28 October 2010

the case goods that got away

Do you ever regret not buying something when you had the chance? And then later, when you realize you should have snapped it up, it's too late...

It's not an all-the-time thing for me to regret that stuff, but photographing nearly everything I see (for this blog and for posterity) has made me extra keenly aware of the ones I've let get away. And lately there have been several oh-so-pretty pieces that I've let slip through my fingers.

Maybe it's because I've been so nightstand-focused for so long now (no, still haven't found The Ones), but recently all of the pieces I've wished I'd bought have been case goods of some sort, mostly dressers and nightstands.

Come join me on my tour of furniture regret...

You might recall that I am lousy at flea marketing and antiquing... but I'm getting better! (So, true, I haven't made any actual PURCHASES yet, but I'm getting better at not getting overwhelmed and shutting down in the presence of lots and lots of old stuff.) And it's this antiquing that brings us to my biggest regret of all, this amazing Danish midcentury set, including a tall chest and two short chests.

Aren't they sooooooo pretty? Check out that detailing on the drawer handles, and the immaculate finish that's still on this. I don't remember exactly how much they cost, but it was reasonable (not cheap).

Ultimately, what made the decision for me (us really, since Mark was with me) was the fact that the drawers were so shallow. They just wouldn't hold very much stuff.

Still, it has been hard to let the memory of these guys go...

Next up, a whole slew of nightstands from our friends at HomeGoods. (This pic is from a Denver 'burbs store... would that I had access to such a huge one here in LA!)

This one is my favorite of the bunch, and I still kick myself for not grabbing it... the size was right, the price was VERY right, and the shape and color were great. Definitely feeling like a bonehead on this one.

A little hardware switcheroo and it could have been so cool. Alas, when I realized my error, it was too late.

Other similar nightstands from HomeGoods, all of which could have been tweaked to suit my fancy.

And a similar antique chest.

Then there were those gorgeous Danish nightstands at the HD Buttercup sale. Neither set was a total bargain, but they were decently priced for what they were.

And of course no tour of furniture regret is complete without mention of our old, amazing, unbelievably comfortable, huge, perfect sofa. Sadly, it was just too big to fit into our condo. We could lay on it side by side (on our backs, no less) to watch TV, and stretch out completely. I miss it all the time. (What I do NOT miss is that apartment, and that icky rental carpet!)

Ah, memories...

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26 October 2010

banishing ikea

Ever since I first found Ikea, I loved all they had to offer -- and the prices! -- but the magic quickly faded when I realized first that most of their products are not built to last (forget about things ever being sturdy after being moved) and second that buying Ikea often means your place will look just like everyone else's, or at least make people say, "Ah, that's Ikea circa 2006!" Not the vibe I'm going for. (Yes, I totally understand NOW that it's possible to blend in a few Ikea pieces without making your home look like an Ikea showroom, or to modify Ikea pieces to make them less recognizable as Ikea. But there is a definite art to this approach.)

Though there are a few necessary evils (and would have been many more if we had decided to replace our kitchen cabinets -- Ikea has the only remotely affordable, stylish cabinetry around), we have done our very best to minimize the Ikea presence in our place now.

Why such a strong reaction to Ikea? you might ask. Answer: just check out these pictures, in one last blast from the past, showing major Ikea overload. So. Much. Blond. Wood. Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!

Once again, the best pics I have aren't staged apartment photos, but instead dog photos that happen to show the apartment in the background. (For friends who have kindly questioned whether I've done any aging, just check out these old pics, from Chelsea's first week as my pup.) See the blond wood entertainment center to the left of the frame? And the blond Ikea Poang chair in the back of the frame? All Ikea.

Same apartment from the other angle, now showing the Ikea table and chairs and the colored frames on the wall.

At least I broke up all that Ikea with an uber-stylish black futon with perhaps the most highly sought-after throw blanket of all time covering the back. Was I a trend setter or what?

Of course a better question is, "What was I thinking?!?!?!?"

The tiny spare bedroom in that DC apartment served as an office, and was -- shockingly! -- chock-full of Ikea, though not even nice-looking Ikea.

When I moved across the river to Arlington, and nearly doubled my square footage, I was super excited to decorate "for real." And I really thought the place was stylish, despite All. That. Bold. Ikea. Blue. And still with all the blond wood. ::::shudder::::

Moving yourself cross-country has an amazing way of helping you part with things you once thought of as essential to your life. So few of those old Ikea pieces made it with me to LA. (The Poang chair though now featuring linen-color cushions, the wooden foldout table in the kitchen and its folding chairs, and a few Billy bookcases are it.)

And we've managed to get by without too many new Ikea purchases in our current place. Exceptions:

Our Besta Burs TV console, which I actually LOVE. I have not found anything I like better, at any price. Also that set of three turquoise vases.

Cheap-o dresser that serves as our bar and entryway storage

The vanity, sink, mirror and wall cabinet in our master bathroom

The knobs in our guest bathroom (far better than the Home Depot standard), and a basic towel rack

My desk in our home office/guest room, as well as those white file boxes

Cord storage solution under my desk

Frame and magnetic board on my desk

The dogs' mini Poang chair

Okay, so there's still a lot of Ikea going on in our casa. But I don't think it SCREAMS Ikea, and that's what I was going for. Plus, I'm sorta at the point where I'd rather start investing in higher quality for pieces we can keep forever.

How about you? Still crushing hard on Ikea? Over it entirely? Always seeking a happy medium? Is it even possible to banish Ikea entirely? I know I'm having a mighty hard time...

You can read about our first trip to Ikea to check out their cabinetry (and my disappointment at seeing the lower-priced cabinets in person) here, and my tips on quick Ikea navigation and car packing here. This post is a how-to on corralling your electronics cords using Ikea's handy products, and this post shows how we covered up an ugly thermostat using a bargain-priced Ikea frame.

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25 October 2010

ghosts of thanksgivings past

As I start to plan out the menu for this year's Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share my annual trip down Thanksgiving memory lane. Sadly, I don't have photos from the year I watched two guys absolutely mangle a turkey while "carving it" (seriously, it looked like they were trying to shred it for fajitas), and at the time I just thought it was hilarious since my then-vegetarian self would not be eating the turkey anyway. But alas, we can still do lots of recounting.

My first real Thanksgiving, my first year out of college, I made an "Unturkey" (do they even make this anymore? VASTLY superior to the icky "Tofurkey"), some stuffing that I'm sure was made by StoveTop, some instant mashed potatoes and vegetarian "turkey" gravy from a packet, and cranberry sauce from a can. Mmmmmmm! Astronaut food!

Check out my college dishes from Target, and my wacky vinyl placemats. And how about those water glasses that were clearly stolen from various bars. That unidentifiable mass in the middle is the Unturkey, and you can see that I at least TRIED to spice up the StoveTop by adding in some Craisins. Ah... how far I've come.

The first time Mark and I made a big Thanksgiving meal together (all so that we could quickly chow down and then stick it all in the fridge so we could go skiing for three days), we had much better success, finding the stuffing recipe that I want to make every single year for the rest of my life, and taking on the full bird. It was almost too pretty (in my humble opinion) to waste on just the two of us.

That year we also figured out the division of Thanksgiving labor that we feel works for us, and we've agreed that we're still good with it this year. Here's how we do things:

  • Plans menu (Mark gets veto power)
  • Does all shopping and pre-ordering
  • Preps and brines turkey
  • Makes turkey stock for stuffing and gravy
  • Makes stuffing
  • Makes all vegetable sides
  • Makes cranberry sauce or opens up a can
  • Makes pre-dinner cocktails
  • Makes the pie crust (or buys a pre-made crust... I know, I know)
  • Cooks the turkey
  • Carves the turkey
  • Makes the mashed potatoes
  • Makes the gravy (only because I failed at this last year... the roux needs more time than I gave it)
  • Chooses the wine to drink with dinner
  • Makes the pumpkin pie
  • Slices any onions needed for various recipes
  • Does more than half of the dishes :-)
I blogged about that first "real" Thanksgiving meal here.

Last year, we made our first Thanksgiving in the modern era (my post-vegetarian era) in which we hosted guests (or guest), and it was mostly a success, some overcooked stuffing notwithstanding.

Last year we definitely had a good groove in the kitchen, and we hope to keep perfecting our timing and just our feel on how to cook a great Thanksgiving meal. I blogged about dry-brining the turkey here, about the recipes that didn't make the cut (but which are back in consideration for this year) here, and the end result here.

My goals for this year:
  • Get the turkey a little darker brown without overcooking the breast
  • Keep the stuffing moist!
  • Add in a couple of new, interesting dishes
  • Add a second dessert that is dairy-free
  • Make a more creative centerpiece or table setting

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21 October 2010

blast from the bath past

Style comes naturally to some people. I am not one of those people. And judging by past photos, I used to be even more style challenged. I spent a little time this week perusing old photos, and I came across some gems from highly unstylish bathrooms in past apartments.

In the last year, we've renovated our two bathrooms in the current condo, and I think now that a lot of the energy I put into those renovations was carried over from subconscious memories of some of the ugly and bizarre bathrooms I have called home over the years. (Not that the bathrooms were my home entirely. You know what I mean.) :-)


My first post-college bathroom in Washington, D.C. Obviously I couldn't do anything about all of that colored tile, it being a rental, but apparently I had no problem showing all of that clutter! Why on Earth did I need so many bottles of things??!?!?! (This was a shared bathroom, but I'm going to punt some of the blame.)

This is the only photo I could find of my next apartment bathroom, in Arlington, VA, which was just bland bland bland. And I ddin't do anything to spruce it up. (Interestingly, I've found that most of the records of my past homes and decor come in the form of dog pictures. But check out how cute Bella was as an even tinier puppy!)

Ironically, I have no record of the best rental bathroom I ever had, in my first West Hollywood apartment. But I can't claim credit for that bathroom being nice... I just had a landlord who had renovated the place before I moved in.

Our last rental apartment before we bought our current condo had a truly funky bathroom. The sink and storage was in the hallway outside the bathroom (actually very practical), but that vanity had the ugliest countertop I've ever seen. Inside the bathroom was a tiny shower stall, the toilet and a very low bathtub (you could only submerge yourself if you basically laid down, but then you wouldn't fit lengthwise). (Also -- why did I take photos without tidying up or at least hanging up those towels? Geez.)

It's kind of fun to think about how I would renovate each of these spaces, especially the last one which poses interesting size challenges with the vanity wedged snuggly between a wall and the linen closet. But I think I'll still stick with what we've got now:

We took this...

to this. (And blogged about it here.)

And this...

to this. (And blogged about it here.)

Any bath skeletons in your closet? Any spaces you've called home that now make you cringe?

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