’re questions without answers, but they’re fun to chew over nonetheless.

2. Auctions are educational. It’s fun to learn things about antiques and what they’re worth, but way more fun to do it in the rapid-fire environment of an auction house than by reading books, surfing the Internet, or watching Antiques Roadshow on TV.

3. Snacks on snacks on snacks. I did NOT know that there was food at auctions. Because they’re so long and people love to eat, there tends to be a lot of food available for purchase, ranging from junky to——hands down——the best slice of carrot cake I’ve ever eaten.

4. Of course, finally getting to bid on your item is, like, the most exciting. There’s a whole strategy to it, but there’s also the exhilarating moment of actually getting to do something that could have real repercussions. This is where the competition side comes in. In a way, you’re always a winner: either you win something at a semi-reasonable price that’s a little higher than where you pledged to stop bidding, OR, if things get really out of hand, you still have the opportunity to bid it up, out of spite, to the point where it’s no longer a good deal and then let your competition take it. It’s a little immature, maybe, but I did this to a set of six outdoor chairs and I don’t regret it for a minute. Those bastards can take them, and I can sleep easy knowing I made them pay too much.

5. Sometimes, there’s something totally crazy that comes up that wasn’t listed in the previews, and it’s fun to see people react to it while you also consider maybe buying it. The first auction I went to, between a Victorian chair and a platter of assorted glassware, they sold LAND. Like acres and acres of woodsy land with a creek and a modest waterfall. The other information about it——exactly where it was located, whether or not it had municipal water, the projected property taxes, whether it was cursed——these things never really came up, but it was still fun to think about. It ended up selling for only a couple thousand dollars. Where else can you buy your own waterfall for that, I mean really?

In short, I love auctions. I need to stay away from them due to the state of my bank account, but I also love them.

This is how the elegant painting in the photo above came into my life. I spotted her during previews——a period before the auction begins, in which attendees are encouraged to view the available items face to face. She immediately attracted my attention, an object nestled in that fun space between pretty and ugly, between uniquely beautiful and incredibly tacky. In an auction filled mostly with Hudson Valley antiques, the audience let out an audible laugh when the auctioneer read aloud the provenance: Russian, painted in 1997. Bidding started at $100, as usual, but quickly dropped to $10 and worked its way back up once the first interested party lifted their card. But it was I who eventually won out somewhere around the $60 mark, a price that elicited several eye-rolls and chuckles from onlookers.

But just LOOK at her. She’s like a Matisse, but without the talent, originality, or vintage. I love her gaudy frame. I love her vacant eyes. I love her perfectly round bosom and the inescapable fact of her garish, Snooki-level orangeness. I love that she traveled across continents and ended up with me. Sometimes I buy questionable things and immediately regret them, but we’re a few weeks into our relationship and I still treasure her presence in my home. She’s everything I never knew I wanted, but could not live without.

New Wallpapers = Plan for the Tiny Office!

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If you felt a sudden shift in the air yesterday while you were hopefully doing something more fun than I was doing (eating falafel from a food truck on the side of the road under the JMZ in north Brooklyn, just trying to get home, my subway card as empty as my stomach…dark times.), you were most likely feeling the latest collaboration from one of my favorite wallpaper manufacturers, Hygge & West, being released into the world! This time, the wallpaper magicians at Hygge & West teamed up with Portland-based Laundry to create 6 new patterns (each of which comes in a few different colorways!) inspired by traditional Mexican designs. If “inspired by traditional Mexican designs” doesn’t sound exactly like my usual jam, you may be correct, but I love these! Each pattern is so pretty and the colors and metallics are SO good. I kind of want to design rooms around all of them and then make those rooms happen in my house and other people’s houses and just all the houses. Everyone deserves a little wallpaper.

Even though the tiny office space is currently a grotesque disaster of horror and despair, that is not going to stop me from planning what I want it to be. I tend to shy away from wallpaper in really large applications for myself (a personal shortcoming I can’t explain), but I LOVE to wallpaper little tiny spaces. It’s like a little special unexpected something to make those often-neglected spaces feel totally special and awesome. I’ve always been planning to wallpaper up one wall in the little office, but I didn’t know which wallpaper…UNTIL NOW.

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BLAM, office plan. I’m into it.

1. HYGGE & WEST: I’m going to wallpaper the long wall opposite the door with the new Diamante pattern in black/gold. GOLD, YOU GUYS. It’s going to be amazing. The pattern is so pretty and intricate, and…GOLD. It’s really important to me to add more warm-tone metallics to my life, because it is not brassy/goldy/coppery enough as it is.

2. DWR: Max and I found this Era Round Armchair at the Design Within Reach Annex store for something like $75 because the arms are a little scuffed up. I think it’ll make a nice simple desk chair——it’s comfortable but also really visually light, which will help keep the space from feeling crowded.

3. FERM LIVING SHOP: I’ve wanted one of these wire baskets FOREVER but never really had a worthy place. I think this might be the worthy place…

4. White floor! White floor! White floor! As soon as I set foot in this room for the first time, I’ve wanted to paint the old tongue and groove floor white. I’m planning to follow the same steps that Anna did here, except for the sanding part since mine is already painted and the paint probably contains lead and I don’t want to play that. I know people get all weird about white floors, but I think it’ll be OK. No shoes in the office!

5. I think I want to make a simple floating desktop out of pine boards…cheap and un-fancy. I’m not sure how much I’ll like the pine with the wallpaper, though, so I think I might whitewash it with something or stain it black or…I don’t know! I’ll have to see how things are coming together…

6. IKEA: For storage of office paraphernalia, I think I might finally buy one of those ALEX drawer units from IKEA. It’ll hold a ton and slip under the desktop pretty inconspicuously. I might switch out the casters with something less…plastic.

7. I know, a whole lounge chair! I want to be realistic about myself and my work habits, and I know I often get tired of sitting at a desk, but I don’t want to be tempted to leave the room if I need to get stuff done. I found one of these Wegner-style folding lounge chairs a couple of months ago in Brooklyn for $20. The webbing is totally torn and needs to be completely replaced, but since it was so cheap and it’s already ruined, I think I might replace it all with some simple canvas (or leather??) slings. In my head this will take no more than 20 minutes and look perfect? I guess I’ll need something to prop my feet on (any chair is comfy if you can put your feet up, right?), so maybe I’ll get a pouf or something.

8. IKEA: What with the white floor and wallpaper and that chair, this room is just going to need a sheepskin. That is all.

9. SCHOOLHOUSE ELECTRIC: Right now there isn’t an overhead light in the room, which is a little bit annoying/dark. Since we have to add lights to a couple of other rooms in the upstairs anyway, I’d like to just bite the bullet and get one put in here, too, since they might have to make holes in the walls and I’d rather have that done NOW than after the room is all nice and pretty. I think this little Thunderbird light from Schoolhouse Electric is so cute. The quality of Schoolhouse’s fixtures is really amazing and they’re well-priced, too.

10. LAURE JOLIET STUDIO: I don’t even really know how my friend Laure and I started talking online, but she’s a totally hilarious and awesome person who also just happens to be an extremely talented and accomplished photographer. She recently opened up an online shop to sell a modest collection of prints——they’re all black and white and HUGE (3′ x 4’!) and cheap, and I love them! I already got this one (taken at a natural history/hunting museum in Paris, I gather…) and I’m pretty excited to hang it up. I think the whole ensemble of this room might lean a little feminine, so obviously I need some French taxidermy and guns to manly it up.

11. CLARK + KENSINGTON: I still have some leftover paint from the kitchen, and I think it’s enough to paint the rest of the walls and moldings in this little room! Since the wallpaper is so bold and dark, I just want to rest of the walls to be a simple grey-white with white moldings. Nothing crazy!

That’s my big plan! Office by Christmas? Is it possible?

This post is in partnership with Hygge & West.

Starting in on the Tiny Office!

First order of business: you guys are the best. I truly felt like garbage about everything going on with the house when I wrote the post about my roofing woes last week, and half-jokingly solicited some consolation in the form of your renovation horror stories, and you wonderful creatures came out in the comments in force and delivered! Knowing that so many people have been in the same boat (and, often, worse boats) and reading all about it really made me feel better. Perhaps that speaks to something unsavory about my schadenfreude-istic personality, but the fact that you all lived to tell the tale was truly heartening. Hugs all around! We hopefully have a wonderful contractor starting work this week on the gutters (!), and along with getting some exciting electrical work done this week (!!!) and our heating system up and running (!!!!!), things are looking up again. Updates forthcoming!

Second order of business: after I pledged to let some qualified pros handle the roof, I started in on another little room because that’s just how I do. Nobody puts Baby in a corner. Except maybe box gutters. And when box gutters put Baby in a corner, Baby finds another corner. This corner:

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What corner am I in? Funny you should ask. I’m in that tiny room upstairs that I generally refer to as “that creepy closet with the creepy closet in it.”

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I’m not sure exactly what this room was originally (maid’s quarters? dressing room? sewing room? nursery?), but I do know that it’s tiny and weird and full of potential.

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It has a wonderfully large south-facing window and gets terrific light.

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After I pulled out and disposed of the several layers of old linoleum (keeping it wet and wearing a mask, lest the backing contained asbestos), I was left with basically a blank space. Unlike the larger rooms in our house, this one just has the original pine tongue-and-groove subfloor, which I LOVE. It’s already painted, too, so I don’t have to feel even a little guilty about painting it again.

I like the idea of making the room a little office mostly because it’s so compact and secluded from the rest of the house. I don’t really like to work in large public spaces because I’m easily distracted, so I’ll be better off keeping myself cooped up in here where I can’t stare at the other gajillion things I need to fix on the house. I want it to be bright and happy and minimal and cozy and pretty. It’s going to be great!

Looks like a totally fun and pretty easy little weekend job, right? Wrong.

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Like pretty much every other wall in our house, this one was originally covered in wallpaper, which is now very old wallpaper clinging to the plaster with very old adhesive, covered in layers and layers of paint. Over time (and over the course of the house freezing into a block of ice for two winters when it was vacant) that ancient wallpaper adhesive has mostly failed, causing the wallpaper and layers of paint on top if it to separate from the plaster walls. Everything you see in this picture came off the walls with a simple scrape of a spackle knife——no special products or even steam! The problem with scraping off any extra-loose areas, patching, and just repainting the whole thing is that over time more problem areas will inevitably develop. Even though it feels like I’m totally destroying a perfectly decent-looking room (which is partially the fault of these bad pictures, which mask a lot of the in-person flaws), it’ll be much better off in the long run if I do this stuff NOW and do it thoroughly and correctly. On top of the wallpaper/paint thing, the underlying plaster is also failing and cracked in a few places, so I can do a much more thorough repair job if the walls are stripped down and bare.

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On top if that, it feels kind of nice to strip all this garbage off the walls before adding a skim coat and a fresh coat of paint. The picture on the right shows what the corners of the room are “constructed” out of: masking tape! I wasn’t kidding when I’ve mentioned that there is masking tape EVERYWHERE in this house, including under layers of wallpaper and paint. It appears that instead of fixing cracks in the corners of the plaster walls, a previous owner just decided to tape over them and cover it all up. While I admire the ingenuity, it’s not exactly a solution built to stand the test of time.

I know this room might seem totally inconsequential and like it should be last on the agenda, but I wanted to get to it now for a couple of reasons:

1. I’d really like to have a place to work. When so much of the house feels like complete and utter chaos, I’m really excited to have this little space done and polished to escape from it all when need be. I’m HORRENDOUS about blogging/answering email/writing/functioning generally when I’m at the house, so having a designated location to take a break and do that stuff is going to be pretty awesome.

2. Because this is a small space that isn’t that important, it’s a good place to practice all this stuff. I’ve never skim-coated a wall before or done any real plaster repair, so before I try to take on the entire entryway that basically spans two floors, the entire length of the house, and a stairwell, I think the time it will take to fix the walls in this room will be we well-spent in the long run when I take on more extensive and larger scale repairs.

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BOOM—progress? If you look closely at the image on the right, you can see a bunch of plaster buttons securing crumbly plaster to the wall, some new drywall where the old plaster really couldn’t be salvaged (largely due to previous bad repairs) and the beginnings of some fancy Old Town Home-style skim coating with the help of fiberglass mesh screens! Trying all of this stuff for the first time, I’m really glad I’m giving myself this test run on this room before moving on to the more public/high-traffic/important areas. I won’t lie, it’s going to take some practice. But after spending so long on the roof trying to fix my crazy gutters, all this stuff that I probably would have been hating now feels like super fun and manageable child’s play!

I’m SO excited to get to the point where I can prime and paint these walls. They’re pretty much entirely stripped of the old wallpaper and paint at this point (I wore a heavy-duty dust mask throughout to avoid lead paint that may be lurking a few layers of paint deep…), so now it’s time to scrub them down to get rid of the paste residue and start repairing! Joint compound and I are going to be best friends——I can feel it.

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