New Faucet!

Recently, I have undergone a major change—a fundamental shift in my entire perspective on my day to day life and activities. It happened so quickly and dramatically that it’s a little hard to process, even difficult to describe without getting choked up. I am shaken to my core.

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Ladies and gentlemen: I no longer dread doing dishes. Filling large pots of water or the caverns of our Brita are no longer tasks that fill me with longing and dread. At last, I have a new kitchen faucet, and it fills my heart with joy.

faucetbefore

Here is my old faucet. Even looking at it is upsetting. After almost two years, I’d gotten so used to this thing that I almost didn’t see it as a problem anymore——just another of life’s little daily hurdles to be overcome, like my subway card not swiping or my socks not matching. Our sink is only about 6 inches deep (because it’s crappy) and because the faucet is so low, we only had about 7 inches of clearance between the spout and the bottom of the sink. For a long time, I blamed the sink, but what do you do about a sink? I could replace the sink, but then I’d probably need a new countertop, and I’d need to re-plumb the whole thing, and that just seemed crazy. It wasn’t killing anyone.

When I realized that a new faucet could probably alleviate a lot of my frustrations, it took me a while to justify it. I could deal with the slow leak that occurred at the base of the spout every time I turned it on. I could handle breaking glass after glass while doing the dishes, trying to manipulate things in the cramped space. Having to dump half the water out of a pot to get it out from under the faucet just seemed like a sign that maybe we shouldn’t eat so much spaghetti. Which is true. We shouldn’t eat so much spaghetti. So I left the faucet alone.

Besides, plumbing is just one of those things that makes me weirdly nervous. What if I were to accidentally cause a flood? I can picture the front door of our apartment opening and the water just rushing out, like a shattered fish tank, and quickly overtaking the entire building, then the street, then the borough. “Amateur Design Blogger Attempts to Mess with Plumbing, Floods East Coast” would read the headline in The Los Angeles Timesbecause all of the worthwhile newspapers would be underwater. The world would weep. If I hadn’t been dealt the mercy of a painless drowning, I would have to go on living, knowing everyone hates me. My life would be miserable.

But I am here to tell you that it was worth the risk. I had no idea what I was missing out on. No earthly notion of how much my life could be improved with about $150 and a trip to IKEA.

I wish I had photos of the whole process to show you, but unfortunately the space under my sink is frightfully dark and hazardously crowded, so I kind of wimped out on trying to document the whole thing. I have to say, though, it was shockingly quick and easy.

Step 1: Turn the water off. This is the first step to not flooding the world. We have one lever that cuts the water supply to the entire apartment and knobs on each of the hot and cold supply lines that turn the water off when rotated.

Step 2: From under the sink, disconnect the hot and cold supply lines from the old faucet with a wrench or pliers.

Step 3: Remove the old faucet! This was fairly straightforward, there were basically three big plastic nuts accessible from under the sink that kept it in place. After these were removed, the old faucet just lifted out from the top of the sink. I put it in a plastic bag and kept it under the sink—in the off chance we move, I’m not leaving the new faucet behind!

horrors

I’M SO SORRY FOR BRINGING THIS PICTURE INTO THIS. By far the worst part of the whole process was taking out the old faucet to discover this broken down nasty crusty-ass mess under it. I think it’s old decomposed rubber? And mold? It easily scraped off and I was able to completely clean the stainless steel underneath back to shiny stainless glory, but still, I am scarred by this sight. And now you are, too!

deckadapter

Because the new IKEA faucet only requires one hole in the sink (or countertop), I needed to cover the outer two existing holes. I read somewhere that IKEA faucets come with a deck adaptor, but this is a lie. I purchased mine for about $15 from Amazon.

After that, it was just a matter of dropping the new faucet bits down through the hole and getting them all hooked up! The IKEA faucets come pre-assembled, so this was all very simple and straightforward. Just read the directions.

supplylines

The one thing that stood in the way of this being a SUPER quick install was that the supply lines on the IKEA faucet were too short to extend all the way to the valves, so I had to go to Lowes to buy extenders. I thought this might be really hard, but it turns out that they sell pieces specifically for this problem. An employee helped me locate them super quickly, and I was in and out the door in minutes and for less than $20.

The IKEA instructions didn’t make any mention of this, but I used plumber’s tape at all of the threaded connections to keep things super water-tight and leak-free. So far, so good! It’s really easy stuff to find and work with, and for about a dollar and a few extra minutes, it’s totally worth it for the little bit of added security.

after

And that was it! Don’t you just want to lick it? It’s OK, it’s a very natural reaction.

IT. HAS. CHANGED. EVERYTHING.

Seriously, all those little tasks that used to be so irritating with the old faucet are now so easy and enjoyable! I used to hate doing dishes with a burning fiery passion, and now I’m actually a little disappointed when there aren’t any to do. What the hell kind of person likes doing dishes? Me, apparently. I do. I’m that person. Me and my new faucet, taking on the world, one dirty casserole pan at a time.

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Here’s a glamorous action shot of my precious at work. Look at it go!

I’m welling up.

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GIVEAWAY: Removable Wallpaper from Hygge & West!

hyggeandwest

So now that we know how completely awesome Hygge & West’s fabulous new line of removable wallpapers look in my kitchen, you’re probably sitting around thinking to yourself, “self, I wish I could also have some delicious removable wallpaper to light up my walls and life!”

I thought so. I am very perceptive to your innermost wants and desires. I have what they call the gift.*

*of common sense, that is, because who in their right mind would not want to get in on this removable and reusable wallpaper extravaganza!

Here’s the deal, folks: the very wonderful wallpaper magicians at Hygge & West are giving away 12——count ‘em, twelve!——removable wallpaper panels to one lucky reader! 

TO ENTER:

1. Go check out the whole line of Removal Wallpapers over a Hygge & West.

2. Come back here and leave a comment telling me what your favorite pattern is and where/how you would use it! Do you have a wall in your kitchen that could use some fancy pattern love? Maybe you want to cover your refrigerator? Your body? The possibilities are endless! 

3. For an extra entry, go follow Hygge & West on Pinterest and pin your favorite pattern! Then just come back here and tell me you did so, so I know to give you an extra entry. 

UPDATE: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Congratulations, Jessica!!

PROMO

Oh hey, what’s that? A special promo code, just for you? Wallpaper it up, you whacky thing, you!

Good luck, everyone!

International entries to the giveaway are welcome and Hygge & West will pay the shipping. However, the winner may be responsible for international duties & taxes.

This post is in partnership with Hygge & West.

Lisa Congdon for Hygge & West is in my Kitchen!

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When I was a toddler, after my twin sister had moved into her own room, my mother set about the task of redecorating mine. I don’t recall having any part in the decision-making, but I do remember stumbling in on the progress one day. Furniture was pushed around and the matching dinosaur-themed curtains and bedding were waiting to be placed. I remember being particularly fascinated with the matching wallpaper, though—a small border that went just around the top of the room and matched everything else. The process—what with the paste and the trays of water and the scraps everywhere and my poor exhausted mother—made me feel very fancy and special. My brother’s room had been decorated similarly years earlier—a matching dinosaur motif—so I figured that everyone got a dinosaur-themed bedroom when they passed a certain threshold into kid-dom. Except my sister. She got flowers. But she was a girl, so there.

Unlike my brother’s more realistic earth-toned dinosaurs, mine were bubbly and cartoon-ish, rendered in bright blues and aquas. My comforter and curtains were reversible with coordinating stripes on the opposite side, but I liked everything to match—all dinos, all the time. This was the early-90s, and I knew what was up in the world of high-stylin’ toddler interiors.

I grew to love that dinosaur pattern with an intense, unhealthy fervor, thrown into sharp relief the day we moved out of the house about 4 years later. I knew vaguely of the new family moving in, who had two little blond boys and seemed nice enough, but when the news rolled in that my prized curtains and wallpaper border had been part of the sale, I was blinded to all reason and left with only hatred in my heart and resentment in my bones. I wanted my curtains. I wanted my wallpaper. And more than that, I did not want anyone else to have them.

I hoped these people would up and decide not to buy the house after all, or at the very least, lose their kids in the mall. Without their children, they would no longer want the dinosaurs around to remind them of what once was and might have been, and we could all go on our merry way. Them, childless, sad, and alone, and me with my dinos. The natural order of things.

But it did not come to pass, and moving day found me clinging to the bottom hems of my curtains, wailing in protest as I stared up at the wallpaper border and tried to devise a way to remove it. The disappointing thing about being seven years old is that your full bodyweight and all of your strength isn’t a very powerful match to your father’s, but as I was dragged away, I pledged that I would someday come back for them. Even if I was 37, I’d knock on the door and go take what was rightfully mine, and I’d put up my curtains and my wallpaper in my room and everything would be right in the world again.

What I failed to understand at the time was that a) I’d get over it, b) that wallpaper isn’t all that easy to remove, let alone reuse, and c) that as a future renter in NYC, wallpaper would continue to be one of those things I could only dream of.

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UNTIL NOW. We all know how much I love Lisa Congdon’s line of wallpaper at Hygge & West (also, everything else at Hygge & West, let’s be honest), so imagine my excitement when the folks at Hygge & West offered to let me sample their new line of removable wallpaper. You read that right. Removable! And, theoretically, reusable, which is pretty awesome too. Renters rejoice! I knew exactly where and how I would use it and which pattern I wanted—Lisa Congdon’s Triangles in the yellow/black colorway. This is so much better than cartoon dinosaurs, y’all.

before

This back wall of my kitchen has changed a lot over the past couple of years, from getting painted, the window getting salvaged wood moldings and a nice light-diffusing roller shade, and a new overhead pendant light. It’s a very small dining space, so a while ago we swapped out the round fake tulip-ish table and Eames chairs for this smaller set-up (the tabletop and legs are IKEA and the chairs are vintage Bertoia wire chairs). All of these things are huge improvements toward making this a (finally!) functional little dining space, but it was just feeling a little…dead. I debated painting just this back wall with a shot of bright color, but I thought a little graphic pattern (designed by one of my internet-friends, no less!) would be way better.

I was a little suspicious of the product, to be honest, but it’s pretty amazing. Each “tile” is about 2′ x 3′, which is the size of one full pattern repeat. They come in handy rolls with handy instructions on each one.

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The best way I have of describing them is that they’re basically enormous vinyl stickers that look and act like wallpaper. The adhesive is made of 100% voodoo. It clings really well to the walls, but peels off easily and doesn’t leave any residue behind or damage the paint. The panels are very hearty and can be stuck down and removed multiple times (I moved the first panel a few times, just to get the positioning perfect) without compromising the strength of the adhesive or stretching/tearing the panel. It’s very cool.

The instructions suggested starting with the first panel at eye level, but I opted to start from the ceiling because it resulted in fewer cuts, and using entire panels was easier and more efficient. You can’t see the seams at all until you’re standing less than a foot away and looking for them, so it didn’t really matter where they fell.

process

This wall was a little extra-tricky because NOTHING about it is level or square, so I found it was easier to rough-cut the partial-panels (leaving about an inch of excess), stick them to the wall with the seams aligning, then remove the excess with an X-acto knife. Because of the huge window, the only full panels used were that vertical strip in the second process shot—everything else had to be cut down to size either at the edges of the moldings or at the corners of the wall. I just moved across the wall from right to left, ending in the opposite corner.

It takes a little concentration to get the seams to align and get everything looking snazzy and perfect, but the whole thing was pretty easy and painless and only took a few hours. It’s the sort of job that might be easier/faster with two people, but I did it myself because I got it* like that.

*zero patience, need for instant gratification, inability to work with others

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OH HEY LOOK AT THAT. Pattern-y goodness forever and ever. I LOVE it. Like, more than I thought I would, more than I thought I could. I’ve never wallpapered anything before in my life, and I’m really thrilled with how this turned out. It makes the kitchen!

One thing I wasn’t really anticipating is that it makes our narrow kitchen (it’s only 7.5 feet wide) feel wider and more spacious, somehow. It also totally makes the dining area feel defined and like a real space instead of kind of an afterthought, like it did before. So exciting.

I know the baseboards still aren’t caulked and painted. I am aware. I am garbage. BUT LOOK, WALLPAPER!

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I love reaching the end of our crazy long hallway and getting a little glimpse of this bright, happy pattern in the kitchen. I finally love how the kitchen is looking, even if it isn’t completely finished yet.

And hey, if you like this removable wallpaper idea, you might love what’s coming up next on the bloggy! (hint: rhymes with miveaway.)

This post is in partnership with Hygge & West.

The Kitchen has a New Floor!

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One of the more perpetually hilarious/depressing things about looking at apartments in New York is seeing the ways that landlords try to get creative when renovating and preparing a unit for the next tenant. I recently got an email from a reader who uncovered a beautiful original hardwood door in her Harlem apartment, which at some point had been covered with a piece of 70s wood paneling. When my friend moved into her apartment near me, the trim had all been painted alternating shades of fleshy pink-beige and baby-poop-brown. Of course, there was my last apartment with the pink laminate cabinets and the pink-ish laminate countertops and the pink-ish faux-marble ceramic floor, but that wasn’t so bad. At least it was all pink?

It’s cute, when you think about it. Why not just go the easy route and pick stuff that’s totally neutral? Because landlords are people, too, with creative impulses that cannot be tamed by worrying about what any other sane person might possibly want to live with. They like to experiment. They like having some room to play. It’s very adorable and very frustrating to live with the consequences.

Floorbefore

floorbefore2

Pretty much my single biggest gripe with my apartment has always been the kitchen floor. What a terrible piece of shit.

Let me count the ways:

1. Stupid design with the black edge and big black square in the middle. Why? Just because.

2. White ceramic in a kitchen. You guys, I’m a clean dude. But a white ceramic floor in a small kitchen is just not a great idea if you don’t want to be mopping every 4 seconds. No matter how often I cleaned this floor, it ALWAYS looked filthy.

3. Cracked and chipped tiles. Everywhere. ‘nuf said.

4. So, so uneven. Yes, the floors all over our apartment are uneven, and that’s OK. But this kitchen floor was so bad because this tiling job is so terrible that none of the tiles themselves are at all level. This means that cleaning the floor essentially amounted to all the gunk getting stuck on protruding edges of errant tiles. Pretty traumatic stuff.

5. Grout. I actually always assumed these huge grout lines were dark grey, but once I started really scrubbing some of the lines, I realized it was actually originally white. I think. EW. But there’s only SO MUCH bleach and baking soda and a toothbrush and my willpower can accomplish, so it never really cleaned up beyond a piss yellow. Which was worse than the “dark grey” (dirt), in my opinion.

I thought maybe I would just live with this tile because I otherwise love my apartment and could maybe just concede on this one thing. It could probably be worse, right?  And besides, what do you do about a tile floor? There is just no way that I’m going to demo and replace a ceramic floor in a rental apartment. As this blog has proven many times over, I’m a lunatic, but I’m not, like, completely unhinged. Give me some credit.

rubber

Then, I had an epiphany. I didn’t actually have to alter the floor in any major way to get rid of it. What Dean at My Little Apartment did in her bathroom years ago popped up in my mind (holy cow, that was back in 2007. am I the Rain Man of home blogs?), so I thought maybe I could do something similar. Rubber was the answer to my prayers (/incessant whining).

I ended up buying my rubber from a company with the catchy name of Rubber Flooring Inc. Most of the companies I found only sold this style of rubber in 4-foot wide sheets, but I was nervous about how a big seam running up the middle of my floor would look/function over time. I really just wanted one BIG sheet, like a beautiful black sea of gorgeous hospital-y rubber. Luckily, the Rubber Flooring Inc. roll is 7.5 feet by 17 feet, which is almost the exact dimensions of my kitchen.

I love you, Rubber Flooring Inc. I love you and your straightforward, no-nonsense, branding and your sale that allowed me to get free shipping and a brand new kitchen floor for $250. It’s not chump change, but after living with this floor for a year and a half and figuring I might well live with it for another 5 or 10, this seemed like my best option.

process

I accidentally deleted the process photos off of my camera, but here are a couple I snapped with my iPhone. The whole thing was very straightforward, I just drew up a diagram of my floor plan and where I needed to make the cuts, unrolled the whole thing in my living room, and hacked it up accordingly.

I should probably take a moment to note that this roll of rubber, which looked fairly modest in size, was very literally the heaviest thing I have ever attempted to carry in my life. I still have no idea how Max and I manhandled it up to the 5th floor, but I do recall almost breaking an arm in the process.

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SHAZAM, new floor.

I love this floor. It’s so, so easy to keep clean, it feels nice underfoot, and it magically evens out the whole wonky tile business underneath. I can forget about the bad tile situation and move on with my new life. I’m very happy with it.

As per the manufacturer’s instructions, I stuck down the edges with double-sided carpet tape. For a few days, this worked great, but it soon became unstuck from the tile underneath. The rubber is heavy enough that it’s till OK, but I really want to find a solution to keep it stuck down better. I tried hot glue, which was a massive fail, and now I’m thinking maybe rubber cement? I don’t know. I don’t want to damage the tile floor, but I want this thing to sit as flat as humanly possible. This would have been a non-issue if I had had the foresight to do this BEFORE installing new cabinets and baseboards, but I didn’t, and now I must suffer the consequences.

ANYWAY. Enough about that.

Hey, look! I installed new white toe-kicks on the old wood cabinets. Doors and drawer fronts to follow, finally, if it kills me. I will have matching cabinets it it’s the last thing I do on this earth.

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The DAY after I put down the new floor, I was hanging out and thrifting with my friend on the Upper West Side and we went in this little tiny very fancy looking antiques store, filled with gorgeous expensive furniture. Now, I usually don’t even go in places like this, and when I do, I immediately look at the ceiling and the floor. That’s where the bargains are. Sometimes. Maybe.

“Is this for sale?” I asked, pointing at a very dirty, perfectly beat-up oriental rug under a bunch of stuff.
“I don’t know, I guess it could be? You really don’t want that rug though, it’s filthy. We’ve just been using it in the store forever.”
“OK, so how much could it be for sale for?”
“Say $125?”
“Could you do $100?”

We took the rug outside and laid it on the sidewalk, where the owner proceeded to tell me how much I did not want to buy this ratty piece of crap rug. Assuring him I did, he assured me it wasn’t worth that much, and decided without further urging to sell it to me for $45. Then he put it in a garbage bag and I was on my way.

Like magic! I love this rug. It’s the perfect size for the space, and I love having a rug like this in the kitchen. Antique orientals aren’t too precious because they’ve already taken a lot of wear and abuse, so it’s perfect. Upper West Side. Who would have thought?

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A sale’s a sale, folks. It never hurts to ask.

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Mekko also seems to appreciate the transformation, which is really all that counts anyway.

New Desk!

When I was young, my parents became possessed of the notion that we needed to have all of our personalities tested. There wasn’t anything terribly dysfunctional about my family—at least not more so than most other families, which are mostly all dysfunctional—but the tests held a certain alluring promise. Before the tests, we were free-falling in chaos, but after the tests, we would know things about each other. We would regard each other with understanding and compassion, communicate more clearly, and we would be better for it.

I was twelve at the time, and I remember sitting in my bedroom and answering simple, repetitive questions for two hours. It was fun and relaxing and, when the results came in, made me feel exceedingly special. Here was a written report explaining in scientific-ish terms that I was, essentially, a terrific person. Of course, everyone’s results come out this way, so I’m not bragging, but the test told me specifically why I was terrific. The test had a way of putting a positive spin on all traits. Instead of being needlessly and irrationally emotional about the problems of other people, I was just very empathetic. I could give up on the dream of pursuing anything very practical or profitable career-wise because ultimately I was just too literary for all that. I was an intellectual, and this made me feel as though I was more interesting than my siblings, which was more or less all I wanted at 12.

The biggest takeaway for my family, though, was that instead of just being a lunatic spaz, I had a high change score. I was the kid who was constantly rearranging my furniture and always questioning why we couldn’t just move some stuff around in the house or paint a room or four. Prior to the tests, this sort of behavior was interpreted by mostly everyone as simply irritating. But after the tests, I had a label. There was a chart in a folder that said this was just who I was, irrevocably.

Because permanence and stagnation freak me out, I often try to avoid them. I don’t mind permanence much where my life is concerned (oh hey, live-in boyfriend and two dogs in the space of a year), but it drives me crazy in my living space. I like things best when they’re easy to reverse and modify. It drives me crazy that each room in my apartment only has one truly viable furniture layout (trust me, I’ve tried everything!), and I don’t like feeling married to certain pieces (with the notable exception of my grandparents’ Eames lounge chair. I’ll marry that.).

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Oh hey there. Lookatchu.

The only reason anyone reads this blog is probably because I once made a desk. It was one of the first things I ever built, and I was really proud of that thing. I had no idea what I was doing or the best way to go about anything (some of my advice in that post is, uh, really bad), but the point was that I had an idea and I made it happen and it totally worked and it looked cool. And then Anna blogged about it and I felt really cool, which led people other than my mom to read my blog and led me to eventually counting Anna and some other people I met through blogging as some of my best friends.

So that desk meant a lot to me. I’ll admit that. I’m not made of stone!

But while I loved that desk in my old apartment, I could never really make it work here. I schlepped it from the bedroom (where it was NEVER used) to the living room (where it sat for months and was rarely used). It took up precious space and provided so little storage. Eventually, the desk just became frustrating, and I realized I was keeping it around mostly out of some weird sense of obligation and sentimentality. But it had ceased to be very practical (which was the whole goal when I built it) and when the MDF top started to bow slightly and some of the paint chipped, it just didn’t look so great anymore.

Enter the light of my life, fire of my loins: Craigslist. For a while I just wanted to get rid of the desk and replace it with some kind of small, low dresser on this wall next to the sofa or maybe a smaller desk, and then I realized I could have both! I quickly found a listing for a cute Swedish secretary-style desk for a couple hundred bucks. Oddly, there was another listing for the exact same desk for like $1,200 at the time, which is a total rip-off.

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I totally love this cute little desk, but it’s a piece of crap! The teak veneer is pretty, but I think the entire thing is made of just chipboard and cardboard and some little dowels and wood glue. It seemed like the entire thing was going to fall apart when we dragged it up to the apartment, and it had little floating storage compartments inside the desk part that did totally fall apart and now need repair. Whoops. Anyway, not all things vintage are synonymous with quality.

Oh well. It works. And now that it’s in place, I don’t think it’ll fall apart as much anymore. Also, I KNOW that arrangement on the top is not working, but I need to rearrange the art to make room on a wall for that painting. I guess. I don’t know. High change score. Don’t rush my process.

Anyway! The desk is super cute, super Swedish, super vintage, and has a lavish amount of storage space. When you live in 500 square feet with one small closet, it’s amazing how much a change from 4 small drawers to 4 less-small drawers just feels absolutely spacious. The desk holds all of our office supplies, electronics crap (extra cords, chargers, external hard drives, etc.), and most of my tools (thereby clearing up space in the kitchen cabinets!). It’s great.

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I don’t have any pictures of the new lounge chair and the old desk in the room at the same time I don’t think, but trust—it was feeling very crowded and dumb. Here’s a before-ish picture for reference-ish? I’m shitty at this.

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I love how the new desk has totally opened up this end of the living room. I moved the Fiddle Leaf Fig (still going strong!) out of the corner and it seems to be pretty happy there in the middle. The proportions of the desk are small enough that it works off to the side of the sofa in a way that most other furniture (including the old desk!) just looked really awkward. Feeling it.

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I moved my Patrick Townsend String Light from the kitchen to the corner behind the chair, and I LOVE IT there. It’s the perfect lighting after the sun goes down, and is just so soft and beautiful. It’s unfortunately exceedingly hard to photograph well, but it really is one of my favorite things. Like, in the world.

I kind of wish we could get away without a side table next to the chair, but I’ll admit that it’s nice to have something to put a mug or a book down on. It’s a vintage knock-off Saarinen tulip side table from the amazing Maya! I kind of want to replace the top at some point (it’s just wood with a bullnose edge), but I don’t know. It’s feeling very mid-century-modern-museum up in here, so fake tulip might have to be relocated. Hmmm.

I want to change all the things always.

string

I love String.

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I love desk.

I’m out of words.

 

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