Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shameless Plugs: My House on design*sponge

Hi everyone, just quickly popping in from my poolside perch in Palm Springs to link over to a "Sneak Peek" of our home that's up on the fabulous design*sponge. A huge thanks to Grace and Anne for deeming our place *sponge-worthy!

(If you want to see more, there's a complete flickr set with lots more pix and info about paint colors and what came from where, as well as my series of "House in Progress" posts on this blog.)

Hope you're having a fantastic holiday week! Now, back to sunning ...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Over and Out

We're loading up the car and heading off to spend time with family in Palm Springs and L.A. during the remaining days of 2008, so I wanted to bid you all adieu for now. I hope that everyone has a peaceful and restful holiday filled with good friends, loved ones, yummy food, and maybe a shiny new bauble or two.

And thank you so much for all of your comments, emails, tips, links, and support this past year. Being a part of this worldwide blogging community has truly been one of the highlights of the last twelve months for me.

Happy Holidays to you all! I'll see you back here in the New Year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

House Voyeur: Bright and Bold in Berkeley

So many of the emails I get from readers whose homes wind up being featured here as part of my "House Voyeur" series start the same way: "I don't know if my place is 'blog-worthy' ... " followed by a few sample snapshots that sometimes literally take my breath away.

I think it's safe to say that many of you have fantastic homes – really! And also that we all deserve to take more pride in our accomplishments on the home front. It's pointless to hold our houses and apartments up against the places we see in glossy magazines or on interior designers' sites (although I would argue that many of your digs are just as good-looking and creative). We need to remind ourselves that those homes are typically put together with truckloads of cash and an army of highly paid professionals – architects, builders, and designers all work their magic, and then stylists run around fluffing pillows and arranging flowers before an expert photographer starts snapping away.

Our homes, on the other hand, exist in the real world – where cash is usually tight, where we make occasional missteps with paint colors, where children create messes, where furniture hangs around long after its prime, and where happy clutter often sneaks in when we're not looking. In short, our homes exist in a realm where actual living takes place. And that, dear readers, is beautiful.

Anyway, the first email I got from today's "House Voyeur" subject, Jackie Kersh, started like so many others – with an expression of doubt about whether her home would pass muster. Personally, I think that Jackie's abode is totally blog-worthy, and quite possibly even magazine-worthy. I'm delighted by her bold use of color and sense of playfulness, by her wonderful art collection, by the surprising little touches throughout, by her amazing curbside finds, and most of all by the sense that a real, live family lives here, and that they're probably having a lot of fun doing so.

Alright, my soapbox speech is over. Let's let Jackie take us on a virtual tour of the sweet North Berkeley bungalow she shares with her husband, Gabriel, and young sons, Graham and baby Simon:

"We moved to Berkeley two years ago from a small flat in San Francisco. Our house was built in 1926 and is best described as 'Craftsman Lite' – it has some Craftsman details, mainly on the windows, but overall it’s a blank slate.

We had very little furniture and a fairly modest budget. I didn't have a master plan for the space, but was inspired by the trees that you can see from the windows in every room, by the natural light that pours into the house, and by the colors of our growing art collection. Our style is part vintage, part midcentury, part bargain basement – we love to collect affordable art and mix it up with new and vintage furniture, fresh flowers and plants, and toddler-proof knickknacks. Our goal was a family friendly yet sophisticated home.

The paint we used in our entryway is Benjamin Moore's Pale Avocado. The console table is from Pottery Barn; the framed artwork on top of it is by C. Tan and the small work above the plant is by Robert Gutierrez. The doormat is from Anthropologie, and we found the white Eames chair on the street.

These vintage wooden shoe lasts are from the flea market, and the little wood table was another street find. The wall color is Oakwood Manor by Benjamin Moore.

My favorite thing about this house is the light. It’s amazing. The green bird pillow on the sofa is from Joom.

With two small children, we’re always looking for furniture that’s comfortable, cleanable, and durable. The living room was the most intimidating space to furnish because it’s so big – practically the size of our entire flat in North Beach! Our vintage brown Knoll sofa looked dinky in the space, so we splurged on a dark gray Room & Board couch that’s long enough for Gabriel (who’s over six feet tall) to take a nap on and that fits three people comfortably. Later, we added the red chair, also from Room & Board, to round out the seating area.

Gabriel made the coffee table for my birthday. It perfectly marries form and function, and even has slots for the kids' puzzles and books. The white shag rug is from Pottery Barn. It’s always a bit of a gamble to have white in a house with small kids, but it seems to be holding up somehow. The throw pillows are from IKEA, Anthropologie, and Shelter, the lamp is from West Elm, and most of the accessories are from flea markets.

The gorgeous artwork above the chair is by my friend Amanda Hughen, and it's the most prized piece in my collection. When it comes to decorating, I'm definitely influenced by my kids, so I try to integrate playful elements like vintage toy cars, wind-up toys, and wooden blocks around the house to compliment the décor. The red car was Gabriel's when he was a boy, and the vintage books are from the flea market.

Our biggest challenge is keeping things clean, organized, and 'grown-up' while accommodating the needs of two small children (and a husband who isn’t always fond of putting his toys – I mean shoes – away). We found the metal chair at a flea market.

One of our son Graham's drawings as well as a snapshot of him flank work by a graduate student at the San Francisco Art Institute.

We began collecting art five or six years ago, starting with these fruit paintings that Gabriel found at the Alameda flea market. I worked in the art world for about ten years, but never really had the budget to buy anything from galleries. Over the years, we’ve found a slew of smaller-scale art auctions and student art sales that feature amazing work by emerging artists at prices that are in line with our budget. Our favorites: the San Francisco Art Institute Winter Sale, the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery's annual fundraiser, The Lab's annual art auction, Southern Exposure's Monster Drawing Rally, and Visual Aid's Big Deal. Along the way, I discovered Etsy, which has been an economical and fun (though highly addicting) way to round out our collection.

The dining room table is from Copenhagen and the chairs from the Alameda flea market. We got the George Nelson Saucer Lamp from Velocity Art and Design. The walls are Benjamin Moore's Amherst Gray.

Gabriel is a building contractor (his company is called One Man Working), so everything is DIY around here. One of the first projects he tackled was the kitchen. It's kind of an odd room, with all the cabinets and appliances along one wall and a lot of random floor space. To freshen it up without doing a major remodel, he replaced the super-Seventies Formica countertop with dark gray concrete, and we bought new stainless steel appliances and added new pulls and knobs from Restoration Hardware to the circa-1960 cabinets.

Our home, which is nearly 1,600 square feet, is the biggest I've ever lived in as an adult, and I was excited by the opportunity to have so much space in which to experiment with color. In the kitchen, we decided on Benjamin Moore's Rhine River, which compliments the cabinets and countertop nicely, and added a red accent wall (Benjamin Moore's Habanero Pepper) to balance out the room. The clock is from IKEA, the light fixture from Restoration Hardware, and the black-and-white photograph ('Cecco') by John Pareno.

Instead of a traditional kitchen table, we built a 'sushi-style' counter to make the kitchen feel more contemporary and to maximize the floor space. We paired it with these colorful chairs from IKEA that are easy for kids to climb into and even easier to wipe up after messy baking activities. The Svan high chair was purchased from Giggle, the vintage lamp is from the Alameda flea market, and the paintings are by Owen Takabayashi.

Graham's room was the most fun to decorate. I love the combination of brown, blue, and orange – they work so well together. The wall color is Benjamin Moore's Robin's Nest. I wanted his room to be playful and comfortable, but also to have a sense of style that ties in with the rest of the house. Gabriel built the twin bed, which I topped with polka-dot bedding from DwellStudio. The bird decals are from Elly Nelly, the orange dresser from a secondhand store, the brown window shades from JC Penney, the 'G' from the flea market, and the small green chair was found on the street.

The green Eames chair was another curbside freebie. The photograph above the chair is by Nina Zurier, the fox pillow on it is from Urban Outfitters, the orange clock from Berkeley's Ohmega Salvage, and the small suitcases on the bookshelf from the Land of Nod.

Our bedding is from Anthropologie and the window shade is from JC Penney. We found the Tansu chest at a shop in San Francisco's Japantown and the mirror on it at Ohmega Salvage. The print to the left of the dresser is "Many Mountains" by Ky Anderson, purchased via 20x200, and the vintage portrait to the right of the window is from the flea market.

The ‘map room’ is a combination office, den, and family room. The color scheme was inspired by the 1964 map wallpaper (as seen at top), which was here when we bought the house. We painted the walls Benjamin Moore’s Golden Lab to tie in with the faded colors of the map. The rug is from Urban Outfitters, the couch (the cover zips off for easy washing – a big plus when you have kids) and fabric for the pillows from IKEA, the window shades from JC Penney, the lamp from Target, the desk and chair from the flea market, and the orange desk organizer from the Container Store.

The artwork in the room is black and white , since we figured the map was color enough, and includes photos of our kids, Gabriel’s prized W. Eugene Smith photograph (to the right of the couch), a vintage snapshot from the flea market, and a little piece called 'Two Skiers' by Brenda Rose (to the left of the door).

Gabriel remodeled our home's only bathroom in record time, wanting to both update the space and make it more family friendly. He nearly doubled the size of the previously tiny, wood-paneled bathroom and added beautiful traditional touches. He chose white subway tiles (from Daltile in San Francisco) for the walls and paired them with gray/white carrera marble laid in a herringbone pattern for the floors.

Choosing the paint color for the bathroom was the hardest. I wanted a pumpkin color, but every shade we tried looked like bad foundation or pantyhose. We also tried green, which looked equally horrible. Finally, I decided to go bold and try a chocolate brown (Saddle Soap by Benjamin Moore). It really pops when paired with the blue bath mat and towels. The shelf, towel rack, and TP holder are from Pottery Barn, and the metal basket is from the flea market. The painting is by Brandi Strickland.

We turned a dank basement into a playroom and arts-and-crafts studio for the kids. The paint is Pear Green by Benjamin Moore. The blue circle rugs, the drawers, the rail above the desk, and the track lighting are all from IKEA. Gabriel made the desktop, and we found the chairs and the vintage blue tins at the flea market. The red bird print is by Wayne Pate, and the two small prints to the right of the wall rack are from Yellow Canoe.

This pair of bird prints is by Maria Janosko via Etsy.

Gabriel built this table, which we paired with green plastic chairs from IKEA and a canary yellow umbrella from Patio Umbrellas. My advice: Don’t be afraid of color!"

(And yes, folks, I'm pretty sure this photo was taken just last week. Apologies if you're freezing your butt off right now; that's just the way we roll here in Cali!)

Thanks so much for sharing your truly wonderful home with us, Jackie!

P.S. Want to see more? Click here for a look inside other readers' homes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Deal of the Day: DwellStudio Clover Blossom Crib Set

Have you heard about undrgrnd?

Every day, the San Francisco-based site features deep, deep discounts on one or more items -- mostly bedding and wallpaper -- from hip companies such as DwellStudio, Inhabit, Area, Unison, and Graham & Brown. The discounted items are floor samples, overstocks, and like-new returns. The deals last one day only, and only while supplies last.

Today's score is DwellStudio's really lovely Clover Blossom Crib Set. Normally retailing for $350, it's $140. If there's a baby girl in your future, get on this.

For heads up on future deals, subscribe to undrgrnd's newsfeed.

The Artful Home: State Motto Prints by Emily Wick

I spotted these on the lovely Hannah's Printer & Piemaker blog recently, and couldn't resist sharing them here, too.

Oakland artist, archaeologist, and documentary filmmaker Emily Wick has created a set of fifty state prints, each bearing its bailiwick's official motto -- some undeniably corny, others enigmatic, and still others unexpectedly poignant.

Normally, I'd be tempted to snap up the print bearing the exuberant exclamation of my home state, but I must confess that in the wake of last month's election, I'm running a little short on California pride at the moment.

Hopefully, you're feeling a bit better about your favorite state. If so, one of these would make an awfully sweet proclamation of regional pride, or a great gift for loved ones back home.

Each linoleum block-mounted state motto print is $35, while a 20-by-30-inch fine art digital poster bearing the mottos of every member of the union (top) is $150.

See the entire collection right here -- and check out more of Wick's work here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Etsy Find of the Day: Elisabeth Bentz Linens

I just can't get enough natural linen lately, so I'm swooning over these beautiful hand-drawn and -printed textiles from Portland, Oregon's Elisabeth Bentz. Above: Leaf Apron, $36

Colander Market Bag, $36

Leaf Pillow, $68

Colander Tea Towel, $11

Leaf Napkin, $18 for two

Colander Napkin, $18 for two

See all of Bentz's Etsy offerings right here.

More eBay Finds

(As always, click here to see my latest eBay picks if they don't show up in your RSS feed.)

Cool Stuff: Chris Duncan Calendar at Little Otsu

Can you believe that I still don't have a usable 2009 calendar? There are a million great calendars out there, of course. (Etsy, for instance, has dozens of them.) But we need a calendar we can really use -- for recording dentist appointments, carpool duty, the kids' school holidays, work due dates ... In other words, the kind of calendar we can stick on the fridge and start marking up with our busy, complicated, ever-changing family schedule. (I'm old-school, too, and simply refuse to keep our calendar online or transfer it to a handheld.)

Sadly, I haven't had any luck finding a calendar like that -- well, at least one that doesn't feature month after month of kittens "hanging in there" or New England's covered bridges. But my search did lead me to this awesome two-year calendar by Oakland artist Chris Duncan (see more of his work here).

While it's not a stick-on-the-fridge-and-check-every-morning-to-see-where-the-heck-we're-all-supposed-to-be-today type calendar, it is a gorgeous, year-at-a-glance style planner and two pieces of art rolled into one. It's double-sided, too, so when you sing "Auld Lang Syne" to 2009, simply flip it over for 2010.

Two Years of the Youniverse measures roughly 11 by 15 inches and is just $9 from San Francisco-based print shop Little Otsu. I may just have to snap one up.

Meanwhile, I'm still hunting for that practical refrigerator calendar with an arty edge. Any ideas? Anyone, anyone?

Monday, December 15, 2008

House Voyeur: Viva Glam in Venice Beach

Many of you have seen interior designer Vanessa De Vargas's Venice Beach, California home before: It's been featured in Sunset magazine and made appearances on several blogs (including this one). But Vanessa recently made over her 1920s-era bungalow from top to bottom. "When you're a designer, you can't stop," she laughs.

Here, Vanessa gives us a virtual tour of her recently refreshed home:

"The architecture here is relatively plain, and when I moved in ten years ago the house was sort of a blank canvas, but with a bit of that vintage character. Luckily, my landlady lets me do whatever I want! My style is a mix of vintage and modern. I'm really drawn to Chinoiserie -- I just can't let go of it! It's more of a glam-y look, but it's pretty eclectic, too. I have bamboo, wood, ceramic, painted, and gold and silver finishes. Somehow, it all works together.

For the last few years, I was in my 'dark period' (the photo above is of my living room before the redesign). I had dramatic chocolate and charcoal walls and intense wallpapers. This time, I just wanted something new and fresh. I was going for a 'beachy Chinoiserie' feel, and wanted to make my space more cozy and bring in more color.

I really challenged myself to play with color, so you see more greens, cool blues, turquoise, and yellow in my home now. Painting the walls a warm off-white (Benjamin Moore's Swiss Coffee) allowed me use more vivid color in the furnishings and accent pieces. Before, the darkness of the walls sort of forced me to choose lighter furniture. I moved almost everything in the house to my retail business, and started from scratch. I lacquered these vintage cabinets in Benjamin Moore's Traffic Light Green. I've noticed that a lot of the colors in my furnishings are also in my clothes. For awhile there, every piece of clothing I bought was emerald green!

When you live in a small space -- my home is only 550 square feet -- you have to think about the scale of the things you have, and what furniture will compliment the room and not overwhelm it. It really helps to measure your space -- the floors, walls, windows, doorways -- and take those measurements with you when you go shopping so you don't fall in love with something before realizing that it won't work.

I tend to choose smaller-scale pieces: occasional chairs instead of bigger armchairs in the living room, for instance, and the petite lamps above, which aren't out of scale with relatively small cabinets they're on. By the way, these lamps are from JCPenney. You'd be amazed at the great stuff they have there. But don't tell anyone -- it's my secret source." (Sorry, Vanessa. I guess the cat's out of the bag now!)

"The living room looks luxurious, but the materials I used are actually really durable: The couch is upholstered in microsuede, the chairs in a zebra-print vinyl, and the rug (from Pottery Barn) is seagrass. The drapes are from IKEA; I added Greek key trim to give them a more finished look. The black pillow is vintage, and the fabric on the blue pillow is from Lewis & Sharon. I didn't want to wallpaper the whole room, so I used black and white wallpaper from Ferm Living as an accent on either side of the window.

Because it's a smaller space, I was looking for see-through, breathable furniture. I didn't want anything boxy or bulky. The Lucite side tables are by Jordan Cappella, and the glass nesting tables are really versatile. They originally had a gold-toned finish, and I just spray-painted it silver.

This is the dining area in my kitchen. I painted the floor (which had been black) white and used stools around my vintage Burke table instead of chairs. They're great -- they slip under the table when they're not in use and help maintain an open, airy look in the room.

As you can tell, most of my furniture is vintage. Professional reupholstering and refinishing can be pricey. But if you see something at the flea market or a garage sale that has great lines and that you can make over yourself -- doing basic sanding, staining, or painting, or perhaps recovering seat cushions -- you'll save a lot and end up with some great pieces.

I got the throw blanket on my bed at Old Navy ages ago. The seagrass rug is from Pier 1, the zebra-print rug from Urban Outfitters, and the bedding and curtains from IKEA. I painted the walls China Blue from Benjamin Moore.

To get a more custom look, I covered a basic headboard in Alexander Henry fabric. The throw pillows are made with fabric from Lulu DK. The lamps are vintage; to find similar ones, search 'Blanc de Chine' on eBay.

This was a basic IKEA cabinet that I painted black and added simple molding and crystal knobs to create a paneled look.

My advice: When you have a decorating project of your own, do your research. If you don't know what your style is, pull images that appeal to you from blogs and magazines -- and be sure to check out international design magazines, too. Take photos of things that catch your eye when you're out. Then create a binder or file of your collected images. You'll discover when you look through it that you're drawn to certain things over and over, and your style will become clear. Most importantly, fill your home with things that you love."

Thanks so much for sharing your incredible house with us, Vanessa! (Click here to see more of her design work.) I, for one, am totally inspired by the way Vanessa has created such a luxe space with relatively bargain materials. Who says you can't live large on a budget?


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