Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bachelor Pad - Part 2: Living Room

Hello Viewers!

Last time we met, we explored the upgrading of my son Majors' bedroom. The problems of the "boy's" shared apartment were touched upon, and now we get to take a look at what used to be a dismal eating area.

This dining area was really a greater problem than the bedrooms: definitely on the small side for something that has to double as a living room; only one, narrow, strangely placed, window; and with an overhead fluorescent light fixture that made us all depressed. There is something about that dead, colorless, shadow-less “light” that always makes me feel like I am in some very low-budget production of “The Night of the Walking Dead”. My sons feel the same way. 

According to Major the worst eye-sore was the floor, which he wanted covered and hidden. To me, the worst eye-sore was not the floor but the walls, papered in an elegant shade of Vomit. An over-the-door coat rack intruded further into the limited space. The door to the left leads to the rest of the apartment - the part which they cannot use.

Turning around, with one's back to the window, one gets the pleasure of an uninhibited view of the actual kitchen. What a thrill!

The archway barely glimpsed to the left leads to the bedrooms and bath.                     Below, more kitchen...

And finally, full circle, with the entry door to the left in the back. A sad story.

“It looks like nobody is living here” Major complained, which I took to mean that the whole place was lacking in what we decorating professionals call “the home comforts”. Again – repainting was not an option, and the prospect of a new ceiling light also involved too many complications and had to be abandoned. I would have to adopt a “Divert and Conquer” strategy. 

First of all, I went foraging in the storage part of the apartment and found - a green armchair, still sweating in its plastic cover, which had remained untouched since the 1950s. Liberated therefrom, and wiped down, it looked quite nice, and perfectly complemented a small side table (a former sewing machine table) that I had just discarded from my own lair, and which Minor had requested for himself. The little green ottoman we had already found in a closet - nothing much to look at, but together with the chair it wasn't so bad.

Then, as previously mentioned, we set off to IKEA. The most important item on the shopping list was a rug that would provide coziness and deflect attention from the floor. Helsinge certainly does that. It kills floors! It also provided a color scheme, picking up the green from the chair, underscoring the yellow undertones of both the kitchen table and the wallpaper, and injecting some red for much-needed warmth and energy; we are now dealing with a green-yellow-red living room!

Light, white curtains called Hillmari let in light even when they are drawn, something that is important in this room with only one window (even though it gets indirect day light also through the actual kitchen). 

The table lamp belongs to the house and was brought in from Minor's desk; instead I bought him a more functional - and masculine - black desk lamp.

The greenery in the corner is on loan from me for the time being, providing a bit of coziness, while also temporarily solving one of my little storage problems.

The patriotic poster looks much better here, with a frame, and the little oil painting - well, look above (3rd photo from the top) for "before" and here below for "after"...  All right, it will never be great art, but with the frame touched up, and hung in the right place, where it echoes the greenery in the floor vase, and the glow of the lamp is replicated in the sunset, it almost looks charming.

Turning slightly to the left, we encounter the dining table. It had originally been filling up the whole room, but when I revealed to the sons that it was an expandable table, and we removed the leaf and moved it up against the wall, it became a nice size for two - with space for me to visit! 

We now have an eating area, and a lounging area - only one lounger at a time, though. 

We tried valiantly to make space for a second armchair, but it just wasn't possible, however we turned and moved around the furniture. Even so, it makes the room homier and more inviting.

The wall mirror is meant to compensate a bit for the missing second window, and I wrestled for a long time with shapes and sizes. I finally chose this one, for its decorative and strong frame, and for the shape that echoes the wave in the curtain - and I am still unsure of whether I chose right! We all like it, and it does make the room look great, but is it the ultimate in mirrors? Should it have been larger? Would a rectangle, being more of a parallel to the window, have been better? I guess we shall never know...

More circles on the table - Pannå place mats and Hyfsad bowl make the table fun and young; the lamp, Fillsta, makes it cozy. It is absolutely adorable in this context, looking like a space ship from the Moomin Valley. I really recommend putting a table lamp on the dining table - it feels very intimate and fun; you gather around the light as if around a camp fire. 

Continuing the left turn, we have another of those light strings for more mood and ambiance and what not. The coat rack is gone, and the glass door has been hung with another piece of Bollkaktus panel curtain (see Major's bedroom, above). Neater, and more grown-up-looking ("Not too grown-up!" though.)

When I look at this picture, I realize that those chair seats need covering up... Badly!

And finally we swivel towards the entry door - that is where the coats belong, on a neat little coat rack called Hjälmaren!

Enough for today, but there will be more to follow; we shall look more at the kitchen, and there have also been one or two more little improvements in what is now officially dubbed "the living room". I'll be back when I have more photos!

Till then,
Regards from Rosebud!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bachelor Pad - Part 1: Bedroom

Hello Viewers!

My darling sons, both in their thirties, are going through some transitional stages, such that at the moment it makes sense for them to share an apartment. Or rather part of an apartment; they have a bedroom each, a bathroom and a kitchen with a somewhat separate eating area, but the rest of the actual apartment – living room and two other rooms – are used by the owner for storage. They have been living there for eight or nine months, and I helped them making the place livable when they moved in, but beyond that, very little has been done in terms of coziness or style.

It was Major* who brought up the topic with me a couple of weeks ago. “I know I want to decorate” he said, “but I have no clue what to do. Can you help?”
Say no more! I mentally rolled up my sleeves then and there. At last! A real interior decorating project!
We discussed his requirements: “I would actually like something quite masculine and sleek” he told me, “but also with a bit of whimsy. I want curtains, and plants. Could you do something with mini-light strings? Above all, it should look like somebody has put some thought into it.”

Since they are renting the place furnished, and painting walls or ripping up carpeting are not possible options, there are some significant built-in limitations to what can be done. We were mainly concerned with his bedroom and the shared eating area. Minor* had already lined his bedroom with black “Billy” bookcases the moment he moved in, and a small IKEA desk together with the existing bed filled up most of the remaining floor space. (Still, he needed a few improvements as well, as we shall see in a future chapter.)

When Minor pushed the existing desk, shelf unit and chest of drawers out of his room to make space for Literature, the chest of drawers found a spot right outside his door, so he could still easily have the use of it, but the other two pieces migrated into Major’s room (since he needed a desk anyway), and had to make friends with an existing blond-wood bedroom set and two twin beds that were pushed together into a king-size contraption. Consequently, the room became somewhat over-crowded. 

Ideally, of course, the desk and the drawer/shelf unit – both made of dark wood in some kind of ornate seventies’ style, top-heavy and not very space-effective – ought to be replaced with something sleeker and more functional, but aside from the budget issue, there is also the question of how to get rid of these pieces, since they are part of the rental agreement and there really is no space where to store them. It is a problem that cannot be addressed right now. At least they are in good condition.

Another, and bigger, problem is the bed. One of the beds could probably be smuggled out under the protection of darkness, but that would leave him with just one 39-inch bed, which he feels is too narrow. The ideal would be a full-size, 54 inch-wide bed, but again, we are running up against Budget and How To Get Rid Of. Not doable at the moment. 

The room has blue carpeting and white walls with a  fussy, light blue, floral design stenciled all over. “Not actually offensive” we agreed, but certainly neither masculine, nor sleek. Defunct blinds and a general air of neglect complete the picture. 

A few improvements were made when he moved in: I presented new bedding in blue and turquoise, being that Major likes these colors and they suited the existing color scheme; and the little laptop table was added as a movable bedside table (originally he had no other bedside table, since the bed was positioned differently, with no space for a conventional table next to it).

The first order of the day was to do something about the blond-wood bedroom set, which was the most disruptive element in the room, and also in a miserable condition - very scratched and worn. After quite a bit of “gentle persuasion” of Landlord, permission was finally granted to paint the bedroom set – in black and silver. I thought that all-black furniture would be a little too dark and stodgy, even a bit boring; the silver drawer fronts reflect light, and look both more fun and more elegant. An upgrade, no?

And otherwise, if this whole chapter is not an apotheosis to IKEA, I don’t know what is! Two extensive shopping trips thither were undertaken, and you may safely assume that every new product comes from IKEA, unless otherwise indicated.

Curtains were the next important step: Sanela in dark turquoise velvet, and a Bollkaktus panel curtain for daytime privacy. Since the curtains are sold in pairs, and we only needed three panels, due to the bed jutting out in front of a window, the remaining fourth panel became a bedspread that looks both comfy and luxurious, yet quite masculine.

Silvery-grey curtain rods were given silvery finials with black polka dots that perfectly match the rest of the room.

The reformed bedside table, with Stranne mood lighting looks both playful and elegant. And sleek.

The requested plant had to be an artificial one - we agreed that would be safest for the plant!
A string of the coveted mini-lights turned it into another spot of mood lighting.

The little laptop table got a bright metallic turquoise, clip-on LED spotlight for reading and such. (Lime green and turquoise is really a fantastic combination!)

We still need to hang some art on the walls, but all in all, Major now has a room with a lot of personality, that is both inviting and stylish.

Next time we shall take a tour of the improved living/dining room!

Regards from Rosebud!

PS: Aren't we all surprised that I was able to do something without pink in it?

*Perhaps this primarily British usage needs some elucidation: these Latin words, meaning literally “bigger” and “smaller”, but also used in the sense of denoting the “older” and the “younger”, would be applied when, e.g., two brothers were enrolled in the same boarding school, so as to identify the older brother as Cholmondley-Brown Major, and the younger as Cholmondley-Brown Minor.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Closet Update

Hello Viewers!

Yes, I stumbled upon a little floor mat of woven plastic fibers at IKEA for my closet, and I am most happy to show it here:

In the store the - how shall I put it? - non-pink color looked like a very bright yellow, which I wasn't entirely crazy about, but now that it lies in my closet (in reality at least, even if it doesn't quite come through in this photo), it comes across as a lovey chartreuse, so now I am entirely crazy.

The additional finesse is that it is very thin, so it actually fits under the door, which sits extremely close to the floor and makes most rugs impossible to use in this space. For $12 it  quite transformed my daily closet experience.

Now, all I need is a new ceiling light - or what do you think?

The tricky part is that, as you can see, this is a very old-fashioned house, with insufficient wiring and light switches, so several light fixtures, like this one, are operated by pull-chain, and one needs the services of an electrician before one can even choose a lamp... But maybe something could be done?

Hopeful regards from Rosebud!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Closet with a View

Hello, Viewers!

Don’t you wish you had a walk-in closet? I have one, and I’m telling you, it’s not all fun and games.

I could kick myself for not having taken a “Before” picture; so imagine, if you will, a walk-in closet on the brink of a nervous breakdown. The physical breakdown had been progressing for years. Serving as a wardrobe, linen closet, and catch-all for who knows what, my closet had become almost impenetrable. Finding an item of clothing could take endless, crucially important, minutes on my way to work in the morning; many things were indeed never found. Some items could be glimpsed, but barely reached – others had become forgotten, having remained invisible for months or years. Everything was balled-up, stuffed and shoved, squeezed and wrinkled. Countless giant blue IKEA bags jostled with worn-out shoes and once-worn sweaters on the floor, often managing to trap me, and almost trip me, with their long, slinky handles. Empty boxes, broken hangers, pieces of string and a vicious gang of dust bunnies had risen to power. The amount of what we home decorators call “stuff” was mind-boggling and paralyzing. The door could not close. A shudder and a quick escape had become the daily routine. As for hanging up clothes in the evening - don't make me laugh! Dejected and defiant, I would stand at the threshold and toss my things into the writhing inferno.

Not being of the clinically insane persuasion, I had obviously made attempts over the years to tame the chaos, but my approach was never drastic enough. I would stand in the middle of the closet, surrounded by the overflow, and try to whip it into shape. Some superficial order would be achieved, but within days, a week at most, anarchy would begin to assert itself again.

So, after much soul-searching and much agony, but finally propelled by a force greater and stronger than myself, I resolved to solve the problem once and – for all? Embarrassing as it was, I had to enlist the assistance of my cleaning lady – the place must be entirely evacuated. Together, we pulled and dragged and lugged everything out of there, my embarrassment increasing by the minute; the stuff filled up the entire bedroom. When the closet was literally voided of every removable object, she washed down shelves and floor – and then the real fun began. After two hours, she “conveniently” had to leave. I don’t blame her. It took me three weeks to go through every single item and either restore it to its rightful – sometimes reconfigured – place, or discard it – for the garbage can, or for donation. Bag after bag was triumphantly carried out of my apartment; a few things were brought down to the basement; some relocated within the apartment, to more appropriate spots.

Relentless (who am I kidding?) weeding of garments yielded space for a new drawer unit – it consisted of two 3-drawer units from the Container Store, that I reconfigured into one 5-drawer piece in order to use every available vertical inch. This unit now – finally – houses all my shells and T-shirts (which are the staple of my daily toilette), in addition to some other odds and ends. I already had another drawer unit, that holds lingerie and hosiery, and many very odd ends.

Let me make a clean breast of it: I am not big on folding. In fact, I am as un-big as it gets. Scrunching and shoving is more my style. For years, the above shirts were dragging out a miserable existence in a tangled mess on various shelves. It was a daily fight to find something to wear. 

Now, with one drawer assigned to each type of shell – long-sleeved, ¾-sleeved, etc. – I no longer have to worry about my failure to fold. Gathered in closed drawers they all present a neat front, and I can quickly find exactly the type of shell I need. Nifty, no? It may sound like a small feat, but I cannot adequately express the daily feeling of relief I’m experiencing!

Bins for Shoes is another of my little innovations. Perish the hanging, compartmentalized shoe organizers; away with the Polaroid-encrusted cardboard boxes; farewell to the stackable shoe racks – hello, bins! One for boots and walking shoes, one for slippers and sandals, one for normal, nice shoes. Believe me – it’s good enough! I am so fed up with the contemporary trend of shoe pampering. It’s like shoes are the new babies. Or at least poodles.

In a moment of weakness, coupled with unsound ambition, I bought a few clear shoe storage boxes some years ago, before I had seen the light (see above). Since I already have them, I use them for the very few, rarefied shoes I own, but I really don’t see the need. Unless your shoes are entirely made of satin and velvet (and how many are?) a bin is perfectly fine. We are not all called Carrie Bradshaw. 

A few shelves had to be reserved for linens, but many a threadbare towel and tired pillowcase were made to join the big Rag Bag in the Sky. The remaining items are those that I like – and actually use. 

My various fairy wings needed their perch, of course (on top of a box of Fairy Paraphernalia), as did handbags (on two shelves above the shoe bins), jewelry and of course, my feather boas. I realize that feather boa storage is not a big issue for most people, but if you are like me – here is a great tip: I hung them all over the crossbar of a velvet hanger (to prevent slippage), then enclosed the entire thing in a zippered garment bag. This way, they are easy to get to, and I don’t have shedding feathers all over the place.

While I am on the topic of velvet hangers: they take up less space than conventional hangers, and even the slinkiest negligée stays put. I hereby offer my whole-hearted endorsement! If you haven’t tried them, by all means do – I have found them to be a great boon.

Another tremendous boon is Zip-lock bags, as you can see below. I use them to corral like items with like, or just to prevent things from slipping around all over the place.

As for jewelry – I have amassed quite a lot over the decades. Don’t be envious; it is all fake. Well, I mean, it is all real costume jewelry, of course, just not “real” materials. I have had some of it since I was fourteen. Younger, in fact. Drawers, baskets, S-hooks – and a rickety, revolving rack that I found once at the curbside, are what I employ to organize by color and function. Some of it is entirely for masquerade purposes. I am very much into masquerading; I dress up as myself. It is a fabulous disguise.

So – it was a great day when I was finally able to enter my closet without crying. Everything was neat and organized, the useless removed, and a calm logic reigned for the first time in twelve years. Getting dressed in the morning was no longer an agony.

THEN came the unguarded moment in which I drifted into a HomeGoods store and found The Ultimate Stool. It is pink (what else?!), upholstered in a damask-patterned velvet, vaguely oriental in its shape and outlined with a nail head trim, and it has storage space inside! Now I have little spot to sit while I put on my shoes (as I retrieve them from their bin), or while pondering the correct number and combination of accessories. It is a pleasure!

Unfortunately, as I am sitting here, I have come to pay more attention to the irreparably worn and damaged linoleum floor with its countless paint splotches, and the sadly defunct overhead light fixture – and I feel that something must be done… 

Hopefully, there will be an update to follow.

Finally, below, an overview...

Regards from Rosebud!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Balcony Brunch for the Fairies

Hello, Viewers!

It was supposed to have been an early September Backyard Brunch for eight Fairies – but in the end only four Chosen Ones were able to attend, so We, the Fairy Queen, made an executive decision to move the party to the balcony of my Fairy Palace instead. So rather than packing up all my stuff and taking the show on the road over to the Fairy with the Backyard, I was able to focus all my powers on transforming my own environment.

The first order of the day is curtains. (I am reminded of Moominmamma, who is so eager to nest and decorate her new house-to-be, that as soon as the weight-bearing beams are in place and the cement has barely dried, she hastens to hang up some pretty curtains. Walls – who needs them?)

These pretty, rosy (shower) curtains from Europe are my go-to staple in all cases of exterior decorating. This time they were enhanced by some hot pink sheers that often come in handy. 
As usual, I am suspending it all on the Sukkah frame that sits up all year round. The "sun roof" is a marquee canvas that IKEA sold a season ago, and which fits the frame almost to perfection. 
In an effort to camouflage the pug-ugly dog fence a previous tenant installed on the balcony, I draped it with a length of lace, held in place with tiny binder clips. The silk flower bouquets in their buckets are prevented from falling over by S-hooks, attaching the bucket handles to loops in the fence. 

Two gold-framed mirrors (hung with S-hooks) added some magic of their own – don’t underestimate the decorative usefulness of mirrors outdoors as well! Mirrors always open up a space, and if they reflect something beautiful, so much the better. A cliché, I know - but so true!

 The table was covered with a pink-on-white tablecloth, and the wicker chairs with quilts and over-sized, squishy pillows - all in various floral patterns.

 The small, round table that usually sits on the balcony was used as a sideboard.

Then to the flowers: beyond the three bouquets in buckets, and the peony plant on the sideboard, there had to be hanging decorations as well. (The "crossbeam" over the table would support lanterns at an evening party, but in the daytime I hang flowers.)

This hanging planter (Skurar from IKEA), really calls for a trailing plant - which I didn't have. So I plonked in a rose nosegay that I did have, and the "trailers" had to consist of curling ribbons in pastel colors. The rose pompoms added more festivity.
The green pompom was a present from one of the fairies - who had no idea how the party was going to be decorated. What an inspired gift! 

The table setting was fairly unpretentious, but pretty nonetheless. Disposable plates with a rosy rim (bought in Jerusalem) set the tone, and some roses and mini fairy wands in a vase made a simple centerpiece. Individual fruit salads (apple, kiwi, mango, pineapple) are in place, and the champagne glasses, each with a strawberry, are awaiting the Mimosas, without which any brunch would be a sad travesty. (50% champagne + 50% orange juice = Mimosa!)

Salad in a hat box is a very good thing!

The hat box is "lined" with a disposable plastic bowl - the bowl on its own would have been just too tedious. (And one of the fairies got to take the box home with her - also a good thing.)
The salad itself?
Red bell pepper
Red onion
Feta cheese
Roasted, salted hazelnuts
Olive oil
               - voilà!

Wholewheat mini baguettes, and omelets - one with onions & lox; one with asparagus and kani (fake, kosher crab sticks) - were also on the menu. The dessert was a Butter Loaf with strawberries. Loads of coffee, of course, and loads of Mimosas - some fairies got quite loaded!

We sat at the table for almost four hours - the sun was shining and the breeze was breezing, and nobody had the heart to tear themselves away. It was truly an enchanted event!

Regards from Rosebud!