Monday, March 31, 2008

Cool Stuff: Orla Kiely Housewares

I was poking around a bit this weekend on the freshly redesigned website for London-based designer Orla Kiely, and found several things for my ever-expanding and increasingly mythological Wish List. (I've said it before and I'll say it again: Damn the U.S. dollar for being so weak that it makes almost all of the loveliness coming out of the UK these days utterly out of my reach!)

Of course, Ms. Kiely is best known for her gorgeous bags and clothing -- but I tend to salivate over the home goods.

Take a look:

Patterned Notebooks, 16 to 20 pounds sterling (about $32 to $40) each

Flower Oval, Multi Flower Abacus, and Scribble Stem mugs, 10 pounds ($20) each

Multi Stem Shade, Flower Abacus Shade, and Flower Blossom Shade, 95 pounds ($190) each

Stem Print Blanket, 235 pounds ($470)

Stem Print Cushion, 165 pounds ($330)

Big Tulip and Rowan Tree wallpaper, 60 pounds ($120) a roll

My product lust was whipped up to such a degree, though, that I did finally bite the bullet and order a roll of Orla Kiely's Flower Blossom Wallpaper, which I'd been pining over for awhile. (I got it from Anthropologie, where it's a comparatively affordable $88 a roll.)

I'm going to showcase a few lengths of it with the Poster Hanger system from Rare Device, and I may back a trio of bookshelves in our living room with the paper as well. (Other ideas for using wallpaper in novel ways? Lemme know.)

Check out the Orla Kiely site -- and get your own mythological Wish List started -- right here.

Good Reads: The East Bay as Brooklyn West?

Yesterday's New York Times featured an interesting article called "Sisters in Idiosyncrasy." The piece described how the Bay Area -- specifically East Bay cities like Oakland and Berkeley -- share a sort of cosmic, arty connection with Brooklyn. Says author Noam Cohen, "There is a young, earnest population that is beating a path between artsy, gentrifying neighborhoods in Brooklyn and their counterparts in the Bay Area, especially East Oakland and the area south of Market Street in San Francisco, or SoMa."

Now don't get me wrong, I love The New York Times (and, in fact, I have written for The New York Times, not to mention having lived in Brooklyn). But I'm always amused by its signature arch -- although still somewhat breathless -- reportage on trends and social phenomena. As if the newspaper is the first to notice such things, and is doing a thoughtful and charitable public service by filling in the rest of us cretins on whatever it has so astutely taken note of. Like, "Wow -- there's a 'creative class' here in the East Bay, kinda like the one in Williamsburg and other arty, gritty Brooklyn 'hoods? I had no idea. Thanks ever so much for enlightening me, New York Times!"

I also love how the Times never fails to see everything through its New York-as-Center-of-Universe prism, as depicted by the classic New Yorker cover, above. Of course Oakland is the corollary of Brooklyn -- because, I mean, rather than having its own unique identity, every other place in the United States is simply aspiring to be a little more like New York City, right?

Anyway, give it a read and let me know what you think.

More eBay Finds

eBay Find of the Day: Anthropologie Rug

Are you as ready for spring as I am?

Sure, you may still have April showers or even the odd snow flurry ahead of you. But placed inside the front door or at the kitchen sink, this two-by-three-foot crewel rug from Anthropologie can't help but put you in a springtime state of mind.

The brand-new-with-tags throw rug originally retailed for $78. On eBay, the current bid is $30 (hurry -- the auction ends Tuesday evening).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Over and Out

Have a lovely weekend!

Etsy Find of the Day: Betsy Walton Prints

These lovely, limited-edition prints from (wait for it now) Portland artist and Etsy seller Betsy Walton are perfect for ushering a little springtime joy into your home. Above: Two Teas, $35

I adore the fresh colors, the intricate shapes, and the intriguingly odd nature of Walton's illustrations. I just know there's a story behind her enigmatic, feather-headdressed characters, disembodied limbs, and otherworldly flora, and I'm dying to find out what it is.

Take a look:

Muses, $35

Paper Airplanes, $30

Make it Rain, $35

Bird Call, $27

Turquoise Plants, $27

Diamond Lake, $35

Uprooted, $30

Visit Walton's Etsy shop right here -- and see more of her work here and here.

P.S. Just got word that Walton will have a new collection of original work called Sacred Spring available at San Francisco's Rare Device starting May 1.

Cool Stuff: Star Pendants

Love the simplicity and delicacy of these bone china Star Pendants by British designer Kathleen Hills.

They're 84 pounds sterling (about $168) each from London-based Echo Interiors.

(Via cribcandy.)

House Voyeur: A Fresh Start in Baltimore

Some of you may know the woman behind today's House Voyeur tour, Meg Fairfax Fielding, via the blog Pigtown Design, which takes its name from the historic Baltimore, Maryland neighborhood where Meg resides.

Meg's approach to her home has been all about making a fresh start -- she recently returned to Baltimore after living abroad -- while also sticking to a tight budget and keeping her small house very personal. Meg has decorated almost entirely from scratch, but with items that have meaning to her, that invoke special memories, and that come from the people and places she loves most.

Here, Meg gives us a virtual tour of the home she shares with her yellow lab, Connor:

"I'm a Baltimore native, and my mother's family has been here for at least 12 generations. But a few years ago, I needed a big change in my life and decided to pitch everything and move to the UK, where my father was from. I ended up in Wales, working at an international boarding school housed in a 12th century castle.

Before I left Baltimore, I sold everything I owned -- my house, my car, and 95 percent of my possessions. I kept a few boxes of important books, my collection of copper cookware from France (not very helpful, since I don't actually cook much), and one completely impractical piece of furniture -- a large commercial kitchen counter.

While I was living in Wales, my father became ill and I needed to move back to the States. So then I sold everything I’d acquired in the UK and came home -- with no job, no house, no car, and very few possessions. I was living in my parents' empty house and because I wasn’t working, I had a very small budget. But I did have plenty of time to search craigslist and to scour flea markets and discount stores like Target for furnishings for the house where I’d eventually move. From sheets to towels and chairs to china, I knew I'd need everything. I also had to decide what I needed immediately and what I could wait to buy.

I've now been in my home, a 120-year-old Baltimore rowhouse, for a little less than two years. The house is in an area called Pigtown that was built for the workers at the old B&O railroad. It's a neighborhood in transition that's being gentrified by professionals from the nearby University of Maryland Law, Medical and Dental, and Social Work schools, and that's just blocks from the Orioles baseball and Ravens football stadiums. But there's still a gritty underside here. 

The house is only 11-and-a-half feet wide by 35 feet deep, and is less than 700 square feet in all. But it's the perfect size for me. When I look at bigger houses, I think that I wouldn’t know what to do with all that space. When I look at smaller ones -- the few that there are -- I think I have just enough room!

I love the light here -- especially in my bedroom (top). The house is south-facing, and in the winter the light brightens everything. In the summer, the tree out front filters the light and cools the house. It’s a flowering tree, so in the spring it’s a cloud of blossoms.

My main goals were to make the house warm and welcoming and to have it reflect who I am. This bookshelf is a good example of that: You can see some of my favorite books here, including I Married Adventure. The shelves also hold some of my late father's Baedeker Guides to London. And you can see both sides of my heritage in the Maryland crab and the American and British flags. That's my grandmother in the photograph on the top shelf.

The west-facing wall of my house runs about 35 feet from front to back. I printed black-and-white photos of special places I visited during my time abroad, bought matching double-matted frames from the dollar store, and hung them along the long wall. I just got a laser level and, miraculously, all the pictures are lined up perfectly!

I love this vignette because it combines some of my family's old silver, my mother's wedding photo, gifts from friends, and even my family's coat of arms.

I like poking around thrift stores, auctions, and junk shops to find things that other people overlook. I found two of these dining chairs at a huge antique/junque warehouse, for instance. Their bones were good -- sort of Chinese Chippendale -- but they were painted brown with hideous brown-and-green fabric seats. I sanded them, painted them gloss white, and re-covered the seats in this pink-and-white Waverly fabric.

This yellow Ethan Allan sofa that I found on craigslist is the piece that started the yellow theme in my home. It was too wide to fit into someone’s house, so it came right from their moving van to my house. Before buying the sofa, I'd never had any yellow at all.

Then my mother gave me a yellow Chinese silk painting that didn't fit her new house, and I found two yellow ottomans with white piping at Target. Finally, I painted a little footstool that had been in our library growing up yellow and re-covered it in a pale yellow and blue stripe.
 It all really pulled the room together.

And of course, my best find of all was a 'used' yellow Labrador retriever that I got from the City Animal Shelter for just $50!

After being in Paris every three weeks for a project I was working on, I decided to do a French-inspired loo. I found this poster at the dollar store, and the frame is from IKEA. You can't see it in the photo, but I also have a blue-and-white toile shower curtain.

This is the guest room. My brother-in-law gave me the duvet cover, made from my favorite toile. The fabric on the back of the bookshelf is by Manuel Canovas, which I found at the Load of Fun Flea Market for $1 a yard.

I turned part of the guest room into a home office. More dollar-a-yard Manuel Canovas fabric is stretched around a large frame, creating a piece of inexpensive but cheerful and colorful art. The barrister's bookcase, which I found for just $25, houses my collection of cashmere sweaters. Because the house is so old, there's very little closet space and I have to be creative when it comes to storage -- hence the boxes and bookcase.

One critical thing I've learned is to live in a house for a little while and let it speak to you. You'll figure out how you use the space, what the light is like, what the traffic patterns are, and other critical elements. And decorate for yourself and your family. After all, you’ve got to live with it. If you’re not comfortable using a room or a piece of furniture, then what’s the point? The people who love you don’t care if they’re propped on kitchen stools or lounging on a down-filled sofa. It’s you they care about."

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

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

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Etsy Find of the Day: Tree Hugger Wall Graphic

Have we all finally accepted the idea that wall decals are probably here to stay?

It's not such a bad thing. Personally, I kind of like them. They're a quick and simple way to dress up a blank wall and dramatically change the look of a space. Plus, they're a heck of a lot cheaper and easier to apply than wallpaper or a handpainted mural -- and a lot less hassle to un-do when you're ready for something new.

I especially like the look of large botanical decals -- so perfect for bringing a bit of awakening spring inside your home -- and even more so when they're applied in crisp white on a softly colored wall to create a striking silhouette.

The Tree Hugger wall graphic, $35 from Etsy seller Elly Nelly (aka the mom-and-daughter textile design team of Elaine and Nell Oliver), comes in a choice of 16 colors. Combine it with a set of Fly Away bird decals, $22, as shown above, and you'll have a whole lot of look for not a lot of cash.

Trees and birds not your thing? No problem. There are dozens of other decals -- from watchful felines to creeping vines to simple geometric graphics -- in Elly Nelly's Etsy shop. Bonus: The decals can be applied to windows, glass doors, and mirrors as well.

Design Dilemma: What Fabric for This Chair?

More Ways to Waste Time reader Amy writes: "My eyes are sore from staring at the computer screen, and my mouse hand is weary -- I need your help. I'm looking for fabric to redo this director’s chair and its twin. I’ve been searching for a zig-zag fabric like the one on the pillow below from Twinkle Living, or maybe a wavy pattern, but I'm also open to other ideas. I’m going to sand and repaint the chairs, so some paint color ideas would help, too. Orange, blue, green, or a nice crisp white would work in my house."

What a fun project! Those chairs are going to look sharp.

I love the idea of sanding the wood and painting it a poppy hue that coordinates with the fabric you ultimately choose -- though you might not want to paint if you think the chairs might be valuable.

Since the fabric will have to support the weight of the sitter, you'll need something pretty tough, such as a thick canvas or upholstery fabric. But my friend and sewing goddess Kitty, to whom I turned for advice on this question, says that regular cotton would also work as long as you interface it.

You're right that fabric with a zig-zag pattern isn't easy to find. But Kitty and I did a little online digging late into the night and came up with a few options for you:

The big, bold chevron pattern of Schumacher's High Voltage linen-cotton fabric in Espresso is probably the closest to the design on that Twinkle pillow. (FYI: Schumacher fabrics are "to the trade" only, but if you have a design center near you, you can ask to be connected with a buyer there.) This would look dramatic and sophisticated on chairs stained a deep espresso shade.

This Zenyatta Mondatta cotton-blend fabric in Peacock, also from Schumacher, is my personal fave. I'd lacquer the chair frames in a high-gloss green matching the "olivine" shade in the fabric.

Though it's not quite a zig zag, this Marimekko Geometric Lock cotton upholstery fabric in Chocolate Chip, $20 a yard at Contemporary Cloth, has a similar effect. For pure pop, paint the chairs to match the green.

Another bold and colorful choice: Donna Wilder for Free Spirit's Utopia cotton fabric in Leaf Green and Chartreuse is just $4.24 a yard on eBay. I'd match the chair paint to the darker green, but you could go either way.

OD Zig Zag synthetic outdoor fabric in Sunshine, $14 a yard at Hancock Fabrics, would look so cheerful on white-painted chairs.

IKEA's Petronella cotton duck fabric, $6 a yard, has that geometric flair you're after and would be really dramatic on black-painted chairs.

For a wavy look, I like this fresh green Katrin cotton duck fabric, also $6 a yard at IKEA. I'd go with white chair frames for this one.

Marimekko's Lokki heavyweight cotton fabric in Blue and White, $42 a yard at FinnStyle, would be another great wavy option (and look super-snappy on white chairs) if the scale wasn't so big -- those stripes are a whopping 11 inches wide. Anyone know where to find something like this in a smaller pattern?

If you decide not to paint the chairs, the natural tones in this faux Bangal Chestnut Tiger Skin, $16 a yard from Hancock, would pair nicely with the wood. It'd still give you the zig-zag effect you're after but also add a dash of "safari chic."

For an idea of what the finished project might look like if you go the natural wood-and-animal print route, here's a pair of similar chairs I found on 1stdibs that have been done up in (real) cowhide: These babies cost $1,500, so your chairs have the potential to be a great find -- not to mention a super-stylish addition to your home.

Anyone out there have more fabric suggestions for Amy? If so, please post a comment (with a link, if possible) and share it. And Amy, please send me a shot of the chairs when you finish making them over!

P.S. Have a design dilemma of your own? Send it in, along with a photo or two, and I'll put it up here for a communal brainstorming session.


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