Do you like it? Should I?
So... someone gave me one of these melting, Dali-esque surrealist mantle clocks for Christmas. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. I mean, I know my style is eclectic, but something about this gives me pause. I haven't placed it yet.
Do you like it? Should I?
Or, rather: umbrella.
Umbrellas are beautiful, aren't they? Sometimes, I forget that, since they're so utilitarian and all. I suppose I'm just feeling ready for spring.
Image by Jesús Manuel Nieto Bobadilla via Stock Xchng
I know this is kind of a nothing post, by the way. Sorry about that. Good stuff to come, I promise. Happy Wednesday.
Hey friends. I'm contemplating a little DIY I wanted to tell you about.
Back in the fall, Nate and I went to NYC for a holiday. It was great. And while there, I bought a bunch of tee shirts from a street vendor (5 for $10 thankyouverymuch) with the intention of making a couple of throw pillows.
We've been back for months, and once I get the darn Christmas tree down, I think I'll be ready to begin. I have no sewing machine or skills, so I'll be doing this by hand, but I've made pillows before. It's not hard.
Still, now that the time has come, I'm beginning to wonder if this is actually a good idea.
I know my idea isn't very original. Would "I Heart NY" throw pillows be cute and graphic or generic and trendy? Can you think of any other fun uses for the tees that I might not have thought of? Should I just go for it? Lemme know.
If you read the blog regular, you probably know that owning a little vintage shop of my very own is my not-so-secret dream. Brick and mortar, of course, but I'm practical. I'd be happy to start online.
So why don't I? For a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I always (ALWAYS) want to keep my best finds for myself. I'm a greedy guts. (Or is it greedy gus? I never remember.)
My house is packed with items I bought for other people. Things I picked up "for the store" that doesn't exist. Things I've selfishly hoarded away for myself. It's a problem. I look around at my collections and think, "What could I do without" and the answer is "Nothing."
I need it. I need it all.
Okay, I don't NEED any of it, but still.I'm trying to explain how I feel.
The other reason I don't start a shop? Because I know for a fact that there's already a very successful shop that's doing exactly what I want to do, selling exactly what I'd like to sell. And nobody likes a copycat.
That shop is Modish Vintage. I'm seriously in love with it. (And of course, I hate it at the same time. Because it's perfect. And it's not mine. And I'm a jealous person.)
Seriously, though. Modish Vintage is fantastic. There's just something about it. Browsing the offerings, I feel like I'm seeing my personal style come to life. I feel like the shop owner, Evelyn, is looking into my soul.
For example, here are a few things Modish Vintage has sold. (Not available anymore. Curse those who bought it for getting there first!)
I don't know what else to say except to recommend that you check it out. In addition to the Etsy store, Evelyn maintains a Modish Vintage blog to keep shoppers up to date on behind-the-scenes happening and new acquisitions and she tweets pretty regularly too.
I tell you about her, not because we're real life friends, and not because I have to, but because Modish Vintage is literally my favourite place to shop online. It just makes me happy. It's affordable and adorable and reminds me of my childhood.
And because, on a really base level, deep in my mean and tiny, black heart, I kinda hate Evelyn, because she's living my dream. And in a much more powerful way, I love her, because she's so damn inspiring. And it's good to admit these things, right?
Before I had a digital camera, when I traveled, I'd buy postcards. As souveniers. Why not, right? They're cheap, they fit easily into luggage, and they help you remember the things you've seen.
And some of those postcards have found homes on my walls. Is this tacky? I don't know. I just know that seeing my souvenir framed and hung makes me happy. And I think, from a style perspective, they look pretty good.
But anyway. I'm don't actually mean to write about postcards. I mean to write about nudes.
Why? Because my favourite bit of framed postcard art is this nude by John Currin. .
I've mentioned this piece in the blog before. As shown above, I have a framed postcard of the painting in my dining room. I first saw it at the Tate Modern when I traveled in Europe in my early 20s and fell in love.
But is it tacky? People sometimes give me funny looks when they see it.
They used to give me similar looks when they came across my collection of DIY fridge magets showing Muybridge photos (Lady Kicking a Hat).
What's the big deal? What's with the stink eye? Why do people think the Currin nude is so odd? So worth noting? When people see it, they look so taken aback. I don't get it at all.
I've been thinking more and more about nudes lately in general. I love portrature, and in some cases, nude poraiture most of . But when it comes to home design, I feel like nudes have gone out of fashion a bit. Why do you think that is?
I'd have a whole wall full of nudes if I could. Weird?
I already have a great sofa. It's a deco number. Butter yellow vinyl. Rolled arms. Fairly comfy. Practical (meaning, I can spill red wine on it and it's no problem to wipe up.) It was also an incredible deal. Only $100 (plus $30 for delivery) from Craigslist back in 2007. I moved back to Toronto from Vancouver with practically nothing and I needed something fast. The yellow sofa was a great find.
But just last week, one of the front legs broke. A castor wheel split in half. 75 year old plastic will do that. And now, even though the sofa is still fully functional, and still looks good (the break isn't even noticeable)... I'm thinking it might be time for something new.
Maybe it's the January chill. The city is covered in snow right now. I dunno. All I know is that I want a sofa I can snuggle into and I want it now. I want it in a jewel tone. I want it to fit through my front door. I want it to be velvet. Tufted, smooth... whatever. Such details are minor. I just want something... cozy.
I feel bad saying this. The yellow sofa does not deserve to be tossed aside. It's served me so well. But despite it's many wonderful qualities, it's never been cozy. Not even a little bit. Vinyl, like leather, just isn't. It's sticky in the summer, cold in the winter. In weather like this, I have to swaddle myself in flannel to enjoy a night in front of the telly. In the summer, I have to strip to my undies and cover the seats with a sheet. It's a bit of a hassle, frankly.
But then again... I never have to worry about spills. Is it a fair trade? I eat on the sofa a lot. Spills are a real concern.
And velvet is just SO pretty. See?
Michael Bargo's living room, seen in Domino magazine, April 2007
David Collins' living room, Elle Decor, Dec. 1997; photo by Henry Bourne, design by David Collins
Green velvet sofa in room design by Lauren Liess of Pure Style Home
Room from the portfolio of Miles Redd, New York
Room from the portfolio of Miles Redd, New York
There are so many good inspiration photos featuring velvet sofas floating around the internet right now. (I chose these because I was fairly confident that I'd be able to credit them correctly.)
They're making me hungry. Hungry for some plush, squashy, shiny, sumptuous VELVET.
Of course, a brand-spanking-new sofa is not in the cards. And I'd rather have something vintage anyway. I did see one on Craigslist for only $145. Here it is:
Not bad, right? What do you think? Should I toss Old Yell..ow and take the velvet plunge?
I feel like it might make me happy. Like, super happy.
Like, maybe even this happy:
Couch Surfing Molly by Lynn Friedman from Flickr. Used with permission.
(Special thanks for the Molly photo, Lynn. She takes some neat shots, friends. Check out her Flickr page.)
I read a really depressing article in the New York Times this week entitled "Selling a Book by Its Cover." It's all about how "the printed, bound book has been given a stay of execution by an unlikely source: the design community."
Um, excuse me, NYT, but I'm pretty sure actual READERS have actually managed to keep the printed, bound book alive until now and will continue to do so. The idea that the only use for printed books in the digital era is as decorative elements or objects is stupid, frankly.
Custom-wrapped books by Juniper. I'm not saying they're not pretty, but...
E-readers are great and having just lugged seven tomes on a plane for a single's week's vacation, I see their value. I plan to get one, eventually. But just as mp3s have failed to destroy the CD, (or even the vinyl record, thankyouverymuch) so too will e-readers fail to kill traditional publishing.
I mean, please.
We already know this. It's not worth a story in the New York Times.
But the article is also about books as design. About the growing trend of decorating with books. About how rich idiots in McMansions wouldn't think of having a house without a library... even though said rich idiots don't read.
It's ridiculous. Pretentious. And it really annoyed me.
Look, I've experimented with book storage too. I'm often bothered by the fact that my unwieldy library isn't cohesive looking. Back in 2004, I swathed all my texts in white paper and labeled the spines with pen and ink. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but in practice it was awful. Despite my alphabetizing and categorizing, I needed my memories of spine colour and dust jackets to find things. And the white felt boring. The whole experiment was a waste of time.
I've also considered colour blocking and size-based organizing, but again, neither really makes sense for me. Why not? Because, my library is functional. It's meant to work.
It contains books I actually read.
The NYT article spoke of book swaddlers. People who cover existing texts in matching papers, textiles, etc. to make them more, ostensibly, visually appealing.
"It’s a practice that irritates book designers like Chip Kidd, who creates noted covers for Knopf. 'It feels sort of needlessly complicated, like turning on the vacuum cleaner and going and finding a piece of dirt,' Mr. Kidd said. 'You don’t have to redesign the jacket; the jackets have been designed. This feels arbitrary, like taking a piece of wood and wrapping it in paper.'"
This little excerpt was, for me, the story's saving grace. I agree with Kidd completely. The covers have already been designed. A book is a thing. It's not only its content, not only its story. It's a whole. And living with the whole can be beautiful too.
What's my point? I'm not sure. I think my point is this: if you don't read, why have a library? Why not fill your shelves with something that matters to you? Why not get rid of the shelves completely and hang art instead? Why not do anything else? Anything authentic instead of something so blatantly silly? Why? Why not?
In honour of honouring books, here are a couple of pictures of real libraries, owned by people who actually read. The first is from my friend Jodi. The second is a shot from my own living room.
Got any "real" library pictures you'd like to share? Shelves full of books you've actually read (or at least intend to read)? I wanna see em.
Sorry to be such a grump. Books DO make beautiful design elements. I just think it's really silly to have a colour-coordinated library if you don't actually read. A few books here and there? Fine. Some pretty coffee-table-tomes? Okay. But a WHOLE LIBRARY? Bah. Bah humbug!
So did any of you catch the premiere of Sarah Richarson's new show last night? Sarah 101? I watched a screener and will probably watch the show again, but I've got to say... I had a few reservations.
First off though, I want to explicitly say that I think Sarah Richardson is one of the best, if not THE best, designer working on television today. I mean that. I've literally never seen her do a room that wasn't impressive. And she has a lovely on-air personality. She's funny, sharp, and genuine... at least when she's not reading lines.
Forced, scripted writing was a problem on Sarah's earliest show: Room Service. The design work on that show was fine, but Sarah herself - as a television personality - was problematic. She had that poofy short hairdo. She spoke in an exaggeratedly formal way. It was like she was trying (and failing) to channel Martha Stewart.
Nothing against Martha -- besides the obvious, of course -- but it's important to be yourself.
And then along came Design Inc. and... BAM. Sarah was fabulous. Here was a woman I could love! A Sarah with personality! Design Inc. was a great show, and its focus on what really happens behind-the-scenes - the mistakes, the unforseeable problems, the on-the-fly solutions - was completely compelling. I still watch reruns whenever I can.
Design Inc. gave us a glimpse at a real team at work. A team that clearly respected, loved (and yes, sometimes feared) its leader. I especially enjoyed the way the crew would scramble to please her. There was an air of iron first about Sarah on that show, but a kindness too, and it was awesome. Real. The show's successors, Sarah's House (and Sarah's Cottage, etc.) were appealing in a similar way.
Sarah's evolving looks and dos
I guess that's why I found the first episode of Sarah 101 to be a little... lacking.
Sarah 101 is a bit of a step backwards in the evolution of the Sarah Richardson brand, which isn't to say that step wasn't deliberate. The show is obviously designed to be what it is: a stripped down, simplified, "back-to-basics" look at design. Consider the logo - the school-house font. Ostensibly, Sarah 101 is attempting to do what I always hoped Sarah would: to show regular people how to make a room happen, in a clear, DIY friendly, and budget conscious way. It's everything I thought I wanted. Nonetheless, something about the format feels dated.
I had a couple of problems with the first episode of Sarah 101 that I saw - a pre-released screener of a yet-to-be-aired episode entitled Big Box Kitchen. I thought the design relied too much on IKEA (though, to be fair, using a big box store was clearly the point). But I was also put off by the overly didactic tone of Sarah's scripted moments. They were awkward and harkened back to her Room Service days. What was missing from Sarah 101, I think, was more of Sarah herself. More of her and Tommy and their amusing banter. More real conversations and moments, less of the obviously contrived.
Don't get me wrong, I understand the attempt. I just think Sarah (and her sidekick Tommy, of course), their personalities, are what sets Sarah's shows apart. And I'd like to see more of them.
IKEA chair used in Sarah 101's Big Box Kitchen
I was lucky enough to meet Sarah and Tommy recently, at an event for a small group of bloggers. It was great. Sarah was more beautiful, charming and impressive than I'd expected (and I expected a lot). I especially enjoyed her toughness. When I (mistakenly) said that I thought Design Inc. wouldn't do projects for people who didn't have a minimum $15K budget, she refused to let my error pass. She could easily have said that she didn't think I was right and moved on, but I watched her shuffle at warp speed through her memory in order to discover that I'd misread her old website, which listed the value of the Design Inc. team's services at an estimated $15K. I liked the determined way she set about setting me straight. I could see how much she cared, both about her image and about a brand that is clearly her baby.
During the get together, Sarah also reminisced about the hiring of former intern Lindsay Mens (who's now been on the team approximately 6 years and who you may remember for Design Inc.) Sarah said that Lindsay was the only student she met at one particular event who was brave enough to ask her for a job and to some extent, that's why she was hired. Armed with this information, I jokingly asked Sarah for a job at the end of the meeting. I wish I could describe her expression. She knew what I was doing and she quelled me with a look. It was kind of awesome.
Considering all this, I'll definitely watch Sarah 101 again. I can't imagine not giving a Sarah/Tommy effort a fair chance. And the end credits featured a bit of the banter I love, which makes me hope there'll be more in future episodes. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
With Tommy and Sarah at the Blogger's meet up.
Group shot of the bloggers with Sarah and Tommy courtesy of Rambling Renovators.
Sarah 101 airs on HGTV on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 8 p.m. Full schedule here. No idea when or if it will air in the States. Sorry.
Jen Selk Chic is one of those annoying, hard to classify blogs that's about a bit of everything to do with style. Mostly it's about interior design, vintage junk, collecting and my Goodwill addiction. It's about the things I love (the chic things, not the weird things). I hope you love them too.
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