And I’m getting older, too…*

*Lyrics from Stevie NicksLandslide. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain this one.

This year it seems like everyone is rushing to ‘hurry up and get Thanksgiving over with’ so they can get on with the ‘real’ holiday. I mean, from stores opening up ON Thanksgiving, to those stupid emails we all get trying to cram Christmas shopping specials down our throats, it feels like poor little Thanksgiving will be forgotten if we don’t hang on a bit tighter. I for one LOVE Thanksgiving – it is easily my most favorite holiday – and I am sad to see that it is starting to be usurped by commercial interests. Let’s all cling to this moment, and get a little grateful together, shall we?

Walking in nature, even manicured paths, is enough to produce a deep and satisfying gratitude.

Walking in nature, even manicured paths, is enough to produce deep and satisfying gratitude.

There was a challenge laid down that involved photographing and denoting one thing that I’m grateful for each day throughout November. I sort of did that, sometimes in a not so direct way, but I sort of do that all the time. I’m a pretty grateful person, even if I do tend toward the sad side of the spectrum. Gratitude comes as naturally as worry, which make for an interesting inner-stew that can sometimes burn sweet, salty tears of joy when things turn out well.

And, as this is an especially special month – not only is this the classic month for giving thanks, but it is also my birthday month – I thought I ought to illuminate my Top 40 Things I’m Grateful For (in no particular order):

1. My family. They are stupid, and weird, and wonderful, and mostly I don’t know how or who I’d be without them.
2. Nature. Many of my instagram snaps this month were nature-based, and for good reason.
3. Sunsets. An offshoot of my love of nature is my love of the way the sun changes the sky into an evolving painting for about a half-hour each evening. I could watch it every day.

You may tire of seeing semi-constant snaps of this vista, but I shall not. Sunsets everyday. Sunsets for life.

You may tire of seeing semi-constant snaps of this vista, but I shall not. Sunsets everyday. Sunsets for life.

4. Organization. I have the ability to be orderly, and that comes in handy. It is not a skill I inherited, but it is one that I have cultivated over the years, and happily so.
5. New York City. This city isn’t always easy. In fact, it usually isn’t. But, every now and again, being a part of it is magical. There is a huge pile of people who actually care about people, even if they say they don’t. It’s remarkable, and can bring on some salty tears of humanity.
6. Movies. I have watched movies for all of my life, and the joy they bring me, even when they are terrible, is deep.
7. Chocolate. This might seem like a cop-out, but seriously, if it weren’t for this magical product, and all the amazing things we’ve learned to do with it, I don’t know that I’d be as happy to be alive. Simple fact.
8. Photography. I love that we have the ability to easily record our day, to craft our particular emotional vision for that moment, and save it for the future. It makes life so much more romantic.
9. Music. It’s no secret that I’m a music fan. I even started using artists’ lyrics as my blog post titles as a way to set a soundtrack to my own life. Isn’t that the ultimate fantasy?

When I got to see the Local Natives show in September, I barely took any photos, yet I remember the concert as one of the best musical moments of my life.

When I got to see the Local Natives show in September, I barely took any photos, yet I remember the concert as one of the best musical moments of my life.

10. Color. I can’t live without it, just as I couldn’t live without music, and I’m grateful I don’t have to.
11. Wind Chimes. When we moved to our first house, my oldest friends in the world gifted us with a set of wind chimes that we took with us to The Pied when we moved here full-time. The delicate sound is so romantic, and so precious to me. It always reminds me of my friends, and I love that I have a piece of them in my home life.
12. Wine. I have developed a healthy (and at times mildly unhealthy) appreciation of this incredible product. The human knowledge in each bottle, combined with the craft, the gift that is the grape, the care that goes into creating each complex sip makes me grateful for the fellow humans of the earth that understood that we needed this in the world.
13. Art. I am lucky to count myself among the creatively inclined, and I am equally lucky to bear witness to other artists and their work.
14. Instafriends. More so than any other social media platform, Instagram has given me the greatest sense of community, and the gift of finding like-minded individuals to interact with.
15. Seasons. I love that I get to live in a place where the seasonal changes are vast. The sunsets move, the moon changes, the plant life evolves, the human life shifts, and we adapt as a group together. Makes me feel intensely connected to the earth, to those that share it with me, and I love that.

There is no sweeter beauty than spring after a harsh winter.

There is no sweeter beauty than spring after a harsh winter.

16. Baking. Now that we’re fully in cold-weather living I get to create seemingly living things from seemingly inanimate objects (flour, why you gotta just sit there, huh?). Nothing is as comforting as the scents that baking things can emit.
17. Cooking. I love to cook. I love to feel capable, and creative, and useful on a daily basis. Simple cooking, complicated cooking, fast cooking, group cooking, feast cooking, you name it, I love it.
18. Health. I am healthy. I have the odd routine kerfuffle, just like anyone, but I am in good health. I count my lucky stars that I have bounced back from each cold, flu, minor injury, root canal, emotional scrape, hangover, and doctor visit thus far. Not everyone is so lucky, and I know that.
19. Laughing. I have a funny family. We are always laughing (when we’re not crying, see below). My brother is extremely funny. My husband makes me laugh every day, several times a day. I am thankful I get to laugh, easily, always.

My younger sister hamming it up for the camera. This is standard fare in our family. We're not called the 'stupid weird family' for nothing.

My younger sister hamming it up for the camera. This is standard fare in our family. We’re not called the ‘stupid weird family’ for nothing.

20. Crying. No, this isn’t a mistake. I am grateful that I can cry. That I’m not ashamed to express my emotions, happy, sad, whatever. Tears can be healing (if we’re to believe wikipedia), and they can provide a proper vent to keep yourself from exploding. Sometimes crying sucks, but sometimes it’s the best thing. I know you know what I mean.
21. Good sheets. Now, I don’t know about you, but once I became an adult and graduated from polyester-blend sheets, my life improved. Again, simple fact.
22. My eyesight. I do not have perfect vision. I do not have the worst vision, but I can’t see distance clearly. This is going to sound weird, but I actually like it. I like the intimacy that it provides when I’m not wearing glasses/contacts, and the romantic bokeh effect my own vision creates. Sincerely, I’m grateful for it. (Google ‘bokeh effect’, and check out the images!)
23. My hands. I’m a good crafter, can draw reasonably well, and have developed pretty good dexterity over the years (hairdresser training taught me a lot). It’s handy. HEY-oh!

A little self-portrait I did in art school in 2009.

A little self-portrait I did in art school in 2009.

24. Lipstick. Ok, make-up, and beauty stuff in general. Stupid stuff that when used correctly can turn a crappy day into a romantic one. I know it’s superficial, but it’s true.
25. The printing press. One of the greatest and most democratic inventions that man has ever made is the machine built for equal dissemination of information. It’s seriously awesome.
26. Humans. Mostly we say things like, “I hate people” when someone does something thoughtless or careless, but we rarely notice all the thoughtful and careful things we do for each other all the time. The farmer who voluntarily dedicated his life to nourishing other people? The person who pursued art/music/dance as their profession for the sake of contributing to culture, even when it meant struggling to make ends meet? The person who held the door just a little longer to save you some effort? That kid who smiled at you for no reason at all? Thanks, humans.
27. Dogs. Since we no longer have a pup of our own, I have some serious puppy lust. I don’t get bonkers over babies (sorry, babies), but I do love me some sweet dog face. And nose. And wriggly tail. And dog breath. And slobber. I love it all.

Maggie, Jeff's mom's new pup, is too sweet for words.

Maggie, Jeff’s mom’s new pup, is too sweet for words.

28. Numbers. Without the ability to quantify things, and easily communicate that information, we’d be lost. Numbers make life better, no doubt about it.
29. Snow. The silence and insulation from noise that snow provides is so soothing to me. That feeling of aloneness, but not loneliness, of being surrounded by something delicate, yet powerful enough to render sound dampened… it’s pretty neat.
30. Private dance parties. You know when you’re cleaning the house, or doing laundry, or just messing around on your own, and you turn up the music and just go sweaty-nuts? Yeah. That.
31. Sadness. Without it, without knowing what is wrong, without feeling the worst, you could never feel the best, have the joy, or know what is right. Grateful.
32. The internet. Honestly, where would we be without it?
33. Jog bras. A better use of apparel technology I have yet to find.
34. Paint. I LOVE to paint. I love the feeling of paint on a brush, sweeping it across a surface, and mushing it around. One of the reasons I liked doing hair color, and one of the reasons you can always ask me to help you paint your place.
35. Sunshine. Not the same as sunsets, my gratitude here is for the life-giving warmth and vitamin D creating beams. My mood instantly improves with a direct hit, and I’m thankful when I get them.

Late October sunshine warmed my heart and soul.

Late October sunshine warmed my heart and soul.

36. Shoes. I’m not exactly a fashion diva. I don’t have many fancy clothes, and I almost never wear jewelry aside from my wedding band and some earrings. But, shoes. Yeah. Plus, who would want to go through life barefoot? Thanks, shoe makers.
37. Ibuprofen. This stuff has gotten me through some tough moments in the past few years (dental woes, mainly). I’m intensely grateful to live in a time when that kind of relief is available.
38. Mirrors. No, not so I can look at myself (though, they have certainly saved me from leaving the house in stained shirts, or kept me from being laughed at as I walk down the street with a pile of messy hair), but so that I can enjoy reflections of other things. Mirrors give a distanced vantage point that can really shift your perspective on things. Plus, they can help direct some of that much appreciated sunshine around in dark places, which makes them vital to my list.
39. Language. I’m a talker, writer, and generally a word-lover. Languages fascinate me, their variance, their ability to denote emotions and culture, to bridge us together or tear us apart.
40. Jeff. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for his love, for his faith in me, for his willingness to forgive my flaws, and to support my dreams. I wouldn’t know who I was if he hadn’t let me relax into myself. I wouldn’t be able to live in gratitude so easily without his presence in my world. Not unlike a proper Oscar acceptance speech, I saved him for last because he is the most important thing that I’m grateful for.

I am sharing this Thanksgiving with my actual birthday – a feat that I haven’t enjoyed since 2002 (I looked it up) – and I’m turning (gulp) 40. I’m not sure what this all means (probably nothing), or how my life will change from listing my gratitudes, but I encourage you to spend some time listing out yours. Not because you’re having a milestone birthday on a milestone holiday at a freak time in the collective calendar when millions will be celebrating life, miracles (Hannukah begins on my birthday), and giving thanks to each other, but because it feels good to look at your life through grateful eyes. Even if they be misty.

xoxo

Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room…*

*Lyrics reluctantly from a Taylor Swift song, Never Grow Up. Reason one: the younger of the two Project W kids, and the one who was most interested in the whole design process, LOVES her, or at least did the last I heard. Reason two: the song I really wanted to use was, well, a bit of a downer, and not at all representative of the beautiful and loving family that I was honored to work with. But, in my defense, the lyrics I was going to pick out from the rejected song (Jeff thought I should leave it out of the post entirely) were the (sweetly, sad, yet) positive bits: “Kid, have your say, ’cause I still love you, even if I don’t see you again.” So, instead I give you vapid tweenie-bop music. You may choose to listen as your mood dictates, but know that the second, deeper one by Neko Case is brutally beautiful, and will probably make you cry. (The first one might make your ears bleed. You have been warned.)

Now it’s time for another installment of Project W: The AFTER tour! When we last left off, we were sneaking around the master bedroom and bath, basking in the improved flow and potential for timeless style. Let’s move into the kids’ wing of the upper floor, shall we?

BEFORE: This space started out as a strange pass-through with a skylight and a spiral staircase. AFTER: This little corner will now become a reading nook, or a homework zone if the kids need some quiet space.

BEFORE: This space started out as a strange pass-through with a skylight and a spiral staircase. AFTER: This little corner will now become a reading nook, or a homework zone if the kids need some quiet space.

Just off the area where the spiral staircase used to be (we nixed it in an effort to gain more usable space in the kitchen), is the kids’ wing. It’s private, away from the parents’ master suite, and has its own family bathroom (still to be renovated). While the hallway boasts the same color as all of the transitional spaces in the home – foyer, mudroom, hallways, stairwell all in Toque White (early on my builder asked me to choose only Sherwin Williams colors) – the kids’ rooms depart from the main thrust of the home to reveal individual and personality-based spaces perfect for the rejuvenation of young minds.

read on…

Well you better be rich, or be real good at cookin’…*

*Lyrics from Lily Allen‘s Hard Out Here. This video is NSFW (and is controversial, so it would seem), but the message is pretty spot on. Anyway, I wanted to find something to listen to that would compliment this post, but instead I found something that made me want to persevere, challenge the status quo, and fight the good fight, which is just as important. Plus, it’s way catchy, and probably great to add to an exercise playlist. I always like a little ‘tough bitch’ music when I’m feeling less than that, don’t you? 

When we last left off, you saw the glorious living space that we carved out of practically nothing. Now, have a look at the kitchen/dining room.

When we last left off, you saw the glorious living space that we carved out of practically nothing. Now, have a look at the kitchen/dining room.

When we moved from the pied-à-terre to the pied-à-deux we brought our kitchen with us, like the good faux Italians we are. Our IKEA cabinets, countertop, and pendant lighting made the trek down one flight to become our new old kitchen. The only real difference between the two spaces is the color of the existing laminate countertops, and the age of the refrigerator (the old place had a brand new one, this one, not so much). We actually had the landlord move our stove down one flight, too, when we discovered (much to our chagrin) that the stove in The Deux was mostly not working (one out of four burners worked, and the oven didn’t heat up at all). Oh, and the other difference is that the upper floor unit had about 18″ more space in the dining area.

BEFORE: The prior tenants' paint choices and furniture layout just wasn't for us. AFTER: All new fresh paint, layout, and lighting make these spaces function for us.

BEFORE: The prior tenants’ paint choices and furniture layout just weren’t for us. AFTER: All new fresh paint, layout, and lighting make these spaces function for us.

read on…

You’ve got to give it what you got now…*

*Lyrics from Mean Streets by Tennis from their new EP Small Sounds. It’s no secret that I love this band, but this mini album is excellent. I dare you not to get this song in your head for several happy days.

I know you’re all still geeking out over the amazing, awesome, inspiring transformations from the One Room Challenge, but do you remember me teasing that I’d soon have pictures to share from my clients’ Project W house? Well, first room, here you go. This is a major BEFORE & AFTER post. Get ready.

BEFORE: Some serious alterations needed to be made. AFTER: A more architecturally appropriate bathroom emerged.

BEFORE: Some serious alterations needed to be made. AFTER: A more architecturally appropriate bathroom emerged.

It seems like so long ago that I first met with my clients on Project W, and first glimpsed at their terrible, wonderful, overwhelmingly dated raw material of a house that was to become their dream home. It seems like another life ago, not only because so much time has passed (and so much has happened), but because their home has completely transformed. You know those makeover shows where people don’t recognize a loved one, or think they’re in someone else’s home? Yeah, their house is kind of like that.

BEFORE: You had to walk underneath that eave to get into the master bathroom. AFTER: We repositioned the entrance to the bathroom, converted the awkward former entry into a large closet, while maintaining a period-appropriate vibe.

BEFORE: You had to walk underneath that eave to get into the master bathroom. AFTER: We repositioned the entrance to the bathroom, converted the awkward former entry into a large closet, while maintaining a period-appropriate vibe.

read on…

Oh how the ghost of you clings, clings, clings…*

*Lyrics from These Foolish Things as sung by Sam Cooke. I heard this song on my Pandora station (Ella Fitzgerald, et al) the other week while cooking, and jotted it down for the blog. When I went searching for a song for this post, this one matched what I was writing about regarding color palettes. Things happen, and they remind us of other things, and these (foolish) things can get permanently emotionally attached to colors. Well, anyway, read on, play on.

Our former home’s palette – smokey lavender, gray, sand, white, and marine blue – was inspired by the landscaping that we put in, and our desire to connect the interior to the ‘Nantucket’ style of the exterior architecture.

For many moons I’ve believed that the most beautiful and cohesive homes have a unified paint palette. Now, this is not to say that each room must match, or be party to a theme per say (ok, in fact, no themes at all, please – stick to moods), but that the spaces that open onto one another should have harmony, and should relate to one another in some way, so that when you move through the home you feel at ease. For me it’s easiest to approach this idea by beginning the design process by choosing a palette that is connected, and brings together the emotional feeling of the entire home – the people, the architecture, the furnishings, the mood that we want to evoke, the emotions that we have about colors (and saturation levels of colors) – and sticking to it.

read on…

Take me out of this place I’m in…*

*Lyrics from Human by Daughter off their album If You Leave. I found this on spotify (naturally) and really enjoyed their acoustic “spotify session’s” version. I recommend you check it out before you hear their original album version. The song felt appropriate for my first substantive post in a while. After all, we’re all just human, underneath it all.

I know. I know! It’s been a long, LONG time since we moved in. Since I shared anything relevant to design. I know. Let me make it up to you?

Welcome home.

So, here it is, the Pied-à-Deux: our tiny, sweet, tiny, small, cozy, small, bitty, efficient, annoyingly small living room. And it’s our entryway, and our closet, and my office, and our guest room, and part of our bedroom in that the TV sits on a dresser 2/3 full of our clothing. It’s small. It’s been tough to cope with how small it is, but we really tried to make it as beautiful and practical as possible. And we do like it very much.

BEFORE (left): Former tenant’s furniture layout didn’t feel as useful to us. AFTER (right): We reoriented the sofa/TV layout to allow for easier access to the niches.

read on…

You’re the only reason I keep on coming home…*

*Lyrics from Sweet Pea as sung by Amos Lee of his album called Supply and Demand. I recall hearing this at the end of a movie, but can’t find any proof that that actually happened (seriously, I looked – I might have imagined it). Either way, it’s a sweet little song for a sweet little moment in my blog’s life.

Inspiration point: the design I did for my niece's desk gave us a direction to go in for the website design.

Inspiration point: the design I did for my niece’s desk gave us a direction to go in for the website design.

So, this has been a long time coming. Like, we’ve been working on ideas for this since last last January. January of 2012. Perhaps even longer, I can’t really recall. (I’ve been pinning inspirations and ideas to my color pinboard for years.) In July, we actually set aside some time to work up some (more) designs, and to try out some (more) ideas (turns out I’m hard to please – go figure!). But, life, work, and family obligations took over, and well, it didn’t seem as important as all of that other stuff. Even if it was important.

Anywho, I have a designed site! With a husband who is a talented web designer/technology geek person (don’t ask me what he does, it involves things that look like words, but are color-coded, and arranged in sequential tab-like indentations – whatever, it’s computer stuff), it’s hard to believe that we both allowed my site to look as stock and boring as it did for so long. But, well, his company’s site – an actual business, and not just a hobby – took him and his business partner over a year to design and build (and they’re still fiddling with it), so I shouldn’t really complain. And that was really top priority. Along with the normal workload that keeps my business-owning husband busy most of the year. So, the old adage has been proven true: the cobbler’s children really don’t have any shoes. Unless they wait and save up and then they get the shoes they’ve been wanting for years (provided, of course, that they still have feet to put them on).

Changes: the site is prettier (obvs), the site should be better organized with sections for recipes, portfolio features, and the music quotes that I use as inspiration are now listed for you to explore and devour. (Note: I’m still working on cataloguing past posts, and sorting through years of content. Bear with me if sections aren’t quite ready yet – we wanted to launch the beauty as soon as we could!) Food, music, pretty stuff – what more could you want? Keep in mind that some of the content will take me a bit to wrangle and reorganize, but the basics are there, so hopefully it’ll be a nicer experience for everyone.

Do let me know if there are any issues/problems that you find. My husband may have made time to design and build this (sometimes working through the night while I lay sleeping by his side), but he may not have made time to QA (er, that’s quality assurance to you non-computer-lingo peeps) the entire site for every scenario. He saves that stuff for his paying clients. I hope this will make your reading experience more enjoyable, and hopefully it will entice me to blog more frequently.

Man, remember when blog was a noun, and not a verb?

xoxo

People, get ready…*

*Lyrics from People Get Ready as sung by Eva Cassidy. I don’t think I need to explain why this song works here. Well, except that there is a double meaning this week – working on a blog redesign and some exciting new content. So, get ready. Twice.


Photo via instagram (afirepoleinthediningroom).

You don’t need no ticket, you just get on board. And, ok, so you need a TV, and possibly a cable subscription. But, tonight, Heather and Aaron of A Fire Pole in the Dining Room are going to be on HGTV’s House Hunters! Cool people, a drinking game, and a fun behind the scenes look at finding the perfect home on TV makes for a fun evening of entertainment. Or, at least a half hour’s worth.

Check it out, or just check out their blog. You know, if you like original thinkers, creative spaces, and mixing modern with vintage, and clean with character-laden craft.

Congratulations on your big debut, kids!

xoxo

I need to find a paradise for me…*

*Lyrics from Heaven For The Sinner by Bonobo featuring Erykah Badu. I felt like lounge music was appropriate for this post (about our outdoor lounge space), and this song is really cool sounding. Their latest album was released in March, but I was otherwise occupied at that time, so I missed it. Until now. I enjoy a good chill album from time to time, and this one is really nice. Have a listen, and find your own vision of paradise.

The roof at night is glamorously romantic thanks to inherited globe string lights.

At the start of the summer I had high hopes for our little roof deck. And by ‘little’ I mean larger than our entire apartment. We’ve estimated that the roof terrace is about 520 sf which is an unheard of luxury for a rental apartment (let alone a non-rental one). But, it’s not flat (like, at all) and it’s hampered by logistical issues – no water source (and pitiful building water pressure), small hallways in the building inhibiting bringing up any sizeable furnishings or grillware, troubling structural questions that prohibit us from putting any large pots or plants anywhere (we just don’t know if the roof could take it). So, we’ve made do with what we could do, and are doing without where we just can’t solve the issue.

When I last showed you the space we’d managed to get a pair of sofas, inherited a couple of teak lounge chairs, as well a couple of plastic IKEA chairs for dining. Since then, we’ve added a rug (IKEA, and not a proper outdoor one, but it’s polypropelene, so we figured it was good enough), a small dining table (IKEA), and a tree stump coffee table (a HomeGoods find that Jeff and I debated about for an hour before caving, and we are so happy we did, even though it’s not properly weather resistant). We couldn’t figure out pillows dedicated for just the outdoor space (and we don’t really have enough storage for extra anything) so we just bring out our indoor pillows when we want to use the space.

Welcome home.

read on…

When they walked in the room we didn’t know what to do…*

*Lyrics from another song, Givin’ Em What They Love, from Janelle Monáe‘s new album The Electric Lady (deluxe album via Target, regular iTunes album here). This song features Prince, and is one of those songs I’m sure could turn into a 20 minute set at a concert. At least I hope. Great song, great album, great way to usher us across that early September doldrum into autumnal sexiness. Perfect for a post about our bed, right? Too much information?

Some pressure treated posts cut into pieces were the best, cheapest solution for much needed under-bed storage.

While we may not have a full-on bedroom at The Pied – what we have is technically a ‘sleeping area’ since there is no closet, no door, no window, no means of escape – we do have enough space for a queen sized bed. I should say mattress, not bed. Even though we were lucky enough to carve out enough room for a dresser, some shelves, a mattress, and side tables, we can’t exactly devote any more space to the extra inches that a true bed frame would need. The mattress on the floor option was the cheapest bed solution, but the dramatically unlevel floors (I would roll toward the edge of the bed during the night, often waking gripping the side of the mattress for stability), combined with our need to have more options for under-the-bed storage made it necessary for us to think about getting yet another this’ll-do-for-now bed. The simplest (read: next cheapest) solution we could think up involved a split box spring, some form of risers, and a whole lot of screws.

read on…

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