Wednesday, July 27, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I showed you a tiny, fuzzy phone picture of our new desk. You might have wondered why on earth I would replace the cute seating nook with a desk so soon after painstakingly recovering the ottoman, particularly since I keep talking about how I'm poor and am not going to buy any more furniture. Well, sometimes functionality gets in the way of my decor plans. In this case, the functionality issue was instigated by a computer crisis. 

My fiancé has had a series of crappy, bulky PC laptops, each of which have contracted a virus and died after a couple of years (my Macs, meanwhile, have happily lasted for years on end). His latest one finally bit the dust last month, and he realized that he should rethink the idea of buying another short-lived laptop that would inevitably reside on the dining table. He'd been eyeing some Android tablets at Best Buy but didn't think he'd be able to use something so small exclusively. And I, meanwhile, had been dreaming of a desktop computer with a screen big enough to easily peruse all my files and favorite blogs. So we made what seemed like a perfectly intelligent decision: we would buy one of the inexpensive and highly portable tablets, and also find a used Mac desktop computer on Craigslist. 

Two days later, mission accomplished! We had ourselves a cute white iMac (which came with CS4 and Final Cut Pro!) and he was happily playing with his new toy on the couch. The software alone was close to what a new iMac would have cost. F
ive days later, the situation turned out to be indeed too good to be true. The logic board (aka motherboard) on the iMac died. Entirely kaput. It would cost $800 to repair.

One of the only good things about being a broke early-twenty-something from a middle-class family is that when you have a financial crisis, your parents will sometimes take pity on you and bail you out. While my parents aren't in a position to do that, his are, and after telling us not to stupidly buy any computers from Craigslist even again, they offered to pay for the most cost-effective replacement we could find. So we thanked them profusely, decided to get a Mac Mini and a random monitor (from nerd heaven), and the whole debacle finally sputtered to an end.

...Which finally marked the beginning of the fun part. We had less than $200 to spend the desk and accessories, so I returned to an idea I had right after we moved into our apartment. My original intentions for the bedroom included a desk, before I realized that the ottoman wouldn't fit in the living room and decided to use it for a reading nook. This design board that I made last summer includes the desk that I ultimately ended up creating:

I had the idea of combining Ikea's Vika Lerberg metal trestle legs with a clear glass desktop (which Ikea, annoyingly, doesn't carry), and spray painting the legs gold. Incidentally, I saw the same exact idea about a month later on Matters of Style, executed beautifully! After patting myself on the back for independently coming up with an idea that made the blog rounds and was later featured on Apartment Therapy, I filed it away in my mental "someday" folder. When we realized that we'd need a desk to house our new desktop computer, I knew exactly what desk to get – and the price was right! The legs were only $10 each, and we found a beautiful 3/4" thick glass desktop on Craigslist for less than $100. 

I assembled the legs, then took them outside and sprayed them with primer and this metallic gold-toned spray paint. I COULD SWEAR I took pictures of this – because I know I'm bad at posting "before"s on here! – but I cannot find them for the life of me. 

The after:

Yes, I'm going to do something about those cords. 

Because I have to deal with the ugly black monitor (and keyboard, and mouse) I decided to find accessories in black and gold that might make take the attention off the monitor and make it fade into its luxe surroundings. I've always loved Semikolon desk accessories, but spending $40 for just two boxes seemed silly, especially since I planned to cut a hole in the back of one of them and use it to house/hide the Mac Mini. When I found this set of 5 at Adorama Camera, one of which will fit the computer perfectly, I decided to splurge. Yes, I spent $50 on cardboard boxes. Fortunately, I didn't need to buy much else: I already had a pencil cup and a frame (from John Derian's Target line, formerly in the bathroom and my nightstand, respectively), a pretty magnifying glass (from HomeGoods), and a glass display box that also used to sit on the nightstand. All I needed was a lamp.

I embarked on an exhaustive hunt for a cheap lamp, searching multiple thrift shops, HomeGoods, and every Ebay keyword I could think of. And still couldn't find the perfect lamp (actually, that's a lie. I found it, and it's on sale for $600). Eventually, I bought one at HomeGoods; its positive aspects include a pretty metallic linen shade and a $25 price tag, but as soon as I brought it home I realized that it's smaller than I was hoping for. It's going to stay for now (I upended the key bowl from the entryway and am using it as a booster seat to give the lamp a little more height).

Another thing on my list was a new duvet (ours was getting kind of gross after a few years, and we didn't feel like it was worth paying to get it dry cleaned). I found this one at the same HomeGoods as the lamp, and I liked it enough to keep it. I know the bright white isn't ideal with the cream-colored chair, but the trim and ceiling are white – and need to stay white – so it's not alone. I just need to find a way to iron it properly without destroying the synthetic fill. The frames that I added to the wall still need to be moved toward the window and filled with something interesting – I'll update you when that happens! 

What do you think – was my DIY desk a success? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I'm not sure how I missed this, considering how much I love DwellStudio and the fact that I've been living and breathing everything wedding-related for the past few months: the aforementioned awesome home line has collaborated with Wedding Paper Divas on a line of wedding stationery!

Some of my favorites...

Signature White Wedding Invitations Bouquet Print - Front : Autumn Orange  Letterpress Wedding Invitations Finest Feathers - Front : Black

Signature White Textured Wedding Invitations Turning Triangles - Front : Apricot

Signature White Textured Wedding Invitations Snappy Stripes - Front : Stormy Blue  Signature White Textured Wedding Invitations Snappy Stripes - Front : Stormy Blue

Signature White Wedding Invitations Boldly Elegant - Front : Black  Signature White Wedding Invitations Boldly Elegant - Front : Black  Signature White Wedding Invitations Boldly Elegant - Front : Black

Or if you have some Dwell bedding on your registry, why not get wedding invites to match? Maybe it'll serve as a subconscious message to your guests that they really should get you that Hedgerow duvet...

I'm still planning to design my own stationery, but if I were going the premade route these would be strong contenders!

Monday, July 18, 2011


It's no secret that design bloggers' knees go weak at the thought of hand-painted wallpaper (De Gournay, anyone?). It may simply be the current vogue for delicate florals and chinoiserie influences, but I think there's something more to the fascination: unlike more commonplace wallpapers with repetitive patterns, hand-painted papers give the illusion of being surrounded by an idealized version of nature, complete with all its variation and unpredictability. 

Perhaps that's why scenic wallpaper makes my knees go extra-weak. Panoramic murals created to decorate domestic interiors have been around since Roman times, but mural-like wallpaper (either block-printed or hand-painted) is a more recent invention. Popularized in France at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, these papers cover the entire surface of a room with a panoramic landscape. At a time when the bourgeoisie was becoming increasingly interested in following quickly changing styles of interior decor, wallpapers provided an affordable, more modern alternative to the tapestries that had covered walls in Renaissance Europe. 

As an art historian, I can't help but start out with some spectacular examples from museums and historic houses, including one from the museum where I work:

clockwise from upper left:
1) and 2) details of the Shepard Parlor, ca. 1803 (from the George Shepard House in Bath, Maine); one of the two wallpapers in the room is “Les Jardins de Bagatelle,” made about 1798 by the Paris firm Arthur and Robert, and the other paper (by an unknown maker) was created about the same time. The images in the MFA's database are out of date (they show the old installation of the room, before it was reinstalled in the New American Wing), so I took these from this AFA article and Elements of Style.
3) detail of the wallpaper above the mantel in the William C. Williams Parlor at the Met. I LOVE the way the boat appears to be floating on top of the mantel! And while you're there, be sure to check out one of my favorite pieces: the Vanderlyn Panorama, a round room painted with a panoramic mural of Versailles.
4) the Diplomatic Room at the White House, redecorated by Jackie O. She added the 1834 Zuber et Cie wallpaper, "Views of North America," which depicts 32 scenes of North American land- and cityscapes.

Although some of the most rare and beautiful examples of scenic wallpaper are found in museums, inspiration can also be found in real, lived-in rooms like these:

clockwise from upper left:
House & Garden 2005, designed by Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts
de Gournay
House & Garden, via Emily Henderson's old blog, The Brass Petal
Michael Smith
Suzanne Kasler

clockwise from upper left:
Miles Redd
Decorative Imaging
technically out-of-bounds: Maria Trimbell's amazing handpainted murals

All of the above are admittedly extremely traditional, with plenty of antique French furniture, but adding some casual, modern furniture into the mix – and maybe even some contemporary art – can produce unexpected and interesting results: 

clockwise from upper left:
David Netto
Tom Scheerer

I've been noticing contemporary takes on scenic and pictorial wallpapers more often lately, and they're becoming increasingly tasteful. Take these photographic and illustrated examples that serve as backdrops for everything from a nursery to a bathroom and work with cozy, traditional furniture as well as spare, mid-century designs:

clockwise from upper left:
Lonny (and reposted lots of other places in the past few days, I've noticed)
Desire to Inspire

Personally, I don't think I could live with any of these photographic papers, though it would be tempting to recommend that first one for someone else's space! But hey, the point of inspiration isn't always to be practical or liveable. So for a photo shoot or boutique hotel, why not 
go entirely over-the-top? 

left: The Archangel Hotel in Frome, Somerset with a detail of Leonardo's Annunciation used as a mural.
right: the always incredible Tim Walker for W Magazine, April 11. He went to Glemham Hall in Suffold, England and covered the walls with blown-up images of paintings by Ingres, Winterhalter, and Tissot, among others. More here.

Are you as fascinated by the idea of pictorial and scenic wallpaper as I am, or is it a decorating concept that should remain in the past? If you want to learn more and live in the Boston area, two MFA curators are presenting a gallery talk in October on the subject, wherein they'll discuss the period room pictured in this post and talk about the work of Timorous Beasties, a wallpaper firm that you may have seen mentioned recently on Design*Sponge, Design Milk, or Apartment Therapy, among others. Maybe I'll see you there! *
date and time subject to change! check the website and please don't come in and yell at me if they change or cancel it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


It has been hot here in Boston lately: that oppressive, heavy sort of heat that leaves you feeling tired and listless and wanting to stay in your air-conditioned bedroom all day instead of getting up and taking advantage of summer fun. It's making me want to trade the usual summer uniform of denim shorts for a delicate, billowing skirt and conjure up a lovely breeze. No, not like that other 60's icon you might be thinking of (apologies for the very obvious title reference, by the way – I couldn't resist). Think less sexy and more ethereal...

clockwise from upper right:
Tiffany's ad

In the city or – better yet – at the beach:

clockwise from upper right:
via Liebemarlene
Åsa Tällgård via Oh Joy!
Lisa Gowing (designer)
Rodney Smith (photographer)

What are you wearing this summer – and what do you wish you were wearing instead?

Monday, July 11, 2011


You probably all think I've dropped off the face of the earth by now. I haven't, but I have had the flu and have spent the past week curled up in bed reading/watching Harry Potter for approximately the 7 billionth time.

Before all of that, however, I did some productive things, including another design board. In the process of searching the client's local Craigslist, I found some great pieces that just didn't fit into the style we were going for. Thus, for your perusal and probable frustration (unless you happen to live in Austin, in which case you need to go buy one of these awesome things!): Craigslist Decorating, Vol. 5. These are starter kits, if you will – smaller collections than usual that just suggest the directions in which these rooms could go.

first: bed, rug, chair
second: chandelier, rug, chest
third: headboard, rug, chair
fourth: cartrugchair

Real content coming tomorrow, and later this week some more details about the desk that you got a tiny, lousy picture of in my last post!