Using the Term "Fixer" Rather Loosely Today...

Every once in a while I do a total double-take at a Craig's List item. 

A solid cherry armoire for $25?  A-wha???  There must be something wrong with it...
Wow, what needs fixing?

It's handsome inside and out.

I think it's hard to go wrong with a piece of furniture like this.  It's massive- 7 feet tall and obviously quite heavy. Talk about adding some weight to your decor.  This thing has presence, that's for sure.

So, what needs fixing?  Perhaps we need to work on our perception of furniture like this.  Solid needn't mean stodgy and boring.  You might be surprised by how you can adapt such a large piece to exemplify your personal style.

I'll show you how it can make a big impact... tomorrow!


Dare to Dream: Dining al Fresco

Today I'm delving into my image vaults to share a dining room that is SO gorgeous, it gives me chills.

San Francisco Decorator Showcase Dining Room by Steven Miller Design Studio

This is definitely an image that you have to look at twice.  What's going on here?  Is the paint peeling?  Where are those strange shadows coming from?

Actually, it's just a very subtle painted mural.  And I love it.  It's like looking at a pastoral scene through a gauzy curtain- the details are lost, but it retains that feeling of breezy calm.  It makes this already large room feel expansive, as if there are no walls at all.  You'll notice that they painted straight over the moldings on the walls. At first I was hesitant about this, but I think it's an interesting blend of nature and architecture, and it definitely adds to the shadow effect.  I can only imagine how this wall must look when actual shadows are cast upon it- candlelight would make it look positively alive.

The designers have done an incredible job of staging this dining room.  The tone-on-tone green/greige makes a soothing neutral backdrop for the stark white table and modern metallic tabletop elements.  The natural palette makes it possible to play with decor from many eras- and the quirky details (like those wonderful chair legs and the lavender candles) make the room impressive but not pretentious.

Hmmm... I'm pondering over ways to bring this look to my own dining room.  Painted panels framed in moldings?  A large canvas?  A paneled room divider?  

Any ideas?

P.S. For more images of this room, be sure to check out the Steven Miller Design Studio website...


Treasure Hunting in Fremont

This weekend I was totally engrossed in a re-design of sorts in my apartment.  I framed pictures, installed shelving, completely reversed the contents of two closets, and cleaned as I went.  I swear, there was a point behind all of this nonsense.  Anyway, since I was quite buried in work, I err... skipped this week's CL room design.  Shame on me.  Don't cry though: I'll give you lots of pretty pictures to look at instead.  

Today, we tour Fremont, a Seattle neighborhood brimming with little independent shops and eateries.  To me, Fremont is the epitome of Seattle culture- it's where the socks+sandals granolas graze on New-Age Vegan food and the Starbucks-sipping yuppies browse the wares of local jewelry designers.  We spend a great deal of time in this neighborhood, as Adam works there, and we recently became members of a rather fancy-pants gym on the canal. (Let me tell you- my wallet is feeling the burn!)

It's downhill from here...

Since relocating to Seattle, Adam and I have officially re-joined the ranks of caffeine fiends (caffiends?).  One our favorite spots is the Fremont Coffee Company, tucked in an old house with a maze of study nooks.  The place is always buzzing with comfort noises- beans grinding, soft music, pages rustling.  If it's comfort food you're after, try their famous grilled cheese... 

Oh, the melty goodness.

Fremont is also a wonderful place for searching out vintage finds.  Every Sunday 34th Avenue transforms into the Fremont Flea Market, packed with oddities and equally odd customers.  The market is ideal if you enjoy rummaging through bins of old printing blocks, watch parts, and beads- and I do!

Another of my favorite weekend hunting grounds is Deluxe Junk...

This is the place to go for frames, lamps, and antique globes.

The interior itself is an inspiration- the ceilings are painted sky blue with clouds.

I always make time to peruse the Fremont Vintage Mall.  Though it offers mainly MCM, clothing, and music, every once in a while I find a real gem...  

This hanging terrarium reminds me of the one in the cabinet of curiosities I featured last week.  The blue-gray vase is one of a set that I've been admiring for several months- hovering just out of my budget!

After a long day of scavenging, Adam and I revive ourselves at Brouwer's.  I love the look- dark and cavernous, and Adam loves the beer list- it reads like a novel!  If you're not a beer aficionado, just pick one with a funny name!

For Adam, something as dark as his soul.  For me, Frambois: sweet as ambrosia and so pretty!


Curiouser and Curiouser!

Lately my favorite design blogs have been piqued by cabinets of curiosity (here, here, and here, for instance).  This intrigue is all too familiar to me...  I've been treasuring this image from the late Domino Magazine for ages.


But, alas, every inch of my shelving is claimed by my library, leaving no room for other collections!  Perhaps that's why this week's fixer caught my eye.  Could we make it into a miniature trove of treasures?

The first step is to make it more classic than country kitsch.  This month's Martha Stewart Living magazine has an excellent segment on special finish painting.  While some of the techniques she featured were a little out there for me (gingham?  what?), I loved the subtle look of "raw silk."  To mimic the multi-layered finish of the bookcase in my inspiration photo, I'd suggest following her excellent instructions using a base coat of a matte medium gray and a pearlized cream glaze rubbed through with steel wool.


Now that it's polished up, where do you put it?  Because it's a petite two feet tall, it's just the right scale for a tiny bathroom like mine.  It would be both pretty and practical displaying curiosities and toiletries alike.  

Fool's Gold glitters among other fool's gems: the Amethysts and Turquoise are soaps!

Antique bottles can make bathroom necessities beautiful.  
I'd fill these with bath salts, cleansers, lotions, potions... you name it.

  Go with a natural green theme.  Bath & Body Works aromatherapy lotions come in shapely glass bottles (with equally attractive price tags).  Inexpensive bath sponges have an interesting shape- almost like a clump of moss or an aquatic plant.  I'd use several!  I'm also rather tickled by this ostrich feather in brilliant green.  It would be a sweet accent in a glass bottle.

These framed butterflies are a natural choice, and I love their neutral coloring.  I'd let them flutter behind bottles on the back of the cabinet.

And a few sentimental pieces of my own... a sweet-as-can-be mouse figurine, a bit of real gold, and the weird brass fly that always makes me smile.

So, what say you?  Curiosity Satisfied?


A Curious Case

This week's fixer has been languishing on Craig's List for quite some time now.  It keeps popping up in my searches day after day, and I'm beginning to feel a bit sorry for it.

It feels so empty without you!

I can't look at this thing without imagining it filled with cherub figurines and other horrid porcelain tchotchkes (and I can't believe I spelled that correctly on the first try!).  I'm picturing it in the cluttered house of some 96-year-old spinster, covered in a layer of dust and cat hair.  It screams, "I died alone and was eaten by my own 12 cats."

That's... not really the vibe I'm going for with my decor.

But let's pretend I'm a real do-gooder, that I dished out the $40 and brought it home.  Let's just see what I can do.


Dare to Dream: Wedding Bells

Lemme preface this post by saying:

No, I am not getting married, nor do I foresee this changing.  And no, there's no way I could squash my round self into one of these dresses.  This segment is called "Dare to Dream" for a reason!

I've found myself inspired by watching one too many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress... plus I'm frickin' crazy excited that my lovely friend Becca is engaged!  I'm looking forward to following her progress on "Wedding Wednesdays," and I can't wait to see how she puts her original touches on the big event.  Ex-roomie, I better get a good seat (not behind your tall family).

In the mean time, I've been amusing myself (and horrifying my poor boyfriend) by creating a design book of wedding items that have caught my fancy.  What can I say... I have an overactive imagination.

It all starts with a ring.  
There's something particularly eye-catching about this fancy brown diamond in an Edwardian Setting.  
Yes, I think I could flash this around quite smugly.

I envision a Fall wedding, surrounded by black dahlias and flickering candles.
I adore Seattle in Autumn- crisp and glowing.  Beautiful image courtesy of Only This on Flickr.

There's something about deep purple dahlias that makes my heart pound.  Photo by lulufrufru.

  And the dress?  *Sigh*  Something utterly Marianne Dashwood.


Dining Finely

*Sigh*  This was supposed to have been a weekend post, but last night I succumbed to exhaustion... after an emotionally draining installment of Little Dorrit.  Oh, Mr. Clennam!

AT recently delved into the topic of coffee table dining , and I was intrigued to find that most who responded had embraced this habit.  I admit that I occasionally forgo my table for the comfort of my sofa and the company of the television, but I can't imagine making this a daily custom.  Dining at a real table can make a civilized meal out of anything- even ramen noodles or left-over pizza.  Don't we all crave a little luxury in our day?

Why not make eating in feel more like dining out?

Love the ambiance... What's on the menu?

This Antique Claw-Foot Table took my breath away.  I love the fiery woodgrain and Medieval creature feet!  And it's solid.  Like, pass it on to your grandkids solid.  Don't cringe at the $500 price tag, this is an investment.  Plus, it will grow with you- it comes with several leaves.  I'd also recup some of the expense by selling the four chairs that come with it, because dining sets don't ever thrill me.  Replace them with...

Nontraditional Green Slipper Chairs.  These are an unusual choice, but I think their high curving backs complement the round table.  Plus, we've already established that I cannot resist mossy green velvet, even at $250 each. Imagine sinking into that plush seat with a glass of wine.  Just try to tell me that doesn't beat the floor in front of your coffee table.

This Leafy Metallic Chandelier ($150) reminds me of the romantic lighting one of my favorite eateries, Madeleine's Patisserie in Spokane. It's equal parts delicate and tough with curling tendrils and patinated bronze.  

Accessories are like daily specials.  The glimmer of gold on this $18 White China Bud Vase caught my eye- it's a perfect match for the chandelier.  I'd also like to keep things interesting with these Whimsical Pheasant Salt & Pepper Shakers.  They're $30, but they're silver plated!

This is definitely my favorite post yet- if I had a grand at my disposal, I would be sorely tempted to redesign my apartment around these items!  I want my patron's opinions though- 5 stars, or is this in bad taste?



I have a special fondness for accent tables.  They are naturally suited for being "design ambassadors"- their small size allows them to represent a foreign style in your home without causing a major clash.  (Just last week we explored introducing a MCM side table into a traditional setting!)

However, due to overcrowding, I have solemnly sworn not to exceed the current population of accent tables- I shalt not add, only replace.  

Good thing I found a loophole.  If you don't have room for a table... call it an ottoman.

Representing ze Provincial French, Monsieur Ottoman

Did you recognize it?  The frame of this side table had a very elegant shape, but wasn't really a table at all without the top!  Rather than simply replacing, why not repurpose?  You'll only need a circular piece of plywood (cut to fit), your choice of fabric (I'd go with a bright green velvet or damask), a handful of buttons and thread, and a staple gun!  Because the finish was "shabby" (read: really really ugly), I also opted to give it a coat of always lovely black glossy paint.

What a practical piece of furniture this would be!  If you chose to put it in a living area, it could serve triple duty. It has a plush seat, a shelf for storage, and, with the addition of a cute serving tray (like so), it could get back to its roots as a table!

Personally, I'd love to see it in my bedroom, where it would mingle quite nicely with its compatriot vanity desk. $15?  C'est possible...


Oooh La La...

This week's Craig's List Temptation is...

It's definitely missing something.

It's broke, and you should fix it.  And if you're broke... it doesn't even matter, because it's a mere $15.  Deprive yourself of Starbucks grande-soy-cinnamon-dolce-lattes for three days and you're good to go.  This table is equally sweet, and much less fattening.  Mmmmm, French Provincial.  

Check back tomorrow, I'll show you how I'd top it off.


Secret Garden

As amusing as it is to watch a bunch of bedraggled children hunt for Easter eggs in the pouring rain and muck, I wish the sun would come back.  We were teased with shorts weather for three days, but we've been shivering in sweaters since.  Utterly unfair.

It's even more unfair that when Spring finally comes to stay, I won't have a yard of my own to enjoy it in.  Ah, the woes of a renter.  "Might I have a bit of earth?"  Only in my dreams.

1  I saw the ideal garden trellis on Craig's List... and I missed it.  So it goes!  Keep searching, or splurge on this gorgeous specimen from Smith & Hawken ($319).  It's traditional without being stuffy, and it would be beautiful wound in ivy.  

2  I've been yearning after these yellow & gray outdoor pillows ($24.95) from Crate & Barrel for a while now... and of course, I still don't have any outdoor place to put them!  They're both floral and geometric, with a diamond pattern that mimics the trellis.

3  This handsome free-standing lamp post would cast a romantic glow over a dinner al fresco.  The antique bronze finish makes this fixture look expensive, but you could bring it home for $90 or best offer.

4 & 10  These and other vibrant dahlia tubers are being offered up at only $1 a piece!  Planting them now will give you something bright to look forward to in summers to come.  

5  There's nothing better than a French bistro table and chairs.  For only $100, it's like a vacation in your own backyard.  (Just don't expect your boyfriend to adopt an accent and answer to "waiter," you'll still have to brew your own cafe au lait.)

6  A regal pair of potted shrubs for $100 will give an element of formality to a young garden.  Over eight feet tall, they're almost architectural.

7  This acrylic pitcher from C&B ($14.95) has a great shape, and it's practical for outdoor use.  It's perfect for pouring yourself a glass of cool lemonade on a warm afternoon.  If you'd rather serve up spiked punch for 20 friends on a Saturday evening, check out this lot of unbreakable tumblers for $85.

8  How could anyone not fall in love with a luscious white peony?  These are the flowers of elegant garden parties- very Portrait of a Lady or Room With a View.  Swishing petticoats, tilted parasols, coy comments to admiring gentlemen.  *Sigh*  Anyway.  Pick up a bunch for $3.

9  I've already acknowledged that I adore rabbits.  I'm not looking to start some crazy collection (seriously, collections breed like... well, you know), but this rabbit lantern ($34) from Smith & Hawken... oh, he's just irresistible! He'd certainly add a little flicker of magic to your patio or cobblestone path.

A lot of greenery for a little green- under $800!


Finally Fixed

I often find myself admiring the inventive shapes of Mid-Century Modern furniture- but I struggle with ways to integrate it into my traditional household.  I typically favor deep blacks and weathered grays, but MCM is typically yellow and orange.  I think the best way to create an eclectic style is to maintain a consistent finish.

The orangey color of this table would clash terribly.

The solution is quite simple.  Since this table has little of its original finish left, sand the rest off and use a purple-gray milk paint as a glaze.  Thin milk paint allows some of the original wood to show through, giving the table warmth while tempering the gold tones.  Allowing the paint to settle more thickly in the tabletop's grooves will give it more depth and character. 

Decorating with quirky traditional pieces will help this modern table acclimate.  A stack of books always makes a house looked lived-in.  Bright flowers are sweet when clustered in a patisserie tea-cup (image courtesy of the late Domino Magazine), and the bird's nest lamp is a charming Craig's List discovery for only $39.

I've subdued the color... but not the style!

The Life Aquatic... They have it rather good in there.

Darn fish.  The new tank looks so good, I suspect they broke the old one on purpose.

I created a backdrop for the tank with some fabric remnants.  
The pattern helps it to blend with the rest of the house.
(By the way, I swear there are fish in there- they're just shy!)

Rosencrantz regards his new crystal decor.  Almost as shiny as he is.  Almost.


I Might be Cursed.

Hello friends, I apologize for my neglect!  My follow-up to this week's Wednesday Fixer has been postponed due to a little "family emergency." 

Last night our fish tank had a melt-down (literally).  This led to a fishie evacuation and relocation to a new tank. Thankfully no lives were lost, and the fish seem to be enjoying their swanky new digs.  I actually had a creative moment and decided to glam things up for them a little bit (check back tonight for pictures!)

By the time our humanitarian (fish-tarian?  I don't even know what I'm talking about here) efforts were finally over, it was quite late.  We wearied volunteers had just settled in for a peaceful slumber when... Matilda elected to be sick all over the freshly cleaned carpet. I am choosing to believe that her illness was completely unrelated to the fish tank. Total coincidence.  For sure.

Today things aren't going much better. I found aquarium snails in my bathtub this morning, which was a little disconcerting.  Then, when I got to work, I found that some mommy spider had chosen my desk as the place to lay her eggs.  And they had hatched.  And they are everywhere.  As I type I'm watching two march determinedly towards me (have I mentioned that I have an itsy-bitsy spider problem?).  

I'm not sure who I ticked off, but I could be in a little trouble here.

Medieval illuminated manuscript depicting the plagues of Egypt.

Wish me luck.  If I make it through the day, you got two posts coming atcha tonight!


SPRING CLEANING Day Four: Sweeping Up the Paper Trail

I'm in no mood for more cleaning today.  Tonight when I get home, I want to sit down (for once), sip a hot latte, and enjoy a re-run of Charmed (please... don't tell anyone).

Thank goodness I'm good at multi-tasking... and thank goodness round four of SPRING CLEANING '09 doesn't require that I get off my rear.  Today I'm going address information overload.  

You'll need:
- To sit yourself down at your desk
- Materials for filing (folders, labels, a pen)
- A guilty pleasure tv show or two
- A paper shredder, scissors, or the ability to do this
- A wastebasket

Step One: Get comfortable.  Make sure the remote is in reach.

Step Two: Review and purge the following...
- Financial records.  Now that you're done with your taxes you can file last year's records.  Paperwork over a few years old can be shredded up and recycled.
- The inevitable build-up of magazines & catalogues.  Clip and recycle, or shelve them neatly.
- Instruction manuals.  No point in keeping manuals for a CD player I got rid of two years ago...
- While you're digging through your drawers, test your pens and markers.  Toss those that don't perform.
- Your computer desktop & folders.  If you can't see your desktop image anymore, it's time to label or tag images and put everything into folders.  Delete old files to clear up some HD space.

Ahh, that's much better.

Step Three: Devote your full attention to the telly.

And with that... the "cleaning" portion of our Spring Cleaning is over.  Almost anticlimactic, isn't it?  What's left to do?  Well jeez, did you think that the DONATE and SELL boxes were going to become a permanent fixture?