Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to decorate with vintage furniture

The answer to this question can be found at Humboldt House Vintage, an amazing store in Chicago that feels like the Jonathan Adler of old, well-loved furnishings. It's an amazing space to visit and peruse, and I love how it is thoughtfully curated - inspiring for anyone who has a growing collection of dinged-up furniture and prone to patina-induced impulse purchases at thrift stores. (I have a small army of old chairs that have no room to live in my home but I can't bear to part with any of them.)

Since most of the readers of this blog don't hail from Chicago-land, here are a few photos to inspire you to head out on a hunt for some Kilims, Chesterfields, and mid-century treasures.

Side note: the vintage triangle mirrors and chalkboards can also be sourced new at CB2, a store that is slowly becoming my new favorite spot for contemporary (and budget-friendly) furniture. (I just bought this and this, great modern basics that look amazing with my collection of old used things.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The fastest (and tastiest) way to cook Brussels sprouts


After a long winter of red wine and cheese, I've been trying to 'detox' by cutting out white carbohydrates and loading up on the vegetables which runs the risk of being incredibly boring. My trainer recommended The Clean Eating Cookbook and I've found a few recipes that are fast and flavorful enough to keep me from Thai takeout, and wanted to share an adapted recipe that is super easy - it will take you a whopping 10 minutes to make, including prep time. It's super filling, packed with protein and fiber and just enough fat to make it delicious.

Brussels sprouts with garlic, parmesan and bacon:
  • Brussels sprouts, halved (I use at least 3 cups of halves)
  • 3 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarse black pepper
In a skillet, combine water and Brussels sprouts over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook until the Brussels sprouts are tender but still crisp (about 5 minutes, or until water is almost evaporated). Add olive oil and garlic, stir until sprouts are evenly coated, and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook without stirring for another 2-3 minutes, until sprouts are lightly caramelized.

While the Brussels sprouts are simmering, put the bacon in the microwave and cook for three minutes (loosely covered so the oil doesn't splatter). I like to cook it in a microwave-safe dish to eliminate some of the fat. Slice into small pieces, add to the Brussels sprouts and serve!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Just add plants

My friend Gill rented a simple student apartment on Northwestern's campus and transformed it with restraint and thoughtful accessories. I love how it is serene, filled with light, and decorated with vibrant green plants - not just flowers, but living, air-cleaning trees, shrubs and other greens that need love, care, attention and regular watering. 


It's inspired me to add a few plants to my apartment, despite my past track record of killing them off (there's a trail of orchid bodies in my wake of plant failures). I'm now the proud owner of a hydrangea bush and a new orchid that make me feel like it's springtime in Chicago even though it was 29 degrees today... 

Monday, March 9, 2015

What to do with unused, empty space in a room

This is a new problem for me: my previous rentals were all pretty tiny, and required me to be creative about storage and furniture placement. My current apartment is the opposite - when everything was moved in and arranged how I wanted it, there were these cavernous empty spaces of beige walls.
...and I decided to fill them with collections of artwork and arrangements of chairs (you can never have too many of either, in my opinion). Above is a snapshot of how I filled in the blank space next to my armoire using an old womb chair that my dad let me rescue from his workshop, and a really cool (wood with leather and brass grommets) midcentury office chair that I found at a thrift store... for $5. For some reason, I think arrangements of furniture and accessories should be in odd numbers - two chairs plus a big basket of throws looks thoughtful. Two chairs on their own look a little off, like I forgot to move them back to their rightful spots after being displaced at a party.
Café chairs are scattered all over our apartment, as side tables and corner-fillers. We had an awkward, cold space next to the fireplace warmed up (and also became a great storage spot) once I added a café chair with stacks of games topped with a candelabra, a basket, and an assortment of prints and canvases.

 This trick also worked for the other lonely blank space next to my armoire and enabled me to display an old print and show off my chandelier that I have no intention of hanging up but couldn't bear to store it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

How to makeover an old canvas print in five minutes

This idea is originally from DC-based interior designer Barbara Franceski, and I've been waiting for a rainy day to apply it to a pile of old canvas paintings from my prolific middle school days when I cranked out a painting per week (thanks, Mom, for saving them)!
It's a pretty simple concept: remove the old canvas, salvage the frame, and recover it with a beautiful fabric of your choice. I set up an eBay search for a yard of Marrimekko cotton fabric and snagged a great multi-tone yellow swatch for under $10. You don't need much - I bought a yard and have plenty left over.
In addition to an old frame canvas and a yard of the fabric of your choice, you'll need an Xacto knife, scissors, a staple gun, and a canvas stretcher (I ended up not using this, but if you have a thick fabric a la canvas you'll need it).
Start by slicing the canvas off of the frame with an Xacto knife. I didn't even bother to pull out the staples, so I sliced just along the edge of the frame with the canvas facing down. (This also lets you save the print for sentimental purposes - in my case, to put back into my parent's basement.)

Next, you'll need to line up the now-empty frame to the fabric. I played around until I got the layout just right and cut around the frame leaving ~2" excess for folding over the frame. Next, line up the base of the frame with the straight manufacturer's edge of the fabric to keep it even, and put a staple in the middle and on both corners. Then, staple the opposite side after pulling the fabric taut (don't stretch it!) in the middle and both corners. Repeat for both sides, and then fill in the remainder of the perimeter with staples paying extra attention to the corners.

Voila! Now hang it to a wall and enjoy your handiwork.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How to create a monotone living room on a budget

Monotone because I need calm and simplicity in life, but mostly because I don't have the energy to paint...and on a budget because we moved again (that's the third time in eighteen months, but who's counting?).
In September, we packed up our old, dinged-up-yet-charming Charlotte bungalow that I spent a chunk of my summer painting and loving. We moved to Chicago into a pristine, modern third floor apartment that sold me with it's French doors and huge front porch. It's been almost three months since the movers arrived, and I finally unpacked our last box today, gave the place a good cleaning, and dusted off my Nikon to share some photos.




This rental didn't come with a backlog of projects like the last one (the lease forbids me from my favorite hobbies - painting, electrical work, etc.) and desperately needed some character. I didn't buy anything new for this place except for four packs of $10 canvas drop cloths and some drapery clips to create 9' window treatments that perfectly matched the sofa and works well with the standard eggshell walls and white trim that seems to come with all rentals. 
These cheap drapes keep the whole room light and don't detract from those amazing French doors. They're a perfect balance to the mismatched vintage wood tones and make me seem like a minimalist despite all of my clutter.

All this room needs now are family photos and a few animal heads on the walls! 


Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to style an antique bedroom set

This bedroom set was a gift from my mother-in-law (and by gift, I mean that I may have coerced her into parting with it by explaining how it would get much more face time in my house than hers... and the rest is history). She bought it for $25 in the 1970s and I'm so glad she hung on to it for all of these years. It's simple, but beautiful and fits our house perfectly. We put it in the sunny front bedroom of the house and decided to resist the urge to buy new things and instead dressed it up with our old favorites: a big horse blanket from Wes's grandma on top of a (very) distressed cream coverlet, a Southwestern rug that I picked up at Eastern market, curtains and rods that I've carried around with me since my first place in Georgetown, and pairs of metal plant stands that work great next to a little wooden bed.
The result is a room that makes me feel at home. I love coming in here to read or talk on the phone, surrounded by a collection of things that have been through it all, survived U-Haul trips across the country and never made it to the Goodwill bag.
This is the room where Wes keeps his stuff, and the simple styling makes it possible for an Ikea clothes rack and a framed photo of the first president of the USA work. Note that these were not my first-choice accessories, but I'm learning to compromise...