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.
 
 
So remember when I made those name ornaments out of white DAS air drying clay? It was awhile back. Quite awhile. (Worst blogger ever.) 

Anyway, I had plenty of clay leftover from that project and have been trying to think of a way to use it up for all this time. And recently, I realized I had better get a move-on because my clay was drying out. So I googled "DAS clay projects" and came up with these fun feathers from the blog The Gilded Hare.
The process looked pretty simple. Michelle (blogger at the aforementioned Gilded Hare) said all she did was roll out her clay, shape it into a featherish shape, press down the sides (leaving the raised vein in the centre), and drag through lines with a toothpick to create the texture. I thought, "I can do that." So I tried. 

I didn't really follow the instructions properly, AND it turns out that my DAS clay didn't survive more than a year in storage, so I had to toss it. But I bought another brand of clay from Dollarama and went to work anyway. It only took me about 15 minutes to fashion two feathers. Here's how they look:

Note: They clay is grey/brown when wet, but is supposed to dry white. These aren't dry yet, so they're still a little dirty looking. Don't mind that.
Nailed it? No. But this wasn't a complete loss. Michelle's are WAY better than mine, I know. But for a first-attempt, I'm not unhappy. Here are the things I know I did wrong:

1) I didn't follow the instructions about pressing down to make the quill-line. Rather, I made a skinny worm of clay and pressed it into the centre. Not the same effect. Next time, I'll press down like I was supposed to. 

2) I stunk up the holes/hanging loops. These were just hard to do! I will have to practice or something. 

3) I think my feather-edges were too uniform. Next time, I will make them more ragged and natural, and I'll be more careful with the texturing. 

Nonetheless, as far as crafting goes, I'd call this a win. You know how ugly some of my efforts are, and these guys really don't look bad, even if they aren't perfect. What do you think of them? Can you imagine some use for them? Mobile? Holiday decor? What else? 

Also, P.S. I should probably have used a better clay, but the Dollarama version was a good bet for my practice runs. The brick was only $1.25 and I can practice with that to my heart's content. Then, once I'm good, I'll make some with better materials. Unless you don't want me to. Just say the word.
 
 
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.
 
 
Mason jars. They're not just for weddings anymore! I mean ... they're not just for preserving anymore! I mean ... they're not just for crafting anymore! 

MASON JARS ARE NOW EVERYWHERE AND THEY ARE FOR EVERYTHING.

But seriously, you've noticed, right? The whole mason jar thing? We've all seen them at weddings and on Pinterest. We've all noted them containing laughably-small amounts of flour on whatever cooking show is cool this season. (Who stores single servings of flour, I ask you?) We've all seen them corralling nails on The Most Adorable Workbench EVA!™ (as if the sort of people who use serious workbenches hang up their filthy coveralls only to channel Martha Stewart by night).

Just last week, I saw a gal drinking her coffee out of a mason jar. Her morning coffee. She's knitted some sort of sleeve/cosy to keep the heat from hurting her hand through the glass (I think). She wasn't even going to a wedding. She was just chillin' with her mason-jar coffee.

Mason jars are taking over the world. If they were sentient, they'd already be in charge.
Ball put these limited-edition blue mason jars out not that long ago. Green ones are available too.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining ... exactly. I like a nice mason jar as much as the next lady. I enjoy the mysteriousness of the freemason brotherhood. In the 1990s, I was into the Canadian band Wide Mouth Mason. I was into masons before they were cool, okay? I have nothing against masons. 

Here's something I think, though: Mason jars might be best-used for preserving. Maybe. (I am actually uncertain about this, rather than judgemental, so bear with me.) All I mean is that mason jars were designed for a specific purpose and they work beautifully at it and have done for, what, 150+ years? Something like that. So when you repurpose a mason jar, while your project may look crazy cute, you nearly always abandon some aspect of the jar's functionality -- the rubberized lid meant to create a seal, for example, is rendered useless in many repurpose projects. 

And that's fine, I guess. I mean, they're your mason jars and you should do whatever  you want with 'em. I just wonder if mason jars might not be the best tools for every job, you know? Are the projects worth the trouble?

Let's examine some projects that are adorable, and that I have considered, since I pretty much never preserve anything and I have a whole box of unused mason jars languishing in my basement right now, but that I have nonetheless NOT undertaken, for various reasons (laziness being the main one). 

1. Spice jars. So cute. BUT, I already have spice jars that I love AND I've noticed spice smells stay in the rubberized bits of mason jar lids forever, so if you mix up your lids, you're going to have some cross-smell contamination issues. (Is that a thing? I know I expressed it badly.) Also, while I think the chalkboard-painted lids are adorbs-to-the-max, doesn't all that painting seem like a lot of trouble? Am I wrong? Maybe I'll just stick with spice jars that were designed to be spice jars? 
These spice jar images hail from A Cozy Kitchen
2. Mini wall planters! These are really appealing, aren't they? I first saw the project online a couple of  years ago. Downsides from my perspective include having to discard the lids, having to attach the jars to the wood, having to find a spot for them that will get enough sun, having to deal with drainage (the jars have none), and just generally feeling like this is one of those things that looks great on day one, but might be impossible for a person like me to maintain.
Wall-planter project pics (and instructions) from Not Just a Housewife.
3. Pendant lamp shades! Again, while lovely-to-look at, I'm just not sure I have the will to complete such a project. You'd need the lighting kits, which aren't that cheap. Or you'd need to be handy with electric stuff. I think they look best in a cluster, so you probably shouldn't make just one, etc. All that said, this project is one of my favourites. (Shout out to Kerry at First Time Fancy who just posted her own mason-jar-chandelier project  just today: Holy cow, Kerry! I am wowed by your DIY prowess.)
All pendant lamp project images and instructions are from/at the Dutch site Woon blog.
4. Bathroom storage. Again, cute. Very cute. Here's why I don't like it: no lids. Bathrooms get muggy and if your swabs and whatnot are out in the open, they will get swampy and dirty. You could keep the lids, but that would take away a lot of space and these containers are already very small.  I don't know about you, but when I buy cotton balls, they come in a big-ass bag. Where am I supposed to store my extra balls (ha), and how many times am I supposed to refill these jars in a given month? Maybe the lady who did this is just a lot less lazy than I am. (Okay. All these project-people are less lazy than I am. Let's face it.) 
Images, etc. for the bathroom storage project can be found on the Liz Marie blog.
5. An advent calendar. Sure, you've have to affix the bottoms of the jars to something sturdy, so that the numbered lids face out (making for a very heavy calendar that I am not sure is child-friendly), and SURE, the jars are glass and transparent, so you'd have to line them with something to hide what's inside, but it's still a cute idea. I am just not sure it's practical.
All these images are from Studio DIY. Click through for instructions on making the calendar.
Look, here's what I need to know: Have any of you actually done anything like this with your mason jars?* Not just for the purposes of putting a pretty picture up on your blog? Have you found a legitimately good use for repurposed masons? Something that made the work worthwhile? Please tell me. I need to know the truth.

*Other than Kerry, of course, whose post was a timely coincidence that kind of negates everything I just asked. But maybe Kerry is an outlier? Someone with an unusual amount of energy?
 
 
So, a couple of years ago, I bought a Tarnby rug from Ikea. It's one of those natural fibre dealies -- 100% jute -- and supposedly hand-woven. Only $150. Not bad, eh? It looked great, at first. You've seen photos of it in my guest room, which I've been talking about a lot on the blog of late, so I won't repost those photos. I'll find some other photos of it looking great.

Pretty, ain't it? 
Yeah, it's pretty. It's also horrible.

Pardon my not-French, but I fucking hate this rug. There are so many problems with it. I have heard that others have had similar problems, so I know it's not just me. At the same time, I know some people who are happy with it. I just don't get it. 

Here's a list of just a handful of the problems I've experienced with the Tarnby jute rug:

1. It sheds dirt, constantly. I knew this would happen to some extent -- the natural jute would disintegrate a bit. But I also thought regular care and cleaning would solve the problem. ... Regular care and cleaning did NOT solve the problem. Sandy, filthy dirt accumulates in piles under and around the rug constantly. And moving ALL the furniture in order to get under the damn thing is frustrating to say the least.

2. Speaking of being under the furniture, even if you use protective pads, furniture legs ruin this rug, leaving massive dents that won't come out, holes, etc.  The Tarnby is NOT hardwearing. Walking on it wears it out/down very quickly, too.

3. I'm sorry to say that this rug may damage your floor. Reports online talk of permanently scarred hardwood AND laminate. WTF? What kind of lightweight, natural-fibre rig leaves permanent marks on hardwood!? I've never heard of such a thing. Nonetheless, a lot of people are talking about it. (Sidenote: I don't really trust the racist garbage-humans on that particular thread, though, since some of them are talking about fear of dirt "from a third world country." One is even afraid that foreign dirt might be carcinogenic. These people are being xenophobic ... about Ikea rugs. Psychos.) 

4. The rug attracts bugs. This is embarrassing to admit, but I really don't feel it's my fault. I clean! I have disinfected. I have tried everything. But every damn time I lift this thing to attack the latest sand/dirt/dust deposit, I find myself face to face with larvae. Yep. Worms. Not a lot of them -- just a few each time. They. Won't. Go. Away. I think they are rug beetle larvae. They are disgusting. WHERE are they coming from? They are nowhere else in the house. The other rugs are fine. (I was going to post a picture, but I don't want to traumatize anyone. Pray, do not Google these things. You will be sorry.) 

5. Did I mention the dirt? The massive piles of dirt?
I threw away the Tarnby several days ago. I cleaned out the room, deep cleaned the floor, and lo and behold, everything seems better now. This rug was the source of all evil in my house. I'm convinced of it.

 Even at a measly $150, it's overpriced, in my opinion. I have always loved Ikea. It has never failed me so spectacularly in the past. That general love remains, but this rug was a nightmare. Thought I'd better warn you.

(And if you have this rug and have NOT had any problems with it, I'd love to hear from you too. Where do you live? What is your space like? What sort of magic do you use?)

P.S. I lied about not posting a gross picture. Here's one I sourced online, featuring some very lovely larvae. (Shudder.) 
 
 
Okay, so awhile back, I posted about updating my guest room/office/imaginary nursery/sick room/we're-having-a-fight-and-am-sick-of-your-stupid-face room. (Let's be honest, people. If you've got a two bedroom apartment, and two people live in it, that extra room probably wears a lot of hats.) 

I talked about painting it green.

Though several months have passed, I have not actually painted it green. There's so much work I would need to do ... emptying the space, cleaning it properly, getting the paint, etc. Overwhelming. So I've pushed painting to the end of my to-do list and have tried to forget about it. 

Still, redecorating the room has been on my mind. I've just decided that focussing on the furniture and layout would be a simpler first step. Things are in motion. So I thought I'd talk a little bit about textiles and what I've been planning in the bed-department.

You've seen the room has it was, right? Two twin beds? Very country/white. I'm so tired of it. I want more colour. I want one bed, not two. I want more storage. I want to bring up some antiques from the basement. 
Photo by Abby Cook for Apartment Therapy.
I bought the mattresses and box springs for these twin babies from Craigslist and at Value Village. They are very so-so. I am thinking of throwing away one box spring/mattress combo, and keeping on in storage for potential future use. (Anyone want a free twin set? Anyone?) 

My antique three quarter bed needs a good home, having returned from a five-year college sojourn with my brother-in-law in Montreal. Before that, it was my bed at my single-lady apartment, and before that, it was the guest bed at my parents' house. Before THAT, it was my high school/childhood bed, and before that, it was my great grandmother's. The mattress has been replaced relatively recently, thank goodness, but other than that, it's just the bed that keeps on giving. (That sounded dirty and I'm sorry.) I'm using it instead of the twins.

Getting sheets for a 3/4 is a pain-in-the-bee-hind, I can tell you. However, certain retailer such as Beddington's do carry them. I just use a double or queen comforter/duvet on top, even though it's a little too big.

I've been shopping for new duvet covers, which is actually a pretty fun activity. There are plenty of options to choose from. Having been to Bed Bath & Beyond -- or Bed Bath & Barf, as it should be called* -- and seen their $300+ options, I think I'm likely going to go with something from Ikea. Ikea hasn't failed me yet. I have a couple of Ikea duvet covers that have been going strong for 10+ years. Cotton that gets better with age is really the only reasonable choice. 

ANYWAY, here are some of the bedding looks I've been keeping my eye on at everybody's favourite Scandinavian superstore. 
The ÅKERTISTEL set is my current favourite. Look how bright it is! Love. Only $34.99 for a double/queen.
With yellow bedding, the room could end up looking something like this:
This image is all over the web, with no proper credit. Know the source? Please share.
The NYPONROS set is pretty classic, and only $54.99. But would it look juvenile/too casual?
Stripey, seersucker-esque bedding could look something like this:
Williams Sonoma Home, no longer available. 
The BJÖRNLOKA set is very, very tempting. Only $44.99, and it looks like grain sacks/vintage linen.
This gain sack-style number could look like this:
Ikea Spain promo shot.
Finally, we have the ÄNGSÖRT set. It's pretty classic, made of real linen, priced at $89.99.
Blue and white bedding is very common. This particularly choice has been styled thus:
Styling by Camilla Krishnaswamy, photo by Idha Lindhag via IKEA Livet Hemma.
Oh god. What should I DO? Don't even get me started talking about the curtains. We'll have to save talking about additional textiles for another day.

*Bed Bath & Beyond smells like perfumed ass. I'm sorry, but it does. It's also extremely overpriced, the website doesn't let you see what's available in-store, and going into one gives me an insta-headache. Irritating as all heck.
 
 
If you read the blog with any regularity, you probably know that I live in a rental.

And living in a rental means putting up with some stuff. But it doesn't mean you have to put up with everything.

Case in point: my linen closet. My linen closet is ugly. And not only is it ugly, but half the shelves are papered with a horrible, peeling vinyl.

Lemme show you:
Picture
Yuck, right?

Now let's take a closer look at that vinyl.
Picture
Closer ...
Picture
Oh yeah, baby! Boobalicious! It's some sort of Eve-themed kitch, and in a way, I like it. It's sort of funny. But it's also torn. And only on half the shelves. And I'm not sure the inside of a linen closet warrants amusing bare breast art from the 1980s anyway.

I mean, if I was going to go that way, I'd do it out in the open. (Wouldn't I?)

Anyway. The closet needs a makeover. Here are some inspiration shots.
This is from a Style At Home story by Margot Austin, with photography by Paul Chmielowiec.
This image came from the Au Lit Fine Linens blog. I hope it's theirs. Who is the photog?
Picture
These images are from the blog Simplicity in the South.
Better than the boobies? I think so. But that's just me. What do you think?
 
 
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.
 
 
So, as you guys know, I'm thinking about redoing my office. (Remember all my talk about dark green paint?) Nothing is set in stone yet, and I haven't even started moving the furniture around, but I'm already thinking about art. I found a midcentury painting of a boat at Value Village recently (it's a massive oil, and I wish I could make out the signature, because I think it might be worth something), so I'm definitely going to be using that. I'm also considering a small salon wall with paintings of the ocean (since I have a few already). At the same time, I might want to go with new, rather than salvaged, art. 
I was recently told about this company called Saatchi Online. It's one of those artist/buyer networking sites, where artists can list and sell their work and buyers can search and buy direct. It's a bit like Etsy for paintings and fine artworks (as opposed to crafts). Here are a few works from the site that I thought were interesting:
Own a painting for sale from Saatchi online, like this one by Alena Adamikova. 
It's an oil entitled "She and her Sister."
This is a pencil drawing by Canadian Mark  Liam Smith. It's called "Nemesis Beetle."
Vincent Van Gogh print by Tadao Cern from the "Revealing the Truth" series.
This last one might be my favourite. Remember Tadao Cern? The dude who did that amazing series of photos, inspired by famous paintings? He's on Saatchi! You can get a print of his famous Van Gogh "photograph" which was made by Photoshopping a painting, with the result as shown above. Want to see how it's done? Here's a video.
So basically, all you have to do is visit the Saatchi site, look around, and click a bit to buy. It's easy. What do you think about my choices?
 
 
Remember Sarah Richardson? She of the statement necklace? She of the white jeans? Well, she's back with another new show called Real Potential.
Back in 2010, I was invited to a preview sort of thing about Sarah's then-new show, Sarah 101. Sadly, I did not like the show much, and said so in my blog about it in early 2011. I haven't been invited to a Sarah Richardson event since. Haha. I can't say this bothers me much. So much of PR and Journalism is bullshit, and if I'm no longer in the loop, that must mean I'm not part of the bullshit, and that makes me happy.

Anyway, Sarah 101 wasn't good. It just wasn't. It wasn't horrible, but it was a disappointment. The show seemed to dumb down everything that had been appealing about Richardson's past shows. It was so banal. And it didn't last long. Whether by design or because someone or (many someones) on the team realized it was a bust, it seems to have ended after only two short seasons. 

Now, however, Sarah is back. And I'm happy report that Real Potential is a lot better than Sarah 101. A LOT better.
The show is three quarters about real-estate shopping. Sarah helps a house-hunting couple shop for a place, gives them three options, they pick one and buy it, and then, finally, she helps improve the chosen home by renovating one room or area. The show is 22 minutes long and in my opinion, is a little light on the design and decorating side of things, but considering how much the masses seem to love real estate, the format was probably a smart choice. It debuted a couple of weeks ago and several episodes have already aired. I watched them online, though the HGTV website
The design work is a lot more aspirational than the work on Sarah 101. It's much more in-line with the stuff done on Design Inc., which I was happy to see. Sarah uses a lot more colour than she used to, and the rooms she's done on Real Potential reflect that. I'm not sure how I feel about this change. Colour is good, but sometimes, the blues Sarah highlights, in particular, feel a bit grating to me, but different strokes for different folks and all that. More colour is probably not a bad thing. (I just really hated these chairs, below.)
My final verdict is this: Real Potential is okay. Good, even. The real estate bit isn't that interesting to me, personally, but you might like it. And if you like Sarah, you will probably enjoy the show in general. So far, Tommy hasn't been seen, and I'm sure some fans will be bummed about that, but Richardson herself is there in all her statement-jewellery-wearing, sarcastic glory. Give it a try.