Thursday, August 31, 2006

The #1 Decorating Solution For Renters and Other Transients

I have a small spot in my heart for renters. It’s not as big as the spot for Schnapps bears, but one look at that link and it’s obvious why. But I really do sympathize with the plights of renters these days.

First of all, they have to constantly fear that a developer will come in to their building, then convert it in to $500,000+ condos, forcing them in to a seedier part of town. Until the forces of gentrification invade that neighborhood, and so on, until those who can’t afford to buy will be relegated to the Delaware River.

But some renters also have to put up with landlords who won’t allow one speck of color on the walls, producing depressing off-white rooms that marginalize your existence even further. One minute, you feel like a sassy grown-up, the next, you’re looking at the lone pathetic art reproduction poster illuminated by a torchier lamp and wondering what went wrong.

So I was excited when I saw the wall clings, discussed in the previous entry. But once I saw the gentrification-like price of those scraps of vinyl, I got angry. And while I may not be able to fight market forces, I can offer you a solution for your bare walls.

Look at the above left photo (of my office, as indicated by the coffee table books and rotary phone). You’re thinking “Well that sure is a busy wallpaper pattern. Did she steal that from the set of the Mary Tyler Moore show?”

But you're wrong. It's not wallpaper; it's $12 worth of fabric from the local crafts store, with a short length of pom-pom fringe. Underneath all of that color, is roughly 3-4 rolls of double-stick heavy-duty wall mounting tape. Put these items together, rope off about 3 hours of your evening, and your wall can also be enhanced by a little no-damage very cheap faux upholstery. (exhale)

I recommend applying the tape in three foot squares. Place the short end of the fabric length on the horizontal axis of the wall, pressing hard to make sure you get it nice and stuck to the tape. Proceed across the wall. Cover up any unsightly seams with fringe, or ribbon (this is why I advocate working horizontally). Try to use a fabric with a slight stretch to it- here I used a sort of lightweight flannel. The whole project set me back maybe $30. That price won't even get you a packet of wall clings.

NOTE: Obviously...applying zingy fabrics to the wall makes your entire room 10 times more flammable. Be careful with your novelty candles.

Dorm Residents: This is the perfect way to tone down the industrial, soviet bloc-style room you live in. It's also easily removable with a strong tug, in case the pesky RA enters.

Temporary Wall Decor

Available exclusively online through the Philadelphia-based company Urban Outfitters, the Blick Wall Sticks are temporary decals that you can apply to your walls for a small dose of movable cheer. Finally, a retailer extends the d├ęcor offerings for college students beyond butterfly chairs, scratchy x-long sheets and $20 milk crate containers.

These also are great for renters with particularly restrictive landlords (sidenote: forcing your inhabitants to live in rooms devoid of any color should be regarded as tenant abuse, in my opinion).

Do I think the wall graphics are a great idea? Yes. But I do have my reservations. First of all, the price point, at $38, is a bit high for essentially a piece of vinyl (this isn’t the highest price either- Target offers a similar package, but for $58). Fancy, but still cut vinyl. They also don’t offer you enough for your money—in order to make an effective design statement with these, you’d have to buy multiple packs.

I do have a much better solution, specifically for renters. The tips will be posted tonight at 10:30 p.m. (EST).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Re-live the School Field Trip Experience This Weekend

Labor Day weekend is so overrated, isn't it? The traffic, the crack of dawn slog to the beach/park/whatever and (at least this weekend), the threat of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ernesto ruining everything.

It's enough to make you want to stay in town.

And you should, because this weekend the East Falls Glassworks (3510 Scotts Lane) will be having a studio open-house. You can see all sorts of fancy glass-blowing techniques, and if the website is any indication, you may be able to see someone make a glass kite or novelty pig-shaped cup. Or you can just settle for a fancy bowl, left.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Letter-Shaped Letterbox, How Modernistic.

For those of you who own your home, live in a more suburban area, or are always looking for new ways to one-up the neighbors, mailboxes can be a particular source of frustration.

Like ceiling fans, mailboxes are an under-served market in this ever-expanding design world. It's confusing as to why there is such a limited selection, because a mailbox is one of the most public display of one's personal taste. A carefully chosen mailbox can turn a non-descript home in to a landmark.

For example, on a former work commute, I'd pass a property that had a horse-shaped mailbox blazenly jutting in to the street. The horse faced the home, with its rear end pointing towards the street, forcing the mail carrier to place one's junk mail, catalogues and bills, right in to the rear end. The memory of this mailbox is burned in to my consciousness.

I'm not advising anyone to buy a horse-shaped mailbox (unless that's an interest of your own), but I do think we should all pay more attention to the objects attached to our homes.

Above, is a great way to make a tasteful personal statement with a mailbox. It's the No. 10 Letterbox, available at the AIA Bookstore (117 S. 17th); if you're an online shopper, select "gifts" then look under "home accents." I'm so far divorced from the mailbox economy that I'm not sure if $100 is pricey or not. But considering that a mailbox is a year-round design statement that's semi-permanently attached to one's home, then I advocate spending a bit more for something memorable.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Investment Chaise

Behold the $8,000+ chaise lounge.

If you have that sort of cash, then head over to the Baker Knapp & Tubbs showroom at the Philadelphia Marketplace Design Center (2400 Market St). Remember to bring your designer, as only licensed professionals can purchase from there.

However, you can indulge your fantasies by browsing during consumer hours (by reservation, I believe), or by heading over to the Baker website. I'm a big fan of Baker's wares, for offering luxurious contemporary interpretations of classic designs. The curved lines of this particular piece look very up-to-date, but the chaise is based on a Neoclassical era design. Overall, Baker's offerings are a very refreshing antidote for modern/mid-century overload.

Try juxaposing the classic pieces with these very neat mosaic tiles, available in Short Hills, NJ (amongst other places).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Make Your Furniture Work Harder, Even When You're Not

Behold the official Leisure Table. Okay, that is not its real name. This is actually the Usame side table by Kartell from minima (118 N. 3rd).

I call it the Leisure Table because it would be perfect for coffee-and-magazine time, which officially occurs between 7 and 10 p.m. just in case you didn't know. Adjust your schedule accordingly.

Meant to be used as a side table, bed tray or accent piece, Usame resists stains while adding much needed color or subtle femininity (Art Deco inspired flowers are etched in to its surface). Magazines fit in to a cut out compartment, and coffee...well that can go anywhere. No coasters necessary.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Your Bed Also Counts As Furniture

Looking for a new bed? Head to Princeton. It's nearly enough to make you wish that you still lived in a studio apartment, if only so more people could see this fabulous piece of furniture.

Actually, nothing is enough to make one wish they lived in a studio apartment. But you catch my drift.

Fighting the Dust Tax

I usually associate the term "Vintage" with "Even Though This Item Is Cracked, Dusty and Pretty Much Useless, I Have Tacked On An Extra Fee." For ease, I'll call it the "Dust Tax."

But I'll abandon my cynical principles when it comes to exquisite, hand-made objects that just aren't available today. For instance, I will happily term this owl bell (above, left) from Philadelphia-based online retailer Plaid City Village as an appropriate vintage item. You just can't find a good owl-shaped bell these days. Especially one that's been to Florida.

The doorway textile (bottom, left) from Ruka (114 S. 19th) is also appropriate vintage. Hand-embroidered peacocks grace the textile, meant to hang in your doorway or window. I think it would work better in an often neglected doorway, unless yours is frightfully low or you live amongst giants. This would also work well with two of the biggest trends for autumn, jewel colors and decorating accents that are, or appear to be, hand-made.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Fire Pit: Cheap, Fabulous and Endorsed by Billy Idol

After seeing photos of the Jonathan Adler-decorated Parker Palm Springs hotel, I've spent the past week trying to find an indoor fire pit (like the one in the lobby) available for consumer installation. And guess what? I couldn't find any.

Perhaps installing an indoor fire pit is a very bad idea, especially when you consider that most people have small rooms, or live in condos, or have low ceiling heights. There would definitely be an uncontrollable fire situation that your insurance company would frown upon. So forgive my sizable lapse in judgement.

However, you can get a very good deal on an outdoor firepit. An outdoor firepit is a great investment, because it's portable, it can be used year-round, and doesn't require much upkeep. Smith & Hawken (The Court at King of Prussia), Target and the Home Depot still have a few portable firepits left online and in-store. You can also safely and comfortably toast marshmallows over the flame. Isn't it always nice when you can find multiple uses for an object?

You can also customize your outdoor firepit using these crystal-like fire pit filler glass from online source Moderustic. The site, while a bit cluttered, offers a dazzling array of colors. Unlike most glass products, the crystals are certified not to leap out as soon as they touch fire. There's also handy photos, just in case you can't decide between Light or Medium Amber. No matter what you choose, these crystals are like adding a tiny touch of Vegas to your firepit.

And look, even Billy Idol endorses the fire place crystals. That's a seal of approval just as good as Martha Stewart's or Oprah's.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Trend: Rugs Inspired by Crewel work

Anthropologie is putting the final nail in the all-white shabby-chic coffin with a collection of jewel toned rugs inspired by crewel work. The rugs, such as the Anatolian Crewel Rug (left), use graphic patterns and saturated color, but with an overall medieval feel. These would be equally at home in a modern room, or would look fabulous with dark antique furniture. Sort of reminds me of last fall's Dolce and Gabbana collection, with the folkloric appliques. Unfortunately, the wool fibers and dark color scheme would turn your dog's fur in to an unwitting accessory, but that's an easy to solve problem. Just put the dog in a less stylish room.
Bring Out the Champagne...

It's an eventful week here at Domestically Inclined. A lovely mention in domino magazine, and the grand debut of Domestically Inclined-New Jersey. The content is similar (includes both well-known and local sources), only the territory is much larger. It's a big assignment, but we've got plenty of time.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Politically Correct Tortoise Accessories...

Love the look of tortoise shell but a.) are uncomfortable with just exactly HOW people get tortoise shells, or b.) don't wear glasses or hair barettes, the only two things that seem to be made from real or fake tortoise shell?

Then these tumblers, available through west elm (1330 Chestnut; Nassau Park Pavilion, Princeton), should do the trick. Made from a tortoise-friendly glass, these tumblers add an elegant and exotic touch to your tablescape. Co-ordinate these with wood serving pieces, or juxtapose with white china and table linens. They're the perfect transition pieces for late summer-fall.
The Sophisticated Way to Store Your Loose Change...

The problem: You want a beautiful, classical marble bust of a famous historical figure, but you don't have the money for one. And there aren't any Marble Bust Stores nearby.

The solution: The Ben Franklin Bust/Bank. This is a very ingenious way to address the Marble Bust absence in your life. Not only is this a steal at $40, but the solemn face of Ben Franklin (and the coin deposit on his head) also encourages you to save your money, since it doubles as a bank. You can also carry it home from the Franklin Institute with ease, since it is made of lightweight materials. You can purchase it through the Franklin Institute Store, here.

You can keep it simple, and display as you would a normal classical bust (dramatically lit from above, perhaps on a pedestal of some sort), or you can casually place it in the bathroom.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bachelor Chic, Re-Interpreted

When my good friend Chris moved in to his first apartment, he inherited a lot of furniture from his friends and family. Especially from his old man bachelor uncle Kevin. He was--and might be still--a "confirmed bachelor" and a "skirt chaser." He wears blazers with embroidered, customized crests. He's in his 60's and lives life to its absolute fullest, and I'd like to think that he rides around town, leering, while on a Vespa.

This fabulous creature gave Chris a ton of his bachelor-chic furniture: tall bookcases (cause the ladies' love a man who reads), a king-sized headboard with built-in lighting (do I even need to say anything?) and of course, the ultimate bachelor sofa. It's, of course, bachelor-chic by way of the 60's, so it's a tufted, glazed leather with burnished brass upholstery tacks.

There are plenty sofas that fit the above description, but current ones lack the cushy overscaled dimensions of the old bachelor sofa. And usually, as is the case with contemporary sofas, you end up paying for design, instead of comfort. There seems to be no middle ground.

But a close ringer to the spirit of this sofa is the Chesterfield Couch from Dwelling (4050 Main St.). It's bachelor chic interpreted, overscaled and sumptuous, but with a lighter fabric. Would look equally right with a shaggy carpet, or a serious art collection.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Your House Isn't a Home Unless You Have a Conversation Piece

So the other day, I was browsing the online collection of Architectural Antiques, when I stumbled upon this curious item (at left). I had absolutely no idea what its purpose was, but it appeared to be extraordinarily life-enhancing.

It turns out that this lovingly carved wooden bear is not only a professional life-enhancer, but is also a very serious Schnapps set. I'm not sure how much it is, but if you are in the market for a Schnapps bear, then money is probably no object in your pursuit of this rarified work of art.

Most homes are in dire need of items like these. These less-functional, lovingly crafted objects used to be called 'conversation pieces.' You know, whimsical shaped ashtrays, lamps shaped like a lady's leg, that sort of thing. Sure, possessing a chandelier made of novelty shot glasses won't get you on the cover of Architectural Digest, but it will banish awkward small talk from your parties. Short on conversation? Not so current in your knowledge of current events? Then move your Schnapps bear to the center of the room and watch your guests perk up (as is the case when liquor and carved bears are involved).

Just one small touch of whimsy is all you need to rescue your decor from the Blah Beige Syndrome (everything being so tasteful and correct that you no longer notice anything). You don't need to go so far as the Schnapps bear, but you can easily hang a more creative chandelier and not lose any style points. If your budget allows, go off to the splendidly named bahdeebahdu gallery (309 Cherry St) for the theatrical light sculptures. Site permission is needed to post photos, so you'll just have to see for yourself.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The prescription for a depressing bathroom...

Okay, so you suspect you have a depressing bathroom. I use the term 'suspect' because one can never be too sure of the outlook of an inanimate object. But you just may be depressing yourself and unsuspecting guests, with a regrettable bathroom.

Decor-wise, bathrooms tend to be ignored, even though they're the most visited room in your house when you entertain. In other rooms, you work extra hard to create an inviting environment where people will happily forget where they are. A bathroom, on the other hand, is a constant, usually jarring, jolt back to reality.

In most cases, bathroom depression can be so severe that displaying baskets of even the nicest soaps from Town Home won't be enough to overcome the problem. But you can:

Fix the Lighting: Flourescent lighting is the sartorial equivalent to assaulting your guests. When one gazes at their reflection while under the greenish-hued glow, the party is over for them. You can completely undermine one's confidence with a single flip of the switch. If you own your home, invest in recessed lighting, taking care not to install canisters directly over one's head (such as the center standing area over the sink). Renters (or the installation-phobic) can use indirect sconce lighting for a similarly flattering effect.

Paint the Walls: While a good, bold color can capture my heart, bathrooms really do look better with a low-key color. The most flattering bathroom color I've seen is a buttercream yellow hue- the golden tones enhance skintone while brightening the room.

Invest in a Better Bathtub: And perhaps a sink. But the bathtub tends to be the pivotal piece in a bathroom. You will endlessly impress others with a well-chosen bathtub, since most are, at best, very dreary utilitarian pieces. And you know what you can do with a lovely looking bathtub (like the Savoy from Waterworks)? Fill it with ice and create a mini-bar. It's a batty idea, but doesn't it seem fun? You wouldn't want to do that with most vinyl/chipped ceramic bathtubs.

But if it's not in your budget, a thorough cleaning, a new shower curtain and new hardware can do a world of good.

The big decor retailers in the city- west elm, Williams-Sonoma, Macy's, Ikea- are a good start for bathroom accessories, though the more serious should head directly to Waterworks (1525 Walnut). Their business focuses on bathrooms, so you'll find a good selection of tubs, sinks and hardware.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Giant Clocks for Giant Walls...

The average ceiling height in new construction homes (including condos) is rising. People want the illusion of space that tall walls create, but at the same time, are also frightened at the thought of living with them. Sometimes I think that people only look for high ceilings so they can buy giant christmas trees, but that's another story.

We've talked about using light and paint on big walls in order to get rid of the 'new construction' feeling. But accessories of proper scale are equally important. For example, there is nothing sadder than a massive wall with a normal sized (less than 1' foot diameter) clock. Big wall+Tiny Clock= Depressing apartment.

Twist Home (1134 Pine St) sells a variety of vintage European clock tower faces. They're real vintage, too- all manufactured between 1910-1920's. Though the prices seem high (starting at $2,400), I think you're getting a bargain when you consider the provenance. They'll also work in a smaller apartment, as you can see from the site's photos.