Tag Archives: home decor

Apartment Tour – The Living Room

The first room you enter in my apartment is the living room. There’s a little foyer area first, but the double archway makes you feel as if you enter right into the living space. Here’s the view as you walk in the front door*:

*Same as last time, links take you to close-up of images or to item in the store

I do love my living room. Despite some faults (sloping floor, only window is in the corner), it’s a good-sized space.

A look to the right:

A few friends have commented that my living room looks like it was art directed. That’s what 10 years of HGTV, movie sets, and an addiction to Domino Magazine (RIP) does to a girl.

Audrey Hepburn canvas print was a gift from my grandmother (Ikea, $50 No more Audrey, but they have Garbo!). Light over picture is also from Ikea ($4). Couch is Pottery Barn ($1100 with a discount). Yes, pricey, but after two Ikea couches that arrived with smashed wood frames, it was time to upgrade. The PB Comfort line lives up to its name and beyond. Fun fact: Pottery Barn couches are manufactured by the same company as the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofa. Essentially, you’re getting the same quality couch for about half the price. Mirror is a hand-me-down from my sister (Ikea, $99). Throw pillows on my couch were pilfered from my parent’s basement, but solid blue velveteen pillow covers from Pottery Barn (sale, $10 ea). Patterned blue silk pillows Tracy Porter (I stalked them for a year till they went on sale from $150 ea to $35 ea). Rug is also Pottery Barn ($250, but got it on sale for $195). I had this rug in blue first, but it shed unbelievably. This one is a chenille and jute mix, so it’s flat enough for the wheels on my ottoman, but comfortable enough for floor seating and does not shed.

Opposite the couch is my TV area/cookbook shelves and my Christmas tree(!):

Vizio TV is from Costco ($200!!), as is Sony DVD/VHS player left over from my days at the Rachael Ray Show (free with work reimbursement). Roku (little black box) is most genius invention ever ($50). Black storage shelving thing is actually an Ikea bookcase turned on its side ($70). Here are a few close up shots of the items on the shelves. Pottery on shelves is from Jonathan Adler’s Utopia collection, all gifted from friends and family. I love J.A.

Reverse view:

Chair is from Ikea ($349) but I scored it at a set sale for $100 and bought the white slipcover for it (Ikea, $29). Pillow on chair is from Home Goods ($12). Photos on wall are from my travels. Frames are Ikea. Here’s a close up of the pictures. I’m slightly obsessed with my ottoman/coffee table. I spent four years searching for the perfect one. In New York, you never know if your next apartment will be bigger or smaller, so all the furniture I own was bought with the thought it might one day need to perform double duty as something else, or it was snagged from my parent’s basement where it could easily be returned. The ottoman doubles as a coffee table, additional seating and storage. Apart from the couch, it’s the most expensive purchase in my apartment. It’s a custom piece from Ballard Designs ($420, with coupon). It took me a year to work up the courage to spend that much money on something design-related, but it was worth every penny. Watch how beautifully it closes! I told you, obsessed! The chandelier is also from Pottery Barn ($275, with friends & family discount). Another purchase that took me a year. It also took me three hours to screw all of those crystals in each arm. In the end, I think the chandelier makes the room.

This is my primary workspace. My parents brought home this desk from an estate sale when I was 11 years old. They bought it for my sister’s room, but I had my eye on it from day one and was determined to make it mine. When they were striping and painting it, they came across a folded piece of paper, it was a limerick about the desk from “Herman the Poet.” We, of course, saved the poem.

The only thing I did to this desk was swap out the drawer pulls on the three drawers (not pictured) with glass ones from Anthropologie ($12, ea). I don’t recommend the ones I purchased if you have drawers that stick, as they break easily. I scored the mirror from the “It’s Complicated” set sale ($40, incredibly heavy to haul back from Brooklyn). Candles from Aedes De Venustas (stupidly expensive habit; $60 ea — but cheaper & less harmful than cocaine!); “Writing” postcard is from John Derian ($1.50); wooden hand (Lee’s Art Shop, $5) The hand holds one of my favorite quotes, from the film director Sally Potter: “Every long journey starts with a practical step.” So true, Sally, so true. Oh, and the Stephen Sondheim autograph = free (but PRICELESS!) as is the framed index card from Lynda Barry. Not pictured here: Ergonomic chair from situpstraightforcheap.com or something ($120).

As you see from my desk and under TV shelf area, I like to create little tableaux whenever possible. It’s hard to do in a small space, but wherever I can group things together in a nice or surprising way, I do. One example is on the other side of my couch at the base of the full-length mirror:

I originally intended for the birdcage (Etsy, $40) to be turned upside down and used to cover an ugly light fixture in my bathroom, but it might hang a little low in there, so I placed it here for now. The soft jute basket (West Elm, $39) holds my collect of Domino magazines and some plays. I placed the framed vintage program (free, from the Maysles!) from the Paris Theatre premiere of Grey Gardens back in 1976. It felt fitting to pair with the birdcage. By the way, it took two years to find the exact soft jute basket I wanted. Two years. I am aware of my craziness. Blue throw blanket on sofa is from Pottery Barn (discontinued; was on sale, softest blanket ever, $25).

Lastly, I’ll take you back to the corner where the couch and chair meet and cuddle up to my end table. Another find in my parent’s basement (free!). It was originally red, but I painted over it with a flat black. I don’t recommend flat black paint. It attracts every speck of dust in the room. The lamp base is from Target (on clearance for $11!) and I scored the Restoration Hardware silk lampshade from the “Lipstick Jungle” set sale for $15. The wooden frame (free) is the companion piece to my “It’s Complicated” mirror, also from the set sale. Message in the frame is priceless & hilarious. Close up pic here. And yes, it’s from that Meryl.

This room was put together over the course of six years. The only item I paid full price for was my Ikea shelving. Oh, and a filing cabinet from Target, which isn’t pictured (on sale for $110). If you’re in need of decor guidance, here are some tips to making your place look “art directed”:

  • If you’re low on cash but want to pull a room together, start with your parent’s basement and some paint
  • Stick with neutral colors (I chose white & black) then pull in a rug, pillow covers, and a throw in a color. These items can be easily swapped out, so there isn’t too much of a color commitment
  • With neutral colors, it’s important to remember to layer textures for added dimension
  • Candles are cheap (just not mine) and help set a cozy mood and add a nice glow
  • Books make a room feel homey and lived-in. Color code them for added dimension and design humor
  • Dimmers for lights are super cheap (I got mine for $10) and they completely change the look of room or can tone down a bad paint job/color
  • Frames are also inexpensive. Take your own photographs, if you don’t think you’re good, grab something you like off of Flickr and blow it up for about $4/print. In my hallway I have a framed cover from French Vogue that I’ve hung in every place I’ve lived since Junior year of college. Ironically, I recently read an interview with photographer Bruce Weber, who, when asked if he could own any photograph in the world what would he own, described that same image, but couldn’t recall where he had seen it (the answer hangs on my wall!)
  • Rip pictures out of magazines; frame and hang them artfully on your walls. For added interest, swap them out with when the seasons change
  • Create little tableaux
  • get basics from Ikea
  • Re-cover hand-me-downs
  • If you have a lot of stuff, keep it neat. Throw extra cords and office supplies in color-coded or front-labeled boxes
  • DON’T: display layers of pictures or tack things directly to the wall. It’s, uh, tacky
  • Lastly, WAIT. If you can’t find it right away or can’t afford it right away, wait until you find the right thing or the price drops. Patience is everything.

P.S. If you have a challenge in the room, like I do with my corner window, find the positive in it and work with that. I needed light. My window (sort of) provides me with some light, but I look almost directly into my neighbor’s living room and a corner window is just so awful. I bought the paper shade at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $30. It diffuses the light and is thick enough that I can’t see my neighbors. I also hung two thin, white panel curtains I first saw in Domino Magazine used to remedy a similar problem (from Ikea, $16 for set of 2) to finish the look & draw your eye up to the height of the room. I left the curtain bottoms un-hemmed, they hide my computer cord, power strip, and modem behind the billowing bottoms.

The apartment tour will conclude on Tuesday with the bathroom and bedroom. Stay tuned!

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Let the Dominos Fall Where They May

New York is always full of surprises. Sometimes it feels as if the city conspires to create encounters that outwardly look like chance, but are truly fated. I was supposed to do a million other things this Saturday morning: go to my out-of-town dentist to get “crowned;” leave the city early to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day; sleep. All plans were put on hold when I read this piece in theTimes. As a seriously devoted (from issue 1) Domino magazine reader, I was game for an early wake up call and a morning of standing in line. My design-savvy Brooklyn friend and her theatrical set designer-friend were also up for a Saturday morning tag sale. As the Downtown resident, I was enlisted to report to the location on w. 9th street at 8:30a the next morning.

I arrived at the sale at 9 (come on, it’s the WEEKEND!), the line wasn’t too bad and, as domino-magazine[1]it edged closer to 10a, I kept checking the growing queue of people behind me looking for my Brooklyn friends. It was then that I recognized a face in the crowd. Someone I’d exchanged emails with in hopes of collaborating on a book project. We’d never met, but a few days prior, I had had a conversation about them with my mom, bemoaning the fact that, no matter how great email is, there’s nothing like meeting someone in person to talk business, especially if they don’t know you. There’s simply a connection you need to have face-to-face that email cannot offer. My mom is of the school of  “persistence = results.” She thought I wasn’t being persistent enough, which, I tend to agree with, but there’s a fine line between persistence and stalkerdom. I ended the conversation by telling my mom I thought I would just somehow run into them. “Ok, so your plan is to just run into them on the island of Manhattan, an island populated by over a million people?” she asked. Yup, that was the general idea. My mom sighed and hung up the phone, but not before repeating her most favorite mantra to me, “Stop standing on ceremony.”

With my mom’s phrase in mind, and seeing my email buddy a mere 20 feet away, (ha! Told you so, Mom!) I had some ladies hold my place in line while I walked back to my email friend and introduced myself. I was met with a warm embrace and a total “holy shit, what are you doing here/how cool is this?” response. We made our way up to my place in the line and talked for a half an hour before my friends showed up. Then, we all spent the next hour talking, laughing, sharing theater reviews, movie stories and design ideas while we waited.

Once inside, the items were mostly picked over (though I was able to find a really cool, adjustable curtain rod that will look fabulous with the new curtains I bought for my living room) There were also tons of great textiles, but it was hard to judge just how much fabric was on the bolt. A lot of the good stuff had already been purchased, but it was fun to look through what remained and recognize things from the magazine’s photo spreads.

My Brooklyn friends were in and out of the sale in record time, acquiring some impressive loot before heading back to their borough. My email buddy and I stood outside, still marveling over our chance encounter and commenting on how our meeting and subsequent conversation was even better than the sale. We made a promise to get together and talk about said project in the coming weeks. As I walked back to my apartment, curtain rod in tow, I realized how fate intervenes just when you need it to and sometimes, standing on ceremony isn’t a bad thing, especially if you’re standing in a line with a million other New Yorkers.