Monday, February 28, 2011

Textiles tie it all together

Happy Monday!

It's so fun coming back to design-blog-land at the beginning of the week to see what kinds of projects people got up to over the weekend. Looking forward to seeing what Danika came up with for her kitchen countertops--faux marble or no? As for me, I may have cracked the color code in my living room.

Usually, when starting in on a room, I need to start with the busiest, most colorful element, which for me is generally the rug or a textile, and pull my other colors, patterns, and textures from there. I'm sure lots of people work this way (and others probably have better methods, but it works for me.)

In our current house, the dining room's teal and chartreuse scheme built from this rug

The guest room's navy and raspberry scheme came from this rug

The girls' room is completely built around this fabric

And the master bedroom started with this duvet.

Oh, but what about the living room?

It has taken a while for the living room to click, especially when the new loveseat changed the vibe for me and I had to shake loose the old vision in my head to make way for something new. Over the weekend, I refined the color palette a little bit with some minor editing (and some new lamps!), and then realized that part of my problem was that I was working backwards from my normal methodology. I already had my furniture, my art, my rug, and while each thing related to at least one other thing in the room, I didn't have the one piece that tied it all together.

I needed my textile.

It needed to fit with the Moroccan tile pattern of the rug, the mid-century furniture, and the 70s art. Already a tall order, if you ask me! It also, I realized, needed to have green and raspberry and, ideally, blue, orange, and brown. Whoa. That's some funky jewel tone magic happening there, not my normal thing.

I figured ikat was my best bet. It's ethnic enough for the Moroccan-inspired rug (and a different pattern scale), timeless enough for the retro stuff, and colorful enough for the crazy combo of hues I've got going on in here. Many searches later, and I found this throw pillow, from an etsy seller I have actually bought from in the past.

And I could just go ahead and buy this pillow from her. But that might be too easy. Also, I figured that if I could track down the fabric, I could make a pair of pillows for the same cost, or less. Well. Guess what? My awesome sister-in-law Maud, of Union Place in Excelsior, found the fabric at Duralee. So my options open up.

How about going beyond pillow, like recovering a pair of lampshades??? I love this post about customizing lampshades, at Isabella and Max Rooms. What do you think? lampshades on these new green lamps,

Or the old brassy ones?

The green lamps need a little change up on the old silver bases, and the brass lamps could get sprayed something more in the black family. OR the throw pillow(s) on the brown couch. I'm taking votes. Democracy in action.

Just kidding. I guess it's a sensitive time to be flippant about democracy, what with the turmoil in Libya and the rest of the Middle East. But I do still want opinions.

What say you?

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I've been kind of into quilting lately, when it shows up in unexpected place, like these leather chairs from overstock, kind of like a Chanel handbag (only cheaper! ha.)

This quilted headboard is underscored by the simple quilted-silk coverlet (I almost bought a remnant of black quilted silk like this for the guestroom headboard, but ultimately decided it would be too dark.)


A geometric quilted version of the ubiquitous garden stool


And this insane vanity. (Okay, in this case there's a fine line between "tufted" and "quilted" but I'm just going with it.)

Last time I was at S.R. Harris, I asked for some samples of quilted silk. The Russian guy who always thinks I'm crazy gave me the teeniest sliver of this pink one, (it's $60 a yard, well minus 50%, but that is WAY high end for this place.) It's not really for any specific project, I just felt like I had to have it.

The woman who mans the registers was a bit more generous with her cutting of this green woven-look quilted silk, which I would like to put on the headboard in a guest room, if I can get the "client" on board with the project (Mom?)

The scans totally don't do them justice, but believe me, they are gorgeous.

And so, when the most recent House Beautiful came out featuring this crazy sunroom, where the designer Rob Southern had this salmon Brunschwig & Fils chinzt hand-quilted for all the upholstered pieces, I nearly died and went to heaven.

So old fashioned, yet somehow fresh, and, of course, pretty over the top.

Maybe I'll get myself some quilted chucks to satisfy the craving, for now!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shopping round up

I made the rounds to a couple of big box stores yesterday, looking for bits and piece for various projects, and found some surprises that I thought I'd pass along to you.

Target has this new blue and white ikat melamine plates, just a few dollars a piece. (If they were ceramic, I would pick up the bowls to go with our royal copenhagen blue fluted mega china, but alas.)

At Home Goods, in addition to snagging lamps in the right shade of green for the living room (more on that later), I spotted this little slipper chair with a vintage polo print. So cute for a little boys room and just $99.

But the real surprise was Pier 1 imports. I remember shopping for CLOTHES and jewelry at Pier 1 when I was a kid (I remember one dress in particular in blue, black, and white ikat--it would be so "in" again today), but their home stuff is kind of all over the map, and often seems a bit pricey for the quality. I have found good deals on occasion though, like our outdoor chairs, so I popped in on a whim yesterday, as I was in the market for some "global" throw pillows. While they didn't have quite what I was looking for, I did snag this teeny tiny geometric pillow for just $3 (one corner is missing its pom poms--adds character, right?)

And I saw many other items of interest. Another good choice for a boys room, I love this little rattan bucket seat for $129

Love this modern red X-base table, though I couldn't find the price

Was very tempted by these beaded-edges cloth napkins in great colors for less than $5 a piece (but worried that the bead trim was not the best for daily use, and we use cloth napkins every day)

Caught sight of this chain-mail pillow on my way out the door

Love this outdoor lantern for inside--kind of reminds me of those franco albini rattan ottomans that I do so love

But my absolute favorite is this outdoor throne.

It reminds me of these 60s outdoor sets (of course not as cool, but much more accessible), which I covet intensely.

[House Beautiful]

I also picked up to excellent little surprises for Oliver's room, but I think I'll hold onto those until we reveal the "after."

Have you had any good find lately? Let me know!

Friday, February 25, 2011


Is kantha the new ikat? Feels like it's popping up all over the place.

Elle Decor featured these pillows from Jayson Home and Garden in the last issue
And West Elm is offering a very similar version for much less money (though if you live in the Twin Cities, you're out of luck: they only have two left in the store and they won't get more until June. Plus, if you ordr online you have no control over the color or pattern that you get. Booooo.)

These came from TJ Maxx (but they're too pink and will be going back)

And this screen was on display at Home Goods yesterday.

"Kantha" actually refers to a type of embroidery popular in Indian, and while all of these pieces are embroidered, it seems that the most "authentic" take on kantha uses vintage saris that have been embroidered. If you want to be authentic, try these, from ebay.

What do you think: will this be a flash in the pan, or a global trend with staying power, like suzanis, ikat, and beni ourain rugs?

Flashback Friday: First living-together bedroom



Love That Space: Park Slope co-op, 2002

The Vision: Grown Up Global

The Elements: Modern Turkish rug, embroidered moroccan coverlet, embroidered indian-inspired pillows, bamboo blinds, chinoiserie armoire, 1970s upholstered white boudoir chairs, campaign-style desk, red, red, walls.

The huh? Factor: that ice cream parlor chair at the desk! It belonged to the hubs, and clearly I was throwing a bone: everything else in our first bedroom together belonged to me. Plus, that little glass lamp keeps popping up...until Home Goods opens their doors, and lamp shopping is revolutionized forever.

The Analysis: The hubs had just moved in after my random, FIT student roommate bailed on me with short notice, and I was doing my bes to turn "my" place into "ours." We moved the bedroom from the back of the apartment to the room just off the living room, and my biggest gesture to cohabitation was in painting the main rooms, despite ALL THAT MOLDING! My better half likes bold, clear colors, and we chose Benjamin Moore's Calypso Blue for the living room and Moroccan Red for the bedroom. I was happy to banish the awful mint green that my roommate chose, and to pull together a number of my favorite things into one space.

What remains: Almost everything! The rug and armoire are in our dining room, the boudoir chairs are in our bedroom, the desk and block-printed pillowcases are in the guest room. Sadly, the ice cream parlor chair was sold at our stoop sale when we sold this apartment about 6 months later and moved into a house that we chose together.

I have to say, I loved this bedroom--it felt befitting of a grown up girl living with her beloved--and I'm so glad I have a photo of it, even if it is a crappy polaroid!

Do you have a flashback you'd like to share? Send it my way!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let's talk about headboards

There was this interview question that became notorious at my organization when I worked in public art, and it went kind of like this: Ho do you make a sandwich?

There was no wrong answer, but people invariably froze up when it was asked because it felt like a trick. What your answer supposedly revealed about you was how detail oriented you are, but I also think it's a good test of how good you are at giving instructions. (As a side note, it was often revealing about personality. My favorite ever answer came from a young woman just out of college who said that first things first, she would ask if anyone else would like a sandwich, and I will tell you, I'm not sure I've met a sweeter or more generous person.)

What does this have to do with anything? Well, here's the thing. I'm no expert DIYer, but I'm pretty resourceful and, generally speaking, if I want it done, I will get it done. And now there are a TON of resources out there--tutorials, videos, pictorial step-by-step guides. But so often, as I watch/read them, I find that they skip over the part that I don't know how to do, as if getting that part done is just magic. I was just looking at a tutorial for pleated lampshades today (yes, I know), and there were TONS of detail about the stuff that seems no-brainer to me, like how to remove the old lampshade from the frame, but when it gets to the construction of the new one, you just get the directive "now start to pleat." But, I found myself thinking, I'm reading this TO LEARN HOW TO MAKE A BOX PLEAT on a lampshade. I'm sure I could just figure it out, but I was hoping to skip a step by seeking out advice.

So. Headboards. There are videos out there. They show you all about cutting the plywood and the foam and wrapping them in batting and stapling on the fabric. Fine and good. But when I went to make the girls' headboards, I realized there was a little glitch: I didn't know how to deal with the curve in the corners and get a nice smooth finish.

Especially since I was using 3 inch foam, which I know now is absolutely only for professionals. If you don't have the right equipment, only use 2 inch foam. There, I said it, tip number one.

Since I was using a thick, faux-suede fabric, it got all bunched up in the corners, and it wouldn't lie close to the edge in the middle of the curve. I thought it might just be a matter of pulling it really, really taut. For a while, I thought I just needed extra strength, or an extra pair of hands, and tried to coax the hubs into helping in his scant free time. No dice. I moved on to other projects, and while I was researching the cornice, I came across this diagram.

[Sunset Curtains, Draperies, and Shades]

And the key phrase, "fabric clipped at curve." So there you go, I'm filling in a missing piece of headboard how-to's: when navigating a curve, snip the fabric is long strips perpendicular to the edge, and fan it out. Staple at the top of each strip. If you're nervous, snip incrementally until you get close enough to the edge for your smooth finish.

Figuring that out was by far the hardest part of that project, and there you have it. (To be honest, I still haven't figured out how to get the fabric to wrap around the bottom of the headboard and the side of the leg. In the girls room, I just upholstered the outside edges as if the headboard was one big piece, even though it has legs cut into it.)

(Posting those pictures kind of feels like airing dirty little secrets.)

As for the guestroom headboard, it was really a simple matter of stapling new fabric over the old. The hardest part was matching the pattern for the side seams (my fabric wasn't quite wide enough to cover the width of a queen headboard), and keeping my 4-year-old off the thing while I was working.

I recently read an article with Julie Taymore talking about her new Spider Man musical, where she spoke at length about the beauty of the sets and her insistence on finishing them on all sides, even the vantage point that would never be seen by any audience. I have to say, this headboard was finished professionally, front and back, and looking at the nice trim covering the seam along the back edge I felt a little guilty coming in with my rogue staple gun, but my budget was already busted without buying yardage that would never be seen by anyone.

I cut the welting off the edges as recommended by Jenny, here, then simply laid out my seamed fabric and stapled around the edges, pulling taught as I went and flipping the thing over once in a while to make sure the pattern remained straight.

I used the trick from the diagram above when things got hairy around the curve. I even had enough fabric left to cover the wooden legs, including strips matched up and stapled in along the back edge.
I felt sort of like a poor man's Julie Taymor as I made sure that these little bits and pieces were taken care of, and a good thing, too: they totally show in the room.

After all the drama over the fabric, the actual re-covering was a cinch. Ta-da!

So there you have it. Now that the headboard is installed in its room, I kinda sort want to paint the walls indigo.....And with one thing inevitably leading to another, I finally understand why Domino was called "domino".

Speaking of Calico Corners

Just got this card advertising another 20% off sale.

I have to say, I love the fabrics they used here--kind of unexpected for them. While it's not a palette I'm normally drawn to, I'm into it. Especially those zebra ottomans, of course, and the large check in pale blue on the couch cushions.

Hey--is it helpful when I share sale info? Or is it annoying? I figure helpful, which is why i pass it along, but if it's annoying just say the word....

Sometimes it pays to pay

Those of you who know me well (and/or read my other blog) are probably not surprised that my posts are getting longer and longer. Have soapbox, will proclamate. (I know that's not a word and that the correct command form is just "proclaim," but proclamate feels closer to what I mean.) Rest assured, I think I will probably get back to sharing pretty pictures soon, but for now, I guess I've got things to say.I learned a valuable lesson while creating the headboard for the guest room. If you're not into all of this process stuff I insist on sharing for some reason, I'll just go ahead and tell you now: sometimes it pays to just spend a little extra to get what you really want.

If you recall, I was super stoked to find a professionally upholstered headboard on craigslist for less than the cost of materials to build a new one. I originally planned to cover it with some navy mattress ticking that I already had, but it read a bit too Swedish or Cape Cod, and definitely too casual once I put silk drapes in there. So I pulled a bunch of fabric samples. I eventually fell in love with this one, from Calico Corners,

but it was $21/yard and I had budgeted $7.50 (since I was originally planning on free).I happened to have some off-white upholstery weight fabric and a bottle of navy blue RIT dye lying around from unfinished (um, unstarted) projects from years ago, and the wheels started spinning. Then, the January issue of Lucky came (yes, I get Lucky, but only because some magazine that I used to get folded and they started sending me that instead. It was probably Domino, come to think of it, I probably had, like, a 5-year subscription.) Anyway, there was a whole fashion story about dyeing old clothes to make them new again.

Kismet, right?

And so I dyed my fabric. It has a sort of traditional damask pattern, and I though the dye would bring it out nicely. Actually, first I stressed about dyeing my fabric. The hubs was not interested in having a dyed-navy washing machine, and every single how-to video I could find on youtube and eHow featured people using the stove top method, but I do not have a pot large enough to hold three yards of 60" wide upholstery weight fabric. As is often the case, I searched for evidence that it was okay to do what I wanted to do, and when none was forthcoming, I did it anyway. Nervously.

It also took a while to decode the instructions on the bottle (and to cross reference them with the instructions I found for adapting them to a front-loader washer). I pre-soaked the fabric, put it in the machine, poured half the bottle of liquid dye into the detergent cup of the washer and immediately flushed with hot water. I set the machine for a 30 minute wash cycle (I had to read the owner's manual to figure out how to do this. No joke.) I lined the floor with a dark blanket to catch any possible drips. When the 30 minutes plus spin time were up, I tentatively pulled the fabric from the machine and rinsed in the sink until the water ran clear. I put it in the dryer and ran bleach through the washer cycle.


Epic fail.

I had noticed in the youtube videos that all the dyed fabric came out looking kind of faded and dingy, but I figured that was because of the inferiority of the stove top method. When my fabric came out a kind of washed denim shade (faded and dingy), I wondered if perhaps RIT dye just doesn't work that well. But the Lucky magazine article! It worked for them! They even dyed leather! So maybe it was because I did not add salt to the wash. Or maybe it was because the dye was about a decade old. Or maybe I didn't shake it up well enough.

I'll tell you, I'm crazy determined if nothing else, and sent that fabric through a second cycle with the rest of the dye. But no difference. Washed denim. Maybe a look for someone, but not for me.

Meanwhile, I was carrying around this fabric swatch in my purse.

Like, all the time. Crazy, I know. Anyone who would listen, I'd make them tell me what they thought of it. But when the dye project failed, do you think I bought the 2 yards of this that I needed? No I did not. First I searched ebay for a similar hand-carved block to print a similar pattern myself (because my first round DIY on this went so well), but they were about $10 and by the time I bought fabric and ink and put the time in, well, I'd be making major trade-offs in the time/money/value spectrum I went on and on about yesterday.

Instead I made one last trip to the fabric outlet, where I happily found three different possibilities that I thought would work, all within budget. I carried them around the store. I laid the bolts out on the cutting table and stared at them. The Russian guy who works there and often looks at me like I'm crazy asked if I needed help, and when I said "no, I'm deciding," he just looked at me like I was crazy. I should mention that the fabric warehouse is far away from my house. My girls' school is about halfway there, so that helps, but it's still a trip. So I did that thing that I would always tell people never to do: I bought two yards of a fabric without bringing the swatch home first. I just needed to be done with this project. The craziest thing (I know, it's all crazy) is that I BROUGHT HOME SAMPLES OF THE OTHER FABRICS, even though the whole point was to be done, and to be done at a substantial savings, and buying two rounds of outlet fabric would be nearly the same price as simply buying the fabric that I really wanted.

The yardage I ended up buying looked Navy in the store, with gold, and bright blue embroidered stripes.

It felt a little Indian in a way that I liked. It had just enough sparkle and shine. Naturally, at home the fabric revealed itself to be black. And the stripes got lost. And it was all a little masculine hotel room tragic.

I considered one of the other samples,

and truth be told I'm still in love with the Ralph Lauren velvet teal and taupe toile, but it wouldn't have gone with the rug, and, um, the rug was the starting point for the room.

So I finally did it. I gave in and bought the fabric that I wanted. It was even on sale, for $17/yard.

And you know what? I love it. I'll show you how it turned out tomorrow. Clearly, it would have saved me both time and money if I had just gone ahead and bought it in the first place (except that it wasn't 20% off in the first place). But I wonder: would I have been so clear, so sure in my love for my choice, without all the drama?

Who can say?


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