a steal

Three years ago I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law when I saw this cute little four-legged stool that my sister-in-law had found at her local Target for $15. It was a total dead ringer for Alvar Aalto's bent plywood stool--with an extra leg for good luck--and I had to have one immediately. When I returned home I searched every Target in Charlotte to no avail. I even drove thirty minutes into the suburbs to try and track one down, but I guess my town was either sold out (had others caught on to my discovery of this classic stand-in?) or not cool enough to have secured the stool in the first place. Either way, I was out of luck.

Then one day an unexpected package arrived at my house. Arriving from Annapolis, Maryland, I had no idea what it could be but knew who the shipper must have been. When I opened the box, I found my very own stool that my sister-in-law had procured at her Target. She then drove immediately to the UPS store to ship it to me. It was like Christmas in March, and I couldn't have been happier with my $15 stool. I had so many uses for it that I didn't know where to start. First it was a plant stand, then a side table by my husband's side of the sofa (perfect for resting a beer upon), then it was a side table on my side of the sofa (works for wine too!) and next it was a stand for the telephone in the dining room. 

The poor little stool was so worked over that I finally gave it a quiet resting spot as my beside table. A couple weeks later a new Target opened in Charlotte, and it was there that I found its mate. I couldn't believe my eyes as I pushed my cart down the pre-assembled furniture aisle and spotted one lonely little four-legged bent leg stool. I swiped it up so quickly you would have thought there were hundred-dollar bills hidden inside it. When I got this one home, I dressed it up in a high-gloss orange paint and have used it in many ways throughout the house as well. I still find myself looking for this stool when I'm at Target. I could use 100 more--they're so simple and functional and portable that their use is only limited by your imagination.

The painted stool (above) and Alvar Aalto's original bent plywood stool (below).



just checking in

Heart by Andy Warhol

Yesterday we checked in on the box house. To be honest, there have been a few undocumented drive-bys this month. It's a sort of a catharsis for me, I guess, to swing by and make sure the house is still standing (and unoccupied). Sometimes when I think about our house and why it isn't selling I tell myself that it must be for a reason. Maybe the box house isn't the answer; maybe it's not the house for us. But then when we go by to look at the box house, all the old feelings come rushing back and I want desperately to own it. It's kind of like we're in an abusive relationship (though I fault the real estate market and not the box house itself). We're being taunted--ha! ha! look at this house that could be yours with an historically-low interest rate if only you could sell you current place--it says. Maybe someday we'll be able to mend our relationship and live cohesively as one. Until then, I guess we'll remain the stalkers.


diaper bag, take two

So things didn't exactly work out with the Scout diaper bag. I should have known it was too good to be true. When it arrived I knew we were in trouble the second I took it out of its shipping box. It was too big, too stiff and too "mommy-fied." Inside there was a case to hold baby wipes, a changing pad, some type of receiving blanket and some other unidentifiable rolled-up thing. And there were pockets everywhere. What do you do with all those pockets? By the time I put my wallet in, the thing was full already and I hadn't even started with Scout's diapers and bottles. Then I remembered that sometimes the simplest solution is the simplest solution, so I went back to my original plan of looking for a messenger bag. And here's what I found on eBay for $20:

It's a great little Marc Jacobs nylon messenger bag in my favorite color (of the moment). There's plenty of room--but not too much room--on the inside and a couple of pockets on the outside to stash whatever it is that moms need to stash (right now I have a toy motorcycle that I bring out for Catcher in "emergency" situations like dinner in public when he's about to go Tazmanian devil on the place). I think it will do the trick; sorry Petunia Pickle Bottom.


pillow fight

Whenever I find a new pillow to toss around the house, my husband wants to know what is the deal with pillows (or at least what's the deal with decorative pillows, the kind not used for sleeping or allowed to be sat upon while he's working at his computer). Yes, they are expensive and I like to change them more often than I change the bed sheets, but pillows are a simple way to revamp the mood of a room and bring in an element of what's current in design. If I didn't have to pillows to satiate my desire for change, I would go after the wall color or the furniture, so I think pillows are a good compromise.

I don't own it (yet), but Jonathan Adler's seven deadly sins pillow (top) has always been one of my favorites.  It's quirky; it's sassy; it's bright and bold. I love it on a sofa in the living room. It's a great conversation piece--especially when Grandma comes over for a visit. But if you think the sins pillow is a little too risque, you could always go with PG "hugs" version (below) since cash can be just as good at initiating conversation as lust.

John Robshaw

Ikat is hot! Instead of upholstering a wingback chair in this of-the-moment fabric, invest in a great pillow that you can swap for something else when the trend is over and you're on to something new. Although I love a splash of color, this sage ikat works beautifully in neutral interiors by adding color and pattern without going over-the-top bold.

John Robshaw

Ombre is another hot trend right now. This dip-dyed pillow from John Robshaw is perfect for a bedroom  to compliment a simple white duvet.

John Robshaw

Go for bold with this pillow that is part of the "Royal Calcutta Turf Club" collection.

Thomas Paul

This really is my favorite pillow and I used to own it. Actually, I think I still do own it, but it's packed away in the attic with the 50% of our house not suitable for showings. Alex hates this pillow. He thinks it's freaky and weird hates that the feathers poke out of it and feel like sharp little needles stabbing you (I have to agree with him on the feather thing). But I love it. I love its quirkiness and the colors make it work in virtually any space. I can't wait to resurrect this one...


time out

Timex Perpetual Calendar Watch

It's been about eight years since I've worn a watch, but with two kids and a husband and a full-time job to keep track of, I figured it was time (pun intended). I've always been into men's watches. I love their masculinity juxtaposed on a feminine wrist, so when I came across the Timex Perpetual Calendar I knew it was the one for me. I dig the watch's overall look, which goes both modern and grandpa hand-me down, and its simplicity of design guarantees I won't get sick of it in a month. But the bonus feature that really sold me is the old-school Indiglo--it was cool in the 80s and even cooler today. What more could a girl want?


a few of my favorite things

Today is my birthday. It's funny--the older I get, the younger I feel. I'm knocking on the door of 35 (I'm 34 today), but I still feel like I have my whole life ahead of me and plenty of time to do all the things I've ever wanted. I feel less stressed about my life than I did when I was 24, and that's a good thing. So on my birthday, I'd just like to give a shout out to a few of my favorite things...

Lucky Charms
I know the sugar-coated puffs of whatever and dehydrated marshmallows that are Lucky Charms shouldn't really count as food, but on your birthday nothing counts anyway. I'm a sucker for kids' foods--Teddy Grahams, Goldfish, etc. Indulging in these questionable foods is a guilty pleasure.

Bugaboo stroller
I would never make it through the early weeks of motherhood without my trusty Bugaboo. I look forward to getting out of the house on my morning walks and feel cool doing so with this most stylish of strollers.

Felicity, the complete series on DVD
Felicity: my favorite television show ever. It's another thing getting me through the newborn days. The only problem with watching the episodes back to back (to back) is that I'm beginning to think these people are real...and my friends.

My wedding and engagement rings are truly one-of-a-kind. Fashioned from jewelry that once belonged to Alex's grandmothers and great-grandmother, nothing could ever replace them.

Red Vines!

My MAC has only been with me a few months, but this blog never would have started without it. I don't even remember life in the PC world.

college tees
Tee shirts from Alex's life on the road--oversized, silly and dorky, but they remind me of Alex when he's away from home.

cat-themed greeting cards
I hate cats but I love the crazy (and disturbing) cat cards that my mom sends me every year on my birthday. It's become an inside joke between the two of us, and I look forward to seeing how outrageous this year's will be. This is one of the best ones yet.


light up my life

When we were visiting Sleepy Poet last Sunday, I was fascinated by the myriad of light fixtures hanging from the industrial ceiling. Lighting is one of those crazy design elements that is at once simple yet complicated. On the most basic level, the purpose of a fixture is to bring light to a room, but it's so much more than that. The right light can serve as a room's focal point and completely define a space. I've changed every light fixture in our house (some more than once) and wish there were more rooms to attack with my lighting prowess.

The quatrafoils add a touch of "churchiness" to this piece. I would love too see it hanging in the entryway of a modern home; totally unexpected.

A simple way to add a touch of elegance to an otherwise blase chandelier is to coat it in shiny black spray paint--instant drama.

I have a thing about twigs and antlers--what can I say?

It must be my inner geek talking because I love this fixture that reminds me of Julius Caesar and my days studying Roman history. I totally see this in a wood-panelled library (not 70s wood-panelled).

I love this oversized chandelier that resembles a giant jellyfish. With a grandma Tiffany-inspired shade that cascades into layers of capiz shells gone awry, I've never seen anything so gaudy yet inspiring.


closet clean-out take 2

My closet strategy: take everything out and start anew.

I don't know if there's such a thing as postpartum nesting, but if there is it came over me in a big way last night. I've been putting off the cleaning of my closet for months and last night I decided it was finally time to take the bull by the reigns. Maybe it's because I'm ready for fall and happy to not be pregnant for a season and anxious that the house won't sell and I'll be stuck with this closet forever. Whatever the reason, I knew it was time. When I woke to feed Scout in the middle of the night, it was all I could think about and I couldn't wait until 8:00am when my project could finally begin (yes--I'm a dork).

The entire contents of my closet on my bed. It eerily reminds me of an episode of "Hoarders."

When I saw everything laid out on my bed, my initial plan was to get rid of 50%--part of it would go to my sister, part to goodwill and the remaining would find its way into our garbage can. Of course I couldn't really ditch half of my closet, but I did put a good dent in it. At least now I have an idea of what I need (or more importantly, what I don't need) for fall.

Halfway through the process my husband came in to collect the empty hangers that he claims were properly his (we've had this ongoing argument regarding hanger ownership for years).

One last look at what my closet looked like a month ago.

My more organized, albeit still cramped, closet.

I called my husband in to admire my work when I was finished. Beaming like a kindergartner who just received her first gold star, I asked what he thought. "It looks bigger...right?" I asked. "I mean. At least it looks less cluttered." And his reply: "Yeah. To you." So I guess I still have some work ahead of me. The better solution would be to just get a bigger closet.


sleepy sunday

This past Sunday I finally made it to the Sleepy Poet. My friend has been telling me about it for years but I never made the trip. What is it? An adorable little antiques mall/indoor flea market in Charlotte. Right up my alley--I don't know what took me so long.

When I lived in New York, I looked forward to grabbing a cup of coffee on a chilly Saturday morning and browsing the flea markets in Chelsea for hours on end. I furnished my entire apartment with items I found there (in addition to a table and chair that I found in someone's dumpster--everyone in New York does that). With a little re-purposing, some paint and a couple faux finishing techniques I picked up in design school, when "shabby chic" was cool, I was able to create my own little Anthropologie-inspired living space in 300 square feet of cramped living quarters.

At Sleepy Poet on Sunday there was so much to see and so little time--not to mention we had to keep Catcher under wraps as he had a field day running up and down the aisles grabbing at precious valuables--but I did manage to capture a few images showcasing the array of treasures you'll find there.

I've been obsessed with using some sort of antlers to decorate with for a while. I love this buffalo skull that I found at Sleepy Poet but not its price tag of $250. The search continues...

This freaky little mink was giving me the eye. I'm not sure what one is to do with such a thing, but I'm sure someone's grandmother knows.

Alex found a charming little football player that he wanted to take home. I nixed the idea--he already has a bobblehead collection that we need to get under control.

I love the iron-wrought framed mirror. Spray paint it a shocking pink, and it would be perfect for Scout's someday room.

I actually did find something to bring home with me, but I'll save that for another day. It needs a little face lift and a place to rest other than the back of our Explorer.


no expectations

Tonight we have another showing. I feel like we've been in this long enough now to know not to expect anything (except some feedback telling us the house is too small). Since re-listing our house after it sat on the market for a year, I think we've taken things more seriously this time around and have been open to suggestions and comments. We've installed granite countertops, upgraded the stove, painted the interior and exterior and lowered the asking price twice (and we put a potted plant on the front porch to add to the curb appeal). After last week's showing and subsequent feedback that the house is still priced too high, we've decided to offer the buyer $5,000 in closing costs, which is essentially another way of lowering the asking price. We've checked out the competition, and we know that our home wins hands-down. We just need the right person to look at the house--someone who looks beyond the price tag and sees the investment opportunity when you consider our neighborhood and lot and solid foundation. Does a house that's $5,000 cheaper make that much of a difference over 30 years if you have to live across from the railroad tracks?

So today we'll just keep our fingers crossed that the right person is looking at our house tonight. Otherwise, we'll spend the next few days cursing the competition and wondering why no one can see the potential in our home that sold us on it five years ago.


magically delicious

It all started when I was about eight months pregnant--the frozen yogurt craze finally hit Charlotte. I've been a devoted, obsessive fan to such luscious frozen desserts since my Tasti D Lite days in New York City, and I was psyched to see how the genre has advanced over the past ten years. What was once a choice of one flavor (or two if you happened to like the "swirl" combination available) and one topping put on by the guy working behind the counter has evolved into the ultimate customer's choice. I am now able to choose whatever combination of flavors and toppings I fancy and pay by the ounce. The only problem is that this formerly occasional treat has become more of a habit, and I've got the family hooked. However, I justify the fact that we fed our two year-old son frozen yogurt--with fruit toppings like strawberry and kiwi and blueberry and mango--for dinner two nights last week by saying it's healthier than chicken nuggets and french fries. That's true, right?


Another satisfied customer


mail order home part 2

In a similar vein to the prefab homes I just discovered, architect Gregory La Vardera has created stock modern house plans that you can order directly from his website as a more affordable alternative to a custom-built home. The architect's mission, as stated on his web page, is "to make a world where a modern home can be an easy choice for anybody who wants one." That's my kind of guy. Below is a look at some of his designs. All images courtesy of lamidesign.com.

The Cube House

The Stealth House (business up front; party in the back)

Lagom House


The amazing thing about La Vardera's designs is that he's able to juxtapose modern and traditional elements, so you could actually see one of his houses sitting next to one built in the 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. He even has a group called the "blueprints collection" that is a throwback to mid-century modern design (example below).

Are you hooked yet? Design prints are $100 and will give you a closer look at the house to decide whether or not you're really into it. If you're ready to take the plunge, construction prints will cost you $4,750, but that's a fraction of what an architect would charge as a design fee for a custom home. If our house never sells, we have a lot primed and ready to go for one of these designs. I just have to convince my husband and one of these houses--I'm leaning toward the Cube House--will become Dream Home #3 for me...


mail order home

On Saturday we had our first showing in a month. The good news is that we had a showing; the bad news is that we didn't get an offer. The prospective buyer--a single guy in his mid-thirties--liked the house but thought the asking price was too high. Unfortunately, our market is so over-saturated with people trying to sell their homes that the desperate ones are driving down prices. I guess that's how it works (sigh!), but I don't have to like it.

So today I'm feeling like we really will be stuck here forever. For the past 15 months I've said "The house has to sell. It can't stay on the market forever," but what if it can? A few years ago, when home prices were going nowhere but up and our neighborhood was booming, my husband and I had visions of one day building on to our existing house (or bulldozing it and starting from scratch). I guess the nice thing about not being in a situation where we have to sell our house--other than to maintain our own sanity and keep from living on top of one another--is that we can still start over on this site. Of course, being the unconventional homeowner that I am, I would want to build a box house of my own right here.

Although I may be the only person in this neighborhood who would shirk the bungalow style that is so popularized around here, there are others out there with my design sensibility who want to ignite the modern home movement through prefab construction. But you have to look beyond Charlotte, North Carolina.

Marmol Radziner is an architecture firm based in Los Angeles that has created custom and model prefab green homes that can be shipped anywhere in the United States. Built in a local factory, the homes are shipped complete with interior and exterior finishes, flooring, appliances, etc. Looking at these houses, you would never believe they were factory-built versus custom residential design. I'll take the Long Valley Ranch, please. Images below from Marmol Radziner.

Long Valley Ranch view 1

Long Valley Ranch view 2

Palms exterior

Palms interior
Hidden Valley exterior

Hidden Valley deck

Hidden Valley interior 1

Hidden Valley interior 2


Any of these home would cause quite a reaction in Charlotte, but it would be worth the money if I could afford to have a home shipped here from Los Angeles.