Friday, September 28, 2007

Decorator's Handbook: Project Living Room

I have a huge problem with the term Great Room. I recognize that it’s now in vogue to term your fanciest sitting room the Great Room, but really, what the hell makes it so great? Pompous furniture you almost never sit on? What if you clearly love one room more than your Great Room, does that mean it’s still great? Are any of your other rooms not as great? What about that episode of Designer Guys where one couple expanded their bathroom and pimped it out in post-modern Parisian to the point where it was the best looking and most expensive room of the house? Why wasn’t that the Great Room, especially when you realize that it now totally outdid the actual Great Room in function and finance? And, by calling one room Great, are you imposing roles on your other rooms, making them feel less welcome and thus, they won’t even try to be great?

Psychosis! Hence, I will call it what I’ve always called it: The Living Room. I know that there are a whole bunch of wrong associations stuck to that term too, but fuck it. That’s what I called it growing up, and that’s what I’m calling it now.

Getting back to the point: As soon as my bedroom, bathroom, steps, kitchen and book wall that was supposed to be a dining area were done, all that was left was the Living Room.

My downstairs, or main floor, is just one big room really. Living room and under-stairs crawlspace next to the dining area now book wall, next to the kitchen which is cordoned off by another little wall, over to the two doors leading into my furnace room, next to what I suppose you could call my foyer, next to the steps. It was a bit of a mess to figure out the layout, or more appropriately, where the TV was supposed to go, but I finally found my formula.

Rule #1: Abandon pretension. Remember I said way back that I was into the French boutique hotel look? Ixnay. Not that it didn’t work, I just wasn’t ready to spend the thousands upon thousands needing to get it. I have some great old stuff that, combined with great new stuff, can give me exactly what I want. Looking around at everything now, I do believe it did just that.

Rule #2: Piggybacking off Rule #1, don’t try too hard to be something you’re not. Am I French hotel? Until I can go back to France once day and check into a boutique hotel for at least a week, I’ll never know.

Rule #3: Make your space yours. Surround yourself not just with magazine ideas, but with YOU.

Rule #4: As quoted by my cousin Maggie, “Take what you like and make it work.” Of course this can be taken to excess – do you really need to display the pig figurine collection of your youth beside that Missoni vase? Nuh uh. But you do want to take those pieces you do love, and make them feel cherished in your home. When something truly belongs, it sings. Maybe people and furniture are just alike that way.

Why am I waxing philosophical about the Living Room then, especially after finishing all this other stuff before it? Because it’s an important place, the Living Room. It’s a busy area, the place your guests come to know well, the epicenter of your home where talking, entertaining, eating relaxing, just being, all come together. At the very least, it deserves some attention.

So, here’s what I started with: chocolate brown and creamy coloured walls, a couch, coffee table & end table combo, a fantastic painting, surround sound system & DVD player, a rug I hated and a platted I adored. My couch is the coffee coloured ultrasuede sectional you’ve all heard so much about, and the coffee & end table were the dark wood, black leather topped marvels I got at a very chic store in the city. Floor model sale. The painting was the huge one I picked up last year in Jerash, The Meeting, and had framed for not a small sum of money. I always find it ironic when the art is cheaper than the frame.

Surround sound and DVD player speak for themselves. I don’t hate the rug because it’s a shitty rug, I just hate it because it did nothing for the space. A nice coffee coloured broadloom that matched SO well with my couch, it blended everything a little too well together. No striking qualities, no pick-me up, no “Man, that bitch did a great job decorating,” but more like, “She sooooo screwed up the colour scheme.” Meh. I blame Oli the rug error, after all she was the one who convinced me it’d look great.

The fantastic metal platter I picked up at an African store near work. Not on sale. Very expensive, as a matter of fact. But hey, life isn’t just about sales, you know. As much as I’d love to get everything on discount, sometimes you just gotta splurge, especially on those pieces that ooze class.

What I needed: TV stand, TV to put on TV stand and plug all that surround sound into; possibly something a little extra to display more of my endless stuff and, my favourite, funky l’il accents to pull it all together.

Okay. The first thing I did was change where the couch faced. It used to face the book wall, but since that idea is dead and gone, now my couch faces the much closer wall to its right. Unfortunately, this involved a decorative casualty: the end table. No more room for it now, unless I want to bruise my knee every time I turn the corner. So with a somewhat heavy heart, I pack it away in the back of Blue’s room, the crawlspace. Only somewhat, though. Turns out it’s an excellent storage piece for all those extra serving dishes and kitchen things I don’t have room for. Rejoice! And yes, I covered it up with a tablecloth so the leather wouldn’t get scratched.

So I have a brown couch, a dark coffee table made darker with all that black leather, and dark walls. Too dark. White shag rug makes the space pop. White shag rug, excellent for shagging; also excellent for fluffing. Spend hours vacuuming up the soft white tumbleweed now littering my loft, until the situation is under control. Send coffee broadloom rug down to storage, where I’ll either use it someday, or find it a new home.

Shopping for a television on a limited budget sucks. SUCKS. You want a flat LCD, you want it big, but you don’t want to pay the couple grand to have it. Grant it, flats screens have come down nicely in price since their $15,000 inception, but nothing I looked at under $2,000 was really any good.

I refuse to pay $2,000 for a television at this stage in my life. I don’t have a huge place, a husband to help foot the bill, or an X-Box. But, I do have a wonderful boyfriend with a Costco membership. If you don’t mind not having a big name on your TV, which I certainly don’t, then $800 for a 37-inch Viewsonic LCD television is a bonus and a half deal. Having a wonderful boyfriend with an SUV is also a bonus and a half. Could you imagine me trying to cart that gynormous box home in Joey?

TV stand, back to Ikea. The Expedit is nice, dark, contemporary, and matches my bookshelves to a fault. The DVD player didn’t fit inside it (not shitty measuring on my part, I just liked the Expedit more than anything else) so it had to go underneath, but the spaces the stand itself provides show off my speakers very well. Sandy hooked everything up and arranged it nicely. Good boyfriend. On either side of the TV is a lamp, complete with dimmers. Hey, lighting is important. Don’t want to glare out the romance of horror movies, you know.

Over the television I had room for an espresso coloured floater shelf. I messed around with a bunch of things before deciding what to display and what to nix, and here’s what made the cut: Two silver glass candlesticks, a pile of old books, the kitschy antique volleyball from Portobello market, the pre-Communist camera I got in Europe but still have no idea how to use, and an old electric fan I found in a pawn shop.

It’s pretty obvious I love vintage.

As for accents, I toss some navy embroidered cushions on the couch, finds from a store near work. My silver platter goes on the coffee table and on that, a bunch of shells. I love shells, too. If you ever see me on a beach, 10 to one I’ll be elbow-deep in a sandbar, digging for shells. I found these great shells for half off at Pottery Barn, and some even better faux silver shells I scoped out in this adorable boutique near the units’ house. They’re supposed to be place card holders, but I like them better on my platter, mixed in with the real thing.

In my haste for accents I picked up a clear vase and filled it up with some cowrie shells, intending to put it on the floater shelf over the TV. It looked terrible there, too crowded, so I stuck it next to a lamp for the time being, just until all the boxes and mess was cleared up.

It doesn’t go with my theme of symmetry but looks good there anyway, kind of at home. Who would’ve thought?

It’s kind of the same as me and this loft, when I think about it. I won’t say that nothing turned out the way I intended, because some things did. Lots of things but, overall, not what I anticipated. A lot different, but I love it.

I’m comfortable.

I’m home.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dear Moms,

Not an hour after you came over to see my decorating progress, I received a wonderful compliment from you. You looked at my book wall and said that it was absolutely stunning and that in fact, it showcased Me most wonderfully.

Imagine that. However, why is there always a however with mothers? Not five seconds into my glowing bask of happiness, you interjected with a crinkle of the nose, and asked me what sort of dining table and chairs I’d purchased, and when they would be arriving.

Oh, mother. Mother, mother, mother. Moms. I can see where this idea of yours came from, after all, this is the space in my loft provided for dining, and a place where I’m sure everyone else who has a unit identical to mine has placed their dining table and chairs. But when I told you that I hadn’t purchased any kind of dining set and would, in fact, not be getting one at all, the look on your face was akin to that of a perplexed flamingo.

Where am I going to SIT? Where am I going to EAT? Am I not aware that being sans table & chairs is perhaps the most unstylish, etiquette-less way of living? How can I expect to have any manners, in fact, how can I even expect to bear children with manners if I don’t SIT DOWN properly on a CHAIR, and eat dinner from a TABLE?

Ah but you see, I’d thought of that. I again showed you my pair of brown ultrasuede topped bar stools, pulled up to my extended kitchen counter (a.k.a Breakfast Bar), and said this, mother, this is where I am going to eat. It’s just me, myself and I living here you know, and I’d rather enjoy the full view of my shelves, books ‘n stuff, than swallow up space with furniture I’ll hardly ever use. (Note that I also refrained from telling you that I love sitting & eating on the kitchen counter).

Seeing your victory quickly fading you played the Sandy card, since you properly adore him, and asked me where he would be sitting when I make him dinner? Where will my boyfriend eat if I’m not properly serving him dinner on a table? The couch, I replied, and if not the couch, the floor. We really like to sit on the floor and eat off the coffee table, watching movies.

You snorted. Knowing you, snorting is trouble. You snorted, rolled your eyes and told me, point blank, how this type of living was for perverts and women of the night. Not only was I being a ruffian, but I’d just gone right ahead and RUINED my loft.

Oh, mother. Mother, mother, mother. Moms. I know that even trying to explain that this is my house and this is the way I like it would be totally futile, since you absolutely know your way is best, but what else can I say? This is my house, and this is the way I like it. Really like it, in fact. I value my space a lot more than a table, and some extra chairs that I really, really won’t be using. I mean, really.

Fine, then. Your defeat absolute you turned to leave, muttering all the while.

Oh, moms. I may not be a fan of dining sets at this age or with this setting, but never fear. I know which forks to eat with, and when I’m in restaurants, I almost always opt to eat sitting at a table. And I know that one day, should I ever bear children, you will sweep in and make sure they know how to sit properly on chairs, and eat even more properly off fine china plates, that are nicely set on a table. A far, far cry from their Bohemian mother, I’m sure.

Most very uncouthly,

Your daughter

Monday, September 24, 2007

Decorator's Handbook: Living with Books

Note: I'm trying really, really hard to get some pics up here, but my digital camera is in a state of shock. Why does this always happen when I don't need it to? Anyway, I'm doing my absolute bestest to get it all up by next week. If not by then, rest assured - pics coming! Also, thanks for bearing with me during the decor phase. It's almost over. --WLFG

I love to read, hence I love books. I’ve loved to read all my life, or at least since I first learned how. So if loving to read means loving books, loving books means I have lots of them.

Anyone who ever wants to get me a present knows that a trip to the bookstore is never out of order. Combine that with my own huge weakness for the written word, and there are books, hundreds of books, mostly in boxes stacked kind of, sort of neatly in my parents’ basement. I’ve been adding to these boxes for years in the hope that one day, I’d have enough room to display my books properly.

I may call my loft a shoebox for all kinds of reasons, but one of the reasons I love it is for the east wall in my living room, a wall beside the kitchen and big enough for plenty of bookshelves, housing plenty of books. The wall itself is chocolate brown, and only a few inches more than I needed to fit five Billy bookcases.

Billy is your standard bookshelf, the pride and joy of Ikea. Billy is sold in a variety of colours and sizes, and the espresso shelves looked great against the chocolate. Why shouldn’t they? Coffee and chocolate are already great pairings in life. Three of these shelves are 40cm wide, and two are 80cm, so I sequenced them thin, fat, thin, fat and thin. The two wide shelves hold nothing but books, while the three skinnys hold part books, part stuff.

I’m a huge fan of stuff. Some might call this a tendency towards packrat-itude, but I think the far better word is Collector. Collector of stuff, that’s me. Collector of stuff that only I could find totally cool, while others harbour their different, varying opinions. About my stuff, that is.

So among my cornucopia of stuff are vintage piano music books, cigar boxes, an old clock (unwound, the ticking drives me mental), a Pastis bottle from the side of the street in Paris, a Coca Cola bottle from the side of the street in Amman (I thought the logo in Arabic was hysterical), a blue tin filled with Czech letter stamps that, once upon a time, used to set newspaper typeface. Black & whites of dad’s mom, mom’s parents, and mom’s grandfather, my great-grandfather who sailed to America in the dawn of the 20th century and worked for a farmer named Louis.

In short, stuff that looks great next to books. Stuff that’s familiar; stuff that I love. On the floor next to my shelves, kind of offset in the corner, are two vintage wood & metal crates that held bottles of some sort during WWII. They now hold several bottles of red wine that I’m sure me and several guests will be enjoying over the coming months.

When all was said and done and my Book Stuff wall completed, I sat back to enjoy the view. I’m very happy with it.

Decorator's Handbook: Project Kitchen

My big dream for the kitchen: Replace all cupboards with something darker, buy stainless steel appliances, a granite countertop, and tile the backsplash with something shinily funky. Replace lighting.

Reality: Accept that my cupboards will never math my floor (stupid condo developers), love my black appliances, accept my black formica counter, save backsplash tiling for when I have more $$, and put up two Ikea steel racks for extra storage. Keep dreaming about lighting replacements.

Boo. But at least on the wall right outside the kitchen, I have a most fabulous painting of a purple chandelier, bought on power sale at an art exhibit.

I love art.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Decorator's Handbook: Bathroom Bling

Ta DA!

I bought a stainless steel toilet seat! I'm kitschy, fabulous and fun.

On the other hand, I bought a stainless steel toilet seat. Have I gone totally insane?

(Note that the seat itself is plastic, it’s the lid that’s steel. I’m not stupid enough to rip my ass off a cold steel toilet seat in winter. Still though, have I gone totally insane?)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

100% Real Juice: Shirley Temple

Finally, our 100% Real Juice actually involves Juice. Note that I’m not talking about Shirley Temple Black, the actress and United Nations Ambassador, but her namesake, Shirley Temple the drink.

Though it should carefully be noted that anyone within their right minds would aspire to achieve even half of what Shirley Temple Black has throughout her life, me included. Moving along, then.

Shirley Temple is a cocktail and a virgin to boot, meaning there’s no alcohol. The standard mix is parts ginger ale, orange juice and grenadine, garnished with a maraschino cherry and orange slice. Many a bartender has played with the recipe since its birth though, and each new recipe is slightly different from the last.

I’ll never forget the first time I had a Shirley Temple. I was seven and having brunch at the country club, la-dee-dah. Brunch and country clubs for the seven-year old who was I wasn’t exactly the norm, no no, but more on the lines of our family getting a special invitation from Dad’s boss.

Mr. Harrington was a dashing British fellow in his 50’s, who always wore custom suits and was never short of breath mints. He had crisp blue eyes, perfectly behaved white-blonde hair parted to the left, and a way of charming women right off their slingbacks. Mr. Harrington always traveled with two things: the silver tipped cane he didn’t need, and Mrs. Harrington the second ,the model-turned-secretary-turned-mistress-turned-wife who was no less than 20 years his junior. It was heavily debated as to whether he really needed her, either.

This was all quite scandalous and thrilling for my sister and I, and we chattered excitedly about it for days on end. Just imagine, we would be having brunch in a country club with a British person who happened to be Dad’s boss, and a second wife with peroxide blonde hair. We could hardly wait.

It was much less thrilling but a lot more scandalous for our mother, who had to prepare a couple of mop top kids for this poo poo event. Two weeks, two new dresses, two haircuts, four shoes and endless etiquette lessons later, we were properly pruned, educated, and terrified of embarrassing ourselves and our parents. “And for crying loud (to this day moms says it, for crying loud), don’t say anything about swallowing your tooth!”

“Or where you saw it later,” Dad chipped in. I gulped, Oli snickered but faltered under the steely glare of our mother, and in we went.

It was magnificent. A huge, pastel ballroom with panoramic windows ornamented in creamy, gathered curtains that accented the glorious view of the green, green golf course. A string quartet played Beethoven to the sea of patrons in their diamonds, furs, Rolexes and tailored garb, as everyone politely nibbled their meals from heirloom flatware.

Oli and I had never seen such opulence in our lives. We were the children of immigrant parents striving to make it in a new world, after all, and our mouths dropped open in wonder and shock. A quick nudge from moms and our traps clapped shut again, just in time for the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Harrington.

They waltzed toward us, having come in from a separate entrance, he in his tweed suit and she in her silver fox. A liveried gentleman hurried over to take their coats as all the grown ups gave their proper greetings and salutations. Then, the Harringtons turned to us kids.

“You must be Olivia,” said Mr. Harrington, as Mrs. Harrington made a big to-do with kissing my sister on both cheeks. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

Oli replied as she’d been taught, coached incessantly by our mother at home: “It’s very nice to meet you too, Mr. Harrington. And Mrs. Harrington. You look lovely.”

Mr. Harrington then turned to me with a big smile on his face, and said, “The youngest of the family! Tell me, are you your father’s daughter, or your mother’s?

Uh oh. A trap. We hadn’t gone through this at home. I’d been all prepared with my, “Hello Mr. and Mrs. Harrington, I’m so very pleased to meet you. Thank you for inviting us today.” Everyone was staring at me, waiting for a response, and Mrs. Harrington was coming at me with her jingly jewellery and enormous breasts. “They’re both my parents, Mr. Harrington. At least that’s what they always tell me.”

The Harringtons burst out laughing, Oli looked down to giggle in peace without our mother noticing; Moms and Dad turned fifty shades of purple. And with that, we were led to our seats.

The table settings were as superb as the room; celadon green linens, then a smaller white tablecloth on top, Wedgwood china and about 835 forks that, thanks to Moms’ tutelage, I now knew how and when to use. No sooner were we seated, than a black tie waiter came over to take our order for drinks.

Mr. Harrington had a gin & tonic; Mrs. Harrington an olive martini, very dry. Dad ordered a scotch & soda and moms, white wine. Then, it was mine and Oli’s turn.

This part was supposed to be easy. Moms had drilled us on this at home, too: two drink maximum, in the form of 7-Up for Oli, and ginger ale for me. We were not to go for broke on Mr. Harrington’s tab, but ordering water was a no-no; we didn’t want to look needy. We were not permitted to drink Coke, thus 7-Up was perfect for 12-year old Oli, and ginger ale the perfect choice for me.

Oli ordered her soda and then the water looked at me. I asked for my ginger ale but was interrupted by Mr. Harrington. “Nonsense. She’s a lady, and needs a lady’s drink. Fetch her a Shirley Temple.”

Shirley Temple? Wasn’t that the kid in black and white singing and dancing around in The Little Princess, a movie Oli had taken me to see for free at the library last month? I was very confused by all this and started to ask Mr. Harrington about it, but a swift kick from my sister shut me up. I was left to stew with my thoughts while the adults made small talk and then, the waiter delivered everyone’s drinks and with them, my Shirley Temple.

I’d never seen anything like this before, much less tried such a colourful drink, complete with little paper parasol and plastic sword spearing an orange slice & maraschino cherry. I’d never even had a maraschino cherry. I stared at that drink, not touching it until Mr. Harrington lifted his glass with a, “Cheers, all!”

Moms had told us all about this and what to do so Oli and I lifted our glasses to clink along, as Mrs. Harrington squealed. “Look, they’re cheers-ing with us! Isn’t that just darling, darling?” My sister and I exchanged knowing looks and finally, we were able to try our drinks.

It was heaven in a glass, this Shirley Temple. It was fruity and tangy and delicious all at once, tasting like cherries and oranges with just the right touch of gingery, bubbly snap. Not too little, and not too much. Mr. Harrington was right. This was a lady’s drink, and as I sat there sipping my Shirley Temple, I felt very much the lady indeed.

Fast Forward: 25 years later, I’m at my cousin Seth’s wedding, hanging out at the bar drinking Bloody Caesars with Sandy. The bartender has been most generous with the vodka and hot spices so we’re happy and flushed, laughing at each others’ red lips.

My little cousin and flower girl for the night, Jinny, meanders up to the bar. Jinny is a very beautiful little girl and is even more so tonight in her white dress with chocolate brown sash, hair decorated with rhinestones and baby’s breath. She’s six-years old but will be seven in a few short weeks, and tonight, she’s at the bar to get herself a ginger ale.

This struck something in me, and I quickly halted her order. “Hey kiddo, would you mind if your Auntie got you something else to try? I promise it’s really good.” We may be cousins, but our huge age difference grants me the title of Auntie. Jinny nods, and I ask the bartender to whip up a Shirley Temple.

Carlos, the Costa Rican bartender of miracles, makes a very pretty drink in a highball glass, and adds a dash of pineapple juice for extra colour. I slide the drink over to Jinny, and she tiptoes up to the bar to get it, clasping the glass with both hands and taking her first sip through the red straw.

Jinny’s blue eyes widen as she looks up at me and her lips, still on the straw, curl into enough of a smile to betray her dimples. I know that look well, after all, I had one just like it at her age. “Oh, Auntie, this is so good. It’s…” and there she paused, lost for words.

“Positively ladylike?”

She smiles again and says, “Yeah!” then clasps her glass again, taking another sip.

How wonderful it is, to be young. How even more wonderful, when you are young, to find that first real taste of grownup in cherries, orange juice and a little paper umbrella. May it be as marvelous for every little girl, as it was for Jinny and I.

We left the bar then, Sandy with his arm around me, and Jinny with one hand in mine. The three of us and Shirley Temple head back to our table, our cheeks pink from vodka and first-ever kiddy cocktail giddiness, respectively. “Hey Jinny, want to hear a story?” I say.


“It’s about a woman with big hair, big nails, and way too much gold jewellery that always makes noise when she walks.”

“What’s her name?”

“Mrs. Harrington the second.”

Jinny’s face scrunches up a little. “She sounds weird.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Elegy for a Tape Measure

You were black on the outside
Yellow, in.
Centimetres, Inches
Millimetres too,
The man at the couch store gave you to me
Free with purchase
I thought after spending thousands
I’d get more.

Nonetheless we were happy
And oh, how we measured
From bookshelves to kitchens
Then ceiling to floor,
My bed in the corner
My desk not yet bought;
The pictures on the wall
You specified them all.

Then one fateful day
I don’t know what happened,
I packed you into my bag then thought,
“Just a quick double check,”
I pulled out your little sunshine strip then let go,
Woe, horrific woe,
When the stopper clip on end flew clean off
And too quickly,
You were sucked into the dark depths
Never to see light again.

I wailed for five minutes,
It did me no good,
Then ran to get dad’s trusty Old Silver,
Crying out in despair when I saw firsthand
That it only measured in feet.
Father, how could you?

Oh, my tape measure, how I adored you.
Oh, my tape measure, how I shall miss you.
Though broken you are still on my nightstand,
A testament to our time,
Numerals silenced; never to stretch again.

My home, not yet finished, craves your attention,
Untaken measurements quietly weep,
Centimetres unfulfilled;
Desolate portrait.

Oh tape measure, my life is incomplete,
My heart torn apart without you.
Had my sister not bought furniture at the same store,
Also receiving an identical free tape measure
(Which she has now given me),
I would be truly inconsolable.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Decorator's Handbook: Project Steps

Never ignore your stairs. Many will tell you that a staircase is a staircase is a staircase, but I say your steps can be a wonderful window to your personality.

(I totally think the same goes for hallways, but I don’t have one of those just yet)

My loft is many things, including tiny and badly laid out, but it’s got some great stairs. Imagine this, if you will: open the front door to a small landing, with six steps up directly ahead of you, and eight steps down to your left. The steps going up lead to the bedroom, and the steps down, to the living room.

For starters, I’m a huge fan of the floor on my landing. It was one of the few things I splurged on, with my limited budget, when it was time to pick the finishes for my place. That was long before I moved in and very fortunately, the result was a happy one. My landing is covered in the most marvelous chocolate brown stone tile, happy happy joy joy.

A little more unfortunately, my steps are covered in light beige carpet. Boo. I’m not a fan of carpet, but the alternative, all wood flooring, cost megabucks that I didn’t have. But to make things all better again, the railing alongside the steps is some very charming painted white wood.

When you’re standing on the landing and look upstairs, you don’t see much. That’s because it’s a very enclosed space, it is; if it was open, right next to the stairs, on the second floor, would be my bedroom. But since that half-wall that gives the initial loft concept its name starts on the outside, and not in, that’s what’s on the side. I painted the outside of that chocolate brown.

When I said my loft is badly laid out, I wasn’t kidding. At the top of my stairs is a space that’s too big to leave empty, yet too small to fit anything substantial. What’s that all about? So, after much deliberation and tearing out of hair, I thought it a great cranny to fit my tallboy.

Oh, my tallboy. How I love it, bought at an outlet, all shiny sleek black with silver vintage-y handles on the drawers. It’s a fantastic piece rendered almost useless by its too-shallow drawers, a throwback to contemporary furniture. I forgive all its shortcomings by the sheer beauty of just being able to look at it. Gorgeous piece. I commend myself highly on its purchase.

On top of my tallboy is a white doily. I call it that because that’s what one calls a piece of fabric placed on top of furniture or a plate; just understand that I hate frilly shit, and my doilies are never frilly. I got my square, white, sheer doily at a vintage store for next to nothing, and it’s on top of the tallboy for a reason.

On the doily is the only garage sale item I have ever taken home in my entire life: a brown vintage typewriter. A good decade ago I was walking through the West Village just after getting my hair done, when I passed by a corner house in full garage sale mode.

I never stop at garage sales; you can decide if that’s a good or bad habit. But that day as I was walking by their hedge, my foot brushed something. I looked down and saw the most beautiful old typewriter.

A middle-aged wiry Englishman/bloke made his way towards me when I inquired about it; it was his typewriter, over a hundred years old he said, and he’d been putting it out at garage sales for years. At the last minute though, he’d always take it back. Too attached to the piece, you see. That’s why it’d been under the hedge, and as a writer, he just couldn’t part with that beloved machine.

I told him I totally understood, being a hopeful writer myself; we chatted for a few minutes and then, out of the blue, he gave me his typewriter. Gave it to me, just like that. Up and down I refused, but the man insisted. “The only reason I could never part with it, really, is because I didn’t trust anyone else with it. But I know a writer will treasure it. You’ll give it a good home.”

Through several moves, that typewriter has come with me. It weighs a ton but it’s great to look it. I’ll never write a book with it, of that I’m positive, but I’ll always wonder about the sheets of paper and words that did come out of it. It adorns my tallboy with pride.

Beside the typewriter, to its back right corner, is one more ornamentation that I threw together at the last minute: my now very dried up maid-of-honour bouquet from Oli’s wedding. It looks great in the small glass vase that once housed her centerpieces.

Looking down from my landing is a different story altogether. To your left is my chocolate brown wall with my two very long windows, ornamented in thick, white waffle drapes. The same drapes cover the window on my door, in Roman blind style. I really wanted Roman blinds for the windows too, but the moron installer kept insisting that the height of my windows would wear on the drapery track. Boo again.

The wall that ends my square footage, your view from the top of the stairs, I’m very happy with. Right beside my loft bedroom is a piece of wall with a shelf built right in, which I thought would be a great place for an objet, some art, anything funky. My something funky turned out to be a silver and brass astrolabe.

Underneath that is the corner belonging to my main floor, and in that corner I have several things. To your left, the minute you hit the bottom of the steps, is a very simple black and silver coat rack, the kind you anchor right into the wall. Hung on it, for now, is a red paisley cashmere scarf with red faux fur pompoms. I love that scarf, and thought it made the space look more fun.

Under that, nestled in the corner, is my porcelain French umbrella bucket. I only call it French because it’s got some painting on it, vis a vis Paris before the Art Deco age, and inside it are several umbrellas. Just a bit over from that, directly underneath the astrolabe, is my tall black wall mirror. And on the floor, beside the mirror, are two very tall Michael Aram silver candlesticks that look like tree branches, complete with two very tall white taper candles.

Just over from that, going into my living room, is the black French cabinet I got at that secondhand store last year, which is in turn bedecked with a white doily, silver and glass Indian lantern, and two black frames. One has a picture of Oli and Corey on their wedding day; the other is of my parents, circa 1969, when they were in Schlossburg, Germany.

When I open the door to my loft now, when I look up and then down at these little things that make all the difference, I love what I see. I feel at home.

That's a good thing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We have been lost to each other for so long.

Not my line, but the opener of one of The Red Tent, one of my all time favourite books. Scary enough I think I’ve used it here once before, again after a particularly long absence. I’ll refrain from using the search tab.

I haven’t forgotten you. I haven’t forgotten writing, and I haven’t forgotten this blog. But sometimes, every now and then, life hands you a typhoon of events that, to deal with properly, requires some slack in other areas.

Is that a proper excuse for being away for so long? Heck no. Just know that I’ve been busy, crazy busy, and while the weather is getting better here on this front, the winds will still blow for another odd two weeks.

I’ll be posting very occasionally until then, and taking you back in time to cover everything that’s been missed: the decorating, the wedding, my insanity. And hopefully, very soon, you’ll be greeted with a whole new look to this page as well.

Thanks for your patience. Stay posted for the story of my stairs.