I've had this in draft for more than a month now, trying to figure out how to begin the story of this journey, and these new things in this new place. Nearly everything is different, and it's brought me incredible joy putting these things together - finally curating a place that feels like "home".
Since 2015, I've been on the move. The home I shared with my ex was never my taste, and while I searched and searched for ways to make the house feel more like me, it never really did. Sure, the vignettes and the styling were all to my taste, and I had free reign over how most of the furniture was placed and what was purchased, but the bones of that house - while beautiful - were never really the appropriate bones for my aesthetic. If you know what I mean.
I ventured out to my first apartment with little more than an idea, a slipcovered sofa from our sunroom, design books, and my collection of blue and white Chinoiserie porcelains. It took a few months, but eventually that apartment was "finished" looking like this:
I loved the all white look. It was such a departure from the dark colors and heavy art that I had in the old house. It was, for the most part, my opportunity to show that I could leave my old house, and all those things, and create something totally different. And for that, it was fine. I succeeded. But it still never felt quite like "me". In September of 2015, I moved into a different apartment, this time with a new vision.
P.S., there are more photos of this space in the Interior Design Portfolio tab.
That apartment started out looking like this:
And for the vast majority of my time there, it ended up looking like this:
The space was beautiful. I could have left it like this, and lived happily ever after - if I wasn't me. One day, I got tired of it, and it all changed. From that, to this:
It was the first time that I felt like the apartment really felt more like my home. The space was intimate, and cozy. The furnishings felt useful and people didn't teeter around all the white worried they were going to mess things up. Eventually, I learned that what I really needed was a larger space. Something that allowed more room for me and the puppies, and a proper dining room for entertaining.
So, I picked up again - this time, almost empty handed - and I started over. The new apartment presented a variety of interesting challenges. First, the apartment (like the one above) had carpet throughout when I moved in. I knew that my things wouldn't look the way I intended if the carpet had stayed, so I asked that they allow me to put down a floor similar to the one that I put in the first place. Thankfully they agreed, but the subfloor here was very different!
I can't even tell you how dirty this was. Fifty (or more) years of carpet pad residue, dirt and nearly 10,000 carpet tacks. I'm surprised I didn't end up with Legionnaires disease! Seriously. A lot of cleaning, paint prep, and help from a very dear friend later, it looked like this:
I had thought about leaving the floor white, well gray actually, but I just couldn't get my head wrapped around the effort it would take to keep it all clean. I will say that looking back at this photo does make me think about what could have been. But, alas, I'm finished - and I'm not tackling another project of my own for a long while. (Does anyone actually believe that?!) Alright so, again, here's the BEFORE:
White walls, $8 mini blinds, and utterly disgusting floors. With a lot of effort, determination, and hard work I think I'm ready to show you the new space. I will warn you, this is a LOOOOOOONG post. So either bookmark it now for when you have time, or go grab that cup of coffee (glass of wine) and let's take a little tour, shall we?
Nearly everything here is different, and I'm sure the first thing you're looking at is either the Chinoiserie wedding cabinet or that tufted sofa. I've loved blue and white porcelains and hand painted Oriental furniture for a very long time, but it never looked right in the house I shared with Scott, CDLV. I had purchased a few pieces along the way, and inevitably sold them because they just weren't the right fit. I lucked upon this beauty in Syracuse, so I had to rent a truck and drive the 6-hour round trip to pick her up, but I'd do it all over again in a heart beat!
As for that sofa, I have jumped through several sofa options in the last few months. After a lot of thought, I decided to sell my white slipcovered camel back sofa. It was actually a terrible idea in hindsight. But, I did it. I then bought a giant Pottery Barn sofa, which was beautiful, but just didn't really work. I then tried a settee,then a daybed, and then happened upon this beauty.
The sofa is from Kravet furniture, available to the trade only, upholstered in a winter white silk and linen blend. The story of this sofa, and how I came to own it, is quite remarkable actually, and I'll tell you soon, I promise!
I purchased the sofa from a designer that had been living with it in her studio for a little over a year. People had been sitting on the sofa in her shop and had really stained up the sofa cushion, but the sofa itself was unharmed. I had my friend Michelle, The Slipcover Lady of Western New York make a new cushion out of Pindler and Pindler velvet with a chevron jute trim detail on either end. She also made the pillows with the same Pindler velvet and contrasting winter white pipe, and the Scalamandre Leopardo pillows. Because the sofa was taking up room in her studio, and the cushion had been stained, I got a great deal on that piece - allowing me to splurge a little on the other details.
There are a lot of things that I truly love in this apartment. This brass chest is one of them. It makes for a perfect side table next to a Pottery Barn Hatton leather chair. Styled with books, brass bells, blue and white Chinoiserie porcelain bowl, and a fragment from an antique Asian screen.
I found the antique brass pharmacy lamp at a local antique store. It's so heavy, and incredibly functional. The little knob you see hanging from the bulb cover will tilt the bulb, and also acts as a dimmer. The art (all from the same artist) was found in Ohio, and framed locally.
Not sure if you remember the story of those beautiful Savonarola chairs I was gifted, but here they are. Beautiful in brass with custom cushions by The Slipcover Lady of Western New York. The floors I installed are a deep gunstock oak color. I chose new seagrass rugs with natural bands (my old seagrass rugs had the brown bands that looked better against Scott's orange colored floors) and layered the living room seagrass with my sunwashed Anatolian carpet.
A detail shot of the new sofa cushion and that decorative trim. The glass coffee table was a great deal, and while I do hate to clean it everyday, it's still a favorite piece of mine. I purchased it here.
This little gateleg table was something I bought during the redecoration of the the second apartment. I found it on Craigslist, and had hoped to use it as a dining room table there. I never got a chance to use it, but it works great as a side table in the corner of the living room, here. The giant coral was an estate sale steal ($30) and the blue and white pieces are from my collection. A bone inlay box is one of 4 that I have scattered around the living room. This one holds remotes for the television and audio system contained in the Chinoiserie cabinet.
There are two Scalamandre Leopardo lumbar pillows, another splurge. The apartment is really a mix of bargains and silly purchases, all adding up to my really modest decorating budget. I will post more on that and how to spot these bargains a little later.
To the far left of this photo, the white pedestal was a bargain at a local antique store, and I got the brass candle urn at a design shop in DC. The glass has a harlequin cut to it, and creates the most awesome refraction and light play on the wall around it. I have probably ended up with WAY too many blue and white porcelain pieces, but I think they look good gathered on top of the cabinet.
I started off with a fiddle fig in the corner of the room, but it quickly died. I'm not sure why, I did exactly what it required, but I suppose some things just aren't meant to be. This new palm is from Lowes, cost me less than $30, and is healthy as an ox! It's planted in a blue and white jardinere and an old plaster fragment sits on the floor in front of it.
The plaster fragment was actually once much larger. Louna (my precious French Bulldog who thinks she's a monster truck) ran head first into the thing and it broke into two pieces. The larger piece is here, and the smaller one I use for staging photographs on Cross Bottle Guy.
Looking toward the living room from the dining room. The gallery wall that had hung in my old living room now hangs in this space at the perfect height for viewing while seated. Some people initially think this is too low, but once they spend some time in the space they understand the positioning. Unlike the first place, I actually took the time to take before photos of this space:
and I'm so glad that I did! You can really appreciate all the changes and details. The Lease states that the mini blinds have to stay in the windows of all apartments for a uniform look from the street. So I covered them up with these relatively inexpensive matchstick rolling shades from Lowes, both in the living room and the dining room.
And looking into the dining room from the living room. There's a small hallway from the living room into the kitchen. I found that brass reindeer leg stool at Target and above it hangs more art. The chandelier in the dining room was not there when I moved in. In fact, this is what that room used to look like:
I took down the ugly stock fixture and hung that chandelier (purchased at an antique store). Then I installed the dimmer all by myself. Yep! I was so scared that when I switched everything back on there'd be a mile-wide black out, but I am proud to tell you that didn't happen. Nor were there smoke or sparks!
I also used the blinds to hide the obvious disparity in the window heights of the living room and dining room. (It's about fifteen inches.) I would have used bamboo roman shades for this, as the matchstick shades are not my favorite, but there were no bamboo roman shades long enough to fit the width of the living room windows in one piece. I didn't want to have a gap, so I opted for these as I could have one continuous blind. In both the living room and the dining room I hung new linen curtains from the ceiling, and allowed them to have generous extra width from the window edge, making the windows feel larger, and more significant architecturally. At the dining room window, I used an antique dresser as a bar table. Alcohol and all the mixers are on top, and I store napkins, platters, candles, and other various entertaining things in the bottom. I didn't take pictures of the kitchen, but it's quite small. This storage comes in very handy!
The new dining room table is from the Stickley Furniture outlet in Rochester. I was so happy to find it. Benches that I built and had slipcovered by The Slipcover Lady of Western New York make for great "chairs". I didn't want anything that would interfere with viewing the art from the living room, so these work perfectly. When anyone requires a chair with a back for comfort or support, I just pull the brass Savonarola chairs over.
I love fresh flowers and while the arrangement is not normally this elaborate there is always something here. Fresh flowers cost less than a bottle of a wine, and can be picked up at the grocery store - and the joy that they bring is well worth it. I styled the table with a piece of quartz mounted on a black wrought-iron stand, a heavenly smelling candle in a brass bowl (Target), and antique brass bells, one of which is in a white marble oil bowl.
The ivy on the dresser is probably my best "live" purchase to date. It has live sheet moss at the root disguising the ugly dirt from view, (a trick my friend Joan, fortheloveofahouse taught me) and it's impervious to my negligence! The fantastic concrete urn is a vintage find I scored for $10 at the same estate sale as the coral in the living room.
Another details shot. For a moment there I thought I had channeled my inner professional photographer. HA! Kidding! The glass vase that the lilies are in was found at an outdoor flea market in Philadelphia. The brass bells are from an antique store in Cleveland, and the marble bowl is from Target.
The bar, up close and personal. I try to keep mixers that need to stay refrigerated in the fridge, but these bottles of Pellegrino stay out, along with the alcohol and wine. I'm not so much of a wine aficionado that I need it at the absolute correct temperature, and since I typically only drink reds, (and they don't stay around for long) they're fine at room temperature. The little sake cup makes a great receptacle for stirrers.
Yes! You spotted a bottle of Cabernet already open! You don't think I was taking these pictures without a glass of wine near, do you? A silver plated cork screw, sits on a linen napkin all the time, but the fruit was placed there just for the photo. Typically that's only out if there are guests coming over - and since you're all guests of this post, voila! I started collecting corks when I moved in, and they're already spilling over this brass cup I found in Florida. Either I have a problem, or I really enjoy entertaining with wine. We'll just say the latter, ok?
I don't know why I fell in love with the iron candelabra on the dresser, but I did, and I bought it without a second thought. Of course, when I got it home it wasn't nearly as easy to find a place for. I'm still not in love with it here, but it is where it has found a home (for now).
So that's really all of the main living space. Are you ready to move onto the bedroom?
While this apartment certainly has a lot more space in the living room and includes a dining room that I never had before, the bedroom isn't any larger than my prior bedroom. That small space proves awkward for photos, but I know you're anxious to see the progress in there as well.
I opted to keep the carpet in the bedrooms, just like I did in the last place. These rooms are rarely seen by anyone but me, and I had to keep costs down somehow. Plus, with the headache that the other rooms presented, saving the effort in this space was probably one of the only things that kept me sane.
On the left side of the bed, a vintage, handpainted Chinoiserie table acts as my bedside table. This little beauty is probably my most favorite piece in the bedroom. The table is styled with books, including my favorite book Beautiful by Mark Sikes, flowers, a candle in a brass cup, and a starfish.
I highly recommend that you take a look at Mark's book if you haven't already. It's amazing! My review is here.
That's my darling little monster truck, Louna. She looks so docile and peaceful in this photo doesn't she? TOTAL LIE! White bedding with sky blue embroidery pairs up with my Scalamandre le Tigre pillows for a little color.
One of the biggest changes in the bedroom - apart from the wall color - is the change from the upholstered headboard to this shaker style four poster bed.
I will say that when I bought the bed, it was NOT in this shape. In fact, the bed looked like this:
I bought this bed from the photo, and had the guy deliver it to me. Once he arrived with the bed, he told me that the frame of the bed sat around a Hollywood (metal) bed frame. I knew that the color and the way it was to be set up was just not going to work, but I took it anyway because he had already driven it way out to me. I thought that I was going to end up throwing it away.
But I took some time, and retrofitted the rails with channels to hold the boxspring which made the bed MUCH more sturdy. Then I painted it black and had The Slipcover Lady of Western New York make slipcovers for the headboard and footboard in this beautiful blue stripe. I'm kind of into ties, can you tell?
You can also sort of see the Chinoiserie wallpaper panel here. There are two, framed in gilded bamboo frames on either side of the window.
I'm constantly posting book reviews and talking about books on design, art, architecture and more, so here's where those are (mostly). I do keep books out on the coffee table, too. The television (my guilty pleasure just before bed) is hung directly on the bookcase. I went back and forth on this decision, and many of my friends who have seen this room in person don't like it. They think that the bookcase is so nice that it should stand alone. Clearly, I'm of the alternate opinion. I like the interest of it, I think it's fun!
Brass reading lamps add additional ambient lighting and task lighting in the space. I actually foudn these as table lamps, but realized when they came out of the box that they weren't attached to the base. So I use U-fittings screwed into the back of the bed, and the arm fits snugly inside. When and if I ever want them as table lamps, I can attach the bases again. When I'm feeling particularly lazy on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, this is where you'll find me, curled up with the dogs and a book, making notes for the next book review.
The other lamps are from Pottery Barn, and they no longer carry them. They're brass bases with zinc shades that have mirrors on the inside. The windows are dressed in white velvet curtains. The $8 mini-blinds that I'm required to leave up, are covered by these bamboo roman blinds from the old apartment. I found the mirror in Cleveland, and it is definitely only a place holder. I don't really love it here.
And you all remember little Arlo, right? He's made another debut, this time on the bed, where he spends a great deal of his time anyway, as you can see in the background here, the mirror is already gone.
The antique dresser is one I really love, too. Empire in style on little casters. The antique blue and white temple jars and brass candlesticks are here all the time. The orchid gets replaced when necessary, and the cross bottles are here for viewing until they find a home in someones private collection.
Speaking of, my friend Joni who writes Cote de Texas also posted about me and this new space today, and is hosting a Cross Bottle Guy giveaway. To see more pics of the new space, head on over to her blog and take a look, and sign up for the giveaway!
Thanks for joining me on this little tour. I look forward to hearing what you think of the new space.