Category: décor

Buying vintage stuff online

Buying vintage stuff online

I’ve long been skittish about buying vintage stuff online. But my taste has been skewing more antiques-y over the years, and lots of older furniture is built better than the stuff you can get at a reasonable price point these days. So I’ve been slightly emboldened lately.

I read tips from savvy bloggers like Emily Henderson and Jenny Komenda, and I see loads of curated collections on sites like Chairish and One King’s Lane. I feel like I’ve done my homework. But it’s not enough, people. It’s never enough.

I’m picky, you know? I’m a former software tester.  I’m an online dating coach now. I’m paid to notice the little details other people aren’t bothered by. I often see new products online that look great, but prove disappointing in person. (This is so often the case with Target furniture—little stuff like side tables are fine, but anything you need to sit on or open/close doors/drawers on is worthless.)

So buying a vintage chandelier online was kind of terrifying. But it had to be done! Grant and I have been trying to agree on a new lighting fixture basically since the day we bought our house in 2011. Nothing that we both like was ever in a reasonable budget.

When I spotted this mid-century gem on One King’s Lane for $200-ish, I fretted and dithered, tried to buy it and couldn’t because it was on hold, and eventually managed to snap it up. (I actually researched the brand, Laurel, and saw loads of Laurel Lighting pieces for thousands of bucks on 1st Dibs. So I figured if it didn’t work out in person I could always resell it.)

chandelier

Looks fine, right? Clean and modern and masculine and a little space-agey and mid-century, but not so aggressively so that it feels like it needs a home full of Eames chairs and those retro offset legs I hate so much. Unique but not in-your-face spiky-Sputnik weird. And while the fixture is brass, it’s a soft, brushed brass that fits in with our 1946 home’s hardware without clashing with the adjacent stainless-steel-filled kitchen.

I went out of my way to create contingency plans. I asked One King’s Lane what would happen if the fixture arrived broken, and whether I would in fact be stuck with a no-refunds purchase in that instance. (They said no, though I imagine it’s a real bitch to sort out after the fact.)

I even emailed One King’s Lane for more details about the fixture, since the listing didn’t tell me what size bulbs it took, nor did it show me the top of the fixture (thought it said it was “plug in”).  One King’s Lane reached out to their vintage vendor, who took several days to reply, and all they said was that it took “standard” bulbs and clarified that it had no canopy. They also sent this photo, which I guess was somewhat helpful, maybe? I felt better seeing another shot.

image

When I actually unboxed the thing and put it together (amazed that it arrived in one piece), I discovered that “standard” 60-watt sized bulbs don’t fit under the glass shades. This is *exactly* the kind of shit I emailed about, you know? ;) But 40-watt bulbs with the same “standard” (Type E26) base type fit just fine, so that’s OK.

(However, it *is* harder to find LED bulbs in that size, but I’ve done it before so I know I can do it again, even if I don’t have as much choice regarding LED color temperature at that not-that-standard size. Fine. I’m picky, but I can live with that, even though I still think “standard bulbs” would have been an insufficient/misleading reply for some customers out there. Google a fucking bulb type like I did, ya know?)IMG_2214

The thing is a little less pristine than I’d hope (pardon the cat, who insisted on being in the shot)—two of the legs are wobbly but I can’t figure out where there’s any hardware to tighten them, so I’m not sure if that will annoy us or need tweaking once it’s in place.

The whole thing is covered in a slightly sticky residue on all the metal and wood veneer parts, which is fine, probably, but kinda ew. You couldn’t clean it *before* selling it?

The glass shades have some minor damage/dark gray marks that are not visible in either of the pictures, but they’re subtle enough for me, even with the chips around the top which are more visible in person. The shades are more frosted and less opaque white, but OK. All in all, I think I still like the thing.

The brass chain (not shown to me super well in either pic) is unlacquered, whereas the brass on the actual fixture and most of its pole appears to have a lacquer finish that has protected it from aging. I actually *prefer* the natural patina of unlacquered brass, but it’s kind of annoying that it isn’t consistent, you know? And that that part of the equation really wasn’t clear before making this non-refundable purchase.

I’ll sort it out—I have to buy a canopy anyway, and the gal on Etsy who’s selling me mine gave me the option of buying an untreated brass one and she even said she’d burnish it a bit on her end to get the aging process going. I can look up tutorials and do some weird science experiments to alchemize it into a color that hopefully matches both areas well enough. That actually sounds fun. :)

The quirks, in the end, are acceptable to me. Especially since Grant and I have learned over the years that lighting fixtures are really hard, as evidenced by my overly exhaustive Pinterest lighting board—I dislike “boring” fixtures, Grant often dislikes “interesting” ones, and the only ones we agree on are super weird and like a thousand dollars. So this mid-century Laurel thing is a winner, warts and all.

I’m excited to get my canopy and get this sucker installed—getting this new fixture is the domino that set a bunch of other home improvement projects into motion. Yippee/goodbye money.

But I thought the buying experience kind of sucked, you know? And I just don’t think I’ll be comfortable buying anything again that’s “expensive” vintage if I can’t see it in person. No eBay rugs or Chairish sconces or 1st Dibs furniture (like I could afford it anyway).

Case in point:

milo

 

The other vintage piece I had my eye on from One King’s Lane is this ridiculously cool-seeming pair of Milo Baughman swivel chairs that are bafflingly well priced. We really need chairs that have a small footprint and low back, swivel to face the TV or the rest of the room as context demands, and are comfy enough for our giant bodies to sit and relax in. And ideally, you know, look amazing and coordinate with our existing stuff and don’t cost a ton.

Here’s how much help I got (same One King’s Lane form response as with the chandelier; emphasis mine:)

I have contacted the vendor and requested more information about the Milo Baughman Swivel Chairs, Pair. I will contact you as soon as I hear back from them, but it may take more than one business day. Please keep in mind that our sales typically last 72 hours and quantities are limited.

We want you to love every purchase you make at One Kings Lane. Unfortunately we are unable to cancel orders or accept returns on nonreturnable items.

I get that their hands are kind of tied here. I get that vintage reselling is hard. But that policy just feels like I can’t ever buy anything that needs to be sat in or messed with or tested, you know?

The chairs I have in mind are listed as being brown, but they look sort of red-orange to me. Red-orange we kind of like; it matches our rug. Brown we don’t; it doesn’t. A swatch would be amazing, but I’d settle for being told the fabric name and manufacturer so I can track down my own swatch (which takes time).

They’re listed as having all new upholstery, but it doesn’t specify if the foam/springs/etc. was also replaced or just the fabric. A chair with new foam/padding is probably comfy. A chair with 1960s foam and janky old springs probably isn’t.

The site lists their overall dimensions, but it doesn’t list the height, width, or depth of the seats, nor the heights of the armrests. We of House Roberts are giants, with tall bodies and wide asses. Dimensions matter a lot for us.

My first email about these chairs was March 27th. I don’t expect a reply that fully satisfies my every picky question within a time frame that would allow me to purchase these chairs, which I’m not sure I’d be comfortable doing sight unseen/ass unsat even if all the answers pleased me. Sigh.

I can’t shake the feeling that I’m the weirdo here. It sort of feels like how I held off on depositing checks with my phone until just a few months ago. Is buying old/nonreturnable stuff online just something everyone else is comfortable doing, and I’m the old-school brick-and-mortar holdout here? Or is it only fancy design bloggers who feel comfortable taking these retail risks?

If you care a lot about interior design, would you buy that perfect vintage piece online if you couldn’t inspect it in person, knowing it wasn’t returnable? Under what circumstances? Humor me! :)

Ergonomorama

Ergonomorama

I have hardcore tennis elbow. I’ve spent a couple grand accommodating this. Maybe you can learn from my ergonomic expenditures.

My ergonomic backstory

In 2008, the job market was not so hot. I had worked my first ever tech contract, which felt kind of terrifying to me since I was basically guaranteeing future unemployment by taking a short-term (but career-advancing) role. The recession hit, my contract ended, it predictably took forever to find re-employment, and so I took an interim job in a chiropractic clinic that needed someone bilingual to help out. Big mistake!

When I started hooking patients into their traction weights, I suffered a very bad repetitive stress injury that left me with permanent chronic tendinitis (tennis elbow) in both arms. Multiple courses of physical therapy haven’t helped the issue. My RSI constantly gets flared up whenever I use keyboards, mice, touch screens, game controllers, and a whole host of other real-world objects now, and increased flare-ups have spread the pain and injury from my hands to my shoulders and back. It’s difficult to manage because of how severe and sudden the injury was, and how many regular activities (all tech usage plus brushing hair and teeth, pouring water jugs, carrying groceries, shifting gears, etc.) can flare it right back up again.

However, the upside is that the pain has given me license to spring for any ergonomic upgrades that I need to keep it manageable. I hope these annotations on my various ergonomic purchases over the years are helpful to those of you who are considering a more ergonomic workstation. Some purchases have definitely been more worthwhile than others!

Sit/stand desk

I’ve got a GeekDesk v2, which is no longer offered but is similar-ish to the v3. I got the smaller frame size with the relatively larger desktop size, which no longer seems to be an option, but was in between the small and large sizes that are currently offered. My frame is silvers and my desktop is black. I’m mostly happy with it, but I might do more research and make a different purchase today if I got a do-over.

My main complaint is the desktop surface itself. I recommend getting your own desktop, or covering their laminate one in a material that doesn’t so readily accept water and finger oil marks. I see my clients surreptitiously scrubbing to remove marks all the time, I and I feel bad! I want to tell them not to worry and that it happens all the time on my side too, but I don’t want to make them uncomfortable. This probably seems silly, but if you have even a drop of obsessive tendencies (or design snobbery) in you, I urge you to procure your own desktop. GeekDesk marks do scrub out with the right cleaner, but it’s annoying to have to do that more often than actual cleanliness concerns would dictate.

Also note that if you screw or clamp anything into your GeekDesk, you need to make sure its thickness is acceptable—it’s too thin for a lot of hardware, so I’ve had to get special screws or jury-rig a spacer in some clamps. Furthermore, GeekDesk is a little dicey when it comes to weight management and overall stability compared to some of its competitors. I’ve tightened the frame every few months (hang on to that allen wrench), but I worry about all the weight I currently have on it. I don’t think I’d be able to add a giant second external monitor, for example.

Lastly, the GeekDesk doesn’t have any memory presets for height. This isn’t wildly important if your desk is pushed against a wall where you can make a little mark or something, but my desk floats in the middle of the room so I don’t have that option. I kinda wish there were a few presets even though I mostly get by just going by what feels best. I don’t love having to press two buttons to lift and lower it, either—I get that it’s a safety mechanism, but I’d like to be able to one-hand it.

Oh, and I’m not a treadmill desk person, but if I wanted to be I don’t think the GeekDesk would be tall enough for me (I’m 5’11”). Unless you got really fancy and set your treadmill into your floor, the height of the treadmill would make the tallest possible position of the GeekDesk too short to comfortably type while maintaining a good monitor height, even with a pretty darn tall monitor arm. Granted, I haven’t actually tested this setup, but my sense from the height presets I currently use is that it wouldn’t work out. (I generally max out the desk’s height when I’m standing at it, with my keyboard tray in a low position.)

The GeekDesk was the right price point at the time I made the purchase, but I’d consider getting a different brand if I were in the market for a sit/stand desk today.  At the very least, I’d say do more research than I did; there are far more options available today as standing desks gain popularity.

Monitor arm and accessories

I’ve got my 13″ MacBook Pro and external monitor in an ESI dual monitor holder and laptop tray. I love the arm 90% of the time, but it’s just barely too short for my desired ergonomic viewing angle and FaceTime webcam height. (I’m 5’11” with a fairly long torso; a monitor with an integrated webcam at the top would help with the latter point.) Test and measure to make sure the arm you get goes as high or low as you need, especially if you’re tall and/or you use an adjustable height desk. Mine definitely doesn’t have enough flexibility for my preferences; I could also use some monitor pitch tilting which it doesn’t offer. Some brands allow for a setup that let you buy a separate “raiser” piece; even if you don’t spring for that at the beginning, it’s a nice option to have if you discover you need more flexibility.

I strongly dislike my ESI laptop tray. The knobs on the bottom are insanely difficult to adjust, and the tray only slides small enough to snugly fit a 15″ laptop. The rubberized strips don’t actually hold a smaller laptop in place, so I have to jam something in there (currently two decks of cards) to space my 13″ laptop farther up in order to get an acceptable FaceTime camera height for video chats. (Vain, but come on; that’s how I spend 80% of my client interaction time. No one needs to see me with nine chins while we talk.)

If I were to make this purchase over again, I’d find something that was better compatible with my smaller hardware, but that still used a VESA bracket. (Note that the Humanscale laptop trays use their own proprietary latching system, while ESI uses the more standard VESA bracket system. I think other brands do the proprietary connector thing too; double check the connection hardware before you purchase.) Some better cord disguising in the laptop tray also wouldn’t hurt.

When I was researching monitor arms, I found that Ergotron arms are often way cheaper, but ultimately inferior. After reading reviews and checking measurements and weight limits, I determined that they weren’t right for my needs. But I pinned a zillion of them on my ergonomics board, in case you find that data helpful. I found it very helpful to check out monitor arms in person, though, as the overall build quality becomes much more apparent with a floor model you can move and swivel.

My ESI monitor arm system works well enough with my desk thickness, but just barely. You may actually need shims or spacers if you have  a very slim desk surface, which may end up looking ugly or compromising stability. These arms add a ton of weight, which may be a problem for some hydraulic sit/stand desks. And lastly, my model doesn’t handle super-huge heavy monitors like the older 27″ iMac, or possibly the Thunderbolt Display (much to my dismay). Check the weight limits of your desk itself as well as each arm of any monitor support systems before you get too deep into designing your setup.

Keyboad tray

I modded my GeekDesk with a custom ISE brand pull-out keyboard tray wide enough for a left and right mouse as well as a keyboard. (Because it’s custom there’s no retail link for it, but I purchased it and had it further customized at Keeney’s Office Supplies.)

My tray, while very wide, is just narrow enough that I need to get numpadless keyboard models in order to comfortably mouse both left and right. (These are a good idea anyway for proper ergonomics.) Most keyboard trays aren’t wide enough for dual mousing, but most users don’t need them to be. If you’re pro numpad; you may want to look for a model that has a separate mousing tray attached. Just be careful to minimize the distance your dominant hand has to travel to reach the mouse—I find that keyboard trays with a dedicated mouse platform often place the mouse way too far from the keyboard for my comfort.

Commence maximum type muffling!
<tray:width = 100%>

A huge advantage of the keyboard tray is greater flexibility with sit/stand setups. I opted for a tray with fairly complex swiveling and pivoting features that allow for different heights as well as depths and angles. This is better for keeping a neutral wrist position (especially when standing), as well as for compensating for the relatively low height of almost all monitor arms. You want your keyboard fairly low and your monitor fairly high (if you’re me and/or tall or slouchy), but sometimes you want a different height when you’re sitting than standing. I recommend springing for a more robust tray that gives you more options. I actually see that ISE makes a dedicated sit/stand desk version now, though I get by just fine with my less swoopy version.

If you opt for a dedicated keyboard tray, especially if you’re pairing a tray with an adjustable desk, I recommend finding a local office supply shop that can cut and/or otherwise customize things for you. You should also measure like crazy. The crossbar on GeekDesks is so far forward that it blocks a full keyboard tray brace installation. (I don’t really know the proper name for the piece I’m calling a brace, but it’s the long metal track that you screw directly into the desktop to mount the tray.) It’s really nice to test all the movements out anyway, so it’s worth the effort of finding an in-person shop.

You’ll also need to possibly use different hardware than what comes with your tray, depending on the thickness of your desk. If you cut down your brace length, I recommend finding or drilling more spots for screws to compensate for any brace length removed, just to make sure it’s very well attached to your desk. Can’t be too careful with super heavy and expensive equipment, ya know?

Oh, here’s my only real annoyance with the ISE tray: the whole thing is super high quality solid and HEAVY hardware, but then the little plastic doo-hickey that acts as a stopper is cheap and flimsy. (Not crazy about the fact that the stopper is a few millimeters taller than my GeekDesk is thick, either!) So when I adjust my tray a little too aggressively, especially when pulling it forward, a) the little ISE thing falls out, and b) sometimes the entire tray piece pops out of its track. I have to immediately stop whatever I’m doing, lift the heavy tray, and guide it carefully back into place.

The connection to hold the plastic thing also wears out with frequent removal and replacement, so the issue only becomes more pronounced over time. This is a problem I’ve been meaning to solve with creativity and possibly glue, but it’s an annoying design flaw that will probably irritate the sort of person who is interested in this blog post.

Keyboard and mouse

On that keyboard tray is an Evoluent vertical mouse, a Matias Laptop Pro keyboard, and a cheap Logitech wireless mouse on the left. Here is more detail on those, plus notes from my extensive keyboard research.

Evoluent vertical mouse

This mouse has totally sucky drivers, but good ergonomics in the hardware itself and good enough mouse functionality. It definitely takes a while to get used to, and isn’t great for activities like PC gaming where you need to have super fast response times. But it gets the job done, there are craploads of buttons if you’re a custom button person, and definitely reduces carpal tunnel type wrist strain. That isn’t my primary ergonomic concern, so it still sometimes hurts to use this mouse when my tennis elbow is flared up—which is why I keep a left hand mouse too.

I haven’t tried Evoluent’s wireless or Bluetooth vertical mice, but I’d like to upgrade to the latter eventually to free up a USB slot. However, their software is so crappy (half the button bindings don’t work at all in Windows 8.1, and they sometimes mysteriously reset themselves on any OS) that I’m reluctant to trust that the wireless models have successful Bluetooth or even proprietary wireless connectivity. If I ever bought one of these, I’d do so from a shop to which I could return easily if necessary.

Note that Evoluent does make a Mac-specific version of their mice, although I find that the PC one works fine on Mac (and actually works better on Mac than PC if you’re rocking a recent Windows OS). The company also makes right- and left-handed versions,  and  small and large sizes. I haven’t tried the left or small options in person, but I find the large to be perfect and can’t imagine that the small would be an improvement. (I mouse with my right hand dominantly, but have learned to mouse left to better manage my RSI. I don’t think I could fairly evaluate a dedicated left-handed mouse, though.)

One note of Evoluent ownership is that you should probably keep a cheap “guest mouse” available if anyone else uses your computer, like, ever. People unfamiliar with the Vertical Mouse tend to find it very intimidating. A cheap wireless Logitech that you can swap out does the job. (The Logitech I use for left-handed mousing is unremarkable and doesn’t merit elaboration here, except that I find symmetrical designs easier to manage with my non-dominant hand.)

I like that the Evoluent Vertical Mouse doesn’t need a dedicated mouse pad. It does just fine on bare surfaces, which I can’t say for Logitech or even some pricey dedicated gaming mice.

Matias Laptop Pro keyboard

The Laptop Pro was a stopgap solution for me—I needed a new keyboard FAST, ideally mechanical, ideally somewhat portable, and ideally a split ergonomic layout with some tenting options for comfort. The Laptop Pro really only checked the mechanical box; I intend to upgrade again eventually.

This thing is not as quiet as Matias advertises, so it’s just as clacky and distracting on mic as a deliberately noisy Das Keyboard. At least to my ear. Maybe you don’t mind that? Great!

The Laptop Pro is deceptively thick, heavy, and awkward to travel with. So while it has a smaller footprint than most keyboards, it isn’t actually a good portable keyboard at all (an Apple Bluetooth would be far superior, and neither offers any protection of the keys). I also sometimes have trouble with the Bluetooth connectivity even when it’s right in front of the target machine, but it’s hard to isolate the issue there.

That said, the battery life is amazing, and the fully powered charging ports are pretty darn cool too. It’s a very solid piece of hardware that feels well constructed. I’ve  had poor experiences with Matias’s customer support, but you probably won’t need it. I’ve always been able to solve wonky connectivity issues by just trying over and over again, unpairing and repairing, etc.

As I mentioned, though, I strongly prefer a split ergonomic layout, so I’ll probably pick up the Matias Ergo Pro when it finally releases. However, the ship date for this has changed four times since this spring, so if you’re desperate for ergonomic relief, you may not be able to wait. (That was the reason I sprung for the Laptop Pro even though it didn’t meet all of my needs.)

For a non-split keyboard with no tenting, I find the Laptop Pro astoundingly comfortable, and I do feel like I got my money’s worth. I can see it being a fantastic piece of hardware for people with less picky ergonomic needs than my own!

Other ergonomic keyboard options

Here are my conclusions on the other keyboards I’ve considered and rejected, in case you find those helpful:

Mechanical vs. not—I had been meaning to try a mechanical keyboard for years, and the folks at Geekhack.org finally got me to take the plunge. I’m completely sold and ruined for any membrane or rubber dome switch keyboard ever again. Not into the Apple-style ones, either, whatever those are called.

I found this link helpful in learning about which type of switches I like (Cherry MX Brown was my conclusion, although the Matias I eventually went with has its own proprietary switch type that’s similar in feel to the Cherry MX Brown). There’s also this Lifehacker piece, if you prefer hacking life over just reading web pages. And I learned a ton from MechanicalKeyboards.com even though I ultimately wound up purchasing elsewhere. They have GREAT options if your needs aren’t quite as picky and specific as mine; I’m still bummed I couldn’t pick up one of their cool backlit options!

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard—This keyboard was intriguing, but there were too many complaints about customer service to make me trust they’d handle a return well. The lack of tenting concerned me, because a tented keyboard I had tested while working at Amazon was far more comfortable, and I found their justification for no tenting pretty weak. More importantly, the special keyboard layout just seemed like too much to demand of users. I knew I’d be switching back and forth between this and a standard keyboard layout, which slows down my otherwise awesome typing speed. I also already have several international keyboard layouts kicking around in my brain, plus Mac and PC Ctrl vs. Cmd issues. I didn’t think I wanted to take on yet another one just because this one company said I should (with no tenting). :)

Goldtouch Go! Bluetooth—For the longest time this thing was incompatible with MacBooks (WHAT?!) yet worked with other Bluetooth hardware like iPhones, PCs, and Android phones. This made no sense to me, but a number of enraged Amazon reviews convinced me it was true. So I got on their mailing list and periodically harassed them every few months for over a year waiting for the updated version, only to eventually realize that I shouldn’t be trying so hard to snag a basic membrane keyboard anyway.

Well, GoldTouch never did email me when the redesign launched as promised , but they appear to have gone live with the fully Mac-compatible version. You can check that out and let me know if you like it. Its superior portability enticed me, even though it doesn’t seem as good for everyday typing. The folded-up factor seemed like a big help for travel, and the pseudo-tenting is a better ergonomic position than most travel keyboards offer. I may eventually get one of these if I end up doing loads more travel down the road, because it seems like the easiest to slip into my purse with an iPad Mini or even an iPhone.

Kinesis Advantage—this keyboard has different models ranging from expensive and complicated to really expensive and really complicated with foot pedals and everything. I’ve met people who swear by them, and I’ve tested them out for short periods of time, but the large space in between the two hands never felt like an advantage (hey-o!) to me. The expense and immense learning burden didn’t help, either. Definitely buy, borrow, or rent one of these from a place you can return it to if you give it a solid try and it doesn’t work for you. That said, bear in mind that anything that requires this drastic a relearning should get a lengthy trial period. I don’t feel that I gave it a full try, but I’m OK with that. I don’t believe it would fit on most keyboard trays because it’s quite deep compared to even most curved/split ergonomic keyboards.

Kinesis Freestyle + Ascent—The Kinesis Freestyle is another beloved ergonomic keyboard, but I found two major problems with it. 1) It’s got rubber dome switches instead of the vastly springier mechanical which I find way more comfortable. 2) It’s only comfortable with the Ascent hardware piece, which drastically increases the price and is just SO MUCH hardware. The Ascent also doesn’t fit well in some settings, such as in the distance between a keyboard tray and the top of a desk. All in all, it was just too much futzing and money for not a comfortable enough experience, at least for me. But I do find the Ascent’s tenting mechanism to be the most comfortable and versatile I’ve ever experienced in terms of hand/arm/wrist positioning. If this existed with mechanical key switches, and I had a few hundred extra bucks to blow, I might go back to this someday.

Chair and mat

Many ergonomic office shops sell dedicated standing desk mats, but I find those to be too hard on my feet. (It probably doesn’t help that I like to work barefoot or in socks/slippers.) I prefer my cushier Wellness Mat, which I stole from our kitchen sink area. My sense is that if you stand all the time, the firmer mats from an office store are better, but if you switch it up a ton like I do, or you’re just a shoe-hating hippie, a softer mat is your friend. See if you can test it out and return it if it doesn’t work for you.

When I elect to sit, I now use a HAG Capisco. This is the best task chair I’ve ever found for my needs, but it sure is weird! It’s made by a Danish company, and the idea is to promote “active sitting” which essentially means moving your ass around a lot.

You'd think it would be annoying to have the casters right on top of the mat, but it doesn't bug me. (Much.)
You’d think it would be annoying to have the casters right on top of the mat, but it doesn’t bug me. (Much.)

The seat contains a saddle-like lump in the middle that forces you to keep your legs apart, which can be tricky in a narrow skirt but I don’t tend to wear those. It also allows you to turn it around and sit backwards, leaning your torso forward on the back and armrests. I really like this option for longer phone calls when I don’t need to do much typing, but I can finagle typing in this position too if I need it which is nice.

I do still sometimes get weird issues in this chair, as with any chair—if I get super focused on a task for too long without shifting positions, I’m prone to some weird part of me falling asleep or feeling pinched. (But I’m not at a very healthy weight for my frame, so this tends to happen in any task chair.) I do find that the lumbar support plus saddle lump help me move around quite a bit, and the various pieces adjust just enough to help me switch up my positioning for good support.

There are a few options—you can elect to get a flat seat, but that removes the primary benefit so I wouldn’t recommend that route. You can also add on a headrest, footrest, foot ring, and different heights of pneumatic lift. I got the tallest lift in case I ever want to use it as a standing desk “perch”—not something I tend to do now, but I like the option. And I got the footring because when I tested it out in the store, that was the most comfortable at any height, but I’m finding that I don’t use it at all when sitting at a normal low height, only when I “perch” at my standing height which is very rare for me. It’s also very easy to add on later so maybe skip it in your initial purchase and see if you want to upgrade later. The headrest I would skip; I find it cumbersome and it doesn’t let you stretch out backwards or sit in the seat backwards. But generally, find a local showroom that lets you test out all the components before you spend.

Oh, another great thing about this chair is that it comes with many custom upholstery options, including several leathers and wool or hemp fabrics that are SO much more attractive than your average Corporate Polyester Bullshit Fabric. I got mine done in this bright red wool, which my cat and I both adore. You can’t tell a huge difference online, but the softer fashion-derived textile makes it read as a much less office-y chair in person, in my opinion.

Microphones and telephones

When I’m recording audio for a podcast, I use the Rode Podcaster in a boom and shock mount. It mostly stays out of the way during my day-to-day work, and I can pull it over to get right up close during audio sessions. The boom and shock are integral for me, but the boom arm I got as a kit from B&H Video is inferior (the arm slips all the time on my GeekDesk, and I’d like an easy-to-rig external pop filter, as I’ve noticed I kinda need it) so I wish I’d just bought this kit instead for less money. Either way, a boom arm is super helpful for allowing me to maintain a comfortable position while I’m recording, which sometimes takes ages. Even if you don’t get a boom for sound reasons, you’ll want to get one for ergonomic reasons so you don’t crane your neck in an awkward mic-kissing position for what can easily be two hours with prep and wrap-up. This is especially true if you type and/or reference materials on the screen while you’re recording.

Oh, and if you spend a long time on land line phone calls like it’s 1997 (I sure do), get a decent hands-free headset. I got this AT&T headset which works fine with my Panasonic cordless phone even though Panasonic claims it won’t. LIES. This thing works with Skype and Microsoft Lync too, although not FaceTime I don’t think (haven’t tried). Don’t be the idiot who gets a neck crick because you cradle the phone between your ear and shoulder!

And of course, for you old-school phone people, remember to put your phone close enough to your arms to minimize ergonomic strain. If you’re like me, you use the thing more than your brain admits, so be realistic about your phone frequency to distance calculations. :)

My weird office constraints

I use my home office for writing, recording, remote video conferencing, and in-person meetings with clients. While the bulk of my clientele is now remote, I see enough folks on site that I feel the need to keep my space attractive, professional, and functional for that purpose.

Because of this, and also because of the general layout of my office, my GeekDesk floats in the middle of the room, facing the door to my office. That can make cable management and disguising much more difficult than if I had a wall to help hide things. It’s still better for me this way, but it means that cords and cables can be kind of nightmarish.

So pretty, but for all those cords!
Pretty enough office, but for all those cords!

It also means that I have to kind of awkwardly swivel my monitors in order to see what I need while keeping a chunk of my desk clear to have line of sight with my in-person clients. (Not that I’m, like, casting ranged spells or anything, haha. But I want to be able to actually look at them instead of having a giant display blocking eye contact.)

I have to balance these client-friendly setup factors with my own ability to write and record comfortably the rest of the time. This is not a common set of constraints, but I’m listing my needs in case it helps anyone else figure out the right setup for their own office. For the most part, I spend enough energy beautifying the other elements in my office (cool wall color/art, nice rug, pretty objects displayed in bookshelves) that I think my on-site clients are forgiving of my existing cable and monitor ugliness. But it’s still something I’m always seeking to improve. Let me know if you’ve successfully solved these sorts of problems in a similar setup!

See? I'm distracting you with pretty-ish bookshelves.
See? I’m distracting you with pretty-ish bookshelves and of course cat pictures.

Where to buy ergonomic stuff

Whenever possible, I order my stuff from Fully (formerly Ergo Depot), which has showrooms in Portland and San Francisco. I can’t recommend them enough—shockingly great prices, no tax, free shipping, helpful employees who give great customer service, well stocked showrooms where you can play and test, and good return policies on non-custom stuff. They don’t give me a cent to shill for them, but it’s rare that I recommend a company this enthusiastically. Go give them your money.

ErgoDepot has the most complete upholstery options I’ve seen for the HAG Capisco, too. They’ll also send you swatches for free, though be warned those can take a while. Wherever you are, definitely find a place like this to try out the bigger-ticket items like desks and chairs, and possibly monitor arms too. Those you really don’t want to purchase sight unseen.

As for keyboard trays, as I mentioned, you’ll likely have to mod them out to fit your desk so you should buy them from a shop you can visit in person. Keeney’s was that shop for me, but if you’re not in my area, don’t be afraid to call around the more corporate-driven office supply operations to find a place with the right selection and ability to customize. It can be hard to find what you need in a consumer-facing office supply store, but you can even call tech companies in your area and ask them who does ergonomic assessments and/or provides office furniture, and go from there.

Keyboards and mice I’ve bought online, but I’m often torn between sites like Amazon and Newegg that have better pricing and shipping, and original manufacturer sites that are guaranteed to have the correct version of a product. When possible, I check the SKU and the critical reviews and their dates on Amazon/Newegg to see how likely it is that I’ll get burned by being sent the wrong product. But usually, if it’s the site or seller’s fault, you can get a return processed with no shipping fee, it just might slow you down a bit.

For this level of ergonomic wizardry, don’t even bother with normal office supply stores like Staples, Office Depot/Max, etc. They don’t stock a high enough quality level or a large enough selection with deep enough customization to be worth your time. Find the dedicated, nerdy shop nearest you that sells sit/stand desks, and ask them for resources if they don’t stock everything you need.

I think that about covers everything I have to weigh in about ergonomic equipment. What did I miss? Got any questions I can answer? I wish you all comfortable and healthy tech usage!

Quit lying about cords and cables

Quit lying about cords and cables

Something has really been bugging me lately. As I’ve become increasingly obsessed with fancy shelter magazines and blogs in my quest to beautify our home, I’ve come to realize that those publications totally bullshit their readers.

The glossing over of cables and heaters and vents is as maddeningly deceptive to me as celebrities Photoshopping out their imperfections. I feel like all these helpful make-your-home-nice guides are presenting a completely unrealistic standard by hiding every cord and cable in their perfectly uninhabitable but elegant spaces.

Emily Henderson offered a helpful peek into that world in her recent post. I’m OK with some tweaks to sell a pretty magazine—like Photoshopping out how that one console thing totally bowed in the middle (I guess). I’m also fine with contrived styling for a perfect shot—I mean, I like when Emily posts realistic shots side by side to give a dose of reality, but I accept that a stylist and designer is mainly going to post designed and styled images.

Right = truth, left = LIES. (All images via Emily Henderson’s blog.)

But I dislike LIES (which were clearly at Domino’s behest, not Emily’s. I don’t fault her, I fault the industry!) Little beautifications I get. But removing unsightly but NECESSARY elements like heaters and cords pisses me off on principle; it’s like pretending we don’t have electricity or indoor plumbing. These innovations have an aesthetic tax. Admit it, embrace it, and show me how to work around it, dammit!

Anyway, in my reality, heaters and cords exist and it sucks. Heaters can be hard to work around, for sure. I’m glad we now live in a home with forced air vents instead of baseboard heaters—those are both ugly and a major fire hazard! We just have to get stuff that sits up on legs and allows heaters to flow air underneath.

But oh, the cords. THE CORDS! Cord management is my single biggest annoyance in the two rooms I care most about, appearances-wise—our living room and my office.

Here, for example, is my new media console solution, complete with the consoles that mainly belong to my video game designer of a husband:

Trust me that this is the Extremely Pretty version.

Looks busy but decent enough, right? (Try to ignore the giant white cable on the right; I refuse to/have no idea how to Photoshop it out. It’ll be gone once we rewire the outlet because blah blah 1947 house.)

And here it is in relation to our TV, in case that helps explain the context of the entire space and its constraints:

Bonus points for noticing the crooked Wii sensor bar!

But here’s my secret efforts to make it look even this okay:

Don't even get me STARTED about how no blogs ever show rooms with honeycomb blinds like these.

See? There’s a huge mass of cables I’ve only somewhat concealed. You can see them if you look at the whole console at a fully level height, but it’s so low that mostly you can only see the tangle back there when you’re sitting on the couch and deliberately looking for cords. Possible, but not super likely.

Oh, and here’s my other sneaky trick: be careful with those curtains!

HUZZAH!

Yeah, these lightweight silk curtains are kind of puffed out from the wall because they’re basically concealing an entire R2D2 chassis width of just cable knots back there.

If I lived my life in the Domino Universe, I could just magically wish away these sorts of mortal tech-loving concerns. Instead, I spent hundreds on curtains plus hardware for the entire space in part to disguise this sort of cordage. I obsessively measured and fretted for months and pinned media storage solutions that were low-profile and kept that space feeling light and airy enough but still offered enough storage to fit all our consoles, somehow, yet breathed enough to let them all vent sufficiently (a real problem that glass-doored media consoles fail to address, FYI) and allowed our heater to heat. I stacked books and arranged lamps and pretty baskets filled with DVDs to conceal the worst of the cords. And it’s still nowhere near as schmancy as a magazine would tolerate. Which I’m OK with, but I wish they were, too!

I would MUCH rather buy a magazine that showed me expensive but insanely clever tricks for, say, building cord-management conduits directly into your walls, than faking that they just didn’t exist. Hell, I have this entire board of TV and media console disguises. I ought to start a board just for managing cord concealment options. Domino sure as hell isn’t going to do it for me!

Help me make a closet look cool

Help me make a closet look cool

Recently, all our closet shelving came crashing down in the middle of the night. It sucked. But I’m taking the opportunity to install a way better system than the cheap janky poorly-installed one that the previous owners had put in. And I need help!

After some useful Facebook input, I opted for The Container Store’s Elfa system. Even though it’s kind of expensive compared to some other systems, it’s worth it to us to buy the system that can be installed by someone else, since the main blunders we’ve made in home ownership involve attempting to mount things in the wall and failing. Boo. So we’re doing Elfa in platinum. Here’s an example closet that’s hilariously perfect looking!

Hey, but it sort of matches my blog, right?

I’m sort of tempted to take the opportunity to turn our closet into some weird glam corner of seductive mystery (probably in part because I’ve been looking at pictures like this one; it doesn’t help that half their stock photos have like an overstuffed armchair and a lamp and a fucking birdcage inside the closet). After all, this may be the only time since we moved in that I’ll completely remove everything in it, leaving the walls open for some sort of design revamp, you know? And a walk-in closet feels like a safe fun space to go a little design crazy, since it’s not as prominent as any other area in the house. And who doesn’t want a little fun when they get ready in the morning?

Daydream in Red by Hygge & WestMy first thoughts leaned towards wallpaper. I love the idea of wallpaper *right now* somewhere in our home, but I’m sure that my desire to trend-proof will mean that I’m regretful of it down the road. A closet seems like a less regret-prone space than, say, a bathroom or hallway. So I was thinking this Hygge and West pattern, that’s super cheery and fun and bright and on clearance! Great, right?

But then I asked Grant about it and he summed it up well that this is something that looks like a very specific era (i.e. like 2008, my guess not his) and that we’d be sick of it in ten years. Which is totally true, and while not tragic, it’s kind of annoying, right? I mean, I’m not going to want to strip and redo it then. And it DOES read as something incredibly au courant as of like four years before we even bought the house. Already dated; move on.

I don't know the source for this. :(My next inspiration was Nina Campbell’s Perroquet wallpaper, which while stunning is probably insanely expensive and way too girly for Grant’s taste. I mean, he’d let me steamroller him into putting this up, but I’d always feel a TINY bit guilty about it.

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 6.18.27 PMA close runner-up in the “vaguely avian Chinoiserie” category included this Anthropologie paper (one of their less expensive) which I love but has similar girliness and timelessness concerns, plus I dunno about the yellow.

For some reason it looks way better in this image (which I got from bossy color).And then there’s something super Asian and saturated, like Schumacher’s Chiang Mai (inspired by bossy color). But then this is ALSO probably ungodly expensive, and I don’t like the knockoff nearly as much. Even though it is more masculine feeling (at least to me, dragons over birds) I still suspect Grant will find it a) too Asian, b) too busy, and c) too bright.

sheila bridgesIf I had all the money in the world, I would get some Sheila Bridges stripey wallpaper in this orange color and install it everywhere, walls AND ceiling, and be done with it, because our master bedroom is already orange and black and white and JUST LOOK AT THIS AWESOMENESS. (Sheila Bridges is, like, Domino fancy—I first learned of her via her Harlem Toile de Jouy design in their magazine/book/somewhere, and some silly part of me loves having a *recognizable designer something* in our home even though I logically know that’s ridiculous for non-rich people.)

I just can’t spend $175 a roll right now; sorry Sheila. It’s a stretch to even do the Elfa system given that in the space of one month, our car broke down, our closet shelves crashed, our washer leaked so we need a new one AND we need to spend money repairing the damage we can’t DIY from that, AND we took two trips to see two friends get married which involved paying for two hotel stays. Sigh. No badass bold stripes for moi, nor any other designer elements. Those Hygge & West and Anthropologie wallpapers are probably my only viable options price-wise, which made me start leaning away from paper since those are my least favorites.

PLUS, the walls and ceiling in our closet are full of crazy cuts and angles, which make it insane to wallpaper, AND I realized that I’d be covering up most of the walls with clothes, which sort of makes wallpaper cost and effort pointless, unless I only did the ceiling, which is an option since it’s huge and sloped and prominent, but is still maybe more work than it’s worth and maybe more expense too since it’s hard to get smaller quantities of nice wallpaper.

SO. Now I’m thinking painting. But not, like, painting the whole room, because a) I’m lazy (I can rope my mom into helping with wallpaper but not necessarily paint although I haven’t tried that hard yet, see “lazy” above) and b) I can’t think of a single specific color that I would want to do. BUT I saw this weeks ago in my RSS reader, and I kind of love it.

hallway

It’s this super organic pattern that Shauna from Beautiful Matters did by hand, and I think it has a cool bold organic yet modern vibe and would be some work, sure, but actually seems less annoying than actually painting the room—I could leave the blah contractors’ beige in there and even do the stripes in a metallic that would play well with the platinum shelving.

But I showed this to Grant and this is what he said:

I think that idea is much better than the execution.

Like, I don’t think it looks bad, but if I went through that much work I would want it to look much better.

This room is by Mary McDonald but I have no idea where the pinner got the source image.I totally get what he’s saying, but I’m not sure I … care. I pressed him and I think it mostly means that his taste gravitates towards a more regimented, taped-off intentional stripe look. But, like, Shauna’s project seems WAY easier than taping and painting bold stripes. But then maybe I’m crazy! Maybe tape WOULD make doing stripes super duper easy! And I’ve always loved this one green stripey room by Mary McDonald; maybe I should try to paint THAT!?

Should I paint weird hand-done vertical stripe thingies like this in the closet? Should I tape and paint (or free-hand) a more graphic stripe like that Sheila paper I love so much or this Mary room I love so much? Should I just leave it blah beige since it’s JUST A CLOSET? NO I can’t do that, not when I roped my mom into assisting me in transforming it.

Please assist me in making a decision so I can make my closet punchy and fun, people! I welcome your ideas. :)

TV above the fireplace

TV above the fireplace

Ever since flat screen TVs took over the old cathode ray tube models, people have been mounting them on the wall, causing the earth’s interior design community to have a collective cow. Wall-mounting is so practical, though! It saves valuable floor and furniture space since TVs no longer have to rest atop a bulky media cabinet, eating up precious living room real estate. 1 When we toured a zillion homes before settling on this one, we saw living rooms with no TV or a wall-mounted TV, often above the fireplace, and an increasing number of finished basement dens with the “big” non-wall-mounted TV. People are changing the way they use their homes and view their TVs, and I think interior design is foolish to resist this shift. 2

We subsisted mainly on the projector in our finished den for two years, but then we sucked it up and bought a living room TV, mainly for parties and entertaining. We’re SO GLAD we did; we spend way more time on the main floor of our house now, enjoying natural light and sunsets and open windows while still being able to consume the media we love. I kind of can’t believe we waited this long; having a TV upstairs has really made us happier homeowners, and everything about our upstairs living room feels friendlier and more welcoming now. A TV also helps us figure out better furniture placement, and it just generally dictates how the room is used. And we spend more Couple Time there, since now we can play co-op games in the same space without me feeling like I have to slink down to the basement-cave. 3

After researching the right tech, size, price point, and features, we got our TV at Best Buy and paid them to mount it above our (functional, brick, wood-burning) fireplace.4 I know hanging a TV above a fireplace is a design sin to many, but it really is the only space that makes sense in our living room. I styled it in with a bunch of little knick-nacks that help hide all the cords and that blend it in a bit. We eventually hope to get hard-wired sconces flanking it, but given how pricey the rewiring and drywall is, for now we’re happy to just suck it up and use these lamps I got at a consignment shop. 5

This may sound insane, but aside from thinking ahead about how many HDMI ports we would actually need (answer: more than two, eventually) here’s my only TV purchasing regret: I actually am constantly bothered by the uneven bezel width around our LG model, and I wish we’d paid the several hundred dollars more for a similar Samsung choice that had a thin but even bezel all the way around. I realize that’s not a logically sound way to spend money, and that no one but me and Grant will ever notice or care about this, but it bugs me and next time around I think I’ll lobby him for the better industrial design aesthetic. 6

A larger shot of our TV and surrounding elements.

You can see my TV and fireplace here as they relate to the rest of the room—our front door is to the left, with only the storm door closed right now, and then a big blah but functional table/shelving unit house our DVR and consoles to the right. Beyond that is a corner window obscured by an enormous cat tree I promised not to move until Trumpy kicks the kitty bucket someday. I hate that black cabinet, but we needed something for the DVR and XBox 360, and this was $20 at our local thrift store. It’s solid, it already had a hole in the back for cords, and I don’t care if humidity or moisture from my plants screws up the already crappy finish.

Since we don’t really have a proper foyer/entry area, the spot just past the front door is where we put the mirror that used to be above the mantel. This works really well to have a sort of “check yourself” area before leaving the house. And while the TV above the fireplace isn’t perfect, I think/hope I worked it in OK. You don’t see it at all when you first walk in, because it’s behind you. Many clients don’t even notice that we have a TV until they leave, if at all.

A picture of my TV, styled in with antiques and other decorative objects.

The other day when I was rearranging the knick-nacks to add in some new antiques, I realized we are like the opposite of the Islamic design principle of aniconism. We have SO MUCH flora and fauna! Let’s see, there’s a brass owl, a ceramic rabbit, a steel larch tree, a glass hedgehog, a porcelain cow, a crochet cat, a jade dragon, a brass apple bell, and a ceramic foo dog. And that’s just the ones I can obviously identify in this photo. Plus there are subtler things like the floral pattern on one of my Voluspa candles, a ceramic vase that looks like a weird seed pod, and a viney pattern to the photo frame. And behind the Kinect upon which the kitty rests, there are some glass birds and some floral cream and sugar porcelains just to make it not look weird and bare back there. We are veritably obsessed with nature at House Roberts.

I also keep thinking maybe I should blend the TV in better by painting the fireplace bricks a dark gray or black. Ever since we bought the place I’ve been uncertain what to do with the fireplace. Redoing anything with actual stone/masonry seems insanely expensive and pointless since trends cycle back around and we may end up hating something new and wanting to go back to this original 1947 brick and wood look, ya know? Plus, while I dislike the terra cotta floor tiles, they do blend in pretty subtly and I don’t mind the actual brick or the wood mantel now. I maintain Pinterest boards for both TV disguises and fireplaces, and I keep thinking about what I could do to snazz this up, but I haven’t been inspired to inject change into this particular area of our home. I think I’ll wait and see how things look once we get our lovely gray Farrow & Ball paint up on the walls before we go too crazy! My dream fireplace would be in a marble like Carrara, but not too mod and not too traditional, and probably something with a little tan or gold veining in it too to tie in with all our warm wood floors and trim. I just don’t see it being worth the expenditure when this one feels fine enough to me, and we have loads of more functional and urgent updates like windows and a deck.

Anyway, the whole reason I bothered putting these ramblings into a blog post was because Jenny of Little Green Notebook posted about how she’s putting her TV above her fireplace. The woman is a professional interior designer, with a massive blog following, so clearly she’s got hecka great taste. If she can do it, so can we! :)

  1. This presents new challenges, though, since most of the “smart” TVs out there aren’t all that smart yet, so we still have to connect one or more bulky devices to our TVs with annoying unsightly cables. At least devices like the Apple TV are small enough to be worked into a typical mantel; not so with consoles like an XBox or with most physical disk readers. I expect this to change over the next five to ten years, removing the need for any media cabinet at all eventually. But it’s a slow process and it’s expensive to adopt all the new tech.
  2. I also think a TV hung up high is subtler than one shoved in a corner looming at you. And we don’t find the viewing angle at all troublesome, ergonomically; if anything, I think it encourages better posture/neck angles, and is easier to view when lying down on a couch.
  3. I get so sick of the misguided “Kill Your TV” mantra I received as a kid; TV is so much smarter and sharper and higher quality than it ever has been. After all, we’re watching incredibly creative projects like LOST and Breaking Bad and Orphan Black and Archer, not Hoarders Who Horde or The Real Housewives of Shut Up Already. (And lest ye feel judged, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching that stuff, it just doesn’t speak to me at all. And I don’t really get TV as a zoning out mechanism for the most part, because I prefer to zone out in other ways. But whatever works, man! Quit whining about killing TV and go find some super high quality program that captures YOUR interests!)

    Also, we can entertain our friends better. Whether you admit it or not, cartoons and games are GREAT for calming a fussy kid, and now that we have a TV with a couple gaming consoles hooked up in our living room, we can capture the attention of babies on up to five year olds who would otherwise find it boring when we tried to interact with their parents. I assume our TV will come in handy when we have kids of our own, too. ;)

  4. This was a complicated, stupid, expensive process, fraught with insanely ineffective bureaucracy BS and numerous hidden fees. I managed to get them to knock off a couple hundred bucks for being such incredible nitwits about the whole thing, but I urge you to not do what I did. I’m not very handy or confident when it comes to big structurally dependent projects like this, but I would absolutely DIY this process if I had to do it over again. If you DO hire it out, save every single receipt and get written quotes with names and employee numbers for every single aspect of the process if you have a big box retailer do it, and tell them you want the wood-only installment but you want the team to bring masonry tools just in case, and that you’ll pay for the masonry upcharge at that time if and only if it’s truly necessary. Also, insist on waiving any kind of consultation appointments. It’s a totally unnecessary upcharge, like gold-plated USB cables.
  5. I paid more than those lamps were worth to get modern drum shades put on them at my local lamp shop, because I can just never find ready-made lamp shades that look anywhere near as nice as the hand-made ones do. I consider this expense totally worth it. If you have a lamp whose shade is irking you, I urge you to visit your local lamp store and look into this. They tried on multiple harps until they found the right one, and they adjusted everything perfectly so everything sits at just the right height, lighting up the room but not blinding anyone with an inadvertent glimpse of exposed bulb.
  6. I literally still haven’t bought a single humidifier because none of them look like this.
The Karlstad leather collection from Ikea

The Karlstad leather collection from Ikea

A lovely lady named Madeline recently tweeted at me to learn more about my Karlstad leather sofa collection research, and she found my lengthy email reply helpful. I’ve been eyeing this sofa collection from Ikea for a couple years now, I have a special Pinterest board devoted just to this couch and its many stylings, and I think we’re finally almost ready to bite the bullet and buy us some Karlstad soon. (We have yet to actually purchase the thing, as I have to find a good day to drag my husband to Ikea to check it out in person and sign off on all this white leather.) I figured the rest of you might find my obsessive Internet sofa research useful, so here’s what I sent her (edited to add more links, images, formatting, and information for y’all).

Oh, and my Internet Pal Paul pointed out that I utterly failed to include any pricing info. I guess I’m not used to doing retail-minded posts, haha. So I’ve gone in and stuck USD prices here. All are for the birch leg option; models that for some reason offer chrome versions ready-made are $20 more. But really, price-wise, you’re better off getting the birch version with separate chrome legs since it’s the same cost and now you have a choice, ya know?

Ikea Karlstad leather sofa: $899
Ikea Karlstad leather loveseat: $879
Ikea Karlstad leather chaise add-on: $600
Ikea Karlstad leather loveseat plus chaise combo: $1,479
Ikea Karlstad leather footstool: $249
Ikea Karlstad leather armchair: $549

The Karlstad leather sofa in Grann White, with birch legs.

COLOR AND FINISH

• I could NOT find clear reviews of how the leather version of the Ikea Karlstad sofa holds up, so I tracked down every Pinterester or blogger who had a white leather Karlstad sofa, and I commented, tweeted, and emailed them ALL for feedback, haha. This included a handful of moms and pet-moms who’ve had the thing for a while. All of them said it holds up really well to family and furry abuse; no scratches and it wipes clean pretty easily. I was really skeptical about this, but everyone seems quite pleased with how it’s lasted over time. (I was specifically asking after the Grann white leather finish, but it stands to reason that the darker ones handle even better, since the leather is dyed-through. I verified this in person and thoroughly inspected models of all colors. Dyed through means that scratches on dark models shouldn’t show a light color underneath like they would with most vinyl or cheap leather, because the dye permeates the entire thickness of the hide. Ew/yay.)

The striped Stockholm rug from Ikea.• Color-wise, the Grann white is much more of a creamy white than the site shows, which is nice IMO. I have a few of those cheap Ikea Rens sheepskins and I don’t think they’d look out of place draped on an armrest (for the cat) even though they’re a bit creamier; it’s the same family. The Grann white leather finish matches Ikea’s black and off white graphic Stockholm cushion and their black and white offset stripey Stockholm rug pretty well, in case that helps. (This image is of that rug with an even creamier Stockholm leather sofa, though, which is apparently no longer available in that color.)

• Ikea Fans has a couple different posts questioning/suggesting that using the Absorb leather care that Ikea sells will darken the color an unknown amount. This isn’t a HUGE concern to me; my main concern is “What happens when my tipsy friend and/or self spills red wine mixed with Diet Coke on my new white leather couch?” because that is bound to happen at some point. Time will tell. There’s a reason we’re purchasing leather stuff as we transition away from rowdy Rock Band parties with drink spill adventures into more diaper blowout type adventures. I honestly think the latter will make for easier cleanup; time will tell on that frontier too I guess.

DIMENSIONS AND COMFORT

• Everyone online concurs that the Karlstad leather collection’s seating/cushioning remains firm and comfy, and from what I gather the leather one gets much less compressed/lame over time than the fabric model. It felt pleasantly soft for tufted leather, but much more substantial than the fabric Karlstads I’ve sat on both at friends’ houses and in the store. ALL of the complaints I saw online about Ikea couch cushioning getting compressed and wonky were about fabric sofas.

• I sat on several models at Ikea and was pleasantly surprised by the comfort and durability, so I thought. It’s not as hard as it looks like it’ll be in the actual seat area, but in a good way. However, if you plan to sit with your back against an armrest instead of the back, DEFINITELY get a few thick and tall throw pillows as a buffer, and be OK with a couch that requires throw pillows in order to lean against the arm part. (Our current monstrosity-couch has these enormous padded armrests that are the same height and thickness as the back, which is lame for aesthetics IMO but awesome for comfort.) I wish they made a leather version of this Karlstad cushion to stick there, but they don’t seem to.

• Other commenters/bloggers noted that it’s a very low couch, and therefore they had to adjust to lower end tables and lamps accordingly. (I find it the right height and I’m OK with end tables that hit the exact height of an armrest; maybe I’m the weirdo.) Also, when I sat on the floor models I noted that the whole Karlstad leather collection is quite deep, too. You may want to use throw pillows behind your back both for cushioning and to adjust to a more normal couch depth for sitting. We like a deep couch, though. But…

• The dimensions are a little surprising to me, so you may want to measure your floor space and really make sure it’ll fit well. It has a smaller feel because of the narrower and up-on-legs scale of everything, but that depth really eats up quite a lot of floor space, I found, so it’s just bigger than it looks when I go by the actual numbers. I taped out profiles on my LR floor to make sure I could accommodate what I wanted (two full couches facing each other) and found that I definitely couldn’t, so we’re going with a different configuration…

• The interior seating area of the Karlstad loveseat is longer/wider than many loveseats, while still having a dainty look overall, so you can sit on one side with your back against the armrest and fully extend your legs if you’re tall like me. :) However, the interior of the full Karlstad sofa is not long enough for a tall person to fully lie down. In order for a tall person to recline comfortably (I’m 5’11” and my husband is 6’3″) you need the Karlstad loveseat plus chaise combination.

• The combo of the leather Karlstad loveseat plus chaise is cuter and comfier than I anticipated, and for what it’s worth the spacing of the seats exactly matches the loveseat, you know? Like it makes it a three-seater instead of a generous two-seater, seam-wise. We now plan to buy two loveseats with one chaise add-on for one of them. However, I was disappointed to realize that…

• There’s no leather option for the Karlstad corner sofa. I don’t know how that slipped me by! It’s a bummer because I personally think the sofa-plus-chaise look is a bit dated and not nearly as comfortable or accessible to guests as a full-on corner sectional, but I guess we will have to make do, and this *will* probably fit our space better. I actually think I’ll be more OK with it than I was with our last be-chaised sofa; that one sucked because the chaise was created by swapping in an ottoman and a longer cushion, so it never really fit well or stayed put. The Karlstad chaise add-on unit feels more like a part of the couch is acting as a second ottoman, if that makes sense. I awkwardly pretended to be my own guest at Ikea, sitting and flopping and lying all over all areas of the loveseat plus chaise combo, and I deemed it acceptable.

• The Karlstad leather footstool (or ottoman, as I like to call it) is nicer and more useful looking in person, so I think we will end up getting one and sticking a tray on top of it as an auxiliary coffee table unless we need additional seating. (I never really thought about turning ottomans into tables via trays until Emily Henderson schooled me.) The price discrepancy between a small ottoman and a large sofa isn’t that great, I know, but I think it’s like an initial dollar amount for them to produce ANYTHING Karlstad and leather, and nominal amounts past that to make things bigger, ya know? What do I know. Anyway, the ottoman seems very stable as seating, a table, or a footrest. We’ll put this in the empty space in front of our fireplace. That space is sort of wasted in our gas-heated rooms, but it looks weird to completely block a fireplace with something more substantial, so a low dainty footstool which will probably mainly be a cat-bed is just perfect.

• We prefer sofas/loveseats over chairs for our setup, but I sat in a Karlstad leather armchair and it was perfectly comfortable and nice.

MODIFICATIONS AND ACCESSORIES

Legs!

Like many design snobs, I think Ikea’s standard birch block legs are ugly. I’m determined to change them even though they actually match some old Husar unfinished pine hutches we have in our dining room. Our seating area is far enough away from those that I don’t think it’ll be clear we were matching them; we’ll just look like we were cool with leaving the ugly blocky pale SO UNSTYLISH original legs on. :) So we plan on buying others (because the shape bugs me too, not just the color).

• If you want to downplay the legs while saving money, you could just paint them, or do like Young House Love and get all crazy with an oil-rubbed bronze finish. Like many unfinished-looking Ikea things, they actually have just enough clear lacquer on them to make it annoying to change them. But that’s your cheapest and probably simplest option, especially if you’re on a tight budget or you have a lot of legs to tackle. I do think that you’ll barely notice the blocky shape once they’re a darker color, if that helps make your decision.

Hahahaha I'm sorry but I couldn't help myself. This image at the end of every Ikea instruction manual always cracks me up.• For an extra $20 per set of four I think, you can get Ikea’s chrome legs. The problem is that those are uglier than they should be. If you look at this old Jezebel article recommending the prior Karlstad fabric model, you can see that the cool sleeker chrome frame extended along the entire bottom of the couch. But since we no longer have that option, we have to go with the weird chrome awkward angle-tapered ones that to me look like shelf brackets. Oddly enough, these I would like better if they WERE blocky, like the ones shown on Jezebel. Alas, if you’re determined, I’m sure you could find legs somewhere that are the right metal look, or you could even check out the rest of Ikea’s legs that are sometimes not even meant to go with couches. I’m sure their customer service can help you figure out which ones would hold up actual furniture.

• If you buy third-party legs, be careful to make sure they fit the holes (insert juvenile joke here; go ahead, I’ll wait). Ikea’s legs apparently are threaded with a metric bolt or some such, so make sure the vendor of sexy legs has a bolt that will work with that. I forget where I read about these woes but I think a lot of hackers ran into a lot of grief over this and had to jigger special solutions to make their new legs work, so either be handy or buy from a more trusted source that specifically fits Karlstad.

The folks from Our Mid Century did their own legs for cheap from Ace Hardware. Seems annoying to me and I prefer a stain-free choice for no scratches or dings showing through. But you can copy them if you like!

Alternate sofa legs from Uncle Bob's Workshop.• The legs by Uncle Bob’s Workshop are the best I’ve seen, after careful (OK, compulsive) review. The reason I like these the best is because I prefer ordering stuff that’s a solid wood that doesn’t need to be stained, since that way it doesn’t show scratches. Most other vendors only offer stained or painted legs. Also, I’m lazy and skeptical that I’ll do a great job if I DIY, and I want something totally stable and solid and gorgeous. These are made especially for the Karlstad, but you can also get a conversion option for some other Ikea models which you can select at purchase.

This Etsy store Thirteen Colonies also sells legs. They make a couple different heights, so hey, if you’re bothered by the lowness of the Karlstad maybe this is a solution.

• If you’re into upping the funk factor, you could look into legs from Pretty Pegs, or probably DIY one of their designs yourself. Personally, I think this all starts to get too busy given the texture of the tufting already present on this otherwise clean and streamlined collection. But I suppose it all depends on your room’s vibe.

• If you want a less Mid-Century Modern look, you can get more transitional legs like these. Poke around. Just bear all that Karlstad-specific stuff in mind, and also keep in mind how much buying legs adds up to your total price point! If I get all the fourteen dollar solid teak legs I need plus shipping and tax for two loveseats, a chaise, and an ottoman, I’m looking at over two hundred bucks. That’s manageable, but it adds up so that may factor into your ultimate leg choice!

I will continue pinning any cool new leg ideas I see on my Karlstad sofa Pinterest board. Gosh, I’m almost thinking you could, like, DIY gold leaf them or something. Gah. Save me from myself!

Clothing!

A sofa with the Bemz Loose Fit Urban Slipcover.Slipcovers: Most slipcovers are designed for fabric Karlstads and not leather ones. However, even though Bemz claims their Loose Urban Fit slipcover isn’t meant to fit the leather model, I actually think it would fit, if you ever wanted to switch it up, protect it, or change the color and look down the line. This is what Bemz said back to me when I pressed them about whether I could sneak a Loose Fit Urban onto a leather Karlstad:

Our slipcovers are custom made to fit the IKEA Karlstad model with the removable fabric slipcovers. Like you say, our regular fit covers are tight fitting and do not fit over the leather version.

But with the Loose Fit Urban covers there is the concern that the slipcovers may be very slippery and not sit properly on the sofa if there is leather underneath. This will cause extra wear and tear on the seams. As we do not recommend putting our slipcovers on leather sofas our 3-year guarantee does not cover that sort of wear and tear.

So that’s actually not such a big deal, if you know what you’re getting into in terms of warranty and wear-and-tear. If I were to buy one of these, I would get the seams reinforced by a tailor, or possibly just get the whole thing in a heavier fabric like canvas. Either way, it seems to me that since the actual dimensions of the couch are only 1/4″ different between the fabric and the leather, you just might be able to get away with some slipcover wizardry. PLEASE let me know if you try it; I’m curious to know if I can slipcover over white leather if awful stains do happen to me down the road!

For what it’s worth, I ordered some Bemz swatches just in case. I was pleasantly surprised by their quality and texture as well as free-ness, mildly surprised by some of the colors as compared to the website, and mildly disappointed that it took a very very long time for them to arrive. Duh, international bulk mail is not speedy. Plan ahead if you’re pondering a slipcover and need it in a specific time frame!

I’ve also seen the Australian slipcover company Comfort Works, but I find their site design annoying and the Bemz fabrics appeal to me a bit more.

I peeked at Knesting too but frankly theirs look cheaper for a similarly high price point, and they don’t cover nearly as many models. Boo.

Pillows: I already talked about throw pillows you can get from Ikea above, and really, I’ll let you enjoy exploring those on your own. But for what it’s worth, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the very affordable pillows I snagged from H&M’s new online storefront. I’ve taken the liberty of creating an overwhelming custom H&M throw pillow search URL for you here. Go nuts! (I bought a pair of these in black and white stripes, which are actually soft black and off-white; a pair of these in charcoal; a pair of these in medium gray (violet undertones) and in peacock (lovely); and now I am forbidden from bringing new pillows into our home. None of them are AMAZING quality, but they’re all decent, and they were so dang cheap! I do recommend sucking it up and buying the H&M brand fillers since the sizes are a bit odd. But those inserts are also pretty cheap, and decent quality.

Blankets: The Karlstad leather sofa’s clean lines are kind of begging for a great throw blanket or two, maybe stacked on the nearby footstool when not in use. I’ve never been particularly thoughtful about throws before; I always used whatever weird ugly thing we had on hand just for warmth. But reading a bunch of design blogs makes me realize what a great design impact the right throw has, so I have been on the lookout for something both boldly stylish and functional. I was SURE I’d be snagging the Ikea Eivor throw based on this Emily Henderson post, but in person the thing is super duper cheap and lame looking. Obviously acrylic, ugly black stitching that looks weird on the cream parts, and just generally not nice up close. I can totally see how it makes for an amazing graphic pop in styled photographs, but I have no interest in snuggling under this thing during a movie marathon. So then I ordered this faux leopard blanket, but it got lost in shipping so they refunded it and I’m kind of glad since I was worried it is maybe a little too RAWR COUGAR for this 30-something household. :) Still searching.

SOME NOTES ON LEATHER COUCHES IN GENERAL

I’m a bit of a leather snob, and also a cheapskate. The Ikea Karlstad leather sofa is THE leather couch whose quality and price point are acceptable to me. You can learn more about leather types here if you like, but I dug up some relevant info for you because I want you to love your couch as much as I hope to love mine.

Here is what Ikea says:

Dyed through grain leather from cattle, with an embossed and pigmented surface. Soft, hardwearing and easy care leather ages gracefully. A slight treatment allows the leather to breathe well and keep its natural structural variations.

And here is what Wikipedia says about what I can glean is the type of leather Ikea is using in this series:

Corrected-grain leather is any leather that has had an artificial grain applied to its surface. The hides used to create corrected leather do not meet the standards for use in creating vegetable-tanned or aniline leather. The imperfections are corrected or sanded off, and an artificial grain impressed into the surface and dressed with stain or dyes. Most corrected-grain leather is used to make pigmented leather as the solid pigment helps hide the corrections or imperfections. Corrected grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: semi-aniline and pigmented.

What I can tell you is that the leather I touched on this particular Ikea collection felt higher quality than the leathers I’ve seen at places like Kasala, Dania, and Crate & Barrel. I was very pleasantly surprised. Also, I’ve spent like a year trying to follow Emily Henderson’s leather sofa tips, but I don’t think we’ll ever find anything that’s better than the Karlstad pricing-wise and I’ve never seen anything in Seattle that was, like, an amazing vintage leather sofa steal. Never. Nor have I seen things affordably priced enough at our Restoration Hardware outlet to justify pulling the trigger (although it’s true that if you want non-white, their stuff is way sexier than any other new leather I’ve ever seen. I particularly love their “Glove” color.)

I can also say that I now believe you should never, ever buy any furniture in vinyl. I know fancy bloggers like Little Green Notebook and good old Emily Henderson will tell you otherwise, but I just think it smells and sounds weird and is all sweaty and sucks and when a mark or stain happens it RUINS the thing, whereas with leather that’s a decent enough caliber a scratch or scuff just “adds character,” you know?

Anyway, when it comes to leather it pays to be picky, but I really think this Karlstad leather (and that of Ikea’s Stockholm sofa) is shockingly good value and quality.

So, folks, I think it’s officially time to stop writing about sofas now. I hope you find this helpful! Refer me clients if you do! ;)

Some final programming notes

• Please forgive the many linked names to the Karlstad leather series or to its individual pieces. My Karlstad Pinterest board is my most-followed social media thing except maybe my ergonomics board, and I get the feeling this post might kinda blow up with people considering a Karlstad sofa so I’m SEOing the crap out of it even though that might be a tiny bit annoying for readers. Please love me anyway; I’m only human, and I only really want everything I do on the web to hopefully have the side effect of reaching people who could use my help as an online dating coach if I can!

• If I seem to allude to your blog but I failed to actually link to you, please let me know and I will do so. I’ve done SO much deep diving on this couch that a lot of the info I’ve included is more like little memory fragments than specific references, which is why you’re not seeing the link you desire. But I will gladly link it up if you help refresh my memory, and I would totally appreciate you returning the favor! Isn’t that how this blogging thing works? (Serious question; I clearly have no idea what I’m doing here.) So far I got helpful input from Visual Jill, Ella Pretty, Denise, and Brandi.

• If you love my writing and my level of detail, and you’re single or you know someone who is, please check out my online dating coaching site at The Heartographer. Thanks! <3

Farrow & Ball gray paints

Farrow & Ball gray paints

Even though I’ve been mostly stuck on bedrest lately, I was so giddy to finally choose a paint color for our living/dining room that I sucked it up and painted all six of my Farrow & Ball samples. I cut three big posterboards in half, and I used the fourth one as a makeshift dropcloth since I can’t find my actual canvas one. I banged this task out really quickly; I used a disposable Clinique blush brush from some dumb gift with purchase because I couldn’t find our paint brushes, haha. (It shed like crazy but it was fine for just this simple sample task.)

Me, painting a sample.

The paint dried quickly, but not quickly enough!

A close-up of a paint sample, with a fly stuck in it.

I followed Maria Killam’s advice size-wise, and I made these as big as possible so they would still fit in my messenger bag. I want to be able to bring them with me when I go shopping for furniture and other fabric items, to compare undertones. But I also knew that I needed to see them pretty darn big against our walls, trim, doors, and brick fireplace. It works like a charm; the colors and undertones are SO much easier this way! Here is the six grays we had picked out. Captions are misbehaving, so from left to right, they are Lamp Room Gray, Manor House Gray, Hardwick White, Pigeon, Blue Gray, and French Gray.

A selection of six gray paints by Farrow & Ball.

It blows my mind how much easier it is to see the undertones and the true compatibility of each color when you blow them up like this. Holding these big boards against everything really helps highlight everything. Several of these are much more green or beige than even the larger index-cardish sized store samples show, and of course the light in our house is different than the light of that store. The last three are WAY greener than we want, which is good to know.

When you’re holding them up, you have to hold them right against the fixed elements they’ll be working with. We held them against hard surfaces like trim, doors, brick, and even hardwood floors, but also against soft items like the rug, sofas, and even our big beige cat tree, haha. (I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t look like even MORE of an eyesore with new paint!)

Testing large paint samples.

I had suspected all along that what we really wanted was either Lamp Room or Manor House Gray, and I was right! In the image of swatches you can tell that Manor House has much more violet undertones here whereas Lamp Room reads closest to a truly pure, neutral gray, which is exactly our goal. I’ve read so much about how Farrow & Ball paints have lovely different pigments that look different in each light, so I’m sure it’ll shift a little from day to night and winter to summer, but still. Lamp Room it is! That’s the color I’m holding against our fixtures above.

One smart thing I did (even if it’s perhaps pointless now) is that I painted the tops and the labels of each can, like so:

The tops of my paint sample cans, now painted.

The labels have really terrible pixelated color dots that are not good representations of their contents, so this will be much more accurate if I ever use these for projects down the road.

The labels of my paint sample cans, now painted.

I don’t know when we’ll be able to actually paint our walls, since I will have to run to Portland again for more F&B paint if I do decide to go with that. But I might take this to Home Depot and see about getting them to color match Lamp Room Gray in a cheaper brand, just in case that’s as satisfying a result (of course I’d do the same sample trick with that to be certain). Or maybe we’ll just suck it up and have it shipped. I honestly have no idea how much I’ll need, but the samples that look best are the ones with really thick coats, so I know I won’t want to have to skimp on the walls.

Also, we might try to find a good lighter shade for the ceiling, and possibly a slightly darker one for the crown molding. Still deciding on that part. If we do that, we’ll have to get extra trim to seal off this one awkward bit where the molding ends at our staircase, because it would drive us crazy not to have a clear definition there of where the ceiling paint should end and the wall paint should begin. One thing I’ve decided for sure is that I’m painting it myself if we do it to save money, because it’s just not that hard if you suck it up and go for it. After all, why do I work from home if not for the flexibility to tackle things like this? :)

My crown molding.

Anyway, I urge other Styler Curers out there to take time to paint large samples and really compare them against the elements that are going to remain in your cured room, as well as against the new items you’ll be moving in there. You’ll be glad you did! Go buy Maria’s book if you need more guidance than this post. :)

Style Cure Day 10: Success and failure

Style Cure Day 10: Success and failure

Well, today is Style Cure Day 10, and the task is to make a shopping list and a budget. I basically already have that done, except that I’m still waiting on window treatment quotes. But I had a bit of a finances scare—nothing truly outlandish, but because I’ve been under the weather for so long, I’ve been less diligent about keeping tabs on our finances these past few weeks. And in checking into those, I’ve come to realize that my months of less-than-affluent entrepreneurship have been slowly taking their toll on our income and savings. So I suspect that my Style Cure will be put on hold until we feel more comfortable spending on bigger purchases like sofas. (We might still get the rug we have in mind since it’s a relatively inexpensive way to make a bold visual impact.)

I did get up the energy to paint my gorgeous Farrow & Ball large paint samples yesterday, so I’ll photograph and blog that soon. But that’s less exciting than the OTHER project I finally took on, haha.

The cover image for my ebook, "Window Treatments for Modern Pragmatists"I wrote a book! Sort of. A libellus, a brochure, a petit livre. I finally just went ahead and hit publish on this little ditty about curtains. I’m still looking into converting it to iBooks, but that’s in the works.

Why the heck did I write about curtains when I’m an online dating coach by trade? Well, I’ve been pondering and researching window treatments ever since we bought our house, and this really kicked into high gear since the room we were planning to redo for Style Cure is our living room that faces directly west. The windows have been bare for two and a half years, because we just haven’t been decisive enough about exactly what would work and look best. After all, it’s hard to part with money on an expensive fixed element like that when you know you’re going to change your whole look eventually, ya know?

But we recently had some house guests stay with us, whose squinting and sweating in the hot July sun made us realize it was time to suck it up and dress those windows. So I researched, and I blogged, and at some point my blog post was so dang extensive that it just seemed fit for book format. And I’ve been working on an online dating book for ages, so this is a convenient safe little test run just to make sure I know how Kindle plays and can hammer out any kinks before my *important* book comes out eventually.

So! As soon as Amazon lets me, I plan to switch the price to free, so my friends and clients can snag it for no money if they want. I’d make it free forever, but I kind of want to test how royalties and payment works as an Amazon author, so I priced it at the lowest US value possible. (I also made it a 99-like price in all other markets, even when that meant it cost slightly more. I doubt all of Europe and Asia will rise up in outrage over it!)

Anyway, there you have it! This is very much geared towards people with similar taste to mine, but if you’re designing a clean, modern space and you’re stuck on window treatment ideas, it just might help you out. And yeah, that goofy cover image is in fact a picture of some of my curtains, haha. I’ll probably change both the cover and title eventually, but I wanted to just hit go and get it out there, ya know?

Screw Paint Plus Pairing; let’s look at antiques!

Screw Paint Plus Pairing; let’s look at antiques!

I can’t believe how premature/naive I think it is for AT to recommend that people pick their paint color, just like that, without having gone out and bought new furniture or at least obtained swatches for comparison. I guess I’m a bit of a snob about this process after reading Maria Killam’s book, and also after seeing so many pals of mine throw paint up and later be annoyed by how it reads a totally different color at that large scale. Even professional designers do this! So I will be doing the paint part later, after getting at least swatches if not actually making purchases like sofas/rug/drapes, though I’ll still blog about my paint process at that point.

Style Cure Day 8 is also all about a “pairing,” which I just don’t get. I guess my project is bigger than this, and I find this task kind of vague and half-assed or poorly explained. Perhaps it just isn’t relevant to my space, or perhaps it just feels that way because I’ve already done most of the work/research, and am just waiting for quotes and the physical wellness to go out and act! So instead of thinking about a pairing, I’m going to show you some pictures of the cool bizarre antiques I’ve been unpacking.

My uncle recently passed away, and after his death my cousin shipped seven enormous boxes of family antiques from his estate, at my dad’s request. The boxes also included tons of stuff from his wife, my paternal grandmother who died when I was just five. I had to have my dad over to help me unpack the stuff, because I’m not supposed to be lifting heavy stuff/moving around a lot while I’m in recovery from LameTown. But it’s actually been nice to see him ooh and aah over stuff from his childhood! He’s 80 now, so this is some cool Old South Carolina stuff. I don’t yet know what Dad will keep and what I’ll hang on to, but we’ll see. Behold my favorite few items:

Antique metal horse and wagon toys.
My dad used to play with this horse and wagon set as a kid, and he remembers being admonished about being too rough with them! They’re all painted metal, and they say “MADE IN FRANCE” on them. And that little hat is real leather with a bone clasp for the tie, I think. The front wheel broke off and the horses went rogue, but still.
An antique porcelain bull.
My grandfather had a dairy farm, so I suppose this is thematically appropriate. Way more country than my usual taste in tschotchkes, but he’s adorable, right? This guy is Proper Sheffield English Porcelain, which is funny since you’d think I’d inherit that sort of thing from my English mother’s side of the family instead.
An antique snowshoe for horses.
This thing is a block you put on a horse’s hoof either to help shoe it, or in the snow as an EQUINE SNOWSHOE. Did you know such a thing existed? I did not.
Antiques: an autograph book, a bell, and two irons.
My grandmother’s autograph book from the 20s, full of beautifully-penned florid inscriptions and testaments to her popularity; a brass bell like Roderick on the Line uses; and two tiny but functional irons made of actual iron. I thought about doing the quarter for size comparison thing, but eh. They’re small, trust me.
Vintage china with a turquoise and floral pattern.
In addition to the MANY other china pieces, we got these salad plates and they’re my favorite of the china. The larger-scale floral is less twee and ditsy than more traditional patterns, and of course I love the turquoise banding. They don’t seem to have any matching cups/etc. These aren’t my normal style, but I’ll probably use them for guests from time to time, especially if they end up matching our new living room color scheme!
A mysterious iron and enamel antique footed vessel.
This cast-iron mystery is the most perplexing antique. There’s this inset bit that sets into the decorative frame, and the whole thing feels too small to use as a planter but that’s what I intend to do. My dad doesn’t recognize it. Let me know if you know what it is!

We still have two whole enormous boxes to unload, and by we I mean he since I pretty much sit there on the couch and watch and maybe help with gathering up packing paper that’s in reach. Oh well; I’m getting better at demanding and then accepting help instead of doing physical stuff myself, haha. At this rate I’ll be completely insufferable by the time I’m well enough to bounce around again on my own. Stay tuned!

Style Cure smorgasbord

Style Cure smorgasbord

I’ve been loosely following Apartment Therapy’s Style Cure, but a lot of their steps are either hard for me to complete or just don’t make sense given our plans. So I’ve skipped them… and then skipped other ones… and ultimately that sort of makes you not follow along at all. :) Well, now I’m stuck on bedrest and am feeling a little stir-crazy, so I figure that’s a perfect opportunity to go back and do some of the less physically intensive Style Cure chores.

Style Cure, Day 1: The Interview

First up is the initial Interview. But why, oh WHY, could they not have produced a fillable PDF? It’s 2013! I swear to the gods of excessive paper consumption that that’s the reason I didn’t initially fill it out! Have no fear, you silly geese; I hacked a fillable form with PDF Pen and uploaded my completed version here.

My baby-analysis of my Question 1 and 2 answers is that I tend to go for cleaner, sleeker classics with a modern twist. I like things that are a tiny bit trendy/edgy/fun but are mostly good solid choices that will remain solid choices for decades. For example, Vonnegut never goes off of high school kiddie reading lists; my love of Charlie Kaufman’s writing never dies; I’ve loved Robert Downey, Jr.’s classic handsome features and ability to play a slightly off-kilter genius since well before he was Tony Stark, although that role really makes him come alive; and  I’ve always gone for women who were beautiful but kinda sharp and angular, not soft and squishy. :) (Sorry, ex-girlfriends! Don’t take offense. Maybe I just seek that which my own body refuses to conform to.)

My favorite furniture stores smushed together are kind of at odds; one is sort of conservative transitional-contemporary with fairly muted tones, and one was Wild Bright Modern Funky Fun until it closed down. Turquoise in its various shades (especially brighter and more saturated) is still my favorite hue, and I’m increasingly drawn to the deeper peacock version of it for decorating.

I clearly value natural light (the living room I’m Style Curing faces directly west), having enough negative space/lack of clutter (I need to do some miniature furniture culling over time to meet this goal), bold colors used appropriately (I’m leaning black and white or cream with a turquoise or teal accent color), and a pulled-together coordination that we haven’t yet been able to pull off in our new house, at least not in that room.

Okay, most of this I already knew, but that interview was kinda fun and useful after all! I should quit being such an AT grumpus. :)

Style cure Day 2: The Treasure Hunt

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to easily do this in person, because as I said I’m stuck on bedrest. But fear not! I managed to make inspiration come to me, haha. Yes, part of my fairly massive Style Cure undertakings is to get new window treatments for the living room, and I had a local vendor come to me and help me look through honeycomb shade samples as well as linen and silk dupioni samples. There were some definite inspiration stand-outs, mainly the super slubby/slightly shiny silks, especially the rich color called midnight that really should’ve been called mermaid. The linen curtain swatches actually did nothing for me (good to know) but the faux-linen blinds were a lovely, natural, textured open weave. Those super-duper-natural-looking fabric textures always get me; they soften the glam of lots of textiles and they just scream quality to me.

The rest of my hunt has to be Pinterest-based, but that’s cool because I’ve been pinning up a storm with this room redo in mind (and nothing but time and a laptop). Here are some of my main inspiration points, annotated:

A swatch of Brazilliance banana leaf and sea grapes fabric by Dorothy Draper.This iconic fabric has been on my mind a lot lately, you know, from that Martinique Hotel wallpapered look. I toyed with the idea of buying yardage and having curtains made. However, in the long run, I think that won’t work given that the bold pattern may appeal less in a few years. I need something more neutral and timeless (aka “classic”) as window treatments, even though this pattern in and of itself is a classic. Plus I don’t know if Grant could ever be comfortable with curtains of this pattern, PLUS it might look weird to have something this tropical in the winter in Seattle, you know? But I do still love it. I’m thinking of having the seats of these vintage wishbone chairs I snagged covered in this fabric, or in the Tommy Bahama knockoff version, and painting the wood and wicker black to downplay/glam up their beachiness.

A pair of arm chairs decorated in Brazilliance fabric with hot pink piping.And although I could never do these, check out these chairs for inspiration! I ADORE that hot pink welt/piping. I just might do turquoise welt if I end up using that as an accent color; after all, I have tons of houseplants so technically this green would blend right in, right?

Rugs have also been on my mind, since we want to swap out our amazing Temple Garland rug for something with colors that are easier to design around. (That was my biggest regret in this otherwise stunning purchase; stay tuned for an entire post on avoiding rug mistakes like I made.) Ikea STOCKHOLM black and white striped rugRealistically, we’re probably going to go for this Stockholm rug since it’s a nice wool material (flat-woven so perhaps more cat resistant than tufted, turns out) and it’s so graphic and fun. But I want to make sure it looks okay with the sofas we’re planning on getting, which might be way whiter than this off-white. So we shall see. A turquoise and white patterned rug.Other rugs that have inspired me in my huntings are this crazy aqua-turquoise and white one, which is a bolder and bigger color commitment than I think we’re ready for given what a challenge weird rug colors were last time. Again, I want something more timeless, and well, stripes and black and white are pretty darn classic. And if we do choose an accent color, it should be on something cheaper and easier to swap out, like throw pillows, even though I know that’s a predictable and possibly dull way to add pops of color.

Silk bordered curtains from DrapeStyle.comNext up, we have curtain inspiration, which is a huge part of this process but tricky since I’m totally not prepared to shell out for the cost of the level of luxury I crave. I’m still investigating various options, including crying and begging my mother to custom sew them for me even though she’s very resistant because she says she sucks at curtains. I say let me be the judge of that, haha. But we’ll see. This image from DrapeStyle is a nice inspiration one, although we’d do different colors (probably black with white/off-white or gray detailing in the bands). I think we’d do a different pleat too, and it’s possible we’d do linen with silk for just the detailing. I just don’t know yet. Or it’s possible I’ll end up buying much cheaper ready-made curtains, hanging them with clip rings to fake a pleat, and begging Mom to sew on just the way more manageable detailing instead of sewing the whole thing. I’m still waiting for a quote. But in the meantime, it was also fun to toy with the idea of these bright blue raw silk ones, which are nowhere near neutral/classic enough but daaang.

A black, gray, and turquoise striped velvet upholstery fabric.And lastly, my more abstract inspirations come just as fabric swatches. This velvet pictured blows my mind, and perfectly ties together our ideal neutrals (except white or off-white) and accent color. But there are similar ones like this with more colors, and loads more incredible weaves and prints. I really do have a taste for the luxe; I bet this stuff is well over a hundred bucks a yard. But that’s why it’s mere inspiration, haha. For now! If I can track it down in a small affordable chunk I’m totally having my mom make a throw pillow out of it. Mmmmmm velvet.

A brass square-patterned open screen.Last sheer ridiculousness inspiration piece is this screen, which is way glam and blingy and Hollywood Regency and we would never have such opulence or pointlessness in our house (a screen that doesn’t screen? What) but man did it catch my eye. Maybe I need to amp up our brass accents to warm up the stately drapes and white and cool accent color we’re planning, and maybe I need to track down something with funky square-interlocky pattern like a pillow or blanket. For now, I’ll just leave this here.

Well, this was a LOT of blogging for just two days of belated Style Cure, so I think I’ll come back to blogging more after I feel like I’ve accomplished more. Despite the palette, the look I’m crafting here feels distinctly feminine, which isn’t gonna fly with my better half. But I’ll find ways to bring in more dude-like elements, maybe with a different accent color. We’re still pondering that turquoise, after all, and Grant tentatively OKd it but really we both know that’s MY color so I don’t want him feeling left out.

Sorry for being lazy about editing images here; I’m too zonked out on Vicodin to care that there’s a ton of white space on some but not others. I promise I’ll treat your design-bent eyes kinder next time! Oh, and I finally made a Style Cure Pinterest board, too.