Mantle Things

There are real problems, and then there are fancy problems. Real problems are things like meth addictions and getting hit by buses. Those might be bad examples because yeah, maybe you did do the meth in the first place and yeah, maybe you did walk in front of a bus, but still. Nobody’s about to say you have it easy.

Fancy problems are arguably more terrible than real problems because nobody will ever pity you. It’s not okay to complain about them, because nobody—literally nobody—wants to hear about how you can just never find pants in your size because you’re a 2 or how the maps app on your iPhone sucks now. Guess what? Some people have real problems. Some people don’t even have iPhones.

Think about that. Go sit with your shame.

My fanciest problem, I would say, is that I actually struggle with what to do about the old, pretty, non-functional fireplace in my old, pretty, semi-functional apartment. Like, I actively think and agonize over this issue, because it’s weird to have a fireplace with no practical purpose other than looking cool, and it’s also weird to have a mantle where I’m expected to put stuff. Mantles are super intimidating things, I’ve discovered, because there is just no downplaying that thing. If your room has a fireplace, that fireplace is going to be the star of the show—all the time, every time.

Here’s a fun and flirty mash-up of all the mantle-fails this fireplace has endured through its time under my care. Original indifference (with the red paint) led to continued indifference (with the white paint) led to a real conscious effort which isn’t 100% terrible or anything but let’s be real. It’s still sad. I only show these to you because, oh, I don’t know why. To further solidify my flaws and shortcomings as a human being, I guess. Sounds about right.

The thing is, the mantle itself is really high, so actually hanging anything above it is kind of awkward height-wise, especially with the wall moldings to contend with. Maybe that’s my second most-fancy problem: fancy wall moldings totally confusing how and if I can hang art.

Seriously, try walking a mile in these shoes and you too will understand how hard it is to have beautiful architectural details that you apparently can’t handle. STRUGGLES.

I’ll definitely admit that one of my weaknesses is styling. Like, I understand a couple basic principles about grouping things, triangles, sets of three, whatever, but I don’t know. I hate when things feel super forced and over-styled, but I also appreciate when things like nice and put together? When I try to style up surfaces like mantles or bookshelves, I tend to get all self-conscious and defeated because these activities seem so pointless and petty, particularly with my decidedly un-fancy possessions. But mostly because maybe I’m just bad at it. Mantles, particularly, carry a lot of pressure to be personally representative and whatever, so that makes the task doubly intimidating.

Things are looking up though, especially after I found this big old mirror at Salvation Army for $20 a couple weeks ago. It’s not super old, I’m guessing 1940s or so, but I like the simple lines and the glass has some nice age to it in real life. It isn’t, like, my dream mirror or anything, but the price was right and the size was right, which is a combination that has thus far been entirely elusive in the great mirror hunt that lasted roughly 16 months prior. So I’m happy to have it.

Somehow, I haven’t destroyed that Pencil Cactus thing yet. I bought it a while ago, too, so maybe the tides are changing with my plant killing. Knock on wood.

Of course things already look different, but when this photo was taken a few days ago:

1. the Aalto vase in the back was our splurge from Finland because check the amber glass! Pretty, and we’re used to seeing it in clear.

2. The little raw wood hand-carved Dala horse from Sweden ended up here. Scandi-city up in here.

3. Little junky piece of studio pottery I bought at Salvation Army for a couple of dollars. It’s signed ZONDEK on the bottom which makes me think this was made by one very sassy experimental potter, accounting for the boundary-pushing glaze patterns and irregular shape. The plant I snipped from the tree outside our window because why not.

On the other side is this cute little iittala tea light holder. I saw a bunch of this stuff in fleas and thrifts in Scandinavia but didn’t buy any of it (I only had eyes for Ultima Thule), but stumbled upon this little guy for a dollar at AmVets this summer. In Rochester. I’ll take it.

Also some homo photo strip action to spice up your Friday morning?

Since the fireplace doesn’t function, I’ve always been kind of at a loss about what to put inside it. Nothing and it looks kind of empty, but assortments of candles always seemed messy and objects seemed cluttered and logs just seemed stupid. So I finally had the good sense to pick up this clever IKEA PS Tealight Holder which I just think is the cat’s pajamas and looks very pretty when it’s all lit up at night when people come over and whatnot.

So the fireplace. I don’t know. Liking it, not loving it. The mirror has some strange old varnish on it that makes the wood look kind of sad, and I feel like someday I might paint it? But to what? And I don’t know, I think I’m over the black paint. But then I go look at the first picture and the white doesn’t make me feel better. But maybe it’s the red walls’ fault? And I know I should appreciate and embrace those very old original tiles, but I don’t like them. The colors are gross and I try to be into them but I’m not. That said, I need to respect that they’re original, so they definitely aren’t getting ripped out or painted. I don’t know. I give up.

See? AGONY. The fanciest agony.

Around the Neighborhood: OMG RAMEN

Every so often (by which I mean for the past two years), I go through these phases (by which I mean always) where I become obsessed with brothy noodly asian soups. Pho? I could eat you all day everyday. Udon? Get in my belly. Tom Yum? You thrill me. Ramen? GIVE ME ALL THE RAMEN EVER I WILL EAT IT ALL.

That’s pretty much how it goes.

I know I don’t talk about my neighborhood in Brooklyn very often, but it’s great. Boerum Hill itself is very residential, but some really awesome places to eat and buy things have opened up in the last year or so that I’m all about. The very nearby Cobble Hill will always kind of be the cooler big brother when it comes to that stuff, so I feel extra-proud when my neighborhood represents.

The most exciting development in my life in the past couple of weeks, though, is that there is now a ramen place that has opened only a few blocks from my stoop. Which is not to say my life isn’t exciting (it isn’t, but that’s not the point), it’s to say that this is just VERY VERY exciting. The knowledge that this is so close by is doing terrible things for my mental state, wallet, and maybe soon, waistline. We’ve already been twice in the past week and the only reason I’m staying away is because I’m currently in Florida for a couple days and it is so far away. Which is maybe a good thing because I really need to slow my roll with this whole ramen thing.

Maybe. Although it’s probably a very bad thing and very tragic and all I want right now is ramen.

So this restaurant, Ganso, is now my new favorite place in the world, serving up some of my new favorite food in the world. The restaurant design itself is really beautiful (check all that amazing pine, yo), the food is great, and the staff is super friendly. I introduced myself to the owner, Harris, because I figured we’d be seeing a lot of each other and now I think we’re best friends?

It’s kind of on a weird dud of a block, but it’s right off the Hoyt-Schemerhorn stop (A/C/G) and close to a bunch of other subways and totally worth a little trip.

Ramen is my lifeblood and Ganso is the wind beneath my wings.

(I guess now I have to make clear that this post was in no way sponsored, I just fucking love ramen OK.)

Moving Forward

I’ve been writing this blog for about two and a half years now, and in that time my life has changed immensely. I’ve gone from basically being a single, foolish college freshman in Manhattan with some time on my hands to a relationship’d college senior with two dogs in Brooklyn and…much less time on my hands. During that same period, this blog has also grown from something I basically just wrote for fun to a place that supports a readership that I never could have expected. I’m really lucky for that. It really has been my pleasure, all of it.

For a while now, though, I feel like I’ve been at this crossroads. If you’ve read this site for a long time, you’ve probably noticed that posts from me can be few and far between. The fact is that every post—from doing whatever it is I’m posting about, to photographing it, to editing those photos, to finally sitting down to write a post—takes a lot of time, and I’ve never been in a position where I could rationally make this blog a huge priority when weighed against the other pressures in my life. There have been times where I’ve felt like things would be simpler if I just let the whole blog just fizzle out, thereby eliminating this one more thing that nobody was actually making me maintain.

But the problem is that I really like writing this blog. I like the community of readers who come here, I like doing projects, taking pictures, and writing about all of it. And I don’t want to stop any of that. In fact, I’d like to do more of it.

I never, ever had any professional or commercial ambitions for this site when I started it. I’ve seen sites become totally overrun with advertising over the years, and when that has an effect on the content, it rubs me the wrong way. I do not begrudge bloggers for making money off of what they do—at all—but I think I made the decision somewhere along the line that advertising just wasn’t for me—period, end of story. The money would have been nice but I didn’t altogether need it, and I felt as though by accepting advertising, I would be compromising some kind of moral standard I’d set for myself.

A few things have changed, though. The first is that the money issue has become much more tangible. Once we made the decision to keep a certain little dog that wandered into our lives, pretty much all of the Small Cool winnings immediately went into a “dog fund” so that we could pay for his initial veterinary care and have some money squirreled away to pay for the dogs moving forward. But that money is definitely not going to last forever and didn’t allow for other types of spending on the apartment that I had anticipated using it for. So what we’re left with is a half-finished kitchen, plenty of projects I’d like to do, two dogs to support, bills, rent, food, etc. DIY is pretty cheap, yes, but it isn’t free, and to be totally honest, we’re just not in a financial position anymore to support ourselves and the type of content that has made this blog what it is.

The other thing that’s changed is that I’ve realized—with time, some education, and many discussions with people close to me—that I actually don’t feel gross about advertising on a conceptual level. There are plenty of businesses, products, and people who I would actually love to support through advertising, and there’s no reason that I’d have to support any that I don’t. I can create my own advertising model that works for me, on my own terms. I know that might seem obvious, but that realization was big for me.

SO. When Anna redesigned the site, we did so with the idea of sidebar ads fitting into the overall design, and I’m excited to start offering those slots today! There will be 10 available, at least to start off, at a scale of sizes, positions, and prices, in the hope that they’ll be affordable for the types of independent business I’d like to have advertising. I legitimately want these ads to be a useful way of connecting readers with businesses that I support, and I want these businesses to have a means of connecting directly with readers.

What this means for most of you, of course, is that the site will look a little bit different, hopefully in a way that everyone likes. But more importantly, this move also makes this blogging hobby into something more like a blogging job, which means much more frequent posts. I know I’m excited about that and I hope you are, too.

I’m really excited to get going with this new phase of Manhattan Nest. I have a pretty long list of business that I have been/will be reaching out to directly, but I’d love to hear from you, too. Because of the very limited amount of space, I’m going to have to be very picky, but if you happen to have a business (or know of one) that you think would be a good fit for this site, please go ahead and e-mail me for details—I’d love to talk.

As always, thank you for reading. I hope we’re all cool with this. Have yourself a great Tuesday.

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Allow me to explain myself

I think it’s about time to come clean about something. Over the past year and a half, give or take, I’ve developed a little problem.

I can’t stop buying lighting. Including the hallway, there are nine opportunities for hardwired fixtures in this apartment, and thus far I’ve replaced all of them. Which does not explain why, when I gathered all the others out of their hiding places today, I also have NINE lights that aren’t doing jackshit.

The problem is, lights are pretty easy to change and pretty easy to buy. Next time you’re in a thrift store or flea market, look up! I bet there are light fixtures strung up from the ceiling, collecting dust. Light fixtures just don’t sell very well, so prices tend to be low and I guess I might have bought one or two. Or, you know, nine, whatever.

Some of them I have plans for. Some of them I do not. Some of them need to be rewired. I’m a mess.

I know there isn’t anything super special about these, but that’s kind of what I like about them? Cute matching pair of 40s (?) milk glass lights with sketchy old wiring bits, some paint around the base, one of the shades cracked (but still in one piece) down the middle?

Normally I guess I’d pass, but I dragged Max to this yard sale last time we were in Buffalo, and we got lost, and by the time we got there and drove by, it looked bad anyway. He opted to stay in the car, so I ran up and looked over all the old toys and shit and then BOOM. LIGHTS. A pair of cute lights. For $5. FIVE. DOLLARS. FOR BOTH.

They need new wiring, but that probably adds, what, $10 to the cost? So two nice vintage lights for $15? Not bad. And I actually know what I’m going to do with them, so it’s really not bad. It’s actually great. Except that they’ve been in a box for, oh, 3 months now.

You’ve already seen this if you read my Scandinavia posts, but I’ll just remind you anyway. We bought this faux PH-Lamp thing at a thrift store in Stockholm for $7. Of course, disassembling the whole thing and carrying around all the pieces for the rest of the trip was kind of a drag, but faux PH-Lamp? With brassy bits? For $7? Needed it.

I have no idea what to do with this thing. I want it to be mine, but where does it go? It really doesn’t fit the kitchen plan, and it’s not a good light for the bedroom or bathroom, and would be weird in the hallway. I liked the idea of putting it in the living room, but Max vetoed.


I still want it.

What if I move? What if I need it someday? What if I get rid of it and I cry forever and my body completely dehydrates and I shrivel into an empty, lifeless sack of leathery skin? ANGUISH.

I went and bought this thing on, oh, maybe like 6 months ago? It’s all a blur. It’s by Ross Menuez, produced by Areaware, but NEWFLASH it’s now on crazy crazy sale at Urban Outfitters. Maybe you’ll buy one too and we can wallow together about how we’re terrible at making decisions and following through on hanging the lights we buy? I actually think I know what I’m doing with this one, too, it just hasn’t happened yet because, I mean, you know already. I suck.

I’m actually tempted to buy a second one. Somebody sedate me. FUCK.

I like this light because of the awesome icosahedron shape, obviously, but it’s also nice because it gives a super, super warm light through the felt material to counteract the cool light of death that CFL bulbs give off. I hate CFL’s but I can totally deal with one in this. Doing my part for the environment! Kind of.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??? This is just a boring hanging globe pendant, because why not? My goal is to get this hung today, by the way, which is looking less and less promising the more time I spend procrastinating online.

Also, I have reasons:

1. IKEA doesn’t make the FADO light anymore, and I don’t like that thing that replaced it.

2. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it’s actually a GREAT scale. Larger than the FADO, size-wise it’s what I really want out of a plain boring white globe.

3. These things are actually expensive, I think, and I’m no mathematician but I’m pretty sure the $15 I paid at Salvation Army isn’t about to be beat by any new retail price. So it was cheap? Great, I officially should not be allowed to be treated as an adult.

4. I know EXACTLY what I want to do with it. And I think I’ve owned it less than a month, so that’s not even so bad, especially when compared with the rest of my track record.

And then there’s this guy. My dear friend Maya (of perfect shelves and flawless style fame) gave this to me as part of a super secret late-night clandestine furniture bartering scheme a little while ago. I mean, it looks like a crazy chrome witch’s hat and I want all of that in my life. But where does it go? Same problem as the PH.

Need more rooms.

OK, THESE. These bad bitches I’m excited about. I bought them because they’re obviously amazing huge old enamel industrial lights. They are HUGE. I also bought these in Buffalo, last summer.

No, not the summer that just ended. The one before that. In JUNE. OF 2011.

Shame spiral.

At the time, they looked like this shitshow, and even at $50 a piece, which is usually kind of a splurge for me, were a total fucking steal. You can tell this picture is old because it’s from before the traumatic instagram filter updates (which we all got over, finally) and the picture only got 1 “like.” Big up, IAMRYANJAMES.

BUT SERIOUSLY. These lights will MAKE my kitchen (I hope). And look how fancy they cleaned up? Thus is the power of Magic Erasers.

They obviously need new wiring but I think I’ve figured that out AND a way to actually hang these heavy beasts, so things are looking up. Fingers crossed I can get these up before I move or the world ends or whatever, because I need to be right about these lights and not let more than a year of shuffling them around in the apartment (currently, they sit in a pile on top of the fridge, which is what I would call CLA$$Y) be spent in vain. They must be worth my struggle, otherwise life is meaningless and everything is forever terrible.

So I was going to wait to reveal this when it’s actually wired up in my apartment, but who KNOWS when that might happen and I don’t want it to be un-purchasable by then. What we have here is the West Elm Long Arm Chandelier, in black, duh, which I impulse bought a couple weeks ago because the black finish is inexplicably on mad sale for $129, down from $299. I haven’t even opened the box yet, so I can’t speak to the quality, but I like the way this thing looks and Max is in love with it and so we made it ours.

I like lights. Don’t let me buy any more lights unless I beg really hard and promise to get rid of two in its place. Enough of this madness.

OK, I’m going to go try to not get electrocuted.

Three Point Oh.

Hey, notice anything different around here? How about how EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT? If you’re reading this post via an RSS reader, now would be a great time to come back over to the site and reacquaint yourself. Manhattan Nest got a big overhaul, and bitch is looking gooooood.

Of course, all of this awesomeness was only made possible by the incredible design force that is my friend, Anna Dorfman. Anna is, like, the most amazing. She redesigned the site once already—two years ago when we moved from my little .wordpress ditty—and now she’s back and has done it again.

Now, as I have made clear in the recent past, I am a nightmare. But the amazing thing about Anna is that somehow, some way, she’s able to look past that. I honestly don’t think I can put into words how lucky I am that she would choose to work with me on redesigning my site TWICE now, and that she did such an amazing job both times. Her only goal has always been to design a site that I love, and guess what? I love it. But more than that, working with Anna always leaves me a little bit in awe of how she’s able to take my totally nonsensical ideas and feedback, combine them with her own intuition about what I’m trying to express, and somehow turn that into a great design. It’s all a little bit magical, honestly. When I think about all of the hours that Anna has dedicated to helping me through stuff, blog-related and otherwise, designing for me, let alone being my friend at all, I really just don’t understand how I got so lucky. So even though three measly words aren’t nearly enough, I’ll say them anyway: thank you, Anna!

So go explore! There are some new features to check out (hello, Instagram gallery!), as well as a new FAQ page, an updated About page, and some fun new stuff in the sidebar. The great thing about this new site is that it’s designed to expand a little, so we’ll be adding a few more great features in the coming weeks. Also, do me a solid and let me know if you notice any glitches or anything when navigating the site, and some internet-voodoo will be performed to remedy them.

Oh! Also! Guess what? Manhattan Nest now has a Facebook Page! I don’t know quite how I’ll even use it yet, but feel free to go “Like” it. I’ll probably post links I find interesting, photos, and other stuff that doesn’t make it onto the blog, so stay tuned. I think it could be fun for all of us?

(Above photo taken by Anna Dorfman with Instagram on my 23rd birthday, which was on Thursday. Max had a late class so Anna and I had celebratory dinner and cake together, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.)

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