We’ve just stepped off the red-eye from a week in New York City, and I must say that the task of unpacking our overstuffed luggage is feeling a little daunting at the moment—perhaps the reason the simplicity of this 580-square-foot cabin, the home of Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser (aka Pete Campbell), is piquing my interest right now. It may also have something to do with having just left Manhattan where we were reminded of our own time spent as a family of three in an apartment just under that size. (Although, on this visit, we stayed in a wonderful one-bedroom-apartment we found on the brilliant site Kid & Coe… more on that soon enough.)
Aron and I have debated putting a robotic vacuum-like gadget on a wish-list pretty much every holiday since we moved in together nearly 10 years ago and joined our mutual dislike for household chores. So when iRobot offered to let us try the new iRobot Braava floor mopping system? Yes, please. Sign us up!
At first I was a little wary. The iRobot is a wet/dry sweeper, not a vacuum. Aron set it up while we watched an old Tom Cruise movie (you know, that one where he runs everywhere) and the jokes began. Me: “Oh, can you remember to do X and Y?” Him: “Sure—and I’ll clean the floors at the same time!” Pager goes off. Aron comes back from phone call to hospital. “I’m on call AND I’m cleaning the floors!”
There are two cleaning modes: damp and dry cleaning (you can use disposable cleaning cloths, including Swiffer brand, or Braava’s microfiber cloths). We ran it dry first. And because it was nighttime, we couldn’t immediately see the difference between the clean and dirty floors the way you can when the sunlight hits at those afternoon angles—and I worried it wasn’t working. But then it was so satisfying (and kind of gross!) when we picked it up and looked at dirty microfiber cloth. Sort of that icky satisfaction you get when you use one of those pore strips on your face, if you know what I mean. Kind of awesome!
I wish I could say I made this Bay Leaf wreath (shown smelling wonderful on our Thanksgiving table last year before it went on to adorn our door for far too many months), but I bought it.
Not once, but twice, this year I’ve purchased materials with the best of intentions to make a wreath: first a wire wreath form—with this succulent wreath in mind (we have the materials in our yard); and then a dried grapevine wreath with the impulsive thought that Hudson and I would hot-glue his stash of mini-white-pumpkins to it. I brought it home only to remember that… oh yeah… I don’t have a hot glue gun.
So while I’m sort of a DIY-fail, I really do have the best of intentions! And I’m assured that making your own wreath can be very simple. I’ve been collecting inspiration for those of you with more follow-through: if I were to make a wreath this year, here’s where I’d look first.
Oh Happy Day: 3 wreaths to make for the holidays
Design Sponge: Bits & Bits wreath (pictured twice) and Bittersweet & Rosehip wreath
Kinfolk: Holiday wreath & card holder
Martha Stewart: Corn Husk Wreath (she, of course, has many useful tutorials)
Try it. Then let me know how it went so I can continue to be a vicarious DIY-er?
[All photos, except top (our last year's Thanksgiving table), from the listed sources.]
Tackling the chore list is a moving target. I realize I do okay when it comes to daily maintenance, not so good when it comes to weekly deep cleaning. We’re lucky to have help twice a month in that department now, so you can understand if it tends to slip off my radar from time-to-time.
But I love the basket trick: At the end of the day, grab a basket and go through the house to pick up all of the misplaced items and then redistribute to rightful places. I’ve actually started using two baskets—one for Hudson’s things (the majority) and one for everything else. If he’s already asleep, I tend to leave his basket just inside his bedroom door.
Of course, all the better if the baskets are pretty! We tried to bring home as many baskets from Bali as we could, but they’re not so easy to pack. Here are twelve great options (row by row, left to right) you can order online:
Handwoven African Horizons Basket // Woven African Knitting Basket // West Elm Curved Basket // Land of Nod Charming Baskets // Serena & Lily Round Belly Baskets // Serena & Lily Senegalese Baskets // Nate Berkus for Target Chevron Storage Basket // Crate & Barrel Sedona Totes // Ikea Magga Basket // Tanzanian Iringa Basket set // West Elm Graphic Printed Baskets // World Market Amelie Basket
Also, be sure to check out the woven collection at Jjangde Goods (not pictured). About to launch, Jjangde connects local women entrepreneurs to the global marketplace (though you can find some items on Etsy). Profits from the goods go to fund schools and employ the women in the communities where the goods were made and are starting small with one community in Senegal in West Africa.
What tips would you share for conquering the chore list?
P.S. A link for a printable chore chart.
Though wallpaper can be a daunting commitment, I love the way it can dramatically transform a child’s room. And ever since leaving behind Hudson’s mini-crib space (though we took some of the paper along with us), I’ve been wanting to paper an accent wall again.
I was talking to some friends about our progress moving in and how, a year later (almost to the day), we still feel like there’s a lot to finish. There’s a momentum to furnishing a place and ours has died. That’s okay—I like the idea of taking one’s time rather than rushing through the fun of decorating (to a degree) and there is the practical matter of cash flow to consider, but I do wish we could go back to that early-on momentum and borrow some of it to finish a few spaces.
Right now, the room we keep talking around in circles is our dining room. You see part of the room the minute you walk through the door (that’s the view, above), and I love it! Because we hardly ever sit in there, the most visible bits stay pretty clean—clear of the stuff you typically set down when you walk in the door (that tends to pile, instead, in our kitchen). So I’m pretty happy with this half of the room; all of the natural light makes it bright and inviting and I’m glad our couch from New York has a place to rest. Anyway, I keep hoping to share some after photos of the whole room, but since I don’t know when that will be… let’s move onto the “before.”
The other half is definitely a “Before.” Most of the time, it’s filled with boxes and backpacks and scooters and helmets and strollers and… a whole lot of junk. There are two empty pieces of furniture backed into the corner—because we’re not sure what to do with them. We know we want to install a light fixture that hangs over the table, but what should it look like? And then there’s the dining table. Aron made that leaf for our old one (which we found at a thrift store when we were first living in Los Angeles, ten years ago) and we usually only use it under a table cloth, but I’ve been keeping it in because (a) I don’t mind the two-tone so much and (b) we’ve learned that we like the look of a long table in here (this is roughly 100″).
Finally, the black storage isn’t really right anymore for the style of our new home; it was better suited for our apartment in New York.
Aron and I took a little trip down memory lane on our last trip to Los Angeles…
This is the first apartment Aron and I shared—on Ogden in the Fairfax district.
I lived in that large, Spanish-style apartment, just up the block from CBS Studios, alone at first as a graduate student at USC. I was about six-months into the Comparative Literature PhD program when Aron came down from San Francisco and moved in. It was a giant one-bedroom with an amazing layout, but it seemed small at the time. (Funny, considering our five years in 500-square-feet.) Six months later, as he began medical school at UCLA, we moved around the corner to a two-bedroom on Genessee.
I remember pushing our things (literally) around the block and being asked whether we were selling our records. We looked like a walking yard sale, we had so barely bothered to pack up.
I went back through our old photos and it’s amazing how few we have of it, especially considering we were there for four years.
It was here that we got engaged (nearly eight years ago)!
Where was your first home away from home (other than the dorms)? What was it like? There’s a great book called My First New York where artists, actors, writers and the like recount their early days and first homes in the city. No matter where you are though, it’s something you’ll never forget.
Since the last rain, our succulents and cacti have been putting on quite a show. It came as a bit of a surprise. I had no idea that “hen and chicks,” for example, already so-flower like with their rosette of leaves produced such bright pink stalks of flowers.
Not to be left out, a carpet of sedum blooming in yellow.
The cacti’s blooms are far more short lived. We get to see them primarily in Aron’s parents’ yard—they have an incredible collection.
But even our very tiny purple cactus seems to be crying out “look at me!”
They’re making up for all of our unhappy (failing) houseplants.
Speaking of our New York apartment…
Pop the champagne: we have finally closed the sale on it. Despite finding a buyer within the first two weeks of listing it last year, and then finding another the week after Hurricane Sandy hit, we endured months of obstacles to get to the point of finally saying “sold!” just over a couple of weeks ago.
Now that I’m sure I won’t jinx anything, I can look back and say aloud what a pain in the arse it is to hold an open house—especially when the entire house you’re selling is visible the moment you walk in the door. It was only two weeks, but during those two weeks the apartment was listed, we had someone coming to see it every day.
Let’s just say that I finally understand why anyone would iron their sheets.
I remember reading in shelter magazines, like Domino, that ironing one’s sheets was something one does—and being a bit shocked. And then, Martha Stewart dedicated a portion of an eponymous episode to showing off an amazing rotary iron at which she liked to sit and press sheets during restless nights.
My first thought was ‘that sounds like hell.’ Sleeplessness and ironing?! But for years I’ve wondered about the secret to a well-made bed—the kind that you’d find in a fancy hotel (and the kind that someone wants to see in a home they’re considering buying)—and I’m afraid pressed sheets, as unrealistic as they may be, might be the answer.
P.S. We cheated: I took our sheets to a launderer to have them pressed before the photographer came, and then slept without pillowcases, and went over the top edges of the sheets with an iron every morning while Hudson was strapped in his high chair. Did I mention it was a pain in the butt?
Remember the faux-door moulding we created in our New York apartment? We used used a combination of crown moulding and miter cuts to add a little architecture. (You can see the “after” behind Hudson in this photo, and the “before” here.)
R and R Designworks, on Etsy, has created an inexpensive DIY kit that seems like a terrific, alternative solution.
They’ll work with you on walls, too. I’d love to see someone with the proper style of home go all out and do something like this…
I just saw on A Cup of Jo that 20×200 has closed its (virtual) doors. We’ve ordered a few prints from there recently—including the Sharon Montrose Flamingo pictured—and I had half-a-dozen more saved away in a mental pile of consideration. I’d found it to be a great source of affordable art (particularly photography) and had been checking back over the past few weeks hoping that the “we’re taking a break”-notice was not going to become a permanent break. So disappointing!
Some paintings we’ve found at the Alameda Flea recently are my most-treasured purchases thus far, but what are your favorite online sources of art? Who are you noticing on Etsy lately? I’ve pinned a few favorites to my photography and eye candy boards, but am generally slow to commit.
P.S. Funny enough, Joanna mentions Banquet as an alternative to 20×200. I just hung their cacti print this past week! You can see it on my Instagram—a rare non-Hudson photo.
We just potted our Snake plant and I love how easy-to-grow and architectural it is. I just saw that West Elm’s blog, Front & Main, featured one the other day.
What are your favorite houseplants? Also, we just picked up these beautiful Case Study planters by Modernica from Room & Board. Does anybody have a good source for straight-sided black and white pots like these (or like these ones by Architectural Pottery)? We keep getting outbid on Ebay—it’s incredible how expensive they can be!
No Friday links, but here are some travel posts I wrote for Babble this week, if you’re interested:
Just Say “NO” to Pre-boarding!
Crewcuts Vacation Shop
Inspiring Wanderlust and Global-awareness in Your Kids
The Worst Aged Child to Fly With?
Maptote for Kids
Have a great weekend!
I keep coming back to look at these gorgeous prints from Jenifer Altman’s recent book, Gem and Stone: Jewels of Earth, Sea, and Sky. I think they’d look amazing hung in a pair, at large scale. I actually first came to find the print shop by way of her silk scarves, printed with the same images. Aren’t they incredible?
Here are a few other things I’ve been coming back to lately:
I’d really like to try these Dutch Baby Pancakes.
I love the tunes options on this cute car pillow. I’d go with Blowin’ In the Wind.
One of the New Yorker’s most-read articles last year was about Paul Haggis’ departure from the Church of Scientology. (It was crazy!) I’m going to read Lawrence Wright’s novel about the Scientology, Going Clear, for a book club. Has anyone read it?
And I’m also blogging about Travel for Babble! This week:
Meet the New Babble Travel Blogger
ErgoBaby Travel Collection: Best Yet?
Surviving an 11-hour layover in Seoul with a Toddler
Have a great weekend!
We’re starting to hang more things on the walls. (Very, very slowly. I tend to prefer lean decoration and it takes me a long time to commit.) It would easier if gorgeous, large-scale photographs–like those ones above–weren’t so darned out of reach.
I’ve been noticing a trend toward natural wood frames these past few years; the fashion seems to have gone from black to white to, now, light wood. Have you noticed this, too?
I asked Victoria where she got hers (pictured on those amazing, custom shelves above) and of course Ikea has discontinued them. Anyone know a good source?
We’re starting to work on some plans for our backyard–a few new plants arrived Tuesday (we planted peach and nectarine trees!) and I’m looking forward to seeing it begin to take shape.
I’ve been collecting some favorite tear-sheets from sources like Martha Stewart Living (above) and Sunset Magazine. I especially love how all of the drought-tolerant grasses glow in that afternoon light. I’ll be sure and share some before-and-
afters in progress photos once I have some.
What is everyone doing this weekend? I can’t believe it’s March!
Here are some favorite links lately:
Rosemary crackers to bring to a dinner party
This post-Oscars photo trumps the ones from this year, no? Glamorous photos from 100 years at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Beautiful (new-to-me) tumblr with many photos that will draw out your wanderlust.
Must remember: Waffles for dessert
Tips for keeping a Fiddle Leaf Fig tree. Some of ours have been struggling a bit, so I needed these!
A blogger in my home town of Long Beach! Excited to discover some new-to-me cool spots.
The simple trick to not overpacking for a fashionable trip to Europe.
I swore I wasn’t going to buy an Ikea office chair. I was going to scour the web for some vintage Eames beauty or something like that. But darnit if that Ikea siren song didn’t call: “simple, comfortable, modern… affordable…” And you can walk out the door with it the day you need it.
I really do think the Patrik Swivel chair is all of those things. Up top, at least. But its base could look better.
Rustoleum’s Metallic spray paint in Brass is the best gold. I love how it turned out, and it couldn’t have been easier: because it’s Ikea, the base is already apart from the chair and ready for painting!
I can’t wait to show you how our Vitsoe-inspired office shelves turned out.
We actually brought back a lot of furnishings from Bali–so sharing finds from there may become a recurring theme–but one of the first things we did upon moving into our new home was to install the copper light fixtures that we hand-carried back in our suitcases into our kitchen.
It was the first of the many home projects we’ve started tackling that seemed like it should be so simple–but wasn’t at all. And I wish I could tell you that we resolved it with DIY skills, but we brought in an electrician (or two).
First, we needed to rewire the lights to attach cords that could be used to hang the lights (the lights had been wired alongside chain). We fitted new sockets and then ordered attractive fabric-wrapped black cord. And then threw it out when it couldn’t be used to bear weight.
Then we had an electrician come in to install lightboxes or transformers where the lights would be hung. The previous fixture (shown on move-in day) had a single lightbox, with wire running along the ceiling. Many holes were drilled. And then they drilled some more once we realized that the first three weren’t evenly spaced (argh).
Next, someone came in to re-drywall and cover the holes. Then that had to be textured. And then it had to be painted (but the of course drywall guy doesn’t paint).
And then, finally, Aron made about five trips to various grocery stores to test out different lightbulbs and try and find the best combination of light quality and energy efficiency to pair with the orange-copper. Phew!
So simple, right?
By the way, the rest of the room is still a work in progress. I think we’re currently trying out chair/couch pairing number three or four?