Archive for the 'decor' Category

1936 vintage

October 12, 2011

During our recent frolic through Central Europe, the Hungarian leg of the tour allowed us pleasures available only to those who have the good fortune of knowing a local. I was fortunate enough to one-up even that: family. My living relatives span many generations, and many homes—the majority of which remain in Budapest, where I was born. One of said homes is a family inheritance, built in 1936 and having survived all that followed in subsequent years. It’s filled with antiques and treasures that breathe their age: the villa has that fragrance of equal parts must and freshness, because life has never left this summer house for long. This is where we stayed for five delightful days.

The entrance…

… the foyer, containing a trunk with buried treasure …

… the living room, with much of the furniture and decor untouched for decades (besides a good dusting) …

… a lamp draped in upholstery (I love it) …

… the kitchen (facing the front yard) …

… the upstairs nook leading to a few rooms …

… and the patio, which has hosted many a family reunion, and faces a downward sloping backyard and a stunning view.

Funny how a place you visit only once every few years can feel so very inviting.


if cleanliness is godliness, dude did not have a brick wall.

August 16, 2011

I’ve seen many a vibrant, glossy, sealed and painted brick wall in my apartment-hunting years, and I never distinguished them from those raw, exposed interior facades, perhaps too blinded by the charm of these textured masses of natural coral, taupe and paprika hues. What my mind’s eye failed to notice was all the concrete and brick dust piling up on the floor.

Now, having finally acquired one of my dream features of a New York abode—the stunning, exposed brick wall—I am reminded daily of its flaws, in the forms of thick, coarse dust. Not only on the floor, mind you, but on the furniture, the books, the bikes, and even the art.

My defenses? Hand vacuum, air-in-a-can, and 409. My enemy’s? Another inch of dust overnight. This is a battle I don’t anticipate winning.

And, sometimes, it’s hard to tell whose side the cat is taking.

housewarming gifts

July 17, 2011

We welcomed to our home this week a lovely little lady by the name of Brando. An acquaintance of a friend needed to find her a home, and as we’d been considering (though, full disclosure, I am a dog person), we couldn’t not take this little sweetheart.

She suited us perfectly because, at four years old, her traits and habits are pretty much down pat, and notable traits they were: doesn’t scratch furniture (though she has her claws), doesn’t care for plants, and doesn’t meow much. While we’re not quite there with the latter—she’s still adjusting, new people, new place, new routine—the other two we’ve been very appreciative of.

Other darling features:

  • She pants like a dog, tongue lolling and awkward pug-esque smile.
  • Her vocals fall somewhere between chimp and Jetsons car.
  • We’ve noticed she matches our apartment’s earthy color scheme quite perfectly.

Already she’s giving us gifts, which I imagine to mean she’s happy in her new home with her new owners. This morning I woke up to see the rug by our bed sloppily folded up: a wrapped present. The contents? A giant dead cockroach. She sat proudly next to it, eying me for admiration.

Now, this would have been a more satisfying sight, had I not been previously under the impression that my apartment did not have cockroaches. But, as the fella so eloquently put it, half-asleep as I jabbed at his side, “It’s New York, baby.”

Epilogue: The cat got many treats for breakfast. I just hope she’s not a frequent gift giver.

B&B chic

July 6, 2011

While I would never adorn even a closet of mine with gaudy floral wallpaper, there’s just something about bed-and-breakfasts that necessitate such a quaint kitsch factor. The West Dover Inn, where we stayed for our weekend escape to Vermont, nailed that look with its explosion of floral patterns and country clutter in pretty much ever room (take a look for yourself at the guest rooms on the site). On top of the aesthetic bonus, the innkeepers were exceptionally friendly, helpful, and charming.

So let’s break down the art of B&B chic with a few simple rules:

1. Essential decor: antique radios, sepia globe, sepia anything, and colonial art. Bonus points for toile dishware, delicately chipped.

2. A credenza packed with board games old and new, pieces missing or scattered about, provides kitschy good fun. As does, of course, a partially complete jigsaw puzzle. (The innkeeper’s son was quick to declare puzzle assembly using an image of the final product indisputable cheating. I could not agree more.)

3. Serious props to innkeepers who provide handmade puzzles of maps with an X that marks the spot of the town’s best swimming holes.

4. Edible coziness: cheese, crackers, homemade preserves that, though unidentifiable, taste so good your guests eat it anyway, and a bottle of wine.

5. Additional antique radios set angled atop decorative doilies alongside a floral lantern-style table lamp perfectly offset floral wallpaper, floral sheets, floral pillowcases …

6. You can never, ever have enough charming floral (and literary) accoutrements.

mine is a fickle garden

June 27, 2011


As the silhouettes of my herbs gaze sorrowfully at me from the windowsill, I have noticed a particularly spry weed amid the mostly wilting cilantro. Turns out the plant flowered under my nose, which might explain its rather disheveled mien of late. The rest of the herbs are offering little encouragement on the sidelines; each looks weary in its own right. Somehow I continue managing to water them too much or too little … or perhaps they’re just averse to the tap.


My tomato plant, on the other hand, is exploding. The suckers are growing faster than I can pinch them off. While it’s still a ways away from showing fruit, it’s a delight to tend to; if my herbs are grimacing, my tomato plant is beaming.

But I’ll fight for your, herbs, Mother Nature help me, I will. I just might pass on the cilantro next season. Really, I barely even use it. Barely.

batten down the hatches, he’s got a hammer and nails

June 13, 2011

You will not find DIY innovation in these here parts. Past posts are clearly indicative of my skill level. As for the fella—let’s just say, having been raised to keep his nose in the books, B has the delicate hands of an aristocrat. So when I exclaim that recently he installed a freestanding shelf in the living room, my enthusiasm comes without a tinge of irony. Baby steps love company.

So I beam with pride over his bravery in entering the world of handymanship. Speaking of ships, more exciting is the reason for the shelf: B’s (much more crafty) grandfather once had a hobby of building model ships. No Legos, no plastic—just maddening precision and patience, piecing together matchstick-size planks and weaving yards and yards of string. Three such ships remain in B’s family’s possession; one most recently bestowed to us for repair and subsequent pageantry.

One mast had broken, a few of the strings had tangled, and other details had torn free from their adhesive restraints. B picked up some hobby glue/concrete, I fetched my tweezers, and we set to work.

I recall squealing incessantly on seeing such minute details, down to the helm, cannons and spyglasses adorning this antique.

I was especially thrilled to have found a reason to use the iHandy Level iPhone app. (Fun fact: Our living room slopes several degrees upward in the northwestern corner.)

We both found ourselves dangerously tempted to build our own model ship someday. This will probably lead to me buying a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle of a pirate ship and calling it a day.

the bare-wall burden

June 8, 2011

Sleek, white, unmarked walls confront a coarse tesselation of speckled red hues in here. The contrast is jarring, and the towering ceilings beckon the illusion that these competing facades are physically leaning inward with hostility. Or the walls are sloped. It’s an old building; either premise is tenable.

The undoing of any contentious relationship is most successfully achieved with the presence of a shared enemy. Fearing, with this knowledge, that the walls might yet collapse on me, I chose a more favorable option for all parties: tear down these proverbial walls by dressing them up. Put plainly, these vast, contrasting canvases needed some art.

I’ve been anticipating the moment when I have enough complementary pieces to craft an art cluster/gallery/collage. It was one of the first grueling challenges I braved when we finally located the hammer and nails (though I let the fella do the wall damage).

What makes this collection even more satisfying is how well these pieces work together considering the copious sources. The bike comes from B’s past trip to Amsterdam; the tiny ceramic tile is from my travels to Greece. I rescued this piece and its partner from a Salvation Army in Los Angeles when B and I were visiting his brother almost two years ago. We argued over who found them first (me) and who’d get to keep them (me); of course, that argument is now moot.

We’ve turned to Etsy for adorning other nooks of the apartment. The latest purchase is a trio of illustrations (still in need of frames) that B found from artist Judy Kaufmann. Adorable renditions of famous figures in art, science, and film; we picked out Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, and Charlie Chaplin—the latter, somewhat erroneously: We’d been deliberating between Bowie and Lennon and I had previously mentioned wanting Chaplin, but we figured three different fields would make a nice balance. After all that he accidentally asked for Chaplin. Ah well.)

Surely these gentlemen are up for the challenge of wall-soothing. Each print includes a quotation that I find elevates the utter preciousness of the illustrations.

And home wouldn’t feel complete or quite right without a few homespun pieces.

I printed a few dozen photos, to mix and match and swap out when I got bored. Funny enough, it took a few weeks before I realized that the six I have hanging now were all from outings and adventures with the fella. When I shared this realization, he somewhat sadly replied, “I thought you did that on purpose.” At least my subconscious is romantic.

I like to think the walls have softened their glares and deflated their stature with the splashes of color and life we’ve added to them. Though we still have room for a few more additions. Just to be safe.

a new summer coat

May 21, 2011

Add furniture painter to the resume because I am taking crazy baby steps all over the world of craft! Copious self-pats-on-the-back over here. Gave my desk chair a makeover with a nice new coat of paint, courtesy of Home Depot’s oops shelf. Hooray for pretty 50-cent paint!

Quick (unnecessary?) sanding and coat of primer-and-paint-in-one, and voilà:

I read copious instructions on how to do this—my primary apprehension being with the sanding. I bought a few sheets of 100 grit and sanded my hands warm … and, quite honestly, I don’t even know if it did a thing. But I cleaned it off, slapped on the paint, and here we are.

The best surprise is that I wanted to try for the “distressed” look, and it happened rather naturally as I painted. Finding that primer-in-the-paint mix meant I could paint lightly and let the wood color peek out without having to strategically sand parts of the chair for that refined-distressed (oxymoron?) appearance.

Now I have the bug. The painting bug. Hopefully B stops me before the apartment becomes a technicolor coat.

in other riveting news

February 22, 2011

And when I say riveting, this description very likely applies solely to me and to me alone, but this is a matter of such circumstance (to me) that I can’t not share it.

New. Faucet.

heaven is an arced faucet

I am flustered by the fact that I cannot help you, dear reader, to better appreciate this new striking improvement, as it appears I don’t have an image of the previous faucet, which can be likened only to a leaky nub of a rotting sheath of metal with two settings: off and haywire sprinkler system.

My deepest gratitude to B’s dad, whose deft plumbing skills made this beautiful thing happen. Never will I enjoy washing dishes more than in the coming days until the novelty wears off.

for the faint of craft

February 5, 2011

Crafting is not an activity that has been a big part of my life. I dropped out of Girl Scouts at age 8. My sewing skills are limited to button reassignment. And I lack the obligatory colorful, joyful bin of “scraps” and “supplies” to “create” to my heart’s content.

So allow me to have a wee bit of pride in my first pseudo-crafty activity, which is certifiably the easiest craft in the world of creative mix’n’match. I made a magnet.

Science also not being my thing (though I find it fascinating in its mystifying complexities), I do not mean I literally made a magnet. I ventured downtown to enter the only legitimate craft store of which I know in the city (seriously, is Pearl the only craft store in New York?), bought some lovely simply little circular black magnets, and trotted on home.

Rather, I spruced up a magnetcan I say I craftied it?with a darling little ceramic work of art that my cousin hand-painted and gifted me on a birthday so many years ago. I love this little piece and have no idea how I haven’t lost or broken it over the years. It’s far too small for standard presentation (hanging, propping upright on a shelf) so one day I had realized it would make a darling magnet.

Magnets fresh in hand, crazy glue among my paltry supplies, I got to gluing.

And a new contributor now joins the commemorative fridge wall.

fun fact: the illustration is of my dad's family's villa outside of budapest. it's oozing as much old-world charm as one can fit into an enchantingly dilapidated central european country home.