Adventures in Vignetting

Some things I could stand to be better at:

1. Dressing myself.
2. Cooking.
3. Saving money.
4. Waking up in the mornings.
5. Eating breakfast.
6. Eating lunch.
7. Going to sleep.
8. E-mails.
9. Socializing.
10. Vignetting.

So basically I’m mediocre at nearly all aspects of daily life. Go me!

That last item, though—the last one I struggle with. All the other stuff seems like things I could fairly easily improve upon with a little focused attention and effort, but vignetting is more like a frustrating art where owning nice things and understanding concepts like composition and color and scale and being fabulous intersect. You’d think it would be simple: buy pretty things, plop them on top of other pretty things, and BOOM: prettiness occurs. Not so.

For some people, I think this sort of thing comes really naturally, but some of us have to work at it. And maybe some of us also get careless and flustered and feel ridiculous working at it. I mean, this isn’t a model home, it’s where I live, so when I put too much effort into arranging things just so I tend to feel stupid and petty and I give up and go on being mediocre. It’s a weird hang-up. I want my home to just look easy, breezy, beautiful, like I’m just naturally cool so therefore I have pretty stuff (duh) that all looks nice together (double duh).

before

Take this situation, for instance. When I brought home the new desk, the painting that had been hanging in that spot just stayed where it was (except leaning instead of hanging). I had that black lamp on the old desk, so it stayed, and then I thought, hey, here’s a Dala horse and a Dansk candleholder and a vase thing I can put pens in and I’ll just put all that up there, too! Great plan, D!

Except it wasn’t so great because it looked crowded and nothing really looked good together. Then, factoring the lamp on the desk and the lamp next to the couch, which don’t look so good together, it was feeling very lamp-y ’round this corner of my world, which doesn’t look so good FYI. Plus the painting is too big and overbearing here, so the desk looked small, and it didn’t provide enough contrast with the painting over the couch (which I recognize is not in the above picture, but trust me). See what I mean? It just…isn’t right.

vignette1

I’ve been trying to streamline and simplify and pare-down, though, and I’m really happy with how things are looking now! Breaking it down from left to right:

1. The Telescoping Otis Light from OneFortyThree. I’ve been a huge (huge, huge) fan of Logan’s work at OneFortyThree for a longggggg time now, and I’m so thrilled to finally have one of his creations in my life! It perfectly solves the too-many-lamps issue, since it easily swivels from side to side to illuminate both the desk and the couch, and it extends! Now I can say, firsthand, that Logan’s work is as exceptionally made as I imagined it would be from stalking his transformation into a full-blown prolific lamp-making, plywood-bending superhero.

2. Plant from IKEA. I don’t know what it’s called, but it seems hard to kill, and that’s how I like my plants.

3. Christopher Gray Winter Logs Giclee Print from Erie Drive. I’d never heard of Erie Drive until very recently when the creative director and buyer, Alexandra Grenham e-mailed me, and then I was filled with lust and envy and very intense feelings to buy all the things! Alexandra has a really amazing eye that she’s used to curate this store with SO much great stuff, it’s a little overwhelming. I fell head over heels for this Christopher Gray print, though—I love the black and white (no shocker there), and the composition and balance of it. It’s bold and graphic, which contrasts perfectly with the other abstract paintings we have in the room. The quality of the print is really nice, too, which was an unexpected surprise. AND it fits perfectly in an IKEA RIBBA frame, which is really the only way I ever frame anything, ever. Love.

4. Nybro Crystal Volcano tea light holders, vintage Swedish from a stoop sale. Yep, it’s stoop sale season again (finally!) and these were my first scores! I love how big and weighty they are, and as we know from my deep and abiding yearnings for Ultima Thule, I pretty much love whenever glass looks like it’s melting all over the place. Mine were a total steal, but here’s one and here’s another one if you need a pair and have no impulse control (like this guy!).

5. Vintage studio pottery, thrifted. Amateur studio pottery is tough because I love basically all of it, but it doesn’t all look great together. This might be stating the obvious, but I finally figured out that they key is matching up the right scales and keeping things contained to a complementary color palette. There are lots of nice options here, but I’m cheap so I wait for them to show up on my thrifty rounds.

6. Dansk candleholder, stoop-saled! This was from last summer and was only $5, so I kind of had to. I’ve yet to find candles that actually fit in it, but it’s such a great shape that I don’t care. Tons of similar ones on Etsy and on eBay if you can’t live your life without one for another second.

7. Dog, scavenged.

desk2

Here’s a slightly better angle of that swivel in action and how the lamp, couch, desk, and two pieces of art all look in relation to each other. Feelin’ it.

closeup

If you also love the Christopher Gray print or other lovely notions from Erie Drive, then maybe you want to stick around because maybe the amazing Alexandra is maybe a fabulous and generous sponsor who wants to offer you a fabulous and generous giveaway very soon. Maybe.

Probably.

This post is in partnership with Erie Drive.

Happy Birthday, Linus.

linus1

Of the many strengths of the human mind, gauging the passage of time just isn’t one of them. Sure, we do well enough sometimes with minutes and hours, but things seem to get progressively sketchier when we scale up to weeks, then months, then years. It isn’t a coincidence that every time New Year’s rolls around, we experience a collective sense of wonder——my god, another one, already? I’ve come to think we’re just wired with this deficiency, an adaptation of sorts, because if we realized how swiftly everything truly goes by, we’d feel so hopeless.

So, I know people always preface with this kind of thing, but I can’t believe it’s been a year since we went out for a walk with one dog and, long story short, came home with two. I mean, when I really think back——about the weeks of trying to figure out where he’d live, of finding him a foster home, of eventually deciding he could just stay with us, and then of the subsequent weeks of potty training and trying to get him to eat decent food, and now the months of forgetting what it was like not to have him around——I guess I can believe it’s been a year. But it still sounds like such an awfully long time.

When we first found Linus, the vet thought he was between 9 and 11, so we went with 10. So I guess now he’s between 10 and 12? So we’ll go with 11? Happy birthday, Linus. You’re old. Or as the vet put it recently when discussing an upcoming blood test, “geriatric.”

I don’t say “old” as a derogatory term. I love old things. I love old houses, and old furniture, and I especially love old people. And as it turns out, I love old dogs, too. Linus’s past is full of mystery and intrigue, a whole universe of stories we’ll never get to the bottom of. In a way, that’s frustrating——the not knowing——but it’s also kind of romantic. While I know he’d been horribly, inhumanely neglected when he came to us, I don’t like to think that his whole life was spent that way. I prefer to believe that was just some weird pit-stop he made in the land of Bad Luck, that maybe fortunes changed and he fell on some hard times and decided to pack up his knapsack and hit the road in search of greener pastures. And when he finally found them, he was all perfectly weathered, world-weary and ready to settle down.

I think it takes a certain type of person to decide to adopt an old dog, and I won’t pretend I’m one of those people. It means knowingly missing out on stinky puppy breath (which is my favorite smell in the whole world), and silly doggy adolescence. It means never seeing a full set of teeth, or watching your energetic puppy calm down into some version of itself that’s calmer, more dignified, and wiser, somehow. And, the unpleasant truth of the matter, is that it means you just might not have your dog for very long, which is a particular point that nobody seems altogether comfortable talking or thinking about.  But I’m not really one of those sunny people who walks around ignoring stuff like that. And despite my deepest admiration and respect for people who make the choice to adopt old dogs, I can’t really imagine signing up for it. The way we saw it was that we didn’t really have a choice——he fumbled his way into our lives, and we either had to accept that graciously or risk that nobody else would decide to love him, ever. And that just wouldn’t do.

Who knows how long Linus will live——maybe he’ll be one of those wonder dogs who lives until he’s 25, or maybe he’ll be a normal dog who lives until he’s 13 or 14. Either way is OK. That’s always been one of those unspoken understandings between Mister Linus and I. I’ll take care of you as long as you stick around, little guy, and all you have to do is love me. That’s your only job. I won’t try to put you through the mental hurdles of sit or stay or learning your name. You’ll have everything you need, and you just have to hold up your end of the bargain.

Max’s mom, Sue, once commented offhandedly that all Linus really wants is a warm body to cuddle up to. In some senses, I think that’s basically true. Linus likes everybody and everything, and nearly anyone who sits still for more than a few minutes on our sofa will find a dog sprawling peacefully across their lap. But I think Linus and I have a special thing between us—a type of love that I can’t really convey to most people, or even expect other dog owners to understand. When I was little, I read Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass because I liked the cover when I saw it at Borders. I don’t recall enjoying the book, but one of the ideas in it really appealed to me——that everybody got a little spirit animal called a dæmon, a dedicated creature metaphysically attached to them through, like, magic n’ stuff. And that’s how I feel about Linus. Mekko is my beautiful, perfect baby——my lovable problem child——but Linus? He’s my dæmon.

People often think it’s weird that we have Linus and Mekko, a high-spirited Pit Bull, in the same house. I do, too. Mekko is the dog I always wanted——beyond intelligent, sharply focused, energetic, overly friendly, and as neurotic as her dads (which is to say, extraordinarily neurotic). Mekko is the sort of dog who could probably learn all sorts of exceptional things if we put her up to them, like sign language and math and how to rescue babies from burning buildings. She’s the type who wants to get where she’s going, who’s always looking ahead for the next challenge or exciting thing. People say dogs live in the present and don’t think consciously about the past or future, but I don’t think that’s really true. Mekko probably doesn’t think about what her life will look like when she’s 30, but I know she’s always thinking about somewhere just a little ahead of the present, just beyond it enough that we don’t know what it looks like yet.

But Linus lives thoroughly in the moment. He moves quickly when he feels excited, but most of the time he moves at a pace not much faster than a crawl. Fresh flowers, discarded food scraps on the sidewalk, the fragrant aroma of someone else’s pee——these are all things Linus feels obligated to stop and appreciate fully, with every ounce of his attention. He greets each discovery anew, as if it’s the most fascinating and enticing thing he’s ever encountered. Absent any schedule to keep or goals to fulfill, Linus is left only with what’s in front of him, here and now. He’s the one that literally makes us slow down, take long pauses, and remember that maybe everything doesn’t have to happen so fast. Maybe time will just wait for us a little longer than we thought it could. Maybe we have all the time we need.

Life
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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.

faucet-1

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.

actionshot

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

I’m welling up.

Apartment
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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.

Rolls

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.

Wallpaper1

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

after2

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!

hallview2

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.

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