Decorating My New Apartment

Exciting news! I’m moving into an apartment – of sorts. It’s two floors, so maybe it’s more accurate to call it a townhouse? It’s tiny, but I’ll be sharing it with one of my best friends and living just a few doors down from some of my other best friends (college is great like that). I can’t think of anything more exciting than a blank slate – the apartment comes partially furnished, but the rest is up to us! I started with some things I already had, namely art, since I’m a big believer in covering walls with it and therefore have quite a bit, and used the colors and feel of it to build up a little vision board. I’ll be filling up a living room/dining room, kitchen and bathroom this time too as opposed to just a bedroom so I’ve got more space to play with (and so more space to fill up!).

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to get to this point, which seems crazy because it’s a tiny little collection of things. I started in the spring with a Pinterest board, just grabbing things (mostly dishes and pillows and planters) that I liked and putting them in one place to see if I could come up with a theme…and I kind of could. I knew I wanted something eclectic but soothing rather than messy-looking, and I knew I wanted color. I always want color when I decorate, but sometimes I think I end up picking too many and then it becomes disjointed and I have some colors that mesh really well and others that are just a little bit off. I’m sure no one else notices but it bugs me.

pinterest board 1
pinterest board 2
pinterest board 3

When I went to Target sometime in July I was drawn into their home section and guys, they suddenly have so many good pillows. I was having a field day until I realized I should probably be more mindful about what pillows I get, since they’re going to be statement pieces. And I’m always so drawn to the color pink – so many good pillows and throws and decorations are made in pink! I blame the whole millennial pink craze. But then I end up with a pink-ish room and it always reminds me of my middle school bedroom, which was painted such an intense pink that I kid you not, it glowed. I wanted something that felt calmer and more adult to my mind. I found this palm pillow on Urban Outfitters and decided that I had to have it in my life, even more so after seeing it pop up in this great house tour, and I thought that was probably another good place to start.

I also started thinking about vintage travel posters after writing about maps as art, and was warming up to this Firenze one (for reasons I will discuss later…). But then I realized it might not go with my other art, or might not mesh with the look I was going for.

I kept thinking about all this before I realized that I really needed to take a look at the art I’ll be hanging up, since it’s big and non-negotiable. And so the Photoshopping began – starting with my prints and posters (pictured above: a print of Monet’s Water Lilies I picked up at his house in Giverny but available here; a poster I got at the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition that was at the BMA last winter; print of Paysage: les genêts by Henri Matisse; that gold frame is a stand-in for these frames from IKEA that are filled with little paintings of Russian buildings), then adding in just about every pillow I had pinned. I forced myself to get rid of pink ones, just as an experiment. It took a lot of replacing, deleting, adding, etc. until I came up with three – three! – that I felt really good about together. One is from IKEA – I’ve had it for years and love it so much I’m going to buy another one. The other two are from Target and Urban Outfitters, and are both just a rich and vibrant in person.

I started looking for a throw blanket – I wanted something with a pattern that wasn’t too crazy, and the aforementioned house tour featured a striped throw that I thought was a perfect idea. I found this super soft, thick-but-not-too-thick, medium blue and white mohair blanket at Target, and I think it complements the pillows wonderfully without overshadowing them or falling into the background like a plain white or gray one would. I also remembered a little impulse purchase I made at IKEA – a gorgeous, structured basket from their limited edition (and now sadly gone) Jassa collection, which will be the perfect thing to hold my new throw and stacks of magazines. The hints of yellow in it are highlighted so perfectly by the Target pillow.

I also realized that a vintage travel poster couldn’t hurt – especially one of the ones I had my eyes on. It’s a SNCF advertisement, painted by Raoul Dufy (one of my favorites). I found it on Art.com and was lucky enough to stumble on a 60% off framed art deal – so I got a 13×19 print, framed and ready to hang, for $60. That’s not a deal to pass up! And of course, plants have to be in the mix – the two planters above are just stand-ins for my own gold and blue planters, though they’re pretty tempting (gold from here, blue here). My beloved Anthropologie window box-style planters are still available but in a slightlyy different shape. And that little gold lamp is from IKEA – I got it a long time ago so I don’t think it’s available anymore, but it’s such a fun shape, right? I love this one and this one for the same effect.

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PSA: IKEA Makes Beautiful Gold Frames

UPDATE: The frames are now available online! Get them here.

Have you been to IKEA lately? It’s no secret among my friends and family (or the internet, for that matter) that the furniture store is one of my favorite places ever. A walk through their demo rooms always leaves me bursting with decorating ideas, their Poäng chairs are affordable and amazing, they’ve got Scandi-chic kitchen and dining accessories coming out the wazoo, their as-is section can be filled with hidden gems (like the duvet cover above, which was completely unblemished and a whopping $4), and let’s not forget Swedish meatballs and the bins of candy in the food market.

It’s a wonderland of cheap and generally gorgeous home stuff, which is why the department I always get sucked into is kind of surprising: frames. Frames! It’s so boring! But I always, always have little prints or cards or a new piece of art I have to frame, or an old piece that I’ve forgotten about (because I haven’t framed it yet) and I’m not interested in spending a fortune on what I know I want and can get at IKEA for a song: a simple, no-frills frame in black or white. Easy.

Last time I went, just a few weeks ago, I almost walked by the picture frame section when something shiny caught my eye (what can I say, I have some magpie-like tendencies). It was a display of new frames, and the ones I saw were gold.

These are not like the few gold frames I’d seen at IKEA before – kind of weathered and antique looking, or else too gaudy with carving (those have their place, but generally aren’t what I’m looking for). These come in your standard 4×6, 5×7, gallery-wall ready sizes, and they’re a smooth, even-tones, ultra-glossy gold. They feel so much heftier and more expensive than any other frame I’ve gotten from IKEA. And it was only when I got home and fit little prints my sister bought for me in Russia into them that I realized another bonus: they come with mats. Not a flimsy little piece of paper, but a substantial bevel-cut mat that (paired with the gold frame) will make anything you put into it look like a million bucks.

Inexplicably, these frames aren’t available on IKEA’s website (there is a silver version up, however – perhaps the gold is too new?) but I bet they’re in most stores. At $4 a pop, they’re worth picking up – I know I’m already planning a trip to get more.

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A Fun Idea for Art…

My parents have always had old maps hanging around the house. Most were (and still are) in the living room. As a child I thought to myself, Yes, of course, this is the room where we hang all of our maps. Where do other people keep theirs? 

As I got older, I realized that having entire hallways dedicated to showcasing prints of old maps from around the world was a little (perhaps a lot) out of the ordinary. And I came to appreciate not just the aesthetic appeal of the maps – with their delicate twisting lines and simple typography, matted with navy blue and burgundy and placed in gold frames – but the feelings and ideas they evoke. They always seemed to me to be a piece of the old world, the excitement of discovering new places, the simplicity of lines on paper signifying so much more. They brought an intellectual, worldly flavor to our home, as much as any piece of original art would.

So, wordlessly, I decided to start collecting my own maps. I began with a little fold-up map of far north Great Britain, which I found in a used bookstore in Wales a few years ago. The front cover is finely decorated; it’s in an attention-grabbing bright orange and navy color scheme. It looks kind of cool – definitely vintage. Inside, the map itself is mounted on worn linen, and…it doesn’t look like anything special on first glance. Yup, that’s a map all right. But wait – the altitude of every square inch of land and sea is carefully noted with squiggly shapes and shaded according to elevation. The “recommended throughways” cut across the sandy landscape like veins. Every footpath, every body of water, every hamlet is included and labeled in the tiniest hand. The water is a clear blue. The scale is marked carefully with dots around the whole border. And it’s big. This is a piece of art, unquestionably.

Then, at my favorite annual used book sale of all time (which has now sadly ended, after having gone to it every year of my life), I combed through every book at the travel table. There were lots of Rick Steves and other lightly used and slightly out-of-date travel guides, along with souvenir books from all over Europe, but there were also vintage pamphlets and strange little books. Among them I found a complete plan of Paris, listing every street in the city in alphabetical order (how would one use this??) and including tiny maps of each arrondissement and of the metro system, which is a 5 by 7 riot of color. Perhaps my favorite is a small guide to Sicily, part of a series of guides from the Italian State Tourist Department released sometime in the fifties. The front and back covers fold out to reveal richly colored and detailed maps of the island and its landmarks that look just like the kind of thing artists make and sell on Etsy today. For just one dollar I picked up two lovely prints full of character – how can you beat that? (You can’t).

A side note: another Italian guidebook I found is less visually stunning but is full of such quaint little tips that I had to share. For example: In the glossary of food and drink terms, “Spaghetti alla Carbonara – Spaghetti with bacon, egg, pepper. Very spicy.” In the tips for women travelers section: “In Europe handshaking is much more common than in the United States. A woman should allow a male acquaintance to shake her hand, but never shake his. Women shake hands, too, the younger doing the shaking. If the same age, a handclasp is enough.” In the sightseeing section for Rome: “Trevi Fountain – Just behind the Quirinale, near the center of the city…The legend is that a coin tossed in the fountain insures your return to Rome. The fountain was an important accessory in a motion picture called ‘Three Coins in the Fountain.'” (Which, for the record, is an excellent, ridiculous movie that I have watched on more than one occasion. It’s on Netflix should you be tempted.)

So, in the era of GPS, aren’t maps the new vintage poster? The new art print? They exist in countless iterations for every country past and present throughout time. You can get them for a dollar or a lot more than a dollar; they can be huge or postcard sized; they can be of your home state or the place you’ve always dreamed of visiting. They’re a mathematical rather than representational view of the world, and a welcome juxtaposition against portraits, still lives and paintings. They remind you of where you’ve been and where you have yet to go. Put a map on your wall, and see if it starts to look like art to you, too.

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Pom Poms

Madewell sweater, Gap jeans (similar, and on sale!), Steve Madden booties, Skagen purse (on sale), Madewell earrings

New Year’s is one of my favorite times of year, for all the cliched reasons you’d expect – a fresh start, the optimism that comes with a new beginning, the thought that this is finally the year I’m going to eat healthier/read more/become an all around better person. And of course, it’s usually not, but every year I find myself getting just a little bit closer to actually making lasting personal change. I started coming up with some tiny, achievable, open-ended goals back in December and wrote them down in a pocket-sized notebook, the idea being that if I carry my resolutions around with me, I’ll be forced to keep them in mind…maybe…

Regardless, making time to come blog here is one of my few firm resolutions. I stopped doing it because I was just so busy doing other things, and I told myself that I’d come back to it once I wasn’t busy anymore, and then I realized: I am probably always going to be busy. So I just have to do it despite a lack of time. Of course, though, I’ve been on vacation, so that makes it seem a lot more doable. We’ll see.

So here I am, with news of the best purchase I made in 2016: this pom pom sweater from Madewell. It’s the perfect winter white color, comfortably loose without being baggy, and not to mention it’s softer than any sweater has a right to be. I took it for a spin at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where I went to see their current Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition (which was absolutely amazing, by the way – check it out if you’re in the area through March, and after that it’ll be at the SFMOMA).

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5 Things to Do to Make Your Day Better

5 little things smaller

If you’re like me, the daily grind can get a little grating. Some days the work piles up, others you’re riddled with anxiety, or sometimes you can’t seem to get out of a funk. In the past, I would succumb: I’d work halfheartedly and spend twice as long doing it, I’d let anxiety paralyze me, I’d collapse on the sofa and waste the day watching Parks and Rec on Netflix for the third time (it happens).

But over the summer, I realized that incorporating little rituals into my everyday routine can make a world of difference. Even something as small as going for a short walk can reinvigorate you. So, for the next time you find yourself feeling crazed, or uninspired, here are some of my favorite ways to re-center.

1 // Hang up some string lights.

Turning on lights is basically a guaranteed mood-boost, especially in the colder months when it starts getting dark early. But there’s something undeniably magical about string lights: they’re delicate and whimsical, and I always feel a little happier when I have mine on. Around Christmas time, my mom lines the living room windows with them, so they always make me feel warm and cozy. I love these from IKEA – they feel a little less stark than a regular white string.

2 // Treat yourself to an afternoon pastry.

I do this one so frequently that it’s practically become a part of my routine. I’m partial to cinnamon buns and scones, but whatever the pastry, taking a break in the late afternoon for a little snack is one of my favorite indulgences. I’ll grab a pastry in the morning (or make it myself on the weekends) so I have it waiting for me when I get back home. Knowing that I have a treat waiting for me usually helps me push through my work and gives me something to look forward to.

3 // Curl up with a milky cup of tea and the news.

I usually combine this with the previous idea. I’m at my most calm when I’m wrapped up in a plush throw (the one pictured, from Urban Outfitters, is my latest obsession) with creamy black tea in hand, scrolling through the New York Times on my iPad, classical music playing in the background.

4 // Read something funny.

Laughter, after all, is the best medicine. There’s nothing quite like reading a “Shouts & Murmurs” story or revisiting a favorite David Sedaris piece to snap me out of a funk. (Here’s my favorite book of his – but they’re all good.)

5 // Listen to a podcast while you go for a walk.

Now that the weather is cooling off, going for walks is one of my favorite things – especially in the evenings, when it’s cool and crisp and dusky. In the interest of multitasking, I like to listen to podcasts while I walk, so I’m learning something new and exercising at the same time – some of my favorites are The World in Words (all about languages), 99% Invisible (cool design history), and The Stockholmer (stories of people doing amazing things in – you guessed it – Stockholm). Alternatively, switch out the walking for coloring in a coloring book if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

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