Archives for category: Decorating

Hi guys! If you’re wondering why my decor blogging screeched to a halt, it’s not because of my infamous inability to stay interested in a project until it’s completed.  It’s because I had to make a life change, and a friend’s seriously affordable, seriously cute fixer-upper of an apartment became available and helped me achieve that.

The new place, unlike the boxy big-rooms-all-in-a-row 1 bedroom apartment I’m in now, is a warren of small rooms, walls that curve unexpectedly, and delightful angles.  Its many windows just cry out to be lined with little green plants in pots, a look that for some reason I associate with the best of the 1970s.  I must have seen a charming window full of greenery when I was very young and it made a deep aesthetic impression.  I also think about Ruth Gordon’s train car home in Harold and Maude.

Image is from Apartment Therapy.  I think having the shelf suspended over the window is key to achieving that charming look that’s imprinted on my childhood brain, as are the little colored glass bottles.  Growing up in Readington, NJ, there was a spot in a bit of wilderness on our land that former residents had used as a dumping ground in the 19th and early 20th century.  We used to dig there and find all kinds of little apothecary bottles that we’d clean up and my mom would display on the window over the sink.

There’s a lovely window beside the farmhouse sink in the new place that would be perfect for this kind of treatment.  Now, how to do that and still be able to lift out the window to clean the outside (maybe some brackets on the window frame and a detachable shelf?), and how to keep plants alive which I’ve never been able to master (those As Seen on TV plant watering globes?)… but this place cries out for live plants.  The natural light is only slightly better than where I am now, since it’s also a ground floor apartment, but with at least one window on each of three sides plus one at an angle, the chances of getting a ray of sunshine in for at least 15 minutes a day are increased.

When I last saw my friend who’s handing the place over to me, I asked her if there was anything in the apartment that she’d be secretly upset if I changed.  I know it could be a bit tricky if you visit someplace where you used to live, that you put a lot of thought and hard work into, and still feel that sense of propriety.  Wonderful woman that she is, she assured me that the place is now 100% mine and I should do whatever I want, but that she’d probably have to wait a while until she visited.  I understand that, and out of respect for her, I’m not going to post pictures yet.  But I will be taking them along the way as I get the place ready and move in a week from today, and I’ll save them up.

By the way, I think I’m going to stop putting breaks or “folds” in my blog posts where you have to click for more.  I’ve noticed that personally, I really prefer being able to read through everything on one page, though it can get annoying to scroll through long posts with lots of pics.  What do you guys think?


Curtains: My old green curtains paired with sheers made out of the sari from Jackson Heights.

Throw pillows made with African/Dutch waxprint fabrics, $3.50-$6/yard from P&S Fabrics and another store nearby on Broadway south of Canal Street.

Table: Pink cloth is a $1.99 Ikea clearance rug.  Turquoise placemat, $2.99 Daffy’s clearance.  Vase (which is either the same or very close to a Crate & Barrel one I coveted for years and regretted not buying), $4.99 at Salvation Army.  Flowers, $5 from Union Square Greenmarket.  Brass tray with engraving of clipper ship, $2.99 at Salvation Army.

You can spot the duck head on top of the bookcase.  Not sure where its permanent place will be but it will tell me in due time.  Also to do: replace upside-down lampshade!

The light in the apartment is still so gloomy but does take on a nice pink hue from the curtains.  There was an article in the NYT recently about apartment envy which is epidemic among New Yorkers.  “For such an intellectually advanced and culturally diverse population, we sure are easily impressed with dishwashers.”  My list is longer than most.  In order of desire.

  1. Natural light.  The kind that makes you happy just walking into a room where a slanted beam of light is glowing ever-so-optimistically and makes having a cup of tea into a rapturous event.
  2. A balcony, roof deck, back garden, terrace, deck, porch, courtyard, or even a fire escape!
  3. A dishwasher.
  4. A beautiful view.  Currently, living in Bay Ridge, I’m dreaming about a view of the Narrows, the body of water between us and Staten Island, and being able to watch the barges, massive container ships, ferries, sailboats and glorious sunsets from my own pad.
  5. A sewing room.
  6. A working fireplace. HahaHahaHahaHa.

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of curtains made from saris for a few weeks now.  And in keeping with the loose theme I’ve decided to apply to this room–the ethnic diversity of New York City–I went to Jackson Heights in Queens today in search of the perfect 7 yards of fabric.

It was interesting to visit during Ramadan–there were lots of sidewalk vendors all selling religious merchandise–Arabic inscribed plaques, headscarves and blankets (but no fawanees).  Luckily I was given a fanous (that’s the singular for fawanees) by a nice man in a shop in Bay Ridge last week after getting a clear dental report!  (He didn’t know.  But it was better than a lollipop.)

After a long, alternately wonderful, frustrating, sweaty and overwhelming day trolling sari shops along 74th St. and 37th Ave. (with a lunch stop at Al-Naimat), I finally found exactly what I was looking for in a downstairs shop called New East West Sarre Sarani (and they were very sweet and helpful to a white girl with a strange request).  Bright fuchsia, gold embroidered, sheer poly chiffon, with plenty of fabric for two windows, $40!  Here’s a pic of it in the room–I just have it draped over the rod right now.  I’ll have to figure out how to make the two curtains, as one thing I learned about saris today is that the border design is only on one short side.  Makes sense as the other would normally be hidden when worn.

I love it!  It brings such a nice glow into the room.

Click for before-and-after chair pics!

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“Follow House magazine’s guide to how to get horny spring color blobs boxes into your home.”

“Niels is not just fussy, he is super fussy. But he is legally excused. He lives for his sharp sense of decor”

Those are some of my favorite Google Translate blurbs from BOLIG, an interior design magazine from Denmark and the source for my main new inspiration photo (first found @ Jubella):

I decided I love the stark white walls and furniture with crazy accent colors.  Plus it means I don’t have to repaint (at least that room) when I move out.

I found some other great ideas at TAJ Wood & Scherer (Germany) and the wonderful RICE company out of Denmark.  They design wonderful super-colorful home items that are made under fair trade conditions in developing countries.  I wish we had a shop of theirs here–I think it would do well in NY!

The rice-bag and matchbox inspired patterned throw pillows on the top right are from Koko, a NY (Queens) based company run by a Colombian woman married to an Indian man–she operates a similar fair-trade business model too, as I found out when I FINALLY located the woven plastic rugs I’ve been searching for desperately, by Koko and available at Domus (run by a delightful woman named Luisa) in NY.  You can see a few in the pictures above–my favorites are the brightly colored ones in traditional floral/scrollwork designs.  I’d seen them all over the place in the Scandinavian blogs, and I did see some by Mad Mats (which have the added plus of being recycled) but they didn’t quite have the colors and designs I wanted.  It took a New York Times article on the trend to find the name Koko and the store Domus.  Hello all design blogs out there: please tell us the manufacturers of the items you feature!  And makers, work on your Google presence!

Continue for new couch pics and a poll!  Onward!

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I went to Etsy Craft Night for the first time last night.  I had visited the offices in DUMBO, Brooklyn before in a professional capacity (I am starting a nonprofit program to teach sewing, crafts, and business methods in the Arab American community where I live) but to be honest I was just as interested in snooping around the office, seeing all the cool stuff, and talking about crafting.   So I decided to return with needles and crochet hooks in hand to one of the Monday night get-togethers they have, either teaching a specific craft or, like last night, an open crafts night.  I also thought it would be a way to try the old “meet people with common interests” tactic: I tend to be somewhat of an introverted, socially inept hermit who loathes/is incapable of small talk but I could really use some new girlfriends.  Or crafty menfriends.

When I arrived there were 4 tables pretty full of crafters busily creating and nattering away, and one table that was relatively empty.  So I set myself up there.  For company, an older Chinese woman who spoke absolutely no English, and a man who was singing Christmas carols and theme songs to 70s sitcoms (“Come and knock on my door…”) loudly to himself, or asking everyone in the room when their birthday was.  Right.  So this plan is going well.

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Chair (was free) lightly sanded and taped and waiting to be painted white. Eggshell paint ($15, ugh). Sort of à la Jonathan Adler.  What do you think?  It might be a trend that’s on its way out.  But what the hell.

Other project of the day, this very strange leather hanging mirror I got at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market yesterday ($5).  Notice it is missing its lowermost dangly bits.  I’m going to take it with me on my first visit to Etsy Craft Night tonight and do some plastic surgery.  I’m thinking something pendulous.

Behold patchwork pillow #1!  I’m super happy with it, though I also learned I really don’t like patchworking and it’s a good thing I’m going for an imperfect handmade look because I can’t seem to manage to get those damn squares to match up.  The top center fabric is from a thrifted sweater that I couldn’t really pull off, the right center is from a dollar store scarf, and the left center is from a silk Indian scarf I wore to a wedding long ago.  The only problem is that the silk is really fragile and I can see it start to fray… should have backed it with interfacing as I thought as I was making it “I should really back this with interfacing so it doesn’t fray…”

The other fabrics were purchased or in my stash (the pink and blue one came from Mom, thanks!) and the center and bottom left were fancy schmancy buys from the City Quilter (by the way, they were very nice and not stuck up like SOME craft store ladies).  Ooh and the background fabric came from a local fabric store here in my neighborhood, which I spotted while at the register buying overpriced elastic thread, having misplaced the stuff I already bought and being fixated on a shirring project, and an underpriced genyoowine vintage buckle, which revealed itself to me as I was squished in an aisle barely big enough for one ample-butted crafter, squatted down with an employee searching through stacks of upholstery piping while she good-naturedly grumbled about her tyrannical boss, who was one of those proprietors who makes you feel like a naughty student while you are shopping, but in a way you are happy because you feel you’re getting some kind of old-fashioned NY service.  So anyway, I saw the green/blue sparkly floral brocade at the counter, which is almost exactly the fabric in the $7 vintage dress I bought last weekend, which I was tempted to cut up for decorating but of course I never would (sacrilege).

It turned out there was a half-yard left, which was exactly what I wanted, and I expected a bit of a discount as it was a bolt end, but didn’t get one.  Looking at it more carefully at home now I see there is red printing “MADE IN JAPAN”, a red seal/stamp impression, and a grimy bit where it was taped to the roll.  I should really become one of those shoppers who inspects everything they buy and berates the shopkeeper for a discount–for some reason I picture an early 60s housewife shaking a disapproving finger at the local butcher.  It’s a skill I have to work on!  (If the red printing were more distinct, it would work into my design scheme really well, but it’s not–it’s just bleh.)

See? *Shakes finger vigorously and belatedly!*

Click for crochay and moar…

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Originally uploaded by Hennybee

When you’re starting a new redecoration project, it helps if you buy the major items first that will form the structure of the room. Things like ceramic duck heads (at $3.99 a Salvation Army splurge) and miniature tin Sacred Heart mirrors (50¢ at the most amazing thrift shop out in the country, where I also got a 1950s turquoise-and-kelly-green brocade party dress in perfect condition for $7 and a pristine vintage tablecloth for $3!!) I also picked up the hand-embroidered kitty cat cushion cover, also 50¢ because it was stained and ripped. Most of it came clean in the wash, but I might dye it tangerine. Or not–it’s kind of sweet the way it is.

But this, folks, is the problem with thrift shop/dollar store redecorating. You may go into a shop looking for, say, a flower-print muumuu that you can cut up for patchworks, and find instead a duck head on a plaque (I didn’t even mention the scary yellow eyes. He’s magnificent.).

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A few colorful items in my currently dull living room have been telling me they want company:

A candle from Brooklyn’s Sunset Park Chinatown ($1)

My yarn bag

And this painting I bought in Quito (it’s a copy of a painting by Ecuadorian fantastic realist artist Gustavo Velasco, or so I gather though this is the only page online I can find with information on him, and it is signed “J. Rafael”) which I love but a certain SO finds in questionable taste.

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Hi guys, well I’ve been meaning to blog for a while now and while I plan to talk about other things that more or less frivolous than home decorating, it seems a good place to start!

I’ve been in this apartment for a little over 3 years now, since I was separated and had to leave my beloved Craftsman bungalow with its big backyard, towering Pin Oak and graceful American Elm.  The interior was full of woodwork lovingly crafted by the original owner, and lent itself easily to a vintage decorating style.  It was a heartache to leave the space–on the last day, I secretly kissed the mahogany woodwork, rounded and smoothed by years of use, in the precious little butler’s pantry (that was almost certainly ripped out by the new owners to make room for a ‘proper’ modern kitchen).

When I moved into this apartment in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, I purposefully threw away, gave away, or put into storage anything that I associated with my old life, the habits I’d formed in my suburban young adulthood, things that I loved but didn’t want to dwell on.  I got rid of most of my vintage clothing and my art supplies, carefully packed away my favorite decorative items and most of my 1000+ books, and moved in with just the bare essentials and three books: Writings and Drawings by Bob Dylan, Ray Bradbury’s Death is a Lonely Business, and my favorite childhood book, Over and Over.

It wasn’t that any of the hobbies or things I’d acquired during my marriage were necessarily bad, it was just that I wanted to zero out everything, not rely on routine or habit, start with nothing and see what returned to me, what didn’t, and what new things would gather, like a local yeast in the air invisibly working to raise your sourdough starter, to lend its own particular flavor.  I didn’t want to be stuck in the past: neither my own past or the throwback world of purist vintage decor and fashion.  I traveled less than 30 miles from my idyllic suburban village to Brooklyn, but it was also a journey in time–into the present, from the 20th to the 21st century.

Dreadful “before” picture and more after the jump!

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