Wednesday, September 30, 2009

a bunch of possibilities

so remember a few weeks ago i wrote about deconstructing a supermarket bunch of flowers to create nicer and less storebought-looking arrangements? well in a piece on the real simple website's wedding section, they actually worked with the same idea and i love the results! by deconstructing and reconstructing flowers, it totally shows how adding a little extra thought and effort can elevate something simple and inexpensive to something much more special and shining. though i'm usually more into monochromatic flowers, i can't deny the appeal of color sometimes.

so...above, you see many bunches of flowers in the yellow family (very cheerful looking, i might add), and here, a nicely coordinated bouquet with many levels and tones of yellow.

here are some horrid bunches of carnations...i'm sorry, i don't care that people say they're acceptable now....i hate them and all they stand for. okay, that's a little dramatic, i realize, but really....

but look at the picture below - en masse, they actually look pretty good!

here's another array of flowers that includes carnations:

though i have to say i'm not such a fan of how these carnations look mixed in with other flowers below - it looks like filler, while in the pink bunch above, where it's all carnations, they stand on their own and look much more intentional, even pretty.

i think i would have just left the carnations out of the assembled one and used more of the other flowers, which they had plenty of.

and the added bonus of the original pink carnation bunches is ending up with a robust bunch of baby's breath by itself, which i am a huge fan of. i think baby's breath is cheapened by its ubiquitous use as a filler in cheesy bouquets, and i actually love the idea of massive amounts of JUST baby's breath used as centerpieces - it has a lot of impact and is very pretty, especially en masse. using it that way also highlights how green and fresh it can look, where it always tends to look dry and overly white mixed in with other flowers.

the most impressive reworking of the bunch (pun intended) was the mixed bouquet below- in my opinion, a dead giveaway as a supermarket impulse buy, particularly because of all the bulky filler. i also really don't like most lilies, and i find that they're often used as the centerpiece of cheap bouquets.

but look at it here! SO happy they removed the lilies and look how profesh and gorgeous this is! total florist quality.

it gives me so many good ideas and ways of thinking about inexpensive options that are readily available...ideas like this can be used for gifts, for weddings, and for your own home for parties and holidays, and most importantly for every day, because that's when our lives are lived.

with a little time and effort, we can exponentially increase the beauty of our lives - love when that happens.

all photos from

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

rolling on a river

two years ago at this very moment, mitchell and i were buzzing around the emerson resort with our closest family and friends, preparing to be married. i was bailing out of a massage that required a level of relaxation i simply wasn't capable of that day...kelly's forehead was burned by a nervous curling iron-wielding hairdresser...our "videographer" was breaking down emotionally and unable to perform her duties...and surrounded by everyone we love, we became husband and wife in the most perfect wedding either of us could imagine.

as we all sat along the rolling esopus river, my father's toast eloquently shared a thought mitchell and i hold on to and reaffirm often. "life is a river." and he talked about how sometimes the river is smooth and sometimes rocky and how you hold on to each other and go for the ride -- that when you find your person to ride with "it makes the good times twice as good and the bad times half as bad. it happened for me and your mom, and it will happen for you and mitchell -- you'll see, it's true." and we do see. it is true.

cheers to that.

peace, love and pillows

sometimes i feel like throw pillows can look very dated and decorator-ish. but not the reversible peace and love pillow by jonathan adler. i love the graphic punch it packs and i think it would look really cool against really anything, but i think particularly good against black or white.

i feel like they'd look really great in conjunction with a piece of furniture that's a contrast in terms of style. imagine how the heart and peace sign pillows would look on this antique baroque sofa from jayson home and garden or something like it.
i also love the peace and love pillow's cousin from cb2, the zip code pillow. this one gives a similar graphic look and is less than half the price.

cb2 actually has a few great pillows, including the denim and sequin peace out pillow and the velvet bicycle pillow.
i like the troy pillow because of how playful it's red horse is...would be great in a southwestern-style room as a touch of levity, or certainly in a child's room. so much fresher than traditional cowboy touches.

okay one more...

the la vie pillow, also from cb2, reminds me of the klimt tree of life paintings, and i love it for that reason alone.
i love how accents like these pillows easily add a little lightness and difference into a room, and i love these in particular because they're each a little nod to something nostalgic or otherwise reminiscent. to me, a home is meaningful and comfortable when it holds layers of memories, associations and suggestions of a life's experiences.

peace and love photo from; cb2 photos from; baroque sofa photo from; klimt photo from

Monday, September 28, 2009

have a seat

i seriously adore this use of several different dining room chairs all unified by black paint. it is the precise kind of mix i love -- not perfect, not precious, but composed and sophisticated all the same. much like the blog i discovered it on - elements of style.

what i love about this is that it's a strategy that can be used on chairs you already have, or could easily and cheaply acquire - as hand-me-downs, yard sale or thrift store finds, or even inexpensive ikea purchases, like the lanni for $60, the kaustby for $40, or the olle for $35. or one of each mixed with some other random chairs picked up along the way. or to create the look all at once, maybe two of each.

i think the key would be to use the exact same paint on all the chairs so that the same color and sheen is achieved. also, i like the idea used in the picture above of using matching chair cushions, whether a solid color or a pattern or print. and ikea has those too. for $6.

want to know something that makes the dining room above that much cooler? it belongs to SJP.

top photo from; all other photos from

Friday, September 25, 2009

sweet traditions

one of the things i value about fall is the jewish holidays and the fact that they bring about a whole set of traditions and memories i hold very dear. one of the nicest is the dipping of an apples in honey to signify the start of a sweet new year. it's one of those constants, like seasons. it's perennial, and it happens no matter what else is going on in the world or my life.

when i was a baby and could not yet say the blessing or eat my grandmother's brisket, my parents and grandparents blessed and dipped and ate on my behalf...when i was a young hebrew school student, i proudly led the prayer and song that followed, demanding my parents' and grandparents' attention. when i was a teenager and still too young to appreciate my mother finally mastering brisket, i might have rolled my eyes and waited to leave as they all tried to maintain a cheerful (and holy) mood while dipping apples. and only a few years ago, i was charmed by the first year of dipping with the man i would marry and the family that would soon be his as well.

this year, we mourned the loss of one grandmother and brought apples and honey to another, too old to remember the prayer on her own or to make her famous brisket. and one day, mitchell and i will do the dipping for our child who is too young to say the blessing. and so it goes...

another perennial holiday treat is all the visual niceties that come with the holidays and the fact that objects themselves can become traditions too. i was struck this year by how influenced my own choices have been by what i grew up with. not that this general concept comes as a shock, but for some reason before now, i never saw the direct correlation.

for example, one of the things i love most about holidays at my parents' house is the use of my grandmother's china -- the same one my mother grew up eating brisket off of. it's old english china and each piece is a little different - the dishes are white, but have gold accents and rims of different widths and colors. there are dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls and teacups and saucers, and between them all, the combinations are endless. i love this take on traditional china - it's mix and match and not too precious, but still very beautiful and sparkly on a holiday table. the gold accents are key!

a couple years ago, i started my own collection of english teacups, and my grandmother has given me a few of hers to help build my collection. i'm sure one day i will end up with more of hers, and i love the idea that i am uniting, or reuniting, items that belong together. i love matthew mead's post on this idea on his blog flea market style.

another page i realize i took right out of my mom's book (and that she took out of her mom's book, and so on) is a two-bowl server. my mom usually uses hers for horseradish, one bowl for each kind, but has also used it for salt and pepper, apples and honey and other yin and yang type things. (yin and yang were jewish, you know...)

the version i opted for has three bowls, which has turned out to be awkward at times because i have nothing to put in the third, but is generally the same idea. it was a gift i registered for when we were engaged, and i'm so glad i have it. in addition to traditional holiday uses, i've also used it for sweeteners, olives and assorted candies (not all together, of course - that would just be weird).

when i use these items, i smile because i feel like i'm continuing traditions that came before me and will continue after me, like i'm a part of a whole that is greater than just my life.

i guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. or the honey.

apple photo from; three bowl server photo from

Thursday, September 24, 2009

a pretty frame of mind

love love love this's an antique frame used as a tray. in this picture, there's a piece of solid fabric under the glass, but you could also use a piece of pretty scrapbook paper or fabric (great use for fabric remnants!).

this is a great idea for frames that catch your attention at a yard sale, a clearance rack or anywhere that sells interesting frames, even if you might not be inclined to hang or display them in the traditional way. most of all, it has me thinking about frames i already have lying around the house!

this idea is so charming and coquettish -- perfect for a vanity or ladylike desk.

photo from

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

nothing but blue skies

i just had to share the ridiculous looking sky we had the other night while heading west on the bqe. can you believe? another reminder that the most amazing sights are there whether we see them or not.

so i guess it pays to look. and to take pictures.

tiny treasures...fleeced!

i was beyond thrilled to find these polarvide throws at ikea for $3.99 each. not only are they dreamily soft and fleecy, but they are huge! at 51"x67", they're really more blankets than throws, and i got two of them in white, which are currently in use in my living room, whitening the whole room like i wanted, draped on chairs. i can't wait to curl up with one while a fire keeps the house warm - so roomy and warm - perfect for fall and winter.

these seriously look like they cost way more than they do and would look very at home (and luxurious, i might add) in any room -- draped over a chair, in use as a blanket or neatly folded on an ottoman. having more than one packs an even greater punch and pulls a room together in an understated but coordinated way.

in addition to white (which is really in between white and off-white), they come in black, a deep royal blue, red and a lemongrassy green, so they can be a great and very inexpensive way to add a punch of color to a room or reiterate a color, like i'm doing with the white. another thought i had - if you have a seat cushion you wanted to recover, this would be great "fabric" to do it with.

the polarvides are found near the fabric by the yard, another happy new addition to ikea.

read about other tiny treasure here.

top photo from

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

smitten with suki and with fall

a little before dusk tonight, fall will be upon us. officially.

i might have to pick up a few of these perfectly simple suki candleholders from crate and barrel to autumnify my balcony - i love the idea of the candlelight dancing around the gold walls. (thanks to happy mundane and his fab blog for the heads up).

there is no greater feeling, to my mind, than the brisk cool of a fall night, rediscovering a non-summer outdoor world. it is my favorite time of year, hands-down, full of new possibilities and feelings. at the same time, it's a return to feelings i've had all my life, and a history of things that have come with fall...reconnecting with friends (used to be in school, now just because social calendars open up), lots of family gatherings (for the jewish holidays and thanksgiving). also, mitchell and i started our relationship in the fall, got engaged the next fall, and married two falls after that. so there's that.

of course, bad things have happened in the fall too - 9/11 was of course in the fall, and last fall mitchell lost his job just as we were celebrating our first anniversary, last week my grandmother passed away (more on that later), and george w. bush was elected as president in TWO different falls.

but i digress...part of the loveliness of any season is that it always comes again, bringing new feelings of happiness and expectancy with it. no matter what happens in the world, the seasons pass and bring with them all the unique joys and gifts that each season holds. each time it comes, there is potential, and a chance to deepen one's connection to and appreciation of that season. and it's a worthy endeavor - it is always one season or another, and joy can be taken from just the simple fact of the season. it's a bounty that nature offers us and it is something for which i am incredible grateful, because in every season, i have that "favorite season" feeling. but really, fall is my favoritest favorite.

i think particularly as we change over the years, we discover more about each season we value. someone who never really cared much for pumpkin picking might find new delight when doing it with a special child they love. and someone who never much cared for planting mums might take new pleasure when it's for an elderly loved one who smiles because the color is outside her window. to keep giving ourselves those chances to evolve, we're taking part in the cyclical nature of the seasons themselves.

but alas, the realities of a dire economy and a reduction in consumerism work against the idea of being present in the current season, and by that i mean that target has christmas merchandise out already. yeah.

but i will not let them take fall from me. LET GO OF MY FALL.

i WILL get my fill of browns, reds, golds and oranges. i WILL go apple picking and enjoy hot cider. i WILL buy mums, possibly even the ones with the cattails planted in the center. i WILL wear a jean jacket and some of my favorite ponchos. and hear me, target, i WILL buy and display in my home something in the gourd or squash family. i'm thinking of going with the cream ones this year.

okay i'm done. happy fall.

suki photo from

a treasure trove in chicago

i want to introduce you to one of my new favorite stores for gift and home items, jayson home and garden in chicago. though i've never been there, i've shopped online, and have encountered very helpful and knowledgeable staff on the phone and over email, patiently working with me as i made my choices.

the store is a treasure trove of unique and well-edited items for the home, none of which smack of mass-production and price gouging. the items they carry are universal enough that they would work for many people as gifts, but not so mundane that the recipient might receive it more than once. here are some of my favorite gift and home items:

pyrite heart (fool's gold): pretty as a paperweight or bedside charm. also, as a tabletop design, a few of them scattered on a mirrored tile.
lotus flower dishes:
quartz votive holder: looks like a glacier!
jenny chandelier: love this as the only luxe accent in a relaxed beach house
guinea feather placemats:
gold sequin pillow: OMG
caravan chandelier:

absinthe spoons: for the barkeep who almost has it all
abalone shell mirror: - i'd actually use this flat on it's back on a coffee table or dining table as a beachy but glitter centerpiece, maybe with a candle in the center.

the faulkner chest:
the canopy chair:
the amalfi sofa: so lovely and feminine
i also love their garden offerings, some which can be purchased for one's own gardening, like the aged planters below. they also have a container planting service and a home gardening service, and they make beautiful floral and plant arrangements for delivery (chicago area only). some of their options include the modern herb box and the shades of red pot below.

the store also has a whole "flea" department, which houses real vintage pieces scouted out by their buyers and available for purchase. they include all kinds of curiosities and artifacts, including totally incredible pieces of furniture which are truly one of a kind, especially since they are sometimes reupholstered or refinished, but always retain their vintage bones. these are definitely the first come, first serve kind of purchases - here today, gone tomorrow. or even later today. here are some of the flea items i love:

antique baroque sofa: would be amazing in a white-on-white room
floral pendant:
antique headboard: could you just die?
artists' palette - there were a few of these, each unique, but they're not on the site anymore as of my most recent exploration - i wonder how the lucky owners are using them
vintage scandinavian books:
vintage enamel numbers: these would be cool on the backs of dining chairs or on nice storage boxes.
vintage camera:
vintage alphabet prints:
victorian penmanship studies: love these in a child's room or nursery
vintage sofa (in belgian linen):
small vintage parsons bench (with original crewel upholstery): great vanity seatvintage shoe mold (from holland):
vintage wingback settee (in belgian linen): would love this as the seating on one side of a dining table - maybe a big farmhouse table.
over the summer, we gave a wedding gift from jayson that i was very pleased with. it was the large agate cheese plate with the bolinas cheese spreader and cheese knife, all shown below.

aside from the fact that i really loved each piece, the added pleasure came from the fact that i was able to handpick the item we gave - because the agate cheese plates are each unique and organic, the five plates they had at the store were of varying colors and patterns. one of the members of jayson's staff emailed me pictures of each one right away so i could choose the one i wanted to give. i loved it also because i knew the one i selected was the only one of its kind in the whole world - a fitting gift for a wedding, if you ask me.

here are the pictures, to give you an idea of the variety.

i chose the first of the pictures shown here, because i liked the colors and the definition of the rings within the plate. a sort of perfection within a naturally flawed item - i loved that duality.

my helper at jayson guided me thoughtfully and efficiently on which flatware to choose to accompany the plate, as i was also considering the horn flatware and the king's cheese cleaver and knife.
he told me that while the horn and bolinas flatware both matched the agate perfectly, horn goods can be controversial. not knowing exactly how my recipients would feel about that, i opted for the bolinas.

when i received all the items in the mail, i was thrilled with my choice. the tailored, chocolate-colored gift boxes and tissue, along with the giftcard enclosed sealed the deal. sometimes it's details as small as that which solidify my love for a store. it shows they think about their choices and their presentation, and that means something to most discerning shoppers i know.

photos from

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