7 Things (I think) Every Home Needs

I began writing this on the first day of spring. It was snowing. Which means that for the majority of the last — FOUR MONTHS — I’ve stayed inside, hiding from the hideous winter elements. Which is hilarious because that means that 1/3 of the year I’m staying inside a tiny space while living in a huge, ridiculously amazing city. So, I can’t be Carrie and keep my shoes in the oven. I can’t live in an ugly box that I pay too much for, only to be outside and enjoying the world every day. It means I need a space that’s warm, organized, comfortable – home.

So here’s my first list. If I were to move ANYWHERE, especially in a city, these are the items I know I couldn’t live without. Maybe because of how they look, mostly because of their practicality (even if just for my mental health), take a look, and let me know what you think.

1. Speakers! Even if you can hear your cell phone on vibrate in each part of your house, that doesn’t mean you don’t need speakers. Music sounds better with them. Bravo TV arguments will  intensify. And, no, silent discos weren’t invented for single dance parties at home. I have these Harman Kardon ones, and they’ve lasted forever. A bit pricey, but for $170 they look nice, are clean, won’t add clutter, and sound great.

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2. LIGHTING. Even if your apartment has ceiling lamps (lucky), you still should find some table and floor lamps, or more overhead lights to create a warm space that can help define areas, corners, and cubbies. I found this great floor lamp at the Brooklyn Flea (the best!)  that I use as a reading light in our living room. The table lamp was also a favorite find from Eastern Market in DC. Helpful hint: Buy a good lightbulb. It WILL pay off. I prefer the softer lighting bulbs like the GE White Hybrid Halogen. They’re energy smart and eco friendly! $12 each but they really do last forever.

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3. Plants. Please don’t say you can’t because you just kill them. That’s why succulents and cacti were created. Plants keep your space bright, beautiful, feeling clean… and some even clean your air (yes, fact). Add a couple, take them to your new home, and they’ll make any space look good.  It’s genuinely the easiest, cheapest way to decorate. I love this Target Home find, a cement planter that could easily (stupidly) sell for $50, but was $13. Not everything needs to be a Pinterest DIY, where your supplies cost an obscene amount of money.

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4. Extra Seating! I love having extra chairs around the house to make sure that if we do have a lot of guests around, everyone has somewhere to sit. We have a wood folding one that I stash behind the closet, a couple cute side chairs… Small chairs are super easy store and move apartments with. They can have a pattern, texture, unique wood… It’s a simple way to add decor to a space without feeling too “done”, and they don’t clutter. I love our West Elm John Vogel chair in charcoal.  The second one I bought from a previous tenant at an apartment I used to live in.

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5. A good (electric) tea kettle. This seems random, but after living with an Australian, I’ve learned the power and beauty of a good tea kettle. Beyond making a cup of tea, an electric tea kettle will boil water for your pasta, french press coffee, rice, potatoes… EVERYTHING. It’s so much quicker than a stove top kettle, and I literally use it every day. I love this Capresso clear glass kettle. Buy it from Bed Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon, and it’s $50. Yes, you can get a cheap plastic one, but I prefer glass because you’re not ingesting toxins every time you heat the plastic, it’s much nicer to look at, and easier to clean because the kettle is separate from the electric plug. It’s also a good, small size that won’t take up too much space in your teeny kitchen.

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6. A magic bullet. If you have a teeny apartment, this is a LIFE SAVER. Beyond making that delicious kale juice we all pretend to love, you can also blend soups, yogurts, even use it as a food processor. It’s SO easy to clean, and is much smaller than a blender. I love our Nutri Bullet especially because I do think it breaks food down better than the other brands. Again, use a 20% coupon ala Bed, Bath & Beyond and buy it. The steel design also makes for a nicer looking appliance.

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7. STORAGE. I mean, obviously, right? That is the dream. But you can do storage right, and then you can do storage wrong. For example, do you need your winter coat in your closet, taking up space all year long? No. In fact, it doesn’t need to ever be in your closet. Get a hook, hang it by your door for four months (this also allows it to dry properly). Done.  And when you don’t use it, buy these ridiculously smart (and REUSABLE) Ziploc  vacuum hanging bags, put your stuff in it, and then either store them in the back of  your closet or better yet, under your bed. They keep stuff clean, won’t ruin the filling of your coat, and pro tip: You don’t need a vaccuum to suck out the air. You can literally sit on em, and push out the air (like rolling a sleeping bag), until all the air is out. Fact. (No personal picture because sadly we are still using our coats. :P)

In addition, because we really no longer need DVD players, DVDs, or really any TV equipment beyond a ChromeCast stick, use your “entertainment center” for other things! Serving dishes? A “linen closet”? A mini hardware tool box with your tools, extra lightbulbs and batteries? This is such an easy way to keep organized and clean. (You’ll never know what’s in our “entertainment center”. Another Eastern Market find:

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That’s all I’ve got. What are your “not living without” items? Share em in the comments!

 

 

 

How to hang a planter ala the ceiling (without Task Rabbit, a man, or breaking something).

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TVs, ceiling lamps, hanging plants are DAUNTING.  If not hung properly, they’ll crash and break and probably hurt someone in the process. I’m not denying I’ve learned this from experience. So, there’s limited space in our new apartment, which is why we (I)  decided to follow the trend and hang a couple plants! I found this cool (and cheap!) $10 planter at Ikea. It’s simply, clean… and when I have time I may just paint some fun stripes on it.

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To hang it, here’s what I bought: 

1. Instead of a rope or rod, I liked the idea of hanging the planter from a gold chain. So for $2, I bought 2 feet of  silver chain from our local lighting store. Then, I sprayed painted it gold :) You can also sometimes find already sprayed gold chains. Use a set of pliers to make it the length you prefer by removing excess links. I wanted out planter lower than usual so I could see the flowers better, water them easier, give them good sun, and break up some of the empty space.

2. a proper SWAG hook kit — you can get these at your local hardware store for $1.50 — Ace Hardware! ( I bought a gold one to match) Make sure it includes a spring toggle wing and screw bolt. They usually come in two packs.

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3. You’ll need a drill to make a hole to push the toggle and screw into the ceiling. Make sure the drill bit used is the same size as the bolt. The one I bought required a 3/16 in. bit. Also, know the material you are drilling into – if it’s cement or brick you’ll need a different type of drill bit. Check with your hardware store if you’re unsure.

How to Hang it 

1. Drill a hole into the desired spot. Again, make sure you are using the correct bit, it matches the material you’re drilling into, and it’s the same size as the bolt.

2. Attach the hook on one side of the bolt. On the other side, screw the bolt into the hole between each side of the spring toggle. Make sure the toggle isn’t screwed on too far, as it needs to be able to close completely to get through the drilled hole.

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3. After drilling the hole, you need to push the entire device into the hole — to the other side of the wall — except, of course, the hook. Once you do this, the spring toggle will pop back open – SUCCESS!

4. Once you’ve popped it in, pull down snuggly on the hook, and begin to turn the hook clockwise. This will screw the spring toggle closer to the hook (from inside the wall) so that all that is between the hook and the toggle is the wall – this will prevent the entire hook from falling out and ripping the ceiling on the way down. Whoop!

5. Then, hang yo shit and make it look good. (Who needs Task Rabbit anymore?) Daffodils and lavender purchased at Trader Joes! $5 each, what a deal. (Our local nursery is still closed for winter — on the first day of spring — and yes it’s about to snow. ugh).

Protip: Where’s all the water gonna drain? Below the plants, I placed a bunch of pebbles to help hold drained water. This will prevent your flowers from drowning. You can even buy pebbles at Ikea for like a buck.

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add a little lime to your powder room (and while you’re at it, get rid of that mold! )

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The walls in our apartment are all clean white. There’s original molding and glass,  simply, they’re beautiful. Growing up in a house where the walls were always changing colors, and even the ceiling was a “white lime” color, I’ve learned to appreciate the spaciousness that white creates, especially in a small New York apartment. That said, you can take the girl out of the eccentric home, but you can’t take the eccentric home out of the girl.

More so, I wanted to see what we plausibly could get away with in regards to rental rights. Because after moving in two sofas, we’re never leaving.

Our bathroom has a great sunlight, but other than that, it’s small. It’s mixed in white tiles where over time old ones must have broken off. There’s layers and layers of old paint, grey and white cements covering the tiles in illogical and messy ways. There’s also mold. A lot of mold. To top it off, the most recent paint job was one layer of white, so poorly painted you could see the lilac purple underneath.

I mean, it’s gross.

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Originally I wanted to paint it a dark slate grey/blue. But who wants to poo in not only a small room, but a dark and small room? So we nixed that, and I went to, obviously, my favorite color in the world — chartreuse.

Adding a lick of paint to your walls not only brightens the space, it cleans it up, makes things feel fresh, and is an inexpensive way to redecorate.

What You’ll Need  (to clean, caulk, and paint your poo room) — 

1. a flat head screw driver

2. paint. our bathroom is teeny tiny, and the tiles cover a lot of the walls, so we only needed 1/4 gallon. I recommend making sure the paint is mold proof and bathroom friendly. We used a satin finish — not shiny, but not chalky-matte.

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3. a couple paint brushes. I used a 1″ one that I already had, as well as the brush I swear by, the shur line paint edger — it’s smooth, and helps with painting corners and edges.

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4. painter’s tape.

5. something to place the paint in. Incidentally, the plastic cover to a container of Swiffer mops works quite well (just make sure you don’t need to use it again!)

6. maybe a ladder, or you can do the little dance I did while painting on the edge of the tub.

7. brush or vacuum and cleaning all-purpose spray. I like Method.

8. Spatula and wall putty – in case you have old holes in the walls. Maybe some light sand paper.

9. bathroom caulk. This is different from caulk I used to cover mouse holes. But the practice is the same, so if you’re unsure how to use caulk, read this post.

Directions 

Before you paint, clean up the space. wash the walls down — there’s definitely a layer of grime and water from showering, which also means gross bacteria that you don’t want under a new coat of paint. Wash down everything including all the tiles with a cleaning spay.

For us, there were holes all over the walls. And awkwardly placed HUGE screws, that of course were painted over from before. We patched them up, too. Once dried, I sanded them down just a bit with a light sandpaper to make sure the walls were smooth.

The bathroom tiles had old layers of paint and cement and caulk EVERYWHERE. Use a flat head screw driver to pull and scrape it up and off. Be careful to not make a hole into the wall. In addition, this is a great time to recaulk your tub. Where the caulk was once white  and water proof, it’s now black (mold) and gross. Use the flat head to scrape out the mold. Once you’ve scraped out everything nasty, make sure it’s clean and dry, and then use the caulk tube, and slowly squeeze out the paste. It will need 24 hours to dry, so don’t do this right after working out (note to self).

Before the paint pic, check out this beauty. After pic of recaulking the tub. Hallelujah, I’m not getting some weird growth on my feet!

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After you finish cleaning up the walls, removing old paint from the tiles, tape up where the wall meets the ceiling and the tiles. Oh yeah, remove the switch plates :)

photo 2-2 photo 5-1 Then, start painting. If you choose a bright color like we (ok, I) did, you’re gonna need to paint two layers. Use the edge brush to get the main bits, then use the smaller 1″ one to finish the corners or hard to reach areas.

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Between coats, spend your time getting crazy with spray paint. Just ask, would Beyoncé had a gold switch plate? Probably. (Make sure to spray by layer).

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Then, after painting your second coat wait like 30 mins, and remove the painters tape. Waiting too long can sometimes pull up the paint if it’s dried on top of the tape.

Not only is our bathroom brighter, it’s cleaner, the tiles aren’t covered in decades of paint, and it’s mold free!

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Next up, the kitchen!

Mathilde & Jason’s Space

My friend Mathilde lives in a gorgeous home in Williamsburg. She and her husband have the top two floors — the upper level being used as a massive office and spare room. Their living room has so much potential – beautiful wide panel flooring, a maintained brick wall, bright, big windows. The space is great, and allows for a dining area and living room.

Like so many of us, Mathilde is on a budget! So most of her furniture came from Craig’s List, Housing Works, and the likes. She also has a great collection of art work, but isn’t sure exactly how to present it.

While we didn’t get a before pic (of course!), the space felt a little backwards – their large dining table was in front of the windows, and the sofa and red chaise were spread out. Because of the office upstairs, it was important that we make her living room feel private and spacious, and utilize the sunlight to the best of our ability. So we rearranged a bit. With a $500 budget (we only spent $450!), we went to Target and bought a couple basics — a foot rest, a couple lamps, a side table, an entertainment center (actually, the same one we used in Jenna’s space), light bulbs, and a hammer and nails. We also went to the nearby hardware store and nursery and bought — you know it — succulents! And some cute, eclectic pots. Check out what we did. A quick revamp, space changer, and now it totally feels personal, private, bright, and uses the space perfectly!

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Can  you BELIEVE that side table is from Target? What a deal, and it’s quite good quality for the price we paid! I personally like that the top moves up and down, which made matching it to fit the sofa height quite easy. Same with the lamp — great lamp, neutral but authentic feeling. For those of us that don’t have a massive budget, Target is SO great, especially their Threshold brand.

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Mathilde had this great large wood coffee table, and topped it with a bright and cheerful teal cloth. It was a perfect pop of color, and I loved the square shape of the table… breaks up the monotony of everything being rectangular in a space.

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And how great is this buffet/book shelf? We rearranged the books and photos, and tidied it up. Doing this changed the piece from a tool that organized books into a piece of decor — that’s high functioning.

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For next steps, we’re looking for a neutral, perhaps lightly patterned, rug. We think that’ll pull it all together.  In addition, we’re working on the dining space (not shown), and a bar station Mathilde has envisioned. Until then!

So many materials.

I visited the Material ConneXion library this afternoon. I’ve decided to take on the certificate program at Parsons, and one of the courses they offer is Showrooms — where basically, you have the opportunity to visit amazing showrooms throughout New York: Large ones, historical ones, hipster-Williamsburghy-ones, you name it. Today we visited the Material ConneXion library located in Mid-town. This place is INSANE. Basically they are a data collection (the world’s largest collection!) of every known material that’s out there — ceramic, fiber, metals, cement, processes, and polymers. Their collection is roughly 7500, and at any given time they display 2500 of them. Unfortunately you have to have a membership to the museum (which is crazy expensive), but as a student at Parsons you can go for free. Whoop! Check out some of these killer materials I captured. It’s a pretty inspiring and an interesting space. Plus: you’re allowed to touch everything.

photo 5-1Recycled skateboards – could be used for a wide variety of things, including rad wall coverings.

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This may be my favorite: handwoven wall coverings of recycled maps. Exceptionally expensive, I mean, it’s HANDWOVEN, but how cool would a bathroom, or wall in your office look with this all over it?

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This is also a natural material — made of cork and woven cotton. It could be used to reupholster a piece of furniture, shoes, clothes, the list is endless.

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So this one is kinda crazy — it’s a wood veneer with leather substrate. It’s flexible and therefore can be used again for many purposes.

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These. I want a belt made out of each one. Low and hold, it’s all mosaic wood veneer. So, no belt for me, but it could be beautiful trimming, paneling, or framing (so the details read!)

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I love this one! There’s glitter, there’s cork, there’s layers of paper. It’s really just cool. And it can be from recycled material which is even better.

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So many mateeeerriaaalllsssss!!!

 

Jenna’s NEW Place

It’s been a while since my last post. Mostly because I’ve been traveling without a laptop. But even more mostly because I’ve been living out of a suitcase for four months. Just getting back, I’ve officially moved to New York, where my little one bedroom apartment is hiding in a storage unit. More on that soon. In the meantime, my friend Jenna, who’s row house mini-reno I shared with you here (or literally two posts below, oops), has moved! Typical of DC properties and rentals.  No worries though, because she found a sweet two bedroom apartment in a renovated funeral parlor. Creepy, perhaps. But whoever did the redesign left the exposed brick, old brick stains, wooden beams, and molding. I love this person.

After just recently updating her old space, Jenna was a bit bummed to move, but turns out everything we purchased and set up went even better in the new place. Check out her space,  and see how she did. I for one was incredibly impressed.

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photo 1Brilliant and so rad. The girls turned the TV stand into a glassware cabinet and liquor stand. Looks so great at the end of the bar, and I love the pop of the color surrounding the hues of brown.

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The girls didn’t actually need to buy anything, either. Jenna had this Ikea bookshelf in her room, and simply turned it into an entertainment center. Love the record display, too.

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Unfortunately, they had to get rid of the second sofa, but this set up still looks warm, inviting and heaps comfortable. Check out that BEAUTIFUL West Elm coffee table that hadn’t arrived before I left the last time. Also good to see that sofa cover has kept it’s color and shape.

Nice job, Jenna. Love seeing how we can adapt and make our furniture and belongings work wherever we live.

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A friend of mine moved into a gorgeous row house about a year or two ago, and after a roommate (and furniture!) moved out, she decided it was time to get a few things to furnish and decorate her home. The row house is BEAUTIFUL. Original molding and hardwood floors. Bay windows. A dining room and living space that’s open. Exposed brick. I could keep going…

Her budget was around $1500 for round 1. She wanted to update her sofa, add some small pieces, and make the living area and dining room a bit more communal and warm. Host brunches and groups, and make the place perfect for her and her new roommates.

Here are a few before pics:

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We upgraded the green Ikea sofa by purchasing a new slipcover online. It’s now a velvet, light grey — Comfortable, neutral, but unique with its texture. We found a great overstuffed leather chair in cognac. A new updated entertainment center in teal blue. We will drill holes in the back to add all the cabled equipment. The rug was on sale at World Market, and the bench was from (ahem) Tar-get! We found a few bric-a-bracs and pillows throughout the adventure, and will continue adding pieces as we find them.

In the dining area, we found six eclectic, wooden chairs at her nearby flea market that will be washed white during round two, but for now, they’re great. The recycled wine glass candle holders were actually made by me from a previous DIY project, and some serving dishes and tea towels for the dining table were found at World Market.

Here’s how it looks

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We have a coffee table waiting to be delivered, frames and curtains that need to be hung, chairs that need to be painted… but this is an excellent start and already the space feels warmer, comfortable and cheerful.

Stay tuned for round two.

reupholstery is cake.

is that a mustache on your chartreuse chair?

is that a mustache on your chartreuse chair?

honestly, kinda an ugly chair from Ikea.

Before: Ikea could have done better. 

  1. Chair
  2. Paint – just buy a quarter gallon – indoor, with primer is lovely.
  3. Sand paper – if the chairs are already painted, get the medium grind. If they are basic unpainted food, the smoother paper is fine.
  4. A paint brush
  5. Staple fun
  6. Fabric of your choosing – make sure you buy enough. If you live in the city, I would recommend looking on Etsy for fabric… not too many places in DC. Make sure you buy enough!
  7. Scissors (cut your fabric)
  8. Hammer

First, you will want to wash and sandpaper down the chair – give it a clean, fresh feel. It will help making the paint go on smoother. At this time, if you can, unscrew the seat from the chair.

Screenshot_2013-06-06-22-04-07Then, you’re going to want to start painting. Make sure you shake and stir your paint to make it even. I recommend doing one basic coat, let it dry for 20 – 30 minutes, and then add another. I wanted a really bright, fun, summer color. Obviously throw-up green chartreuse was the answer. 

Screenshot_2013-06-06-22-04-16After your first coat, let the chair dry, and begin working on the reupholstery of the seat. As I mentioned, I purchased fabric from Etsy. Make sure  your order enough to go around the top, and underneath where there needs to be enough to staple that baby down.

IMAG0335Screenshot_2013-06-06-22-03-17The key is to pull the fabric firmly around each side, to ensure there are no kinks or wrinkles in the fabric. The corners are tricky, I recommend treating it as if you are wrapping a present. Now, if you’re terrible at wrapping gifts, try something else. :) If you don’t have a staple gun, you can always nail in small hanging nails… but do consider buying a gun at Ace Hardware, they’re only like $30 and last forever. If not all of the staples go in completely (they can sometimes be a sucker), use a hammer to smooth them out.

Here you go! Mustaches!

Screenshot_2013-06-06-22-03-46After the first coat is dry, work on your second paint coat. Touch ups can always be done the next day, too. I recommend waiting 1-2 days after painting to ensure the paint is 100% dry before reattaching your seat.

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what’s inspiring me

Inspiring me, driving me crazy, coloring my mind.

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why yes I’m pumped for CSA fruits and veggies.

let the pickling games begin.

let the pickling games begin.

If Martha Stewart can make buttercream flowers, I'll be damned to say I can't.

If Martha Stewart can make buttercream flowers, I’ll be damned to say I can’t.

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I cooked carnitas in a slow cooker. This was the only photo I took.

I cooked carnitas in a slow cooker. This was the only photo I took.

sprinkles making the world go boom.

sprinkles making the world go boom.

my favorite lamp from a flea market. of course I never bought a lamp shade for it. Com-pro-mise.

my favorite lamp from a flea market. 

christmas threw up in my studio last night

It happened. Earlier than usual this year, simply because I realized late last night that I didn’t need to ask anyone if it was ok to start decorating.

Boom.

Anyway, here are some photos of my little casa. I have had all the decorations for the last several years — some from when I was in college. They are from various places like World Market, Target, and some of the ornaments are from around the world – Russia, Mexico and France. Anyway, check it out. Here are some thoughts when decorating your own place –

– Keep your regular home designs out, and decorate them. Example: Where my bottles are, I added a couple Christmas trees. It just adds more color and liveliness. You can also see that I hung cinnamon sticks, pine cones and a cranberry wreath on top of my frames. I like the layering look. It’s fun, and not perfect.

– Mix classy with trashy. I love the shiny, tacky garland. And I love natural and earthy color ornaments and decor. Mix them just a bit (see my bits of garland), and I think the finished product looks good.

For this area, I hung strings of stuff- The flower-like ones are from Target, the other string is small pine cones, cranberries and cinnamon sticks I put together after seeing it done in a magazine several years back. I also love the little green bows and stockings that seriously date back to like 2006. The cranberry (alright, they are puff balls) wreath is from Target three years ago, and the ornament is from France. There was a time when I wanted an ornament from every country. That last lasted like half of one trip. Nice idea though.

These are some of my favorite Christmas decorations. I have an affinity toward Christmas trees (like bottles), so I have slowly collected different ones throughout the years. Similar to my original set up, they all share a warmth in color – while they may all be different, the sizes and mixed colors make for a nice balance. There’s also a photo of my college girlfriends and I. Nice memory to bring out each year.

The center piece is a mini cinnamon broom from Whole Foods. I LOVE IT! And it smells AMAZING. I had one a few years back from Trader Joes, one of the larger ones. But trust me, if you live in a studio, the tiny one is all you need. Again – gotta love the gold garland… that was purchased my sophomore year of college, and has lived in seven homes since. Ha!

sidenote: my cat just fell off the couch. hilarious.

My version of a Christmas tree. The little Russian dolls were hand painted in, you guessed it, Russia. I actually picked them up at the World Famous (I am actually not being sarcastic) Gem and Mineral show in Tucson, Arizona… one of the best places for amazing jewelry and random pieces like this. The wreath is fake, but I use it every year … maybe that’s sustainability in action?

Here is one big view. I love my cozy space, and I love Christmas decorations. Win. The garland balls 1- 12 represent the Twelves Days of Christmas. I bought them a few years ago from Target (seriously, they sell amazing decorations), and actually kept them up in my last place the whole year.. but not in that you-still-have-your-Christmas-lights-up-in-February sorta way. They’re pretty cool.

I’m going to check out new things this weekend, and see if I find anything fun to add to my collection. Woohoo.

I hope this inspires you to get decorating! (or have me come decorate your place!)

Summer