I lived in Vancouver, BC (Canada) between 2002 and 2007. Over the course of those five years, I became very attached to the city, even though I never planned to make it my long term home.
Don't get me wrong, I like Toronto better.
For one thing, I'm much happier these days, but there are things I miss about my old life. Most notably, I miss the landscape of that young city. Toronto, with it's crumbling bricks, historic mansions, and grime is more me, but the light here is different. Despite the grey skies and fog, the quality of light in Vancouver is really something. It's unexpected. Even on dark days, the world is tinted a lovely blue grey. I miss that.
Consider the picture above, snapped on a drive over the Lions Gate Bridge. Bridge traffic often sucked, but the green of the metal against the low hanging sky never failed to cheer me up.
I often try to emulate the calm grey blue feeling that Vancouver once gave me in my decor. I try and I fail. For some reason, in Toronto, it never really works. Something to do with the quality of the light, I guess.
I'm experimenting with adding multimedia content to the site at the moment and my first effort is the inclusion of a slide show photo gallery featuring pictures from the apartment I lived in between 2004 and 2007. Please take a look and drop me a comment. I'd love the feedback. This slide show will also be available on the brand-spanking new Gallery page.
Inspiration can be found in the strangest of places. Years ago, my (stupid-face) ex and I had a party at our apartment in Vancouver. In the morning, in my efforts to clean up, I grouped some of the empty wine bottles on my dining table. In the morning light, the colours worked together so perfectly so I snapped this picture. I love the way the bottle glow. I love the colour of my old dining table.
Sometimes, it makes me sad to think about my old life. About the lost places. And then I remember the pretty moments. If you have a camera, you can keep them forever.
I've had my Fourtune Teller Miracle Fish since I was a girl. For more than 20 years, at least. He is a little worse for wear, a little crinkled, a little dusty, but he still works and I still love him. He is a fabulous retro find.
I bought my miracle fish for about a dollar (a fortune at the time when you consider my allowance) at now defunct local gift shop in midtown Toronto. This was around them time when I was interested in cootie catchers and mood rings. My favourite book was Search for the New Moon Stones
by Allen Morgan.
What can I say? The halcyon days of horoscope addiction are remembered by many. I wasn't alone.
I got too old for cootie catchers. The mood ring embarrassed me by insisting on remaining a deep blue (indicating "in love"), and ultimately turned my finger green anyway. The book went out of print. But the fish endured.
What I like about it today is the perfect, retro charm of the packaging. Though the language is awkward and the design sort of busy, I wouldn't change a thing. You can still buy them
, you know. If I ever have a store, I think I am going to put a box of them by the cash. A little nostalgia for me, a little fun for the kids of tomorrow.
Before I lived in this apartment, my man friend lived here with another dude. Their apartment was... gross. It was dirty. There were mice. But no spot was creepier than the hall closet.
A deep, dark cave under the stairs to the apartment above, the closet was filled with junk, was filthy, and featured majorly cracked walls (with plenty of mice-friendly crevices). I hated it. And last week, I decided to make it over.
Phase one = three steps. One: remove all the junk. Two: take down the two horizontal hanging racks (which seemed like a good idea, but were far from functional since coats hung on the front rack made access to the back impossible). Three: clean.
Result of phase one:
After cleaning the space out and removing all the existing hanging hardware, I set about filling all the cracks and crevices with DryDex. Then I painted the whole place white. I installed 10 iron hooks for coats (as opposed to using bars or dowels). They were a great deal (very sturdy, purchased at Dollarama, $1.25 apiece), and I put a small nightstand from Value Village ($7.99) along the back wall.
The top of the nightstand was damaged (watermarks) and I didn't feel like refinishing it, so I just cut down two vinyl place mats (also from Dollarama) to make a cover for the top. I adhered the place mats with sticky tac. Here are some detail shots of my work in progress:
The rest of the room was all about decorating. Using thrifted finds, a pair of drawer pulls from Anthropologie and a $11 rug/door mat from a local discount store, I set about sprucing.
And here's how it all turned out. As always, I wish I owned a better camera, because I'm not sure the pics do it justice, but here it is anyway. What do you think?
All in all, I'm pretty happy with the results. We've got space for what we need and the room is no longer dark and dingy, which is all I really wanted. It doesn't feel like a closet anymore, which is kind of nice. In fact, the man has taken to calling it "the nook." He especially loves that silly siamese cat (which is, I think, a mid-century find, nabbed at Goodwill for $7).
Not bad for a few bucks, a bit of thrift and a little elbow grease, right?
What the heck is Nate Day all about, you ask? First, to avoid confusion, I'll tell you what it's not about.
Nate Day is NOT about my pet Betta fish, Nathan (last name: Phillipsquare).
Neither is it about my partner Nate (last name: withheld) lovely though he is. (Sorry, baby.)
Nate Day is about Nate Berkus. You know, that TV designer that Oprah loves so much? Very cute. Very smiley. Did Kirstie Alley's crazy green tiled kitchen (shown), which I actually liked, by the way.
Anyway, awhile back, it was announced that Nate would be following in the footsteps of Oprah's anointed (Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Rachel Ray, etc.) and launching his very own show in the fall (September 13th, to be exact). In response, some clever bloggers (the Moggit Girls
) decided to use the power of the Internet (and of Twitter, specifically) to get a whole bunch of people together to blog about Nate. And here we are. It's happening.
The truth is, I'm no Nate Berkus expert. But having taken a quick tour around the web to see what he's all about, I do have some thoughts about why he's pretty great. So here goes:
1. Nate mixes things up.
In many ways, the room above isn't so very creative. A salon wall is a pretty common thing, and as for the ubiquitous hide rug... well, it's not that I don't like it. I do. It's just sort of... done. But what I love about this space, what makes it stand out (inho) is the little jacket. That little jacket on the wall makes all the difference. It's something special. It elevates the whole darn thing. And that's something to admire.
2. Nate makes spaces you can actually live in.
The room above is one Nate did for foodie Katie Lee Joel (or maybe not Joel, since she and Billy aren't together anymore). It's a room that is naturally perfect. It feels organic. Lived in. While Nate is good at putting together really chic, streamlined, catalogue-perfect decorator-spaces, I love that he's also able to do something like this. I love the bottle-green lamp, the snuggly velvet, and the fact that I can imagine flopping down on this couch in a decidedly unladylike fashion.
3. Last (and certainly not least), Nate's got heart.
Shown here is Nate's very own living room. As you can see, it's really, really beautiful, so I'm sure a lot of the other Nate Day bloggers are talking about it. There's little for me to add.
So let's not talk about that image.
Let's talk about this other, closer, more casual shot instead:
Without the professional lighting and impressive framing, this room feels completely different, doesn't it? It feels a lot more real. And that's why I love it. Also, a little probing on Oprah.com
reveals that it really is
real. What I mean is this:
One of the art pieces is a naturally shed tortoise shell. According to Oprah's site, Nate says it reminds him of the shell that hung above the fireplace in his childhood home. I know I have items like that. Things that don't make sense, exactly, but that I love for nostalgia's sake. Who can't relate?
Better still (and more serious) is the picture of the cactus. It may look, at first glance, generic. In fact, (also according to Oprah.com), it was given to Nate by his late partner, Fernando Bengoechea, who was killed in the 2004 Asian Tsunami. It's a heartbreaking story. And doesn't it change how you see the room and Nate himself? Knowing that these items actually mean something to him makes me like him so much more than I would if everything in his apartment was chosen because it was "perfect."
Anyway. That's all I have to say about Mr. Nate Berkus. I'm glad he's getting his own show. Nate Day has been an interesting thing to participate in. The power of Twitter in effect. It's sort of neat, no?*Alas, I don't have credits for any of these photographs. If you own any of these images, please let me know so I can credit you appropriately. Or just tell me off and I'll take your copyright content down lickity split.
My first and only feature wall experiment happened in my last Vancouver apartment back around 2006. The whole place was 1200 square feet, with two different living rooms (one upstairs, one down). The downstairs one was, as a result, a nice space for experimentation. I used it to try out vintage finds and things I was a bit too nervous to go for on the main level. Like the feature wall.
I'd say it was a success. Using a can of deep blue paint, bought on sale for a mere $10 (it was somebody else's returned mistint), I did the base colour. After it dried, I used painters tape to frame out freehand squares all over the wall. I didn't use a ruler or a level, I just went for it. I tried to make the pattern random and loose, figuring I could always add to it later. Using a single tube of gold acrylic art paint from the craft store, I painted in the squares with an art brush. I peeled off the tape, and voila! Feature wall.
I truly loved this wall. I loved the way the squares reflected the afternoon light. I loved the deepness of the blue, and that it wasn't too cheery. And I loved how it made my vintage furniture look. Speaking of which, here some other key pieces in the room and where I found them:
Brown velvet sofa (bed), Value Village, $40.
Tulip base coffee table, Sellution, $200
Mid Century armchair, Sellution, $75
Brown credenza, Value Village, $19.99
I think the lesson here is that not everything has to be a big production. Painting a single wall is SO much easier and less stressful than doing a whole room. And when furniture is this cheap, you might as well be bold. Why not buy that $20 credenza? Worst case scenario: you only wasted $20 (which you could probably make back reselling the thing on Craigslist, anyway).
Oh, and in case you're wondering, the guitar is a copy of a Gibson Les Paul by Vantage. I bought it on Commercial Drive the summer I was 15. At the time, it was the most expensive purchase I'd ever made. I can't help keeping it around. To this day, it makes me feel cool.
Back in October I decided I needed both summer and winter bedding. But being the cheapskate I am, I didn't want to spend the money to have two actual sets. So when I made my winter duvet
, I made it reversible.
All in all, it was a pretty easy thing to do. The Ikea throw pillows were already reversible, so besides flipping them and the duvet cover, all I had to do to get my summer look was change a couple of pillowcases and swap out the warm throw for a light one. (Actually, for a vintage tablecloth that I'm using as a throw. Detail as shown.)
Anyway, here's how the bed looks after today's transformation:
What do you think? Good idea?
You know how crazy I've been about birds lately. I can't shut up about it. But after seeing a preview of Dwell Studio's new stuff (the result of a partnership with Robert Allen) via Traditional Home on Dwell's blog
yesterday, I got to wondering if snakes might really be decor's latest fauna du jour.
I'm thinking they're not.
Don't get me wrong, I love what Dwell Studio is doing with snakes (and their trellis in particular). I can't wait to see more of the line. I just don't think snakes will ever be as popular in contemporary decorating as birds have been. They're just too... well, snakey.
That said, I'm not trying to argue that snakes aren't making a comeback. Consider this jewelery: Elizabeth and James
Jewelry, I get. I think the more avant garde among us will always be attracted to this sort of thing, but as for snakes that slithering all over our homes? I just don't think it's likely. I might do a single sculpture or objet d'art like this one from Michael Healy
, but I can't imagine going hog wild for reptiles in the way I have for birds.
There's so much negative symbolism associated with snakes, especially in Judaic and Christian traditions. (Consider Harry Potter and the house of Slytherin.) Snakes freak people out. They give folks the shivers, the heebie jeebies, the willies, if you will. As a result, though gritty nature may be a hot decorating theme right now, no matter how many snails appear in terrariums, no matter how many rats become chefs in the movies, snakes will always be a little too much for many.
Over the past year or so, I've gone bird crazy. Bird bonkers, if you will. I am obsessed with all things feathered. I decoupaged birds onto my Shinto stools
. I bought vintage brass birds
and hung them in my dining room. I went shopping for bird themed bedding
. I almost watched Hitchcock's The Birds
, but then I remembered my childhood nightmares and veered away from the Blockbuster and towards the liquor store just in time.
It's clearly out of control.
As always, I'm way behind the the world on this one. Bird motifs are nothing new. Still, even with the bedding and the brass and the stools, I needed more. I decided on decals.
Yesterday, I found a set of bird silhouette decals on sale at DeSerres
for less than $15. (The selection there is great, by the way. They have tonnes of different decals of every shape and size, in patterns that are much less ubiquitous than my little birdies. They even have the new chalkboard decals in animals shapes, which are adorable. Check it out.)
Anyway, I bought the bird decals. I bought them only to find that I wasn't able to install them on my antique, textured plaster walls (in my rental apartment). Bummer.
Not being one to waste a good $15, I found a solution and the birds are up. For the moment, I'll leave you in suspense as to what they look like, but I will admit that what I did wasn't very creative. Nonetheless, I like it.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few other bird-decal inspiration photos that are a bit better than what I came up with.
*Photo of finches by G Schouten de Jel from Stock Xchng.