Decorating Ideas

Talking To My Socks

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The bestselling Marie Kondo book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has a lot of fans and detractors.  I decided to read it after several people,whose opinions and values I shared,  had recommended it,  Many of her practical suggestions include organizing like-things together, storing things for optimal access and viewing, and letting go of extraneous things; all which resonated with me.  Sometimes her suggestions were outside my normal scope of organizing activity; e.g., in one section, she instructs you to roll your socks in pairs and to thank them for their service in taking care of your feet.  As one article I read about the book noted, if millions of Americans have read it, and even a fairly small percentage follow her edicts, then we have  thousands of people in America talking to their socks.

My take-away on the book was the way she makes you think about organizing, which trumps any misgivings I have about speaking with my garments or household items.  While I first thought some of her methods were a little extreme, or too sentimental (or inaccessible, as far as time commitments goes), I eventually found that I began looking at spaces and re-organizing them without over-thinking it after reading her book. It feels more organic now.  Thus far, the changes have been ‘sticking’ so I feel like the book is as much about the mindset as it is about the practical advice. I manage organizing with minor incursions through cabinets, drawers and closets instead of the wholesale practice she recommends.  It works for me, as waiting until I had time to do a major sweep through all the cabinets or all the closets would be like waiting for Godot.

The before and after of my pantry;  I am no longer embarrassed if the door is left open-

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…Before…

 

                   IMG_3771 (1) …After

Then, I moved onto bigger game.  A client’s heavily used laundry room in a co-housing space for 5 adults had fallen into disrepair and was choked with clutter.  I was able to offload many bags of trash, and organize other items into the laundry room so shared items are easily found; this opened up space in other parts of the apartment for much needed storage.

Before..

Laundry  Laundry before 2Laundry before 4

 

After…

Laundry after 1   Laundry after 2   Laundry after 4   Laundry after 3

Best of luck in your organizing endeavors! Tell your socks I said hello.

Upcycled Ottoman

Upcycled Ottoman

After one of my clients asked me to help her make a Mongolian Fur ottoman, I soon begin to spot these fun footstools all over the market; shaggy poufs and hoof-legged ottomans are ubiquitous now in stores and catalogues. The October Cover of Elle Décor sports a pretty blue fur piece.

I was recently given an old fur coat that was just a little too far gone in need of repairs, and I remembered a footstool I had picked up at some yard sale or thrift shop.  My upcycled fur ottoman was in the works.

Rescued Ottoman

To keep costs down I stripped down the footstool myself, taking out all the nails and staples. I sanded the legs down to bare wood with an orbital sander then stained and waxed them.

Deconstructing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The upholsterer put a padded top on the ottoman, and made the coat into a loose fitting slip cover.

Ottoman meets Fur

 

 

 

 

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My ottoman may have more character than most: one side has a discreet and neatly edged opening for the pocket. The other sports a toggle closure in a wink to it’s former life.

First lamp show of 2014

Mary Olive Design: Unique Lighting

June 8th, 2014 12pm – 4pm

209 Westminster Road, Brooklyn, NY 11218

Join me at my home studio, and browse my collection of lamps, lovingly handmade from salvaged, vintage, and repurposed parts. Each one has been carefully considered and crafted for beauty and balance.

Featuring a trunk show of works on paper by Katie VanVliet, a printmaker from Philadelphia, PA. You can preview her work at www.katevanvliet.com.

Many of my lamps are available to preview on my Etsy shop, and many many more will be unveiled during the show!

Silk Purse/Sow’s Ear

Curbside or thrift shop treasures while a bargain, usually lead me to the question- will I ever really fix this up to use it?   It depends on the level of decreptitude- or for me, if it’s the exact size piece I need for the space, and if its basically a better piece of furniture than I can buy cheaply.  While my kids hated the groovy painted furniture I put in their rooms and pined for Ikea almost-wood, I prefer a solid piece of real wood furniture in a classic shape and solidly built.  I can see past the peeling paint and occasional dangling part to what it could be with a little elbow grease.  But filling the space requirements is usually what tips me into actually doing the work on it.

My latest rescue was the perfect sized bookshelf for my bedroom, when my excess books were stacked in front of the radiator and collecting dust on the floor. It was old, had a gazillion coats of paint, some peeling and the front leg was cracked.

Before you do anything, take off any paint that looks like it is ready to jump ship anyway, using a spackling knife rather than a scraping tool, so you don’t pull up tight paint- I didn’t want to strip it (way too much work for this piece) but if you have any notions that new paint glues down peeling old paint, disabuse yourself of that idea.  It usually means your new paint will soon come off as well.  Top coat is only as secure as the bottom layer.

After the removal of loose stuff, take a sander to it- it will smooth down the previous layers, some of the brush marks and let you know where drips are that you haven’t noticed.  Sometimes I help those off with a sharp razor.


Orbital palm sanders are cheap and easy to use, they should be  a part of any handy-person’s tool collection.

Fix the busted leg- I use an old your-name-here credit card that comes in the mail every day with new card offers, its just the right thickness to work the glue into the crack.


I use clamps to hold it in place while it dries, and glued a block into the corner behind the leg to give it more stability.  Cut the block down so you can’t see it from the front.  I clamp the leg so the glue can set.

Then predrill a hole, and run a flat head screw into several points to give it extra strength and stabilize it.

If you have the bits, its nice to counter sink the hole (a wider hole at the top to accommodate the flat screw head) so the screw isn’t noticeable, you can fill the top with compound to make it invisible. This fix it step took about 20 minutes, and now I don’t have to worry about the leg cracking off, and the fix is invisible.

For the paint job, I use the same type of paint, in this case oil-based.  I prefer alkyd paint for furniture anyway, as its tougher, but always best for paint adhesion to stick to the original paint type. For my color, I mixed some leftover oil based paints, to get something fairly close to the wall color.  I want the bookcase to blend in, not stand out.  If it was a more interesting accent piece I might have gone with a bolder color.

Once it’s done and in place, I’m glad I took the time!

 

For all the pinners out there:

Retrofit Your Vintage

Or should I call it funky improvements?  Or love your retro?  Or the I’ll-renovate-after-I-pay–for college makeover.

Sometimes renovation is just not the right solution, whether its time, mess, or budget considerations.  So you make the best of it and just go with it.

The point in case for me is the Pink Bathroom.  I don’t know who came through this neighborhood in the 40’s, but I do know they were pretty darn persuasive and that I am not alone with my Pink Bathroom.  I found a website called “Save the Pink Bathrooms” created by Pink Bathroom advocate Pam Kueber.via, http://savethepinkbathrooms.com/about/

From Pam’s website:

5 million pink bathrooms — I believe that pink was the single-most popular color for bathrooms in the 1950s, and estimate that some 5 million pink bathrooms went into the 20 million+ homes built in the United States from 1946-1966.

I wonder if she is including the retrofitted pink bathrooms from turn of the century charmers such as we have here, because there are pink bathrooms a’plenty.

Read on for 10 facts about pink bathrooms, I like #2:

“Mamie Pink” – First Lady Mamie Eisenhower was pivotal in popularizing the color, which is often referred to at “Mamie Pink” or “First Lady Pink.” Her husband President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent her pink flowers every morning. She re-decorated the private quarters in the White House in pink — so much so that reporters called it the “Pink Palace.” And, the bathroom in her Gettysburg retirement home was pink down to the cotton balls.

Brooklyn DesignI took a photo of the start point in my bathroom so perhaps it will hold my feet to the fire to get this done and I hope to put up “finish” photos by Christmas.  Some things I want to change: wall color, lighting, and the medicine cabinet.  The fluorescent fixture attached to the top of the med cabinet died some time ago.  I have a cool pink chandelier that I made from lamp parts, but nothing over the sink.  So, in order to get all that happening, we had to remove the medicine cabinet from the wall and detach the light- I hired an electrician to put in a box for my lights, and a GFI outlet so I have somewhere to plug in a hairdryer.

Unfortunately, when the medicine cabinet came out, a few of the tiles did also, and one of them broke.  I was already missing one of the pink bullnose trim tiles from it loosening and falling. To replace the missing tiles, I went to the site recommended by Save the Pink Bathroom, World of Tile and they told me to get my tile and send it to “Chippy” to match.  It’s going out today!  I will tell her how much I need and hope she can help me out.Brooklyn Design

I am contemplating HC-136 walls, a great historic blue-green, dark gray on the ceiling and, happily, my hand printed Fabric Workshop curtains and shower curtain will look amazing with this renovation.

The medicine cabinet was a disaster, rim and body were both rusted.  As I could not find a similar size cabinet and didn’t want to get into massive wall renovation (and mess up the tile issue even more!) I brought my cabinet in to get powder-coated at Ever-nu metal, in Park Slope.  For around $300 they took the body of the cabinet, sandblasted off the rust and made it turquoise (lots of colors to choose from!) and the outer rim is a neat white gloss that will look fab against the pink tile.  I reckoned that it was less expensive to do this than to get a new body, pay the shipping, and pay a contractor to resize the opening.  The original size was just fine, the hole already there, the sliding mirror doors in good shape  (and safely put away until we reinstall this cabinet). It was surprisingly easy to take out the cabinet, only 4 screws held it in place.

Brooklyn Interior DesignStay tuned for notes from the battlefield.  This afternoon I will make matters worse by taking off the rest of the wallpaper.  I always tell my clients as they get antsy watching the progress of renovation mess up their house- you’ve got to break some eggs to make an omelet….

 

Humble Parts


Brooklyn Design
This weekend I was helping a friend put up curtain hardware, and we were looking for a fast and inexpensive solution for a double window.  The apartment is a rental and my friend had no interest in fancy hardware.  And neither was there time to order custom rods.  I have a knee-jerk reaction to putting up “extendable” rods, the one-size-fits-many variety.  Not only do I not like the way these rods look, I dislike that each time you open or close the curtains, the rings, (or rod pocket), catches on the join;  every single day as you yank the curtains over the join you have the irritation of a badly designed product. I use wood rods a lot because they are cut to fit.  Metal rods I often have custom fabricated, so that I can get one with out that extension joint in the middle.

As we didn’t have time to go to my drapery hardware supplier, I did a dive into Home Depot to see what they offered for speedy installation.  A serviceable wood rod was available in an ok color.  Then the finials, and the rings…it was starting to get pricey, and I was thinking the wood was just fine, but not spectacular. Alas, they ended up not even having the right brackets (in a disappointing marketing plan they don’t even carry the right brackets).

Brooklyn Design

I have in the past used plumbing pipe for hardware, so I took a stroll over to that department.  I found a great looking steel pipe with threaded ends, in just the right size. It had nice little caps to use as finials.  And it came in a “gun metal” black –gray finish, similar to one I had specified on some pricey custom metal rods.  For about $12.00 I had a fantastic rod and finials!  I went back to the Décor dept at Home Depot, and found a “Universal Bracket” for around $14.00/pair that could be used to hang the rod.  I made sure brackets seemed sturdy – the rod was a hefty weight and I was glad I wasn’t hanging super-heavy curtains on them.  There were nice metal rings available that fit the rod as well. The brackets and rings were both a matte silver that worked well with the gunmetal finish of the rod.

Brooklyn DesignI have used a lighter weight copper pipe for drapery installations before, in my friend’s framing shop.  We found all the parts we needed to run the curtains from wall to wall.  It’s a little tricky in this case as you have to assemble first and then install (so you need to know how many rings you will need before you start) but it’s a great industrial look and less expensive than custom metal rods and brackets. I show the parts used here. There is a threaded sleeve that screws into the base, which in turn is mounted to the wall.  The pipe fits into the sleeve.  Again, all must be assembled and then lifted into place and screwed into the wall- and takes down the same way.  Adding a few more rings later is not terribly convenient- best to plan ahead for this type of treatment.  In my installation we had painted the non-copper metal end piece black and the contrast was great looking.

I often use plumbing pipe in my lamps.  I like the oxidized copper, and am getting ready to use some galvanized pipe on a pair of silver lamps.  I like to use other “humble” parts, and recently built a pair of lamps from hardware I had bought for this purpose- and some I upcycled from pieces I found when cleaning out my dad’s workshop.  I usually choose not to put a finish on these lamps and enjoy their “natural” patina.  I do mix humble parts with fancier vintage pieces as well.  For a “dressier” lamp I may give the humble parts a little polish and shine and find that when used judiciously, they step up to the occasion.Brooklyn Design

 

Recycled Lights

One of my favorite pieces from the ICFF show was the lamp made from recycled 45”s by GIN Art and Design. I liked the great colors and repurposing of the original material.  GIN Art & Design was founded by Orlando Dominguez (pictured) and is based here in Brooklyn.  There was some really cool stuff on his website- I wish I had seen his artfully mis-matched chairs in time for my blog post!

Other lighting that featured recycled material came from the company graypants. Their line is called “SCRAPLIGHTS™ –responsibly reimagining cardboard boxes”.  According to their brochure, SCRAPLIGHTS are made from salvaged cardboard and non-toxic adhesive. Because they use the boxes as is, they have a great natural look, similar to wood in tone. The hanging fixtures come in really fantastic shapes and sizes.

Using the same material, CartonPlanet comes up with a whole other animal. Their cardboard is less natural looking and is taken to the next level. They wax lyrical about the humble  material-

Cardboard is a symbol of revival.  It is fallible but indestructible, and at the same time it can surprise us with its obedience and persistence over and over.

Their lights are lovely but the fun doesn’t stop there- they have great furniture as well, made from recycled cardboard- coffee tables, chairs, sofas and shelving.

And for more recycled material lighting fun- I met Bao-Khang Luu when I was in the Sustainable Entrepreneur program at FIT.  He was making “upcycled” lamps from discarded materials.  The process of upcycling is described on the website for his company, Relevé Design:

When we’re done with magazines or plastic bottles we usually throw them away. Sometimes we reuse them. Other times we recycle. Recycling actually downgrades the material. For instance, the quality of plastic lessens each time it’s recycled. Different types of plastics and impurities get mixed together, weakening the plastic. Fortunately, there’s a better way to deal with waste, and that’s upcycling.

…Upcycling is an eco-friendly way of repurposing, because it only uses unwanted and discarded materials and transforms them into something new, desirable, and more valuable….In our case, we save six-pack rings from being dumped into a landfill or downcycled into low quality plastic, and we make them into new, fabulous lighting.

Bao has an amazing line of pendant lamps made from 6-pack plastic holders. And he is ever forthcoming with fantastic ideas for repurposing, check out this intriguing metal lamp spotted on his website, made from an easily recognizable commodity.

ICFF Snapshots

Last week, I made the yearly pilgrimage to ICFF (the International Contemporary Furniture Fair), to see what is new and noteworthy.  The booths were incredible, the products lovely, I will devote a separate entry for the lights, as there was too much to cover in one short blog.  It was so incredibly visually intense.   There were a lot of international companies at the fair.  I am guessing that the cost of showing at one of these behemoths is astounding so you don’t get as much of the local variety and scrappy startups as at a local show.

Olive DesignThat being said, totally loved Akke functional art ping pong table with what looked like a bowling alley surface, with steel pipe legs and a lighted glass inset. I don’t even play ping pong and I was ready to roll with this piece, I just loved the industrial look to it.  Akke is based in Huntington, New York, owner Axel Yberg’s hometown.Olive Design

There were a number of wallpaper companies doing interesting patterns with small runs.  I liked Lobo Loup and Juju Papers, both were very playful.  Lobo Loup describes themselves as Wallpaper for the Modern Family and featured sophisticated kid friendly prints.  I was also intrigued by the scrap wood wallpaper by Piet Hein Eek, made in Holland.  There were equally convincing papers simulating concrete wallpaper, tin ceiling and other textures.Olive Design

Olive Design

For classic good looks, I admired this chair by John Ford, shown in different woods.  It was beautifully made and the museum style presentation really showcased the minimal lines.

While I went to the show expecting great furniture and hopefully sustainable options (see next blog for lights made from recycled products!) I was not expecting to stumble on… the next thing in kitty litter boxes.  Nice that someone took the time to re-think this design and household issue.  Modko presents the “Flip”- it is an inverted version of the covered cat box, with a fold-back top for easy access, paperboard liners that are easy to remove (and treated for water-tight, no leak use).  There is a handy spot to hang the poop scoop as well.

Olive Design

Lastly, was inspired to rest when I found the seat that best matched my outfit…you’ve heard of tub chairs?  These retrofitted pedestal tubs were so much fun.  It was a Kohler plumbing display- with Jonathan Adler colors and prints.  As that pairing seemed unusual I checked it out online.   Zack Cohn describes the partnership on psfk.com

Olive DesignCelebrity designer Jonathan Adler recently teamed up with Wisconsin-based home appliance brand, Kohler, to introduce a new line of colorful sinks for the kitchen and bathroom. The collection, which made its debut at the 2012 International Contemporary Furniture Fair, explores the question of the impact color can have amidst the white, ‘sterile’ space that traditionally defines a bathroom and kitchen.

Next week’s post will show pictures of some very cool lighting.  There will be sustainable and recycleable materials in lamps and hanging fixtures.  For a sneak peak, check out Gin Art & Design.

 

Mismatched

It seems to be the style now to piece different fabrics together in a single chair or sofa.  Often, historically the backs of chairs might feature a jaunty mismatched pattern, say a stripe or check to contrast with the damask front. Being resourceful, I always had a lot of smaller pieces of leftover fabric and would often use them to make a whole chair or sofa cover.  And now I see this style in showrooms and magazines.

It can be very economical to find reasonably priced remnants- they are steeply discounted to reflect their bolt end status.  Recovering an upholstered chair requires up to 8-9 yards of fabric, and a sofa 16-22 yds.  These apricot and gold wing chairs were thriftily done with remnants for less than $200 and they look great as well. There were enough leftovers to make a window seat for the same room.

Often, I  use a contrast welting on upholstered pieces.  Not only do I like the contrast, but it can save a few yards of fabric as well, and if you are running it close to the needed amount, this option can help squeak you through.  But as shown on the gold chairs, you can “marry” two different upholstered pieces by having the same piping, as I did with the red welt on these chairs.  Ultrasuede makes fantastic piping, it is very durable, looks like leather, and comes in lots of colors.

I used lots of different fabrics and fluffy trim for a special chair for a little girl- we were trying to match a miniature chair she had been given as a toy.  (Just to be clear, this was NOT cost effective….but did produce the desired effect).

It can be a great way to change out upholstery that is problematic, the seat cushions are soiled or ripped and the rest of the sofa is fine, or as some complain, their kids keep sliding off the leather sofa.  I have suggested making just a new seat cover in a fabric that complements the whole sofa, and it is less costly than re-upholstering the whole piece.

 

Family Photo Dilemma

Often when I am helping my clients with their spaces, we are re-organizing, as well as repainting. Disconcertingly we find layers of family photos on every available table top and surface. They sprout like mushrooms, in mismatched frames, and every one of them absolutely precious.Photo Grouping

If reclaiming the surfaces and decluttering is a goal, one solution I offer is to make groupings of family photos and hang them up. Sometimes we trail them down stairways, or they pop up in a dining room. Grouped this way they tell a compelling story, invite perusal, gladden the heart to see your family gathered around you.

My Photo GroupingThe family photos I have grouped in my dining room around the oval mirror feature Olive Van Vliet at the top, my business’ namesake. She has now been in various movies and TV shows, as the prop folks seem to like the arrangement when they use my house for film.

I have a client who has vintage photos from her girlhood in Cuba, I like to keep the black and white vintage photos in their own groupings, when possible. She had so many, and many of them were already framed, so we just went with the flow and kept the eclectic mix of frames.Wall Grouping

But often the myriad pictures are just the tip of the iceberg! Lurking in the back of the closet — or right under the couch — are boxes and boxes of photos. What to do with all of them, how to corral them, make sense of them, preserve the memories? I met a woman who does just that, Martie McNabb from “Memories Out of the Box”.

In her own words, Martie who is a member of the Association of Personal Historians, organizes and curates family photos and documents to tell the story of her client’s lives. She calls it “preserving their past and telling their story”, a story she learns from sifting through what’s often boxes and bags full of old documents and photographs. The intimate lens through which she sees her clients’ lives, the objects they deemed important enough to hold on to over years and sometimes decades, allows her to build their story.

Most clients ask that Martie compile their archives into a book. She says that 95% of the time, she does ends up making a physical book, but also creates multimedia displays shown on flat screen televisions or in digital frames. Each project she works on presents different challenges. She put together a book for one of her client’s sons, representing his life from birth through college graduation. His archive contained some of his early ”books” written in school, a tooth, airplane boarding passes and his father’s college id among other memorabilia.

Another client asked Martie to archive her grandfather’s story. A man who lost his legs and sight in World War II, the client’s grandfather managed to come back from the war impossibly positive and raised enough money for his family to survive.  Everyone in the client’s family wanted the book Martie created, so she scanned it, made seven copies and took the original to a book conservator.  At times, instead of creating new books, Martie works on things that are already made but in such bad shape that people can’t even touch them.

It is a fine thing to have personal historians among us, if not to personally curate for us, to remind us of our relationship to the past. I feel inspired by Martie, and am glad to recommend her to my clients yearning to break out of the box(es).