Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hostess gifts from Uncommon Goods

One of the things I love about my job (and blogging!) is that I often come across brands, sites, and sources that I may not otherwise encounter.  I shop a lot for clients and search high and low for the perfect items, but also, interesting and cool brands contact me to write about them here.

Do you know about uncommon goods?  They are a brand with such a great story!  It all started in 1999 when the founder visited a museum craft show.  Over time, he realized that there were beautiful, unique goods out there as well as a growing audience for such items, but no great way to connect the artisans and the people who wanted their wares.  Uncommon goods was born to fill that niche.

Oh, and as a bonus?  They are pretty awesome in their business philosophy, with a focus on sustainability, a positive workplace, and giving.  (When you make a purchase they will donate $1 to a good cause--they've donated hundreds of thousands to the charities they support.)  Read all about their mission and sustainability measures here--I swear, it's pretty interesting.

I love a company that gives me warm fuzzies, but at the end of the day, if I don't like what you are actually selling me, I'm not coming back.  So I was DELIGHTED to find that uncommon goods truly has products I haven't seen anywhere else, and I love that you also get a little peek at the artist who created them.  In fact, I'm working my way through my own Christmas list, with perfect presents for my kids, mother-in-law, and even my hard-to-shop for husband.

I'll have to keep those picks secret for a few weeks, but I did want to give you some ideas from the uncommon goods collection.

This time of year, we all go to a lot of parties, and I've been thinking about housewarming gifts.

For hostess and housewarming gifts, I like three main categories:

Special versions of ordinary things
I think it's important not to give a gift that forces any real design decisions on the recipient.  So I try to keep gifts either small, disposable, or offer items that can be stashed in a drawer when not it use.  I love the crochet dishtowels (top right)--a perfect example of something that people don't usually think about, made special.

The "on the rocks glasses" are another great example-- a set of four small items, a visual "joke" and conversation starter, but small enough that most people should have the space to add them to their collection.

The fruit bowl (bottom left) is also stashable, and I love that it reconfigures, giving the recipient the chance to put their own spin on it.

Adventurous and/or artisan consumables
More interesting than the standard bottle of wine, a food treat is a great option since it gets used up.  Unless you know the recipient's tastes well, I love the food version of "special versions of ordinary things"--spicy syrup, apple brandy mustard, a raw honeycomb.  Bottled items are especially good because the host doesn't need to figure out what to do with them--they just go right into the pantry.

Another fun idea is a game that makes better use of what's already in the kitchen--like the "mixology dice" that allow you to create new and fun cocktails right out of the liquor cabinet.

Anything personalized
I love a gift that is personalized without being too personal. You know?  Uncommon goods has dishtowels for every state as well as major cities, countries, and colleges.  A fun way to connect to your host's heritage or current hometown.  There are also adorable personalized family mugs and a beautiful illustrated family tree.  If you want to know the companies politics in a snapshot, take a look at their example--a gorgeous biracial family (and pets included, too).

For diret links to any of the items above, go here.

And for more housewarming gift ideas, go here.

Now please excuse me--I have to decide whether my niece would prefer her unicorn horn in silver or rainbow.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Birthday Wish List 2015

'Tis the season of wanting.  We made the girls' Christmas lists last night, and it was kind of weird to watch my nine year old try to come up with things to put on it.  (The seven year old had no such trouble.)  The thing is, we are so lucky.  We have what we need, and frankly, lots of what we want, too.

I do think these lists become an interesting record of where we're at, year over year (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).  It's kind of fun to look back on my own birthday wish lists over the years, and to see what I've chipped away at (wallpaper, a dining room rug) and what I have not (a leather totebag has been on my list every year!)

This year is even more pie in the sky than usual.  Frankly, I don't need anything but a pedicure.  Oh, and a new car.  But certainly not the land rover I'm showing here.

Clockwise from top:

I fell in love with artist Shelly Mosman's portraits when I met her at Art-a-Whirl last year.  I thought of buying a large print from the Animal Child series, but my husband suggested commissioning portraits of our kids.  I have been saving my pennies (aka my rewards on my business credit card) and am close to going for it.  The snag?  My girls don't want to participate.  For my real present, my husband's working on them.  We aren't "family portrait" people, and these high contrast and moody portraits against wild backdrops feel much more "us."

Dining chairs.  I said I wouldn't sell our vintage eames shells, but my husband kind of wants to.  The problem?  Everything I love is a zillion bucks.  right now I'm thinking Louis square back chairs in white with brown or black leather.

Brightly colored cashmere lined leather gloves.  Discontinued colors are a steal, here.  Pretty sure I'm a 6 1/2.

A new car.  I currently drive my husband's grandmother's 1998 Buick Century.  I don't really care about cars and I'm so grateful for the hand me down, but it has seen better days, and I have a feeling it's not projecting quite the right image to my clients.  The problem?  When it comes to buying a car, I only like a few.  And they'r not the cheap ones.  (Audi wagon, Passat wagon, Land Rover, and older Honda Pilots--I like my cars boxy.)

An all purpose tote!  This one from Zara is looking good, at a good price.

A simple, modern necklace.  Also a perennial on my list.  This one is super reasonable right now.

A new entryway set up.  Ever since I let this desk go to the girls, my entry has been getting me down.  I am in LOVE with this modern geometric inlay console from Crate and Barrel, but man, its a splurge.  I dressed it with a round mirror, gorgeous lamp, and big baskets for winter gear.  I also threw a horn bowl in there to cach keys etc.  I don't know why, but I have always wanted one.  This one looks good, or this oblong one.

Design books.  Always.  A few that are catching my interest right no are Commune, Eddie Ross Modern Mix, and Heart and Home: Rooms that tell stories.

Well, now I can go back to my regular life, and go back to feeling satisfied with all that I am lucky to have!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Favorites from the Offical One Room Challenge Designers

I'm finally catching my breath after a couple of weeks of running.
You know I played along with the One Room Challenge (my second reveal is coming soon--promise!)  Well, I wanted to share m favorite makeovers from the 20 official ORC bloggers.

They all did an amazing job, but I found that my favorites were the ones who took a strong vision and REALLY went for it!

Click through to see more, and especially the BEFORE shots to appreciate how far these spaces came!

Sherry Hart at Design Indulgence

Vanessa Francis

Hi Sugarplum (with help from The Hunted Interior)

A Thoughtful Place

Kimberly Shlegal Whitman

Have fun!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Replacement Value

We've been selling a bunch of things on Craigslist, as the basement has become a disaster and we desperately need to reclaim it.  I thought we would hold a garage sale to move everything out, but I wasn't up for another major project before the weather turned.

One of the first things we bought for this house was a set of 9 original herman miller fiberglass side chairs that I happened upon, yes, on Craigslist.  You can read the whole story here.  We use 8 of the  chairs, and I finally put the ninth up for sale.  Guess what?  Someone made me an offer on the whole set.  A decent offer that means a profit.

I don't think I ever showed you the photos of the dining room from the shoot more than a year ago now.  It might be my favorite room.

photos by Melissa Oholendt

Of course, it's always nice to think about making a little money on a lucky purchase, and my husband is tempted.  Before I got the number on the offer, I considered what it would have to be for me to part with them, and I realized two things.  First, I may not be willing to let them go, period.  (Isn't this the kind of thing that winds up in your kid's first house some day?  Clio in particular has said we can sell them all--except "hers.")  And second, I'm pretty sure I couldn't replace them with anything I would like half as much, with the money being offered.

These chairs were part of what solidified the vision for this house, and bringing in that painting and the moroccan jute rug really brought it home for me. The blue connects to something in pretty much every room (like my favorite WALLPAPER peeking out of the bathroom in that last shot!)  and I'm having a hard time imagining any chairs that would work as well.

It also seems clear that this kind of design classic will always hold value.  If I don't sell them today, it's likely I will be able to sell them on any number of tomorrows.

What about you--are there pieces you would never part with?  Any that took you by surprise?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

ORC Week 6: Reveal, Part 1

Did you check out the 20 official ORC bloggers big reveals?  So many impressive makeovers!  I'll share my favorites in the next few days, I think.

But you know I am among the many linking up to the ORC, and today I get to share the big After.

Yes, after, one, singular.  If you've been following along, you know I made over both of my girls' rooms, but today I am only sharing Clio's "after."  I waited too long on decisions for Eleri's art, which hasn't arrived (AND my mom found a second shelf for the matching vintage desks when she cleaned out her garage, so I spent Monday stripping the old finish and painting it to match the desk.  Not quite done with that project, either!)

I was feeling all whomp whomp whomp....until I realized that a) this is called the ONE room challenge, b) I have a totally finished room to share today and c) why not drag it out to week seven with a second reveal?

So that's what I am doing.

Do you remember in week 2 how I got cold feet about choosing to make over rooms that already looked pretty awesome?  Here's what I love about these makeovers:  the mood of the rooms completely changed, and they are so fitting for my girlies now.  So whether or not they are "better," they are BETTER!

The shared room before (pink walls) and Clio's room after (green walls):

I LOVE how the green walls (Benjamin Moore Lehigh Green) transformed this space from bright and cheerful to calm, peaceful, and a little bit moody.  Even though the floor plan didn't change and so many pieces stayed--the curtains, most of the bedding, the dresser and lamps--the room feels really, really different.

I also love how functional this room is for Clio.  She is a reader, and while she is happy to read in bed I love that the vintage chaise gives her another reading spot.  We really debated the lighting situation, but ultimately she decided that the eyeball sconces made most sense at her two reading perches (instead of illuminating the two beds), and the switch on the cord makes it really easy for her to use.

She also uses the desk ALL.  THE.  TIME.  She has one friend who is something of a pen-pal, and I love that Clio sits at this desk, which belonged to her Nonny (or maybe her Great-Aunt) and writes letters (and stories).  In case you've forgotten, here's a little before and after on the desk and chair:

So much better.  Thank you, Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint.

I also LOVE that vintage pink and white striped chaise.  It is definitely more girly than what I think Clio would normally go for, but when we spotted it antiquing over spring break she fell for the proportion and the potential for stretching out, and I think she was--gasp!--basing her interest on function, not look.

To balance out the supreme girliness, I wanted the art to feel more modern.  I have three abstracts that I picked up from a local artist at an open studio event last spring, and one of them--with yellow in the palette--was perfect by her bed.  Her wonderful portrait (read the story here) also got properly framed, and I love how the gold frame is so rich against the green walls.

Let's talk about the shelves, shall we?

Just to be clear, this is NOT what these shelves looked like before this photograph, or will ever look like again.  But I couldn't resist styling them up, especially since we happen to have a bunch of really pretty little things that were perfect in the color palette.

Among the treasures:  my mom gave me that awesome picture frame (with a baby picture of Clio) and that wooden egg on a stand (it's a kaleidoscope!), and she gave Clio the yellow butterfly tray; my in-laws gave her the wooden box with the brass corners (the top is carved); the "pencil cup" is a wood vase that Dave and I bought in Costa Rica before we were married (and yes, I color-coordinated the pencils to the room); and that is my set of Narnia chronicles from childhood.  The little stone box between the drawers is filled with stamps--and is, in fact, the box that I used for my foreign stamp collection in grade school.

My younger brother gave me the kaleidoscope with pressed leaves at the top left when we were in high school, the sea urchin is from the Bahamas, where my grandfather has a house, the yellow porcelein bird belonged to my grandmother, and the little bottle next to it is gold leaf in a tiny bottle with a tiny cork stopper, which my brother-in-law sent the girls when he lived in Japan.

The little painting I picked up while vintage shopping last week.  I didn't know where it would land (and was thinking for a client), but couldn't resist.  Clio LOVES it!  The little wood figure is from another local shop ($2!) and the box has an enamel lid with a butterfly on it--I've had it since my early days in NYC.

One last thing:

When I was choosing a color with Clio for this room, I was wary of anything that would require repainting the bathroom.  The huge bonus to this makeover is how much I love it with the ensuite bath:

This room was funny because it changed so much more than I intended it to, but once the changes were made I never looked back.  This room came together quickly and easily, I am super happy with how it looks, and it really feels suited to its occupant.

Eleri's room?  Not quite so easy.

More on that, soon.

All pink room photos, Melissa Oholendt.
All green room photos, me and my husband.  I think we did okay!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

ORC Week 5: Setting the pace in the girls rooms

I did the initial work in the girls' rooms in a flurry of activity, while they were away, and they didn't see them until they were almost-finished products.  They had made some of the big decisions with me, like the wall color and choosing new rugs, but all those millions of little decisions?  Well, I made those.

They used to share a room, and it has been interesting how much their sense of ownership has increased with their own spaces.  Eleri immediately made a sign that said Eleri's Room, Keep Out!  We had a talk about how she might still want to spend time in her old room and how it might be better to leave the door open, so to speak.  Her new sign says Eleri's Room, Welcome!

As I watch them arrange their things and settle in, I realize that what we had upstairs before were two rooms for me.  I decorated both the girls' room and the guest room early in this design career (and when the girls were pretty little), and what I was making was portfolio projects, pretty rooms that showcased my perspective as a designer.  The girls are 7 and 9 now, and they have strong opinions, personalities, likes and dislikes, and as they started to use the room, I realized I could do more to make them theirs.

In her new book, Habitat: A Field Guide to Decorating (which is wonderful and deserves it's own post), designer Lauren Liess talks about the "pace" of a room, or how "busy" or energetic a space is (or isn't).  I realized when the rooms first came together that while I had used the girls' color choices and so on, I had designed the two rooms with the same pace--the pace that I personally gravitate towards and feel good with.

Last week I mentioned that I was playing with Eleri's bedding a lot.  The duvet cover in our room finally gave way and shredded completely (it was a wedding present and we've been using it regularly for a decade.)  I moved the blue hotel bedding from Eleri's room to our room, and brought home some options for Eleri.  When I laid them out on the bed and asked, this one or this one?  She said: Both.  When I gave her options of throws, she said: All.  Finally, she looked at me and said, Mom, I like layers.

And indeed, she does.  She'll wear leggings plus a skirt plus a dress plus a shrug plus necklaces and so on.  She likes ruffles and sequins, tutus and flowers and prints.  I caught a glimpse in her closet and I thought, Duh.

My older daughter, on the other hand, wears the simplest outfits imaginable: a shirt and leggings.  She will only wear long sleeves with long pants or short sleeves with shorts.  She prefers monochromatic.

So after the initial flurry of activity, my job has been this:

Add as much as possible to Eleri's room, to create a sense of energy and excitement.

Edit Clio's room to create a sense of simplicity and calm.

I meant for this post to be about the art and lighting choices in the room, and maybe that's more interesting as a One Room Challenge post.  But maybe not:  I think what is so compelling about decorating is the story it tells about our lives.

Just for fun, here's a pretty representative Clio outfit:

And here are some of Eleri's Stylez.

See you next week for the reveal.

Meanwhile, as always, take a gander at the week-5 progress of all the linking participants over at Linda's blog, Calling it Home.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

ORC Week 4: Textiles, textiles, textiles!

We're still talking makeovers for my two girls' rooms as a linking participant to the One Room Challenge, and I only have 2 weeks left.

My favorite part of a project is always the textiles.  Rugs, fabrics, trims--I love it all!

Let's start with rugs.  Why?  Because they weren't even supposed to be on the list, but sometimes things take a turn.

In Clio's room, things were just feeling too intense with the green walls and orange rug.  The palette got too broad with the pink on the chaise and all the yellow.  So I gave her options for some neutrals:

In Eleri's room, I was planning to reuse a jute rug and layer it with a sheepskin (currently in our master closet).  Not because I thought this would be the best way to go, but because I thought it would work, and it was using what I already had.  As things come together, though, it becomes clear that there's a problem:  all the color and pattern was on the bed side of the room, and the rug is a major element in what you see from the hallway.  So we had the opposite problem from down the hall in Clio's room: it was just too boring.  So I gave her some options of colorful rugs.

Neither of the girls chose my favorite, but the trick with working with kids (and sometimes clients!) is to make sure you can live with all the options.

For Clio, I wanted the last one, the sort of flamestich herringbone, but she chose the first, I think because it looked coziest.

For Eleri, I wanted the rug on the left because, duh, colorful moroccan rugs are my jam.  She was VERY definite about the chevron, though, so that's the plan.  Here's a sneak peek:

 (little by little on the dresser--the top is not done here!)

And the headboards.

I ran into a little trouble with my reupholstery.
For various reasons I decided to upholster the headboards directly over the existing fabrics.

(Okay, 2 reasons: 1) Lazy.  2) Still waiting to hear about a potential photo shoot with a big magazine, and I wanted to be able to put the room back the way it was, if need be.)

Guess what?  You could see the old pattern through the white parts in the new fabrics.  I was so upset I didn't even take a picture.

SOOOOO...I had to pull out all the staples from the new fabric, then pull out all the fabrics from the old fabric, THEN cover the very original fabric with muslin, THEN go over the muslin with the new fabric.  That's a lot of staples.

Pain. In. The. Butt.

But it's done.

Dressing the chairs.

Ages ago, my sister-in-law found a photo with half-slipcovers on the backs of windsor chairs, and we thought about dressing up her old set in this way.  We never did it, but I always loved the idea.

I also wanted to give the desk chairs soft cushions for little tushies.

I fell in love with this fabric for Clio.

Pindler Solea in teal

For Eleri, I thought I was going to use a pillowcase that I originally got for her bed (purple, second from top):

Well...I changed my mind, but haven't chosen a final yet.

Pillows, bedding, Etc!

All Clio needed from there was throw pillows--which I found with absolute ease at Target.  I also dug up some neutral printed pillowcases that didn't get used on a past project (also Target!).  Love the combo with her old quilt!

As for Eleri, well....I have been playing around with her bedding A. LOT.

More on that next week.  Plus art, lighting, and.....panic.

Did you see the 20 posts yesterday from the official ORC designers?  How about all the linking participants today?  so much to look at!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...