Posts Tagged ‘olive design’

Upcycled Ottoman

Comments Off on Upcycled Ottoman Written on December 1st, 2014 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.









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

Ottoman meets Fur





Toggle Detail

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.

Retrofit Your Vintage

Comments Off on Retrofit Your Vintage Written on July 11th, 2012 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas, Olive Green
Tags: , , , , , ,

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,

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

Comments Off on Humble Parts Written on July 3rd, 2012 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas, Olive Green
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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


Refurbishing An Old Lamp

Comments Off on Refurbishing An Old Lamp Written on June 19th, 2012 by
Categories: Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Brooklyn Interior DesignI have been making lamps from recycled and vintage parts for a number of years and love the creative buzz that comes from taking interesting parts and making something unexpected, beautiful and functional. But sometimes you stumble on a vintage lamp that just needs a little loving care and restoration, some updated wiring, a pretty shade.  I found this lovely piece heading toward a dumpster as one of the houses near me was being emptied for sale, its owner having moved to smaller digs.  I loved the classic shape and underneath the dirt and rusted parts, I knew there was an amazing lamp waiting to happen.

First I ditch the cord; chances are on a lamp this old the wire is shot.  My rule of thumb is that if when I bend the wire it feels like it is going to crack then it gets replaced- or if it predates polarized plugs and both of the prongs are same-size.  I buy wire and plug sets from a parts supplier, but if you are doing it yourself you can get wire and snap on plugs from a hardware store.  If you don’t know how to wire a lamp, there are lots of places to get it done.  I recommend Ricky from Lamp Warehouse. (Lamp Warehouse recently downsized when it changed owners, but they were savvy enough to keep Ricky on as the repair department.) While I do my own wiring generally, I bring him more complicated things like chandeliers and multiple socket fixtures and he does a fantastic job.Brooklyn Design

Looking at this lamp, I love everything about it and don’t feel much need to embellish, but I do see one area that needs improvement.  The socket for this lamp is set right on top of the ceramic base.  In order to site a shade properly you might miss some of the prettiness of the full lamp piece- or alternatively have some of the socket exposed.  Usually you want a shade to come down to the bottom of the socket. Also, the harp saddle (which holds the wire “harp” that supports the shade) is the old fashioned type- it can’t be changed for size unless you take apart the lamp.  I replace it with a universal saddle so, I can change harp size without having to take off the socket.  I take the lamp apart, unscrewing it from the top socket (on some lamps its easier to get from the bottom- wherever it gives most easily) and disassemble. My dad taught me this trick- if there are a lot of small parts- and with many lamps there are, line up the pieces carefully in the order you took them off the center rod.  Then, after cleaning or refinishing each piece, put them back on in the same order. I hate getting a lamp all put back together and then finding another piece on my workbench.  When re-assembling my vintage lamp I find a rod from my workshop that is about an inch longer;  when I am putting the lamp back together, I will add a 1” brass  “neck” to the top. This gives me a little clearance from the bottom of the shade to the top of the lamp, you will see more of the lamp and it doesn’t “squish” the lamp shape if I want to cover the whole socket with the shade.

Brooklyn DesignWhile the lamp is apart I scrub it thoroughly and let it dry.  The old ceramic can take a lot of cleaning and is very durable.  Sometimes under all the dirt you find a flaw, this time I think it was probably a gap in the original glaze, but I don’t want it to catch dirt so after the lamp base is dry I carefully put a little clear nail polish in the ding and it fills it nicely and evens the sheen so you don’t even see it.Brooklyn Design

When you are ready to run the new wire, make sure you start through the “wireway” hole in the base, so the lamp will sit flat on the table.  When all is assembled, felt the bottom so that it doesn’t scratch your table. I tighten with a socket wrench, tight enough so it feels stable, but with glass or ceramic you have to make sure you don’t put it together so tightly you crack the pieces.  Sometimes where metal check washers meet the ceramic I use a rubber washer to cushion it so I can tighten it more without damaging the base.

Brooklyn Interior Design

Finding the perfect shade is another story that will end up as a blog one of these days….My workshop has come to critical mass with vintage parts bursting out of all my cupboards.  Keep an eye peeled on my Etsy store as I add new lamps over the summer, and plan for a Fall Lamp Salon.

Brooklyn Interior Design

Recycled Lights

Comments Off on Recycled Lights Written on June 6th, 2012 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas, Olive Blog, Olive Design
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

Comments Off on ICFF Snapshots Written on May 30th, 2012 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas, Olive Design
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

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.


Container Gardens

Comments Off on Container Gardens Written on May 16th, 2012 by
Categories: In the Garden, Olive Design
Tags: , , , , ,

Brooklyn DesignOnce spring hits, you see lovely container gardens everywhere; the window boxes and planters, the fabulous colorful pots on porches and paths.  I asked my gardening expert friend Tracey Hohman how she makes them so beautifully and she shared her tips and tricks. She recommends starting the early plantings with hearty plants, like Pansy.  I always know it’s time to set them out when I see them on her porch!  For true summer plants the rule of thumb is to wait until Mother’s Day.

Brooklyn Design

For showy blooms and great display, you can get a lot of drama planting a big pot with all the same flower, all same color, planted close together.  Tracey shows a pot of pansies that were just ending their spring run. Alternatively you can mix colors of the same flower that co-ordinate with each other, in the same pot.

The Container How-To

  1. Start with a nice sized container or pot.  Tracey shares my enthusiasm for clay pots- (I like the glazed ceramic ones as well, saw the most beautiful ones at Lapide Plants in the Terminal Market).  You want them deep enough so that they don’t dry out quickly.  One of the challenges of container gardening is keeping them watered!
  2. Add gravel or rocks to the bottom to provide drainage.  I follow my thrifty mom’s lead and recycle broken clay pots for this purpose, mixed with gravel. People are always asking me why I keep a bag of broken pots in the garage…Brooklyn Design
  3. The dirt on Dirt:  Don’t recycle last year’s dirt without adding back some nutrients in the form of compost or garden manure.  Tracey favors “Professional Potting Soil” that she picks up at Shannon’s Nursery on Fort Hamilton Avenue.  You can use this straight out of the bag, but if you have some dirt in pots from last year and want to use it, remediate the soil with at least a third of fresh stuff and/or compost. Helpful Hint- do this whole operation on a tarp or plastic sheet- you can easily clean up later by dumping the spillage in the yard or garden.
  4. Fill the dirt only part way up in the pot, leaving room to set the plantings in with their pot dirt.  You want to eventually have the whole thing about ¾”-1” below top rim of pot, so that water stays in when you water the pots.
  5. Arrange them in the container, still in the nursery pots.  Taller plants should be placed in the back with trailing plants in the front.  You want to really plant them densely, to look abundant and lush.  Trim off any withered leaves or stems now. Once you have them arrange nicely, take each one out of the nursery pot and before you place it in the dirt, work the roots a little, loosen them up so they are not “rootbound”.
  6. After you place them in, tuck more of the dirt in so that it fills the pot up to the 3/4” below the rim. Plants should be closely spaced, the dirt filled in between the plants where there is any gap and all around the edges of the pot. Pat dirt down lightly- and water when you are done. As an optional last step, you can add some mulch to the top of the planter on any exposed dirt- it helps retain moisture and looks more “finished”.Brooklyn Design

Plant suggestions

When considering your plant selection, you want to determine the light where they will be situated.  6 hours or more is “full sun” 4-6 hours is “partial sun”, anything less is shade.

Brooklyn DesignFor the container we just did, Tracey used a variety of types of plants, mixing annuals, perennials- and houseplants.   Send your weary potted plants to Summer Camp on the porch!  They will be invigorated by the sunny porch living (provided you remember to regularly water) and in the fall, you can repot and bring the plant back inside.  It’s a thrifty way to add more variety to your porch plantings. For height, she used a canna, and a classic annual, Petunia, for the shot of hot color.  The house plants she mixed in were Begonia Rex and Oxalis. The perennial was Heuchera  “Plum Pudding”.  There was a red sweet potato vine that will eventually trail down the side of the planter once it gets situated.  All the foliage plants selected had similar merlot coloring, but different shapes and textures, for interest.

Brooklyn DesignTracey also showed me a great planter she had put together for the porch railing.  It had a variety of different colored coleus for a shady area, and for the “trailer” a pretty white flower on a vine, called “Euphorbia Diamond Frost”.  I am midway through making my porch planters, having refurbished and painted the wooden containers from last year (courtesy of one of our film shoots).  I put coleus in one as per Tracey’s suggestions about grouping a single type of plants, and in the other I plan on moving the philodendron outside for some summer fun, still “browsing” through the indoor plants looking for something to give it some height.

Brooklyn Design

Remember to water, often, especially when we get into the really hot season- if you are traveling on vacation a great idea to get someone to look after the plantings.  As a final note, I would mention that my container plantings in the past have proved endlessly fascinating to the resident squirrel population, they seem convinced somehow that they have something buried in there from last year and I used to be out sweeping up the rummaged dirt every morning, rescuing broken plants.  Cayenne pepper, sprinkled liberally discouraged this practice.

Happy planting.


Comments Off on Appliances Written on May 9th, 2012 by
Categories: Olive Design, Olive Green
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The other day someone from one of my Sustainable Entrepreneur Groups posted a great Ted Talk called “Hans Rosling and the Amazing Washing Machine”.

In it, global heath expert Hans Rosling recounted the day his mother and grandmother, after scrimping and saving for years, used their new washing machine for the first time.  It was a huge step up from heating the water over a wood fire and performing the weekly chore of washing clothes by hand.  He chronicles consumption and “the washing machine class”, noting that women of every class, in every society, want a washing machine, as it falls on them alone to do this backbreaking chore.  Rosling posits the case that the washing machine may be the greatest invention of the industrial revolution.  The video informs about consumption in a humorous and engaging manner.

But consumption polemics aside, the appliance that I find so many women talk about and on which they wax lyrical, is the vacuum.  How many times on our local list serve have we heard someone ask for recommendations for a brand, model, or source- and get a host of enthusiastic responses.  I have had a good relationship with my vacuum go-to guys in Park Slope, Brooke’s Appliances for years, and continue to loyally buy my vacuums there and have them serviced as needed. On their advice I bought the best ones I could afford.

VacuumWhen my favorite brand started delivering shoddy goods, I felt let down. The last two of my favorite brand’s machines I purchased were disappointing in performance and durability.  I expect that when I pay more for something, the trade off will be that it lasts longer and performs better. While the machine was not inexpensive, the plastic wheel fell off in a month, clips broken and unfixable, the wand broke, the suction was ok but not fabulous enough to make me overlook the cheap plastic parts breaking with light use. How many of us go home to visit our parents and see the 50 year old Electrolux in the closet? Mom may like the newer brighter lighter weight canister vac better, or prefer an upright with the lighted front- but the Electrolux is still going strong.    I hate to buy anything that I know will break down quickly, despise the notion of planned obsolescence, and “throw away “ goods.  My 1954 sewing machine is serviced regularly and is a powerhouse.  Ok, so it doesn’t do buttonholes automatically and I will never figure out the ultra-low tech do-hickey that they claim will do them- I’m okay without all the bells and whistles.  My mom had given me her 1954 sewing machine years ago, and upgraded to a newer model- and has been through 4 machines since.  I kept her New Home going until the early 80’s until the overhaul on it cost more than it was worth, and replaced it with a Singer of the same vintage.  1954, apparently was a good year for sewing machines.Olive Design

Olive DesignHaving decided to jump ship from my current vacuum brand, I cast my eye on the much-touted Miele; this little aqua blue number that (of course) was just the right color.  Only to find this particular color had been discontinued by the time I had made up my mind to invest in what I hoped was a better quality machine.  It was the rave reviews of every woman I know who owned one that got me interested in purchasing one, but of course it was the color that sold me. The Brooke’s Appliance guys went searching, and found me what they claim may be the last still-new-in-box aqua blue Miele available on the market.  Thus far I am in awe of the performance and the heft of the parts; wands and heads snap together with a resounding click, there is no sense of impending breakage, it’s like driving a luxury… vacuum.  I justify my consumerism by investing in a product that will not need replacing within a year.  I am passing on my old machine to someone who needed one, replacing the wheel and taping the faulty wand, and wishing them good luck with it.  If it’s broke, then fix it.  If it can’t be fixed it just may be too temporary for me.Olive Design