My family rarely pays full price for anything. If we can can wait for it to go on sale, we will. If we can buy it used, we will. If we can make it instead of buy it, we will.
I come from a line of resourceful/handy people. My grandmother was a housewife, and while raising 4 kids, she also made and sold traditional Chinese treats in her tiny kitchen and was able to earn as much as my grandfather did in a year just by baking around the clock for 2 weeks around Chinese New Year. She also used to make my mom’s school uniforms rather than buy the ones sold through the school and she’d use better material, add warmer lining, and she’d tweak the designs to for better fit and style.
My mom followed in her mom’s footsteps. She cuts her own hair, tailors her own clothes, and LOVES to bargain hunt. When I was a kid, my mom would go to TJ Maxx or Marshalls at least once/week and I would tag along. She was the master bargain shopper and I was her apprentice. Shopping didn’t always mean buying. A lot of times it was just the ritual of looking, comparing, examining the quality and value of goods from different sources. I never saw her spend over $24.99, yet she always managed to put together super chic outfits. My mom is the kind of lady that will buy a $9.99 from the sportswear clearance rack, then she’ll cut a hold in the shoulder, take 3″ off the bottom, hand sew sequins and stones on the neckline and BOOM! New shirt to wear to a party. As I mentioned in a previous post about my mom’s home office makeover, my mom is the coolest person I know. Exhibit A:Sometimes you just need to buy a solid, quality piece that will last forever and I’m willing to splurge on wardrobe staples. Anyone who lives in New York probably pounds pavement for at least 2 miles/day and your footwear has to be tough to survive this city. My favorite shoes, coats, purses, and carry-all totes get used and abused to death and they prove their value over time. But when it comes to a nightstand, I really don’t feel like spending more than $75 because ultimately it’s just a horizontal surface on which to place a lamp and my chapstick.
It’s not much of a surprise that I wound up with a profession that requires a lot of shopping. I’m a speed shopper at work but when it comes to buying stuff for my own home, I’m annoyingly indecisive. If I’m in the market for a lamp, I will literally scour the internet, flipping through thousands of lamps until I have a folder of my 50 favorites. From there, I narrow it down to my 10 favorites. Then I’ll go to a handful of thrift stores, Home Goods, and big store sale sections to see if there’s anything I like better. Then I’ll go back to my “faves” folder and start searching Ebay to see if any of my faves are online for cheaper. Not until I’ve spent about 10+ hours researching to ensure that I have absolutely found the lamp that’s the greatest value will I pull the trigger and buy. I’m fully aware that this method of shopping is ultimately uneconomical because time is money, but I simply cannot help myself.
Anyway, I lived in the tiny room for 5 years, and when my guy moved in with me, we stayed in the tiny room for a couple weeks with intentions of making the big room into a giant home office, but it turns out we don’t really need a giant home office, so we decided to try out the big room to see if we liked it. And we did! There was something nice about making a fresh start with a new space. Problem is, I don’t really have any bedroom furniture, because everything in the tiny room is built-in and fastened with 10,000 screws so the only way it’s coming out is if I demolish it.
The upside? I get to buy new stuff! But as y’all know, furnishing a room or house all at once is wicked expensive. I’m also a decorator, so I’m extra picky and I like to live in rooms that look finished, so I need to save room in the budget for accessories. I whipped together a mood board of affordable things that I love. Here’s what I have my eye on:
1. Dusk & a Dirt Road by Christina Shaffell, Society6, $34.00
2. America Cutting Board, Target, $12.50
3. Compass by Zach Terrel, Society6, $21.00
4. Nyfors work lamp, IKEA, $49.99
5. Water by Jaime Hogge, Mammoth and Company., $20.00
6. Valhalla walnut 5-drawer dresser, Overstock, $184.99
7. Rugby stripe bins, Container Store, $14.99
8. Serving tray with faux leather handles, Target, $24.99
9. Faux sheepskin area rug, Home Decorators Collection, $149.00
11. Tear drop decorative pillow, Target, $8.49 (discontinued)
12. Draper stripe ash duvet, Dwell, t’was a gift
13. Dwight console, CB2, kindly donated by my friend Natasha (discontinued)
14. Set of 2 chestnut dining chairs, Target, $82.99
15. Hometrends 5-drawer chest, black, Walmart, $179.00
16. Marble top tables, Craigslist, $30 (score!) similar to Smart glass top side table, CB, $149.00
17. Ljusas Ysby lamp, IKEA, scored it for free on a job
18. Wooden flower vase, Target,$24.99
19. Floating by Heather Goodwind, Society6, $50.00
The first things I bought were the marble top tables (#16) and they set the tone for the new room. I pursue craigslist every freakin’ day, and I rarely find anything that I need or want. You know the drill. If you want to find anything good and cheap, you have to email the owner within 15 minutes or someone else will beat you to it. Finally, one day I saw these perfect marble side tables for $15 each, so I emailed the guy in a hurry and made them mine. They’re definitely worth at least $150 each. Winning! I feel like there’s a little marquee in my brain that says “You saved 90%!” in flashing red lights.
The room is coming along and I’ve already bought a lot of the stuff on the list. I will post progress pics soon.
When i was a kid I wanted to live on a boat or an RV. My dad used to take me to boat shows where my brother and I would crawl in and out of every crevice of the tricked out custom interiors. I distinctly remember being 7 years old at a boat show, hanging out in a dim, snug, well ventilated crawl space with a tiny gnome door and a mattress on the floor. I could have stayed there forever and literally dreamed about that nook for years.
Boat shows are like space planning heaven to me. On a boat, every component flips up, drops down, doubles as a bed, and has hidden storage. My fascination with tiny homes on wheels/water turned into a fascination with small space living.
I could live here forever. No joke.
My first Brooklyn bedroom was roughly 12′x20′ which is HUGE by NYC standards. I even had my own bathroom and laundry in the building. So fancy. I put work into trying to make it pretty but ultimately I didn’t have enough storage so the room was always a mess. I came to the conclusion that I was one of those people who needs a designated spot for everything or I will never put anything back.
At the time, I was working on an office makeover for Tyra Banks where I met a furniture designer/builder named Mark. We were chatting about life in Brooklyn and I mentioned that I was considering downsizing from my huge room in Clinton Hill to something more affordable. It just so happened that his upstairs neighbor was about to move out. The mention of a “tiny room” piqued my interest so I got the landlord’s info and went to check it out.
The room was rough around the edges, but had no major issues, which was perfect. I decided right away that I wanted to take the place and managed to finagle a 6 week window where I would come in after work and on weekends to fix up the place. I was determined to make this tiny room fancy yet functional so I started pulling inspiration images from magazines (mostly Domino…cutest mag ever, I miss it) and these two pages were the tearsheets that influenced me the most. I’m glad I saved them after all these years.
I decided on black, white, brown wood, with a touch of brass as my palette. Timeless and classy IMO. In comparison to these rooms, I’d say that my style is a little more “global eclectic.” I love gaudy crosses, Moorish tiles, statues of Buddha and multi-armed Hindu deities. So yea, like French castle guest room meets antique market in Bali…for a secret girly girl who hates girly things and color. Yea.
Every secretly fancy girl has to have a regal, disproportionately large bed. I fancied the Louis bed the most but I was poor at the time and had no idea if it was even possible to get European designed furniture to my neck of the woods. I studied wood sculpture in college and had an itch to make some 3D sculpture anyway, so I decided to build a Louis bed replica. Initially, I assumed a full sized bed with canopy frame would eat up the whole room, but realized later that I would have about 12″ of space to the right of the bed that would be perfect for shelving. I saved my mad-scientist sketches from this project. I love revisiting my art sketches and marveling at how bad my handwriting has gotten over the years.
I don’t have any photos of me actually building because I did everything by myself and just didn’t have my act together to document it properly. In a nutshell, it was a BEAST of a project. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have any tools with me at the time. I basically hired sketchy guys with vans to shuttle me back and fourth between Home Depot and the house, and I cut all the wood propped up on two folding chairs with a $30 Black and Decker jigsaw. I had to patch the walls, ceiling, and trim and probably inhaled a huge amount of spackle and saw dust. I made a TON of noise cutting the curvy shapes and nailing all those furniture tacs into the shelving. My neighbors must have HATED me.
This is the closest thing I have to a “during” photo. After days of agonizing over color options, I settled on chalky white walls, a dark semi-gloss navy for the bed, and what I call “old man mustard” for the ceiling which is for some unexplainable reason my favorite color that’s not related to black or white. The room was coming together and the right side looked great with the built-in shelves, but the left side was really unbalanced, so I made a headboard/sideboard and mounted it to the left wall.
Also, a chandelier was desperately needed. Unfortunately, the original light fixture was not centered on anything (neither the window, nor the bed, nor the room). It was also a pull-chain fixture with which I had no experience and didn’t want to get electrocuted. I wound up splurging on a Craigslist electrician who charged me $250 to move the box and install my newly obtained vintage chandelier from the Brooklyn Flea which is conveniently located 2 blocks from my house. It seems secure; I’m pretty sure I won’t be impaled in my sleep.
It’s odd that I never posted a full set of pics on the blog, but there they are!
By this point, the room has gotten some press. It started with a feature in Apartment Therapy’s Big Book of Small Spaces, and since then it’s been in Design Bureau magazine and on a bunch of blogs. Youtube has a web series called Tiny Eclectic Amazing Spaces and they recently stopped by to shoot a little interview. Awkward!
When I moved into this apartment, I went into a cleaning/fixing/decorating frenzy and set the place up as fast as I could with what I had. I hung my own photos, drawings, and paintings all over the house. I always knew that they were a temporary solution, but after a while I stopped noticing them. 5 years later, I got a second wind and have been itching to update the decor in my living room.
A lot of people have trouble choosing art and I can absolutely see why. You have to consider color, shape, size, price, subject matter, then there’s the hassle of finding the right mat and frame. Then you have to hang it and you must decide how high/low, how heavy, how many, how far apart, etc. Then on top of that, since I’m an artist choosing art, I’m extra picky and a little self conscious. Does it look too much like my own work? Is it current? Is it too hip? Will I grow tired of it? What is art anyway? What is the meaning of life?!
When I’m decorating a set and I need art in a pinch I just buy frames from big box stores, then have my travel photos (mostly of flowers and architecture) printed at Fedex Office and BAM! Instant art. Kinda boring, but fine for TV. I really don’t want to go that route for my own home. Plus I’m bored to tears of my photography because I keep using it for work.
My ginormous drawing of Queen Frida was hanging in my living room and she was WAY too big for that wall. Because I had no where else to hang her, she lived there for years. I finally did something about it and wrapped her up and put her in my dingy hallway landing. I feel a little guilty, but she’ll be okay.
I started poking around online and liked a lot of work at 20×200, Mammoth and Company, and Society6, the latter being the most affordable by far. Some of it is too trendy and cutesy, but some of it is fantastic. I must have perused 10,000 prints, bookmarked 50 of my faves, then narrowed it down to my top 7. Most of the pieces come in small, medium, and large sizes, so fired up Photoshop and played with some different configurations.
This is the configuration I settled on. The pieces are Half 2 by Rui Ribiero, in A cabin in the woods by Hallwood, No Way Home by Zafa Zubiria. They were super affordable at $93.36 for all 3! Shipping was free, and they took about 5 days to get to me.
I bought my frames at americanframe.com. Their interface is simple and intuitive, and their prices are really reasonable. I ordered 3 metal frames. The big one is matte black, extra deep and MUCHO SEXY. I think it’s going to be my go-to frame from now on. The other two are skinnier and more shallow. I like the gray one, but the white square one is not my favorite. The shade of white is too cold. I thought about sending it back, then decided that when the room is fully pulled together, it won’t really matter. I kind of regret not paying extra for the non-reflective acrylic, but I already took the protective film off, so I guess I’ll keep what I have for now.
The 2 prints in the middle were printed on a super smooth paper using a process that looks like laser printing. The ink is a little shiny and it you look closely, you can see a little bit of inconsistency in the color. The big black and white looks AMAZING. It’s on a paper with nicer texture and is printed on an ink jet and is so clear it almost looks like an original. I guess you get what you pay for. I threw that tiny frame in at the last minute. I doesn’t really match, but I kind of like that about it. The photograph was ripped out of a photography book about Israel.
Oh, I got a new rug! It’s the perfect size, really soft under foot, and makes the room 10x more inviting. It’s plain but not too plain. And it was on sale! Thumbs up, highly recommend.
As usual, it took me forever to decide which pieces to buy because I liked so many of them. Here are some other great pieces that I found over the course of a 3 day online art binge.
Abandoned Beauty by Tom Kondrat
Diagonal Mar by Clemens Behr
Kayak by Sarah Montour
Heaven by Kathy Bouthier
False Memory by Ricky Allman
Triumph of the Spectable by Euginia Loli
Landscape Painting 2 by Russell Leng
Promise by Heather Goodwind
Monolith_05 by Jesse Draxler
Abyss of the Disheartened by Heather Landis
Emergency Door by Rachel Bellinsky
Lookout by Joy StClaire
Pretty Problems One by Luke Ramsey
Truest thing we’d ever known by Cardboardcities
Painted Pebbles1 by Garima Dhawan
Maps by Tina Crespo
I design mostly for reality TV, and reality sets are like rooms on steroids. Sometimes I get a little carried away in my own home and I try to pack a lot of “look” into not a lot of space and I wind up with something kind of cool, but also kind of scary. Remember the last time I lost my mind and painted my bathroom magenta with rainbow stripes? Or the ginormous drawing of Frida that looms over my living room. Yea… the winds of change (and hurricane Sandy) are blowing through my apartment.
I don’t know what it is about this bathroom. I have the hardest time deciding how I want it to look. It’s a good space. It’s big for NY standards, has fairly attractive fixtures, and a window that looks out to a tree. Unfortunately, it’s a little more run-down than you’d think from looking at these pics. The navy tiles are cracked in many places. The grout was crumbly and gray so I painted over it with dark blue nail polish (more on that some other day). The door trim is crooked and lumpy, and the baseboard is wood on one side and yellowing vinyl on the other. At least my tub is white…sparkling white now that i scrubbed it for the first time with a Mr. Clean magic eraser…OMG those things are amazing.
I have 2 methods for dealing with crusty rooms. First, if it can’t be luxe, make it memorable. And secondly, the smaller the room, the more obnoxious you can make it.
So one day I came across this image from a West Elm catalog featuring a rug designed by Allegra Hicks, whom I think it a fabulous textile designer. I wanted it SOO badly, but it was from a previous season and had since been discontinued. It was the perfect design in my mind. Geometric, but soft and organic. Warm and cool colors. Kind of modern, kind of traditional, kind of Moorish. LOVE.
My roommate Katie is a licensed massage therapist (she’s awesome, email me if you want her info, you won’t regret it) and she was having clients come to the house for massage every now and then, so I thought it would be nice to paint the bathroom a soothing color reminiscent of a spa. So I painted it………GREY! Surprise. Jen Chu painted a room gray. The grey turned out to be little more purple than I expected it to be, so I thought this Allegra Hicks pattern might be able to break up all the grey-purple. So, $75 and 21 hours later…I have a pretty bathroom! Here’s how I did it:
I used a french curve to make 1/4 of a leaf. Then I flipped it and traced it to make 1/2 of a leaf. Then I flipped it again to make 1 whole leaf. I cut it out of card stock so it would be rigid enough for me to trace 100 times, but flexible enough that I could bend it to get into corners. For this project, I also used a tape measure, spackle, sandpaper, scissors, ruler, pencil, level, contact paper, painters tape, and 3 different sized brushes.
Any imperfections will disrupt the pattern, and will probably result in paint leaking under the tape. Don’t be lazy. Just patch and sand and wipe the wall down with a damp towel. You’ll be glad you did it. If you want to be super legit, you should prime the patched parts because sometimes paint doesn’t adhere to spackle and if your project involves tape, it’ll rip the paint right off.
This part requires some basic math and I’m not going to crazy explaining it, but I can offer some pointers. The easiest way to do this is to make a grid with your measuring tape and level. Once the grid is down, the shapes will fall into place quickly. Use a pencil! It’s SOO hard to paint over pen.
This is the part that’s not necessarily intuitive. There are a few ways to do this, but I chose the way the required as little freehanding as possible. To freehand this pattern would take forever and frankly, would result in carpel tunnel. I suppose if you wanted it to have a more “hand painted” look, you could get away with it, but I’m a robot and I like things to look machine made. I painted each leaf quickly, slightly OUTSIDE the lines, making sure that the paint was relatively smooth. I did 2 coats for each leaf.
In order to paint the dark gray “grout lines,” I had to cover each and every rough painted leaf with a more perfect sticky leaf. I bought a roll of contact paper and I used my stencil to trace 55 leaves, then I cut them all out. It didn’t take that long. Maybe 2 hours.
I peeled and stuck all of my sticky leaves onto the wall, making sure to press the edges really firmly to flatten any gaps. I needed about twice the leaves that I had, so I just painted half of the grout lines first, then re-used the sticky leaves and did half of the wall after.
After your sticky leaves are firmly pressed, use the last color to paint in the grout lines. Do 2 coats. Then peel the stickers, do any touch ups, and you’re done! Easy! Ridiculously time consuming, but easy in theory :)
Did anyone notice that I installed a dimmer in my bathroom?! Probably not because only crazy people notice that stuff. But let me tell you, it’s the best. I spent hours swapping and replacing the light bulbs in my place for maximum illumination and mood options. That’s a post for another day…