So, if you've been paying attention, you know I've had some rug problems lately. I had to throw out a jute number that contained worms. It was disgusting. 

The worms have been eradicated and the house is bug-free again.* But the guest room floor is also bare, and that, more than anything else, calls to mind one of my life's minor tragedies: The loss of my grandparents' Beni Ourain rug.

Here's a very similar vintage one that costs, oh, about $4000+ CAD.
The one I ALMOST got would have cost just as much, if not more. It was very large. It was cream, with a brown diamond pattern (of course). It was hand-woven from berber wool. It was totally authentic. It lived in my grandparents' den, and now, it's gone. Lost to the landfill or to the Goodwill. On occasion, my heart aches for it.

The truth is that it was promised to me several times over the years, as were various other small things that I, as a design-lover, seemed to appreciate more than others in the family, but I never received it. This happens and it's no one's fault. Moving is chaotic, people get old, personalities clash, and plans fall apart. Inheritances are weird and shit happens. I don't think anyone swiped it from me. I just feel bummed about it, you know? I should have explained that it was valuable, at the very least because I'm pretty sure it ended up in the garbage, which is wrong wrong wrong. Depressingly wrong.

Anyway. I really miss that rug. All it needed was a good cleaning. :(

Now, let's twist the knife a little bit and take a look at how a Beni Ourain rug looks in context. (Hint: They look damn good.) 
This one's in a couple named the Shaffer's house. Photo by Max Kim-Bee for Country Living.
Design by Roman and Willams.
Cindy Crawford's room, designed by Michael S. Smith, as seen in Elle Decor. Photo by Simon Upton.
Sigh. Goodbye forever, beautiful rug. I am poor and will never see the likes of you again. It hurts to have come so close.** Feel my pain, blog readers.

* Until the centipedes come, of course. I can hardly WAIT until the warm weather. Real spring! Hooray for old Toronto houses and their summertime crawlies! Yayayaya! I love it! By which I mean I hate and despise it. Centipedes are the effing worst. Disgusting.

** It doesn't hurt that much. I mean, my life is pretty good. This is a very privileged complaint, and I definitely know it. I'm just being hyperbolical, as is my wont.
 
 
I was flipping through an issue of Country Living the other day and I came across a little story on tools by Estwing Manufacturing and I thought ... "Hey, those look familiar."

I have a vintage Estwing hammer, once my grandfather's, then my father's, now mine. I've had it for years, and though I actually have a couple of other hammers in my tool box, this one is my favourite by far. And now I know why! According to CL:
"Swedish immigrant Ernest Estwing was a self-taught engineer who started as a six-cents-an-hour machinist before eventually striking out on his own in 1923. His big idea: Hammers forged from a single piece of steel would be stronger than the traditional wood-handled models. He developed prototypes in his garage and then patented his 'unbreakable' design."
Photo from Country Living taken by Alison Gootee/Studio D; Styling: Paola Andrea.
Tool shown: Estwing sportsman ax with leather grip.
These bad boys really do seem to be unbreakable. My hammer, though old and worn, works beautifully and feels wonderful and aerodynamic in my hand. The leather-wrapped handle is soft and the patina is lovely. Apparently, Estwing had already been making tools for a couple of years by the time he opened his first factory in 1925. I'm not sure how old my hammer is, but I suppose it doesn't really matter. It's just a great tool.

You can still get Estwing tools today. A brand-spankin'-new Estwing Leather Claw Hammer (English Pattern) costs about $30 and looks like this: 
My vintage one, however, looks more like this:
I think i'm going to keep my eyes peeled for more leather-handled vintage tools by Estwing. Maybe start a bit of a collection.
 
 
I know I haven't been "chic" blogging much. I KNOW, okay? It's just that my house is decorated already. I am cheap. And I feel like it's nutso to change things for no good reason. Still, I can't seem to stop window shopping. I look at fixer-upper houses in small town America that I can't afford, even if I was American. I look at clothes I don't need. I look at paint samples. I look at furniture that wouldn't fit in my apartment even if I had none of the crap I already have. I look at Craigslist. 

And damn ...  Craigslist Toronto sure has become depressing. 

What has happened, you guys? WHAT HAPPENED? Just a few years ago, I was posting about all the "bargain" finds I was coming across. And now? There aren't any. I mean, maybe there are, but I haven't seen any real bargains in awhile. The prices are absolutely out of control and it's really fucking depressing.

This is not to say that these items aren't "worth" what they cost (although in some cases they're not), I am just lamenting the disappearance of a bargain. Not everyone is a dealer! What has happened to convince Joe Average that the couch from his grandfather's basement that he just inherited for free should be priced exactly as it would be if it was housed in a store on Queen West? And what is it about midcentury stuff that makes it command top dollar? Anything "teak" whether truly teak or not, comes at a premium. What overhead are these people trying to cover, exactly? Arg. Am I way off base here? I don't know. Feel free to criticize if you like. I can take it. (But can we agree that it is weird and unnecessary to make the word TEAK and only the word TEAK in all caps, all the time? WE AGREE THAT WE ALL UNDERSTAND WHAT TEAK IS, EVEN WHEN IT IS WRITTEN NORMALLY? Yes? Okay, then.) 

So, anyway, here are some things I've recently spotted, and a few I like, that are nonetheless too expensive for a bargain hunter like me to even consider. One day, maybe I'll move away from Toronto and rediscover the world of bargains. Until then ... I sigh. Click the images to go to each respective listing.
Here we have a midmod magazine holder for $125.
Here is an admittedly lovely Danish modern love-seat for $1650.
Here's a trunk with some legs attached, making it a coffee table. It costs $345.
Here are a couple of "lounge chairs" with burnt-orange upholstery for a mere $1195.
This sofa is $500 ($900 if you want the matching chair and love-seat).
This green wonder is $700.
And of course, here we have a lovely credenza for the bargain price of $945.

Like I said, tell me I'm being unfair here. The sad thing is, this stuff will probably sell in no time. It's not like high-priced items are languishing. Stuff I found for this post just a couple of days ago is already gone. Stupid Craigslist.
 
 
Hey guys. Have any of you seen The Listings List? It's basically a Tumblr blog filled with curated picks from Toronto's Craiglist and Kijiji offerings. 
I've been following it for a few weeks and here's what I think: There are pros and cons. Sure, the curation is good. The items featured on The Listings List are basically the coolest, most designer-friendly things available on Craigslist/Kijiji (in the area) and following the TLL is therefore fun and could be a serious time saver. No more slogging through mountains of crap to find the best stuff, right?

But... BUT...

Isn't slogging through mountains of crap kind of what online garage sale-ing is all about? I mean, if someone else does the work for you, is the hunt compromised? Is the find as satisfying? Isn't it better to earn a deal rather than having one handed to you? 

I'm not sure.

Besides that, TLL might not be as practical as it seems. Great items worth curating have a tendency to go fast, and once something has been featured on the site, it goes even faster. I've already experienced seeing more than one great thing on TLL, only to find it already sold. 

Anyway. Here are some of my favourite finds, found on TLL just today. At the time of this posting, I think they're all still available.
Anyway, what do you think? Do you love The Listing List or would you rather do the hunting all by yourself?
 
 
In my last post about holiday decorating, I mentioned that I'm not so into the religiosity of the holiday season. Nonetheless, I have a teeny weenie nativity scene up in my apartment at the moment. 

I've never put one up before, but my parents downsized from a house to a condo awhile back and I inherited what was left of the nativity scene my mother used to put out when I was a little girl. I think she got it from her mother-in-law, my grandmother, in the late 70s or early 80s. The pieces were made in Italy, from papier-mâché, and over the years, most have broken. This is probably for the best. (I was never all that comfortable with the set. It featured a snow-white Mary, Joseph and Baby Jebus, three "arab" styled worshipful wise men, and a variety of location-inappropriate livestock.) 

Only five pieces remain: Mary, Joe and baby, plus one three-legged sheep and a grumpy looking horned cow, whose horns have seen better days.
So why did I set these aged pieces out? I don't know. I considered tossing them, or donating them to Goodwill, but somehow, when the time came, I felt strangely attached. I like their vintage flavour, the careful paint job on the papier-mâché, the retro colouring, the delicate nature of each handmade piece. I even like the grubby old bits of browned cotton they came wrapped in. They're wonderfully retro, if little else.

I figure, I'll put the last remaining pieces out for nostalgia's sake, and most likely, seeing as how I'm a big klutz, they'll break one by one, until I have no nativity at all. And then my natural instincts will take over and the Kalman-Selk home will be nativity-less forevermore. 
 
 
So, I was invited to the media breakfast/preview of the One Of A Kind Christmas Show which kicked off down at the Ex this morning. (I don't know why I get invited to this sort of thing, because I am a big nobody. And let me tell you, watching the vendors get excited by my media pass and fancy camera kind of broke my heart, but I digress.) Invited I was, and went I did. I mean, the show costs $12/$14 (online/in-person) to get in, and as press, I could get in for free. Between that and the offer of a free doughnut, I wasn't going to say no.

And for once, I did the show right. I went up and down EVERY AISLE IN THE PLACE. My feet are currently incredibly sore and I'm a little grumpy, but I feel like I saw everything and took note of everything that really caught my eye. And I took photos of all of it, which I will now share with you, but first, a bit of a caveat:

As huge as this post is, it features only a small fraction of what's on display. (I believe there are more than 800 OOAK booths/vendors this year.) My personality means I'm drawn to decorative objects, fine art, and that sort of thing. Things I generally avoid, and that you won't likely see here, but that are in abundance at the show: kids' stuff, woollens and knits, clothing, most wood and leather goods, art glass and most pottery, food and edibles. I also steered clear of most of the cutesy stuff (felted creatures, owls, bunnies, and the like), most of the jewellery, most of the furniture, and all of the body/beauty products. All of that stuff is amazing in its own right, but I only stopped to photograph the things that really jumped out at me, which may not be what will jump out at you. So... there. End caveat.

Now, some pro tips:

  • Work methodically. I saw every booth, starting at the east end of the centre (end of the alphabet) and moving west, winding up and down every aisle along the way. I know it seems a little anal, but making a plan for the path you want to take (and sticking to it) is a smart move. The show is overwhelming otherwise.
  • Wear comfy shoes. SERIOUSLY. I was wearing Toms and my feet are still killing. (I saw a couple over-zealous young "journalists" in 4-5 inch heels, and I bet they want to kill themselves right now.)
  • Give yourself a good three hours for your visit. Or even a full 1/2 day. It's better not to be rushed and if you want to see the whole thing, it's going to take you a long time. (Note: if you're bringing babies or little kids with you, as I noticed many did... well, you're crazy. What can I say? The rules don't apply. You may need 12 hours. Who knows?)
  • Eat, hydrate and let yourself rest from time to time.
  • CHECK YOUR COAT. It's hot as heck in the Direct Energy Centre. I have no idea why. Coat Check costs $2, but it's worth it.

Okay, enough with the tips. Are you ready to see what I saw? HERE GOES!
Stewart Jones: Booth R-57
These fine art paintings by local artist Stewart Jones were the very first thing that caught my eye. I stopped to snap this pic as I made my way along the back wall (before even making it to the first official aisle). Jones does "urban landscapes" and I'm sure his work doesn't come cheap, but I like the realness of his subject matter. Very Toronto.
Daniel Pollak Accessories: Booth T-54
I know I said I steered clear of most of the jewellery, but this booth was so glittery, it caught my eye immediately. So decadent, so sparkly, so over-the-top. It's fashion/costume jewellery, rather than fine jewellery, but I enjoyed it.
Kat Kaland: Booth Y-62
Artist Kat Kaland makes toys, illustrations, accessories, etc. She told me when I popped by that she's moving away from the toys and focussing more on art, and having seen the art -- paintings incorporating doll parts -- just my kind of creepy -- I think she's making a good decision. The pieces shown here, with the hands and the little 3D girl figures, go for about $200.
Moon Rox: Booth Y-20
Again, jewellery is hardly my thing, but it was early in the day and this gold-toned costume statement necklace caught my eye. Moon Rox is owned/designed by a woman named Monique V. Chan. 
Noelle Hamlyn: Booth W-43
Hamlyn has been at the OOAK show before, showing off her repurposed art/purses made from books and magazines, but she's also doing framed artworks now, using the insides of the books (paper, illustration, etc.) as opposed to the outsides. Now, in general, I'm a "READ BOOKS, DON'T CUT THEM UP" sort of person, but I like what Noelle does nonetheless. Her bigger art pieces are about $165, while the smaller ones are about $90.
iDENTITY: Booth W-09
I stopped at this booth because of the hipster-factor. Megan Irish makes these pillows from recycled blankets (vintage Pendletons, The Bay/HSBC classics, army blankets, etc.) hipsterified with prints on top. Her company makes tees and other apparel as well, I think. The pillows are $48 to $108. (The HSBC ones are more pricey than the others.) 
Heyday Design: Booth V-09
Hailing from Vancouver, Claire Madill makes these neat ceramic mason jars. You could achieve the same effect by painting a glass mason jar with flat paint, but nonetheless, these are nice as far a ceramics/porcelain go.
C Comme Ca: Booth V-43
Artist Cindy Cantin makes these bags and wallets from leather and wool felt and I thought they were super chic. 
Dapila: Booth T-15
This stuff looks like ceramic, but it's mostly made of cement, which is sort of neat. I know body-parts and surrealist stuff isn't everyone's bag, but I sort of love it. I like the idea of using some of the finger sculptures to hold everyday objects like makeup brushes or razors. 

Eric Seguin: Booth S-53
This is not a booth I'd usually stop at, filled as it was with knives and such, but I a few natural skulls caught my eye. These are otter, fox and mink, respectively. I have no idea why I like 'em, but I do.
Felt Factory: Booth R-19
These felt, mounted animal head pieces by artist Sabine Alpers are very well done. I love natural animal stuff (vintage, generally) but these might please the vegan in you if the real deal creeps you out.
Laurie Sponagle: Booth Q-31
These AH-MAZING charcoal drawings look like photographs. No kidding. That's how amazing they are. Artist Laurie Sponagle really stands out. Bigger pieces are priced at $1600, but there's a nice range of sizes available and the smaller pieces start at $250.
Tammy Shane: Booth Q-24
Tammy Shane is another stand-out fine artist exhibiting at the OOAK show. I would have bought one of her pieces in a heart beat if I could have. Gorgeous. Truly. I mean, look at those owls! Those birds! That sky! Love.
Yves' Drop: Booth N-06
Vintage neckties made awesome? Just my sort of thing. I kind of wish my husband would wear a tie every day. (And if he did, I get him a few of these babies.) 
Tat Chao Design: Booth N-34
These glass candlesticks were pretty fabulous - substantial, yet delicate at the same time. Very unique. Tat Chao is a nice new addition to this year's show.
Sarah Tacoma: Booth L-23
Photography artist Sarah Tacoma caught my eye. I love how she captures stark branches and winter trees. And her pieces have rustic wood frames/mounts that I liked.
Sarah Hillock: Booth K-24
Sarah Hillock's huge paintings of farm animals (mostly cows, from what I saw) done on mylar, were maybe the most striking, unique thing at the entire OOAK show. I've never seen anything like Hillock's work in person before, and I have to say, I've never wanted a huge painting of a cow more. I mean... they're cows. And I'm a city girl. Yet I want one. Immediately.
Pepper Mills: Booth G-03
The name Pepper Mills kind of speaks for itself. These handmade, OOAK wood objects by Cam Lavers Designs Inc. aren't new to the show, but I've always liked them.
Him by Shima Itabashi: Booth D-5
I know I said I was going to stay away from cutie-pie felted things, but this booth's wee decorations spoke to me more than the works of other felt artists doing similar things. There's something really authentic and adorable about Him pieces and designer Shima Itabashi seems like a sweetheart. Her English isn't perfect, but that just adds to the charm.
Ateliers des Cent-ans: Booth C-36
This booth was a bit spare, but what I saw of the porcelain and wood pieces inside definitely left an impression. The stuff I loved most was delicate and white, with slim blue nautical patterning. Very chic.
Grace Eunmie Lee: Booth C-44
Some of Grace Eunmie Lee's wee white ceramics are highlighted with bits of shiny metallic and colour, but her monochrome pieces are my favourites. I love their small stature and weird, offbeat cuteness. Some of these wee works are merely decorative, while others are functional (salt and pepper shakers, for example).
Evelyne Rivest Savignac: Booth I-37
Interestingly, while I initially passed this booth during my official "go down every aisle" run, I didn't stop at it the first time around. I'm not sure why. Maybe the crowds were too thick and I didn't get a good look. Happily, I needed to hit a bank machine before leaving which took me on a second trip down row "i" and that's when I noticed Evelyne Rivest Savignac's pretty ceramics. The artist told me she's been a vendor at the show for the last eight years, so if you've been in the past, you may remember her. I was especially charmed by her little leafy bowls. They have the vibe of something sold at Anthropologie (but are much more authentic, of course). 
And that's IT. Honestly, I saw some other stuff I liked (bow-ties by Genuine Article, for example.) but I just can't write about any more. This is already the most unwieldy blog post I've ever written. 

Go to the show. Enjoy. Support your indie artists and crafty friends. And remember, wear comfy shoes. And if you're not too exhausted afterwards, tell me what you got! 

P.S. Sorry about the lighting in some of these shots. I'm no photographer and since artists provide their own light at each booth, dimness is an issue.

P.P.S. Shout-outs to my web friends Jen @ Rambling Renovators and Staci @ Switch Studio for letting me talk their ears off at breakfast, Pam @ Cherish Toronto for being my favourite person to run into at these things, and House & Home magazine staffer/editor Margot Austin (who I may or may not have terrified when I declared "I'm obsessed with you!" - because I'm the sort of weirdo who says things like that, apparently). Sigh.
 
 
Friends! Collectors! Lovers of all things chic! 

Can y'all just take a moment to admire my awesome new salt and pepper shakers?
Awesomesauce, right? They were a wedding gift from my friend Daniella. (She's one of my college roommates, or as we say in Canada one of my "undergrad housemates".)

They came from an Etsy store in the States and I'm in LOVE with them. They're a perfect combination of my favourite things: birds, vintage, gold-tone and useful to boot! 

Want something similar? There are plenty of vintage ones of the same ilk available online. And I've heard tell of some in Toronto shops like Angus and Co

If you just like the look, but don't care about the usability, you could go for these babies from Dwell Studio, which I believe are currently available at The Bay:
I love love love these pheasants. (LOVE.)
 
 
First off, a slight apology: I've been bad about blogging lately. Life's been busy. I got married, for one thing. And Will & Bequeath is actually managing to make a few sales, which is exciting, but is keeping me busy.

But it's time to get back to business.

First, some news: I'm featured on the House & Home website this week. Check out the gallery we put together of my "favourite rooms." I'm not sure they're my really-real favourites, but each image illustrates a decorating concept I like. Check it out.
Now onto today's business: rotary phones. I love them. I always have. Between 2007 and 2009, I event went back to using one (an old Bell Canada black classic). I liked that it worked as a design element -- almost a piece of furniture in and of itself. I liked that it stayed operational, even when the power went out. I liked that it had a real brass bell inside that rang in a delightfully sonorous (not annoyingly beepy) way. I liked the heft of the hand set and that it didn't get hot against my ear. (My cell phone gets hot against my ear, and I'm pretty sure it's giving me cancer.)

But Nate and I have VoIP now, and the rotary phone is in the basement. It would work, had we the right system, but we don't. And I really miss it.
That's a handsome looking phone. No?
So... what to do? It turns out, there are many ways to hack an old rotary phone to work on a contemporary system. A high school friend of mine -- Jason -- turned me on to this. (Hi Jason!) He gutted the inside of an old rotary handset, and installed a bluetooth wireless mic and speaker inside instead. Now, his old rotary phone handset works on his cell phone line! The wires are gone, but as long as his cell is in the house, he can talk through the handset of his old rotary, which has the bluetooth inside. Get it? Pretty neat hack, right?

So, I've been wanting to try this myself. Jason insisted it was easy, but I've done a lot of Googling, and it doesn't look as simple as advertised. (Nothing ever is, is it?)

Here's a round up of different attempts from the geek-friendly site Hack a Day. Some hackers say you need to learn to solder. And let's face it, that's not going to happen. Here's a great instructional guide that includes soldering. And here's one that doesn't.
In addition to my black 500 series, I have an orange rotary phone like this one, too. Via.

My question for you is this: should I attempt it? My hesitations are as follows:

1. I'd lose some of the things I love most about the vintage rotary technology (such as the bell sound).
2. The vintage rotary phones still work as originally intended ... once I gut them, they won't. If this goes wrong, I'll have ruined them.
3. I'm not sure rotary phones are as great looking as I think they are. Have they become hipster kitch? Is it sort of silly to want to have one in my home?

If you know me, you know I'm bad about the telephone in general. Call my cell phone and I'm not likely to answer. Most likely, I don't even have the cell on me. Most likely, it's dead and lost in the dust bowl under the front seat of my car. Since letting go of my rotary, I've come to hate the telephone. And I'm thinking that I might be a better friend and contact if I brought the rotary phone back.So that's an argument in favour.

What do you guys think?
 
 
Hey all. Sorry things have been a bit slow on the blog lately. Getting married very shortly. Lots of to do. Been busy.

But not too busy to thrift!

In fact, I had a very successful thrifting day about a week ago. In addition to a couple of dresses and some bits and bobs for Will & Bequeath, I came across a great find I just had to share with you: an Erkers enamelware bowl!
Images via Jag Blommar.
My bowl is yellow, with a black rim, like the yellow one shown above. And I looooove it.

My obsession with vintage enamelware started fairly recently, with a piece of Catherineholm that I blogged about here. Since then, it's grown, and now I have several different pieces scattered around my apartment. But this is my first Erkers. And it was only $2.02!

According to a profile on Design Arkivet, "Arne Erkers was born in Leksand and at the age of 24, decided to move to Stockholm as he for a long time had been interested in drawing." He worked as a gold and silversmith and a freelance designer, and founded the Erkers Design Studio around 1955. He designed my bowl (and the Raff pitcher, which obviously influenced similar designs currently at IKEA) for Kockums Jernverks AB in Kallinge. (My piece, like all similar pieces, is marked "Kockum Sweden".)

"Function is an important aspect of Arne Erkers design. His view of his profession was that the task of the designer was to design objects as simple and practical as possible. With this as a starting point he created articles as diverse as ball bearing joints and stackable saucepans but also had bold ideas about more practical cars and lawnmowers, sadly never put into production."
Images via Designarkivet.
Erkers lives into his 90s and passed away recently, in 2010.

If you're looking for vintage enamelware, search online for Cathrineholm and Finel, and add words like "Scandinavian" and "enamelware" and you should come up with a lot of options. But don't discount Erkers. While less well-know, his work is just as nice.

I like my bowl because of it's unusual rounded-triangular shape and low profile. I also love the tone of the yellow. It has one flaw -- a hole in the enamel -- but I just keep that bit turned away and never think about it. (Remember, it was only $2!)

Super find! Yay!
 
 
As some of you may know, I'm getting married soon. And with a marriage (whether you give in to having a "real" wedding or not -- and we're not) comes gifts. Gifts come no matter how much you discourage people.

And I have to say... it's not all bad. While I feel a little awkward about people spending money on me, there are a few things I want, and it's lovely to get them.

Case in point: my soon-to-be aunt Elaine and her partner Archie wanted to get Nate and I flatware, and they asked us what sort we might like. This gave me the opportunity to get something I've wanted for ages: a set of vintage, "Thai Bronze" flatware, via an independent Etsy seller in Iowa.
The set is so beautiful and unique. I've been shopping for flatware for a long time and I've never come across a set as unusual as this one. The whole shebang comes in its original box, and includes more than 140 pieces.

Considering that my current flatware is from Canadian Tire ($9.99) and sports cracking plastic handles and flaking metal that is probably giving me cancer, this gift is even more awesome.

We ordered it more than a week ago, and it hasn't arrived yet. The photos shown are from the original Etsy seller: Debby Does Vintage. I have to be patient, because when items like this cross the border, they're often held up at customs... but I'm super excited.

Thanks to Elaine & Archie, and to Debby too. I can't wait.