Sweden, 2

 

So Stockholm continues to be the most beautiful city ever. (see above)

I love it here, particularly since the weather got incredible and everyone is all cheery and in magical summer-Swede mode.

We’ve had a great last few days here, including on Friday when we got up at the asscrack of dawn to take a special bus arranged by the fabulous Swedish government out to Dalarna, a county northeast of Stockholm. It’s an incredibly picturesque region where Swedes have adorable weekend and summer cottages, where they frolic through birch forests like beautiful blonde nymphs, eating lingonberries from the bush (vine? shrub? tree?), making head wreathes from sapling branches, talking to woodland creatures, etc. etc. They’re like that here.

We started with a tour of Stora Hyttnäs, a 19th-century upper-middleclass home that’s now a museum. Our guide was the kind elderly lady in the first picture who rode up on her bike, earning her the prize of most-unintentionally-adorable-Swede in my book. I mean, look at her go. “There are 40,000 objects here,” she informed us with an exhausted sigh.

The real impetus for the trip was to see the home of  famed Swedish painter, illustrator, and national hero Carl Larsson—a place that basically inspired all of Swedish residential design since the turn of the century. It was kind of a big deal.

There weren’t any pictures allowed inside, so apparently I took this one of the outside and decided that was good enough?

It looks like this, basically. Larsson paintings are reproduced all over Sweden. Everywhere you look, BOOM. Larsson. Pretty amazing to see in person.

AND THEN THE WEEKEND CAME.

Two days in Sweden, two boys who like to thrift, nothing on the agenda. I’m pitching the reality show now.

Heart racing. Hands shaking. I was BORN to thrift in Sweden. This was to be my moment. This is pretty much how it went:

Saturday morning: “Oh, let’s get haircuts” says Max. “It’ll be nice, we’ll feel all refreshed, and we can always go to the flea markets after.”

“But you have to get there early!” I wail. “And they’ll be over later, and OMG YOU’RE RUINING MY WHOLE LIFE.” *tears*

I might have overreacted. I was hellbent on thrifts and Max was determined to refresh his Hitler-youth hairstyle and—absent my spoilt-child greedy emotions—I had no defense.

I’m not bitter anymore. It’s fine. Our hairs look better. I’m totally so over it don’t even worry I didn’t even want that fabulous ________ I would have found had we started earlier as planned. 

Don’t get in the way of me and my thrifts.

We found some rad stuff though, at a combination of thrifts and fleas, like this weird PH-style light fixture that was marked at all of about $7. I don’t even really know where we’ll put it, and it’s really not worth much (from what I can figure out, I think it’s basically a knock-off of some other “inspired by” design) but SEVEN DOLLARS? That’s less than a Chipotle burrito. Plus, brassy details. I mean come now. No choice.

More stuff? Of course. Clockwise:

1. Old Konica film camera—super bare bones, super cheap, should be fun to shoot a couple rolls on.

2. Three brassy candlesticks! Brassy brassy brassy!

3. Found about a trillion of these wood cabinet door/drawer pulls at Myrorna (basically the Swedish Goodwill) for about 25 cents each, so I bought 24 of them just to give myself the option of using them in my kitchen. I know you’re thinking that it’s a bad idea, but combined with the other stuff I have planned, I think they might look amazing. Might. I’ll sleep on it before I drill any holes.

4. Geode tea light holder. If I have two sets of geode bookends, two geode coasters, and now this, does that make me a rocks and minerals enthusiast? Collector? Weirdo?

5. On Sunday we went against all the advice and visited a HUGE flea market (marketed as the biggest in Scandinavia) in Varberg, which was basically a sprawling dark disaster in the basement of a mall filled with old cell phone chargers and Ricky Martin CDs. As various online sources claimed it would be, it was too junky and generally un-fun, but we did come away with a few good things including this Stig Lindberg teapot pitcher thing from the Bersa Collection (it has no top, so what’s it really for?). The price was really low because there’s a teeny tiny chip up by the spout, but Max really wanted it so we coughed up a little cash to take it home.

6. I’ve been slowly accumulating pieces from the Ultima Thule set, designed by Tapio Wirkkala for iittala in 1968. The tumblers and highballs have long been at the very top of my list of dream glassware, but seeing as they are crazy fancy I don’t dream of actually owning them anytime soon. I have been able to dig up 3 smaller dessert bowls, one larger bowl, and a small sugar bowl and creamer from various places though, which I’m so excited about. The pictures really don’t do them justice but they’re gorgeous.

One of the best finds of the weekend was definitely this sexy Edixa Reflex camera. I did some digging and it looks like it’s from Germany and was made in 1955, a very very early 35 mm SLR. It’s beautifully designed and built and in incredible condition and was only about $30. We’ll see how the film turns out, but honestly—just look at it. It already delivered as a fancy hipster prop when I got photographed by somebody I think was a Swedish street-style photographer? If you see a haggard-looking boy with a good-looking camera floating around the internet, it might be me. So basically now I’m a supermodel. Be impressed.

(the photo of me above was take by Max with Instagram. He’s killing it with photos of our trip, by the way.)

Hej!

I know this already seems like the year of extravagant travel, which is kind of because it is, but Max and I went back on the road about a week ago. If roads went across oceans? All the way to SWEDEN. This is yet another example of something that is old news on the Twitter and Instagram but blog-only old-school folk would have no way of knowing about. So here you go. That’s what’s up.

We’re both taking a two-week intensive graduate seminar on Scandinavian design through Parsons, where Max is getting his graduate degree. As an undergrad at NYU, I just weaseled my way in with my mediocre looks and social awkwardness and creepy obsession with the Swedes. That’s just how I do.

Obviously visiting Stockholm is a long-time dream come true, having been infatuated with this country, its people, and its design sensibilities for years. I am not disappointed. Everyone is so lovely, the city is so easy to navigate and get around, and everything looks so amazing that it makes me want to puke.

OH, SWEDES. I love you. You are so efficient and friendly and clean and kind. And did I mention sexy? Because HOT DAMN. Sexy sexy Swedes all around me. Normally I’d be annoyed because good looking people genuinely upset me but not if they’re Swedish.

(Aside: when we checked into our hotel at 2 a.m. after about 24 hours of travel, Martin at the front desk offered us a “sweet snack” or a “salty snack” and gave us a form with two boxes so we could check one. Thinking about this still makes me immeasurably happy. “Salty snack.”)

The itinerary is packed but I’m trying to sneak in some thrifting where I can get it and making Max insane with my lunatic antics. Even if he’d rather lay down and die in the street, I’ve been dragging him off down quiet roads and across long bridges and into weird places the internet told me to go only to end up at stores that only sell vintage records or retro women’s clothes. He likes it. That’s what I tell him, anyway.

I love little vintage Dala horses, especially when they look a little rough and tumbled and distinctly handmade like these two. Also, that happy happy tray. Irresistible.

Among some other random stuff we picked up is this little shallow West German bowl with super trippy glazing inside. We’ll use it for something.

Goofy amateur brown studio pottery abounds at Stockholm thrifts and it’s taking all my willpower not to buy it all. But the suitcase is only so big and my chances of successfully transporting everything home are only so realistic so I’m resisting. I know these particular items will be *controversial* (loathed by most) but fuck it, I love these little blobby candlesticks, and for only $2 I’m 100% allowed to. I know they look like alien poops here but once they have candles and are on my mantle you’ll be singing a different tune. JUST WAIT.

I should probably note that the educational opportunities on this trip are totally amazing and, it should shock you to hear me say, totally outshining the whole thrifting situation. We’ve had a couple great days in the NationalMuseum, Drottningholm, Skokloster (AMAZING), the Nordiska Museet, Skansen, a lecture on IKEA—all amounting to the conclusion that Sweden is Where. It’s. At. We have a fantastic syllabus with fantastic readings and teachers and curators around every corner telling us what things are and happy to field questions constantly. Truth be told it’s been a while since I felt quite so enthusiastic about school and learning stuff and doing assignments, but this is different. I’m among the Swedes, after all.

Can I just say, though—these tea towels are fucking cute. If I can’t be renovating my kitchen then at least I can be buying small jolly things for it to use when it’s done? This has been my logic for the past year now. Speaking of, a little progress happened before I left and I even took pictures, so let’s hope I have some time to put together a post or two before I’m back in Brooklyn. Shockingly, I have already hit some unforeseen speed bumps and I need an internet hero to set me on the right path.

What am I saying? I already need that right now in this very moment. The Google machine has been iffy about where the good vintage is at in/around Stockholm. We have the weekend free, so do any beautiful residents of this magical land have any recommendations for a flea market or several? Or any particular stores or areas or things I should really know about and check out? Tell me everything you know! I demand it!

Rocker

One of the things that I love about Eames shell chairs is how versatile they are by design. Take out four screws, pop on a new base, and BLAM-O, your desk chair on casters just became a lounge chair! Or a dining chair! Or a school desk! Or a bench at the laundromat with pieces of ABC gum stuck and hardened on the bottom! Like magic.

I bought that blue shell about a year and a half ago when I was visiting Chandler in Portland. The original naugahyde upholstery had seen MUCH better days, so I made the decision to just strip off the upholstery, restore the shell, throw a 4-star contract swivel base on it, and cover the screw holes on the seat of the chair with an IKEA sheepskin. Like so:

That’s the other great thing about the original fiberglass shells—they’re INCREDIBLY durable and even the crappiest-looking, saddest, down-n-out washed-up piece-of-shit chair can be brought back to gleaming, glorious life with a few simple steps and only a couple potentially hazardous chemicals. I can’t stress enough: when it comes to shells, vintage is always, always best.

I talked some jive after the restoration about replacing the base with a rocking base and using it in my Manhattan living room, but I found a dining table instead so the chair remained a desk chair through my move to Brooklyn. Using it as a rocker was always in the back of my mind, but there hasn’t been a great spot for one here, either.

UNTIL NOW.

Hello, baby. You are so ubiquitous and I love you.

I finally bit the bullet and purchased a rocking base (black metal with birch runners) from the Modern Conscience eBay shop. For 95 bucks plus super cheap $4 shipping, it’s basically a whole new chair for just under $100. So worth it. The base is really nice and seems very well-made and assembly could not have been easier. I can also say that there was a slight hiccup with the shipping but the customer service at Modern Conscience was extremely responsive and remedied the situation quickly and efficiently.

For serious stalkerz, don’t you worry—Bertoia Diamond is still around, just not in this same spot. The living room has been feeling a little stale and I needed to shake things up. Yes, white Bertoia set against black pocket doors totally brought the high-contrast drama, but bright blue rocker brings some summery colorful fun or whatever that I love.

The other great thing about these chairs is how petite they are, taking all the comfort from a big lounge chair but none of the size. It’s comfy and cozy and a place people actually want to sit, but appropriately scaled to smaller spaces. It’s also super duper light, so it’s easy to move around all the time to wherever my finicky heart desires.

I also like having this chair in the living room because it plays off the blues in the rug super well. That’s not usually something I spend too much time worrying about, but I do like when really different pieces coordinate instead of trying to get all matchy-matchy with shit.

This chair is the best of all the chairs. To review:

1. Versatile.
2. Durable.
3. Small.
4. Cute & colorful.
5. Comfy.

I don’t care that everyone and their mother has one. I love it. I love it so much.

Sweet Victory, at Last.

One of life’s biggest hardships and greatest injustices over the last three years or so is that I’ve been stuck with the above setup for dispensing salt and pepper onto my food. I’m not a terribly fabulous chef, so I rely heavily on these two basic seasonings to render my meals edible, and I have long dreamt of a pairing that could do the job with a bit more panache. That salt shaker has a matching pepper shaker, and while they’re cute and vintage and cost me all of a couple dollars at Salvation Army, what am I supposed to do with pre-ground pepper? What do you take me for, some kind of goddamn animal? The little plastic “temporary” pepper grinder is way too small and has to be refilled constantly and just makes me generally sad with its apathy and mediocrity.

Walking through IKEA with my pal, Anna, we both totally plotzed over these new salt and pepper mills from the new ÄDELSTEN line of kitchen products. Made from black and white marble, the texture in real life is kind of super amazing (the lighter looking parts of the pepper mill will darken with use over time), and at 7 inches high and about 3 pounds each, they just feel nice to use. Like things that fancy people with fancy pepper would own. People who buy kosher organically-produced cage-free fair-traded artisanal salt and exotic gourmet free-range peppercorns raised on a diet of human breast milk and diamond dust. From Fiji.

The bottoms even double as cute little salt and pepper cellars, which is just all-around smart and adorable. I LOVE THEM. The whole line is beautiful, by the way, and includes probably the most amazing rolling pin I’ve ever seen that I was SO tempted to buy before realizing I’m about as likely to roll out some dough as I am to eat my own toes. Read: I’d have to be very hungry and out of hummus.

Of course, they were also $15 a pop, making them super cheap for the materials, design, and quality of construction. People talk smack about the quality of IKEA products all the time, but here’s the thing: their best stuff is really nice, and usually cheaper that their competitors’ worst stuff. They definitely make some crap that falls apart, too, but nobody’s forcing anyone to buy that. IKEA4LIFE.

Naturally, it just so happens that the very next day, Chandler was in town for the weekend and we took a little jaunt out to the Design Within Reach Annex store in Secaucus, where damaged goods and floor models go to die before people like me come along to buy them (my very damaged but mostly-fixable bubble lamp came from there, negotiated down to $65!). I know what you’re thinking: Daniel is the greatest host ever! “Here, come to Brooklyn for the weekend! We’ll spend an hour and a half driving to New Jersey and you can watch me shop!” I really know how to show people a good time.

I’ve been pining after these Muuto “Plus” salt and pepper mills designed by Norway Says for a couple years, but the $70 price tag for each one always stopped me from buying them. It always went like this:

Beautiful? Yes. Am I in a place in my life where I can justify spending $150 on salt and pepper mills? Fuck you, stupid.

But the price on this lone pepper mill was slashed in half and had no visible damage, so it kind of had to be. So what if I found perfect salt and pepper mills just the day before? I can use those for cooking, and this for eating? Like it can sit on the table and make me happy while the others sit five feet away on the counter? Sure. Why not. Let’s do this. You see my lack of options, here.

Also in the category of things I’ve wanted to happen finally happening, we found a shower curtain! Max had an idea that he wanted a black ticking stripe shower curtain to bring a sort of vintage old-school barbershop vibe to our bathroom. It wouldn’t have necessarily been my first choice (being a super-boring-white-linens-only type of asshole), but he had my support with the caveat that it be extra-long. “Go forth, my child,” I said. “Make your dreams come true. While you’re at it, work on mine too.” And it was so.

The problem was that our old shower curtain (plain white waffle, like $10 from Target) seemed awfully short once the bathroom was “done” and made the huge medicine cabinet look even more huge, towering above the curtain rod like it was. That the shower head spout is abnormally high in this bathroom wasn’t really helping matters since it was so visible above the shower curtain.

The new curtain was custom-made by Alison Daniel at the Modern Folk Shop on Etsy. The fabric is really nice and heavy, and the whole thing is really well constructed. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to just DIY an extra-long shower curtain, but it would need to be wider than a standard roll of fabric, meaning that a seam has to be sewn down the entire thing. And sewing a really neat 8-foot seam into a patterned fabric was just way more than my sewing skills are up for. I’m only human. This Alison Daniel lady is apparently more than human though, since her seam is perfect.

Of course, we still (still!) need to find a bathmat and I still (still!) need to finish re-caulking and I still (still!) need to fix up the super painty, inoperable bathroom window. The window thing feels the most pressing, since now it’s summer and the lack of bathroom ventilation will quickly go from being kind of irritating to kind of disgusting. That’s one of those projects that sounds easy and fun in my mind but I know will leave me crying and possibly regretful and shaken to my very core. Sounds like my kind of summer activity.

In other news, GUESS WHAT CAME IN THE MAIL YESTERDAY?!

This.

My prizes.

All my sweet prizes.

Apple Store Gift Cards. Big Money. It’s not everyday this happens. In fact, this has only happened once. And it was yesterday.

Oh yeah. Now I have no excuses to pull my shit together with this kitchen thing.**

**I might still have some excuses. Like fear.

Oh, the Places I’ve Been.

Through a series of odd circumstances and some semi-questionable “adjustments” to our resumés, my daddy (actual father, not pimp) was able to get himself, Max, my sister, and me badges to the Cannes Film Festival this year. That Cannes. In France. Fancy times.

We left two weeks ago with very confused delusions about what the film festival might be like. After all, this is a pretty serious deal for film folk with pretty serious movies being shown to pretty serious celebrities who stand on pretty serious red carpets. When we saw Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany (+ baby!) board our plane out of JFK, we thought to ourselves, damn, this is going to be pretty serious. We had the same thought when we came out of customs to a small crowd of paparazzi. “You came!” I cooed to the expectant cameras, none of which flashed.

The thing about Cannes, though, is that it’s really more of an industry-networking type of event, with lots of producers taking lots of meetings with other producers from all around the world. The ample number of film screenings, day in and day out, are largely incidental to the other things going on. Seeing as we are not technically actual movie-makers or distributors, we did our best to blend in like we totally belonged there and tried to take in some good films. The weather was uncharacteristically terrible most of the week we were there, so sitting in dark theaters seemed like a good idea for a couple of days.

There were no celebrities the rest of the week, and only a couple noteworthy films among a sea of pretty terrible movies. Apparently if you want to make a horrible horror film that’s one part Saw and one part Vacancy with a hefty dose of angry orphans and stupid drunk 20-somethings, all your dreams can come true and that movie can show at Cannes! Albeit with an audience comprised only of me and my family, but still. It was there.

The last movie we saw had been a Japanese horror flick about a ghost that haunted a high school class, the most noteworthy moments of which were the unlikely deaths (impaled on an umbrella, head chopped clean off after running into a steel cable) and the fact that the protagonist wore a shirt simply reading the word “chummy,” spelled-out in rhinestones, during the latter half of the film. It was after this that, the weather finally cleared up, we decided that perhaps the time had come to get out and see the city.

So Max and I split off for a few days to walk around. We didn’t have much planned, we just walked and ate and walked some more. It was hard to decide what to take pictures of because everything was so picturesque. Coming from the States, it’s easy to forget how old Europe is. We had to keep reminding ourselves that it was real, since you get the sense that you’re on a very detailed movie set or at Disney World.

Speaking of pictures, I’ve basically taken to using my iPhone camera for everything and running the photos through Instagram on the fly. I still feel a little stupid about intentionally making my photos look unrealistically old with a bunch of filters and a hokey tilt-shift feature, but I can’t help it. I love my Instagrams—these little snapshots that couldn’t be easier to take and edit, and I actually want to look at afterwards…which is more than I can say for the hundreds of digital photos that I used to shoot on trips like this, which then stagnate in my iPhoto library waiting for me to do something with them. (you can check out all of my Instagram photos here!)

On our last full day in France, Max and I hopped the train into Nice without any real intentions or expectations. Beautiful. Even though we maybe  should have been exploring the city in a more all-encompasing, adventurous sort of way, we quickly found the beach and just decided to stay. Bathing suits were quickly located at a nearby shop and we even found perfect inexpensive turkish towels to lay out on that will make excellent summer bath towels after they’ve gone through the wash a few times. Our bathroom doesn’t ventilate well, so these towels should help keep that whole hot-weather-smelly-towel phenomenon at bay.

After about a week in France, we packed up and headed to Los Angeles for the holiday weekend, where my sister lives and the family all flew in to hang out for a few days.

Coming from New York, LA is always a bit of a shock to the system. It’s so huge, and there are so many distinct areas, spread out over very long distances with very heavy traffic in between them. No matter how many times I go, I always leave feeling like I didn’t get to do very much since simple plans always seem to become logistical clusterfucks, each activity somehow becoming an all-day affair. My twin sister Laura lives there, and I stir the turd about this with her constantly. She doesn’t understand why anyone would willingly choose to live in New York, and I have a similar sentiment about Los Angeles.

On Saturday, Max and I took a little trip to the Eames Case Study House. If you don’t know anything about this house, you’re in for some fun reading (you can start with the Wikipedia page, here). Built in 1949 as part of Arts and Architecture Magazine‘s Case Study House Program—essentially aimed at imagining the possibilities for post-war American residential architecture—Case Study House #8 (along with a smaller, coordinating studio space) was a collaboration between husband and wife duo Charles and Ray Eames and was built from pre-fabricated, factory produced parts in a matter of days. The whole program is super fascinating (you can still look at all the original articles on the Arts & Architecture Magazine website), and something that I have spent far, far too many hours researching. But I always seem to come back to Case Study House #8 because it really is perfect.

I expected the place to be overrun with a bunch of tourists, but we were alone for almost the entire duration of our visit. Seeing the house in real life was like seeing a celebrity. It was smaller in person, but somehow more magical too. It was really real, not just a place that exists in photos or short films, but an actual structure with metal and glass and wood and cement. Because I was obviously having a super-geeky-nerd-fanboy-freakout-moment, the very kind and gracious guide thought we’d be best served by just wandering around ourselves, taking in the house in our own private way.

The house is in various states of restoration and repair and right now the ENTIRE living room (furniture, curtains, all of it!) has been transported to the LACMA for exhibit, so I’ll admit that it wasn’t exactly the picture that I had in my mind. But that hardly seemed to matter. I could imagine it all there, just the way Ray left it. Her flowers and plants still line the front walkway. The same housekeeper has maintained the house for 30 years now, so small delicate flower arrangements were randomly placed around the naked interior, apparently just the way Ray liked them.

After probably about an hour of wandering around, our guide approached us again and even let me ring the doorbell, which is a ceramic instrument on a rope pulley-system, custom designed for the house. Then, since nobody was around, she offered to let us watch a few short films out on the patio space between the house and the studio on the office’s iPad. She dragged a couple shell chairs out and we set them up in a corner near the retaining wall, facing the house, under the shade of the eucalyptus trees and a large evergreen. Surrounded by the potted plants and the trees and the weathered wood, our feet planted on the brick pavers and our eyes darting between the iPad screen and the house, as if it might all disappear, for a moment I think I finally got the whole L.A. thing. If it could be like this, well, why would you go anywhere else?

Unless, of course, this was waiting for you back in New York.

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