If I were trying to furnish my first apartment or home in 2016, I'd start at West Elm. Why? I have four distinct reasons:
Scale The furnishings are light and airy, ideal for smaller places. As opposed to those hulking overstuffed pieces that swallow you whole and make every room seem small.
Design I love that they've taken the mid-century style and tweaked it a bit so the pieces don't look vintage - they look modern.
Neutrals Larger pieces from West Elm come in a variety of neutrals that are not khaki, or denim, or olive - more like dove gray. They'll go through a couple of accessory updates without being bland.
Value Prices are not cheap but not expensive. Who buys heirloom furniture anymore? Who even wants it? I feel like you'll have their sofas until you move into your next habitat - and you know it's not going to fit there anyway = )
At the Same Table
I spent the day at a local West Elm recently, hawking my own wares. Although I suspected it, I couldn't believe how well the two of us got along. We are definitely on the same page, aesthetics-wise. See below.
For those of you who don't have the Internet, West Elm stocks an enormous range of furniture, decor, housewares, bedding and bath linens and art. You could literally furnish a home in an afternoon.
And after spending ample time wandering the store, examining everything from cocktail glasses to sectional couches, I would venture to say you're not going to make a big mistake. I don't know many other retailers I would feel that confident about.
And Then There's This
The other thing I love about West Elm is their relationship with artists.
Not only do they carry and feature local artists (!) in their stores, they have awarded grants to several popular artists and provided them with placement to help them grow their brands. And guess what? I like all of their stuff, too. It's hard not to, as you can see from browsing through their website.
So thank you, West Elm, for being a good guy, and for helping us indies feather our nests!
#westelm #westelmhouston #home #artisan #shoplocal #indie #craft #design
So, here was the problem: a solid back door connecting to our garage from a multi-functional, very busy alcove in the house. You see the washer/dryer combo on the right; on the left is the panty that holds pretty much all dry foodstuffs.
Morning, noon and night, when people were coming and going, doing laundry, and preparing a meal, that's when it would happen. BAM!! Sometimes two but often three doors would bang into each other, along with the people manipulating them.
We lived this way for seven years.
The Solution: Visibility
The obvious solution would be to install some sort of a glass door, right? But we had to be careful. We keep a clean garage, but in the end it is a garage. A clear pane of glass would give way to a beautiful vista onto . . . my car.
So we had to come up with a screen of some sort. We had used rice paper on a solid pane front door in the past , so we had some left over -- just enough for the classic nine-pane half-door we found at Lowe's, in fact.
(A little aside: fire code says that the doors leading to a garage must be metal and fireproof. Obviously, we opted to ignore this precaution, since our master bedroom is right over the garage of our townhome. Our notion is, if there's a fire, we're goners anyway. We did keep the metal door for the next owners.)
The Installation: Simple as 1-2-3
The first step was to cut nine rectangles the size of the individual panes. I measured, and cut a bit large -- there's time for trimming and other adjust ments later.
The next step was deciding on a design pattern. I knew I wanted something that let light in, but obscured the view. I wanted to be able to see, not full figures, but shadows -- enough to keep from getting my head knocked one more time. I also liked the idea of being able to use a lamp in the garage at night to shed some light on the darkish alcove.
I used a freeform design I've used before. It's really lines and globules cut out of the center of the rectangle. For me, it has enough repeat to look purposeful and enough variety to look creative. After cutting, I fitted paper to the panes using cello tape temporarily, adjusting the design and matching the centers.
The Miracle of Fabric Starch
Here's the really easy part: Any grocery store carries regular old liquid starch -- or at least they do in my part of the country, where pinatas are plentiful. A gallon jug is inexpensive and goes a long way.
I used to dilute the starch for projects like this, but now I just use it straight up. As you can see, I pour a quantity into a shallow flat pan, then just drag the pre-cut pieces through the starch. It is messy, but cleans up with water, whether on your hands, your floor, or the window itself.
I work from a laid-out version of the pieces in the right position, so that there's no confusion. One piece at a time, I apply the soaked rice paper piece to the inside of the window. You'll be glad to know there's a little "give" to the paper, and you can adjust it for a while. Don't worry about any overage on the edges -- you can go back with a straight edge razor once it dries and clean up.
As you can see, the finished application does just what we had hoped: lets light in and provides enough visibility to avoiding traffic collisions at the back door. Lord knows, we have enough run-ins as it is!
The Beyond Her manifesto is pretty simple: "Life is too short for ugly dish towels." But the more I think about it, the more I'm sure this thought needs a major revision.
In truth, life is too LONG for ugly dish towels.
We all know how much time we spend in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning up. Why wouldn't you want to be surrounded by things that you love to see, and like to work with?
Little things like handsome hand towels can make a difference. They provide a kind of decoration that changes with the laundry, and if you're like me, you will often be more in the mood for one towel than another.
And anyone who has spent any time making dinner or doing dishes knows that there are good dish towels and there are bad ones.
The good ones, like ours, are a rich 100% nice cotton muslin, and really soak up water and wash up well. The bad ones, even the cute ones, are shiny, slick and pretty useless when it comes to doing their job.
People often have a regretful reaction Beyond Her kitchen towels -- after they appreciate the hand-dyeing, the original art, the surprising colors, the modern aesthetic. "I could never use these, they're too pretty," they mourn.
Too which I say, dishtowels are not rags.
For god's sake, don't clean up messes with them. Don't wipe up the floor! That's what paper towels are for. Use hand-picked, soul-satisfying, sensual dish towels for your hands and for dishes -- and perhaps for the occasional place mat, bar towel, or gift wrap.
Go ahead - live a little, in the kitchen and beyond. Get a lovely dishtowel!
When we moved to our contemporary "faux warehouse" home, we loved everything about it but one thing: the front door.
It was the archetypical modern front door you see on all the townhomes -- clear glass with a wooden frame. It does let in light, but let's talk about privacy.
People could see us watching tv literally from the street. And the Texas sun just beat in every afternoon, raising the temperature in the entry about 50 degrees.
Something had to change.
So we looked for new front doors. Waaaaay too expensive, and this was a perfectly solid door that needed a little discretion.
Here was the solution, inspired by a friend's door
and he got it from someone else: I bought a 10-foot roll of rice paper (Kozo paper Speckle, specifically from eshoji.com. It cost about $30 per roll and arrived in about a week. There are lots of patterns and blends, all of them delicious.
I had a contemporary design in mind, but those OCD among you might want to have a pattern of some sort. To create my design (see below) I measured and cut a piece off the roll that would cover the door and the adjoining light entirely. (You'll do better if you let it lay flat overnight -- mind animals). Since you'll be using several pieces of rice paper to create this door, you needed worry about making just one piece fit.
As you can see, I wasn't too concerned about things matching up.
So the other secret ingredient in this project is liquid fabric starch -- the old-fashioned kind used to iron shirts and make pinatas. Believe it or not they still sell it at grocery stores, Sta-Flo being the cheapest and most popular brand.
I watered it down using a one-to-one ratio, and got a cheap paintbrush to dip into a small bucket. I made up about a half-gallon of the stuff, which I loved because it smelled good -- it's not chemical free, but it is made mostly of borax and corn starch.
I expected a mess, but there wasn't one.
I did cover the table I was using with newspaper, so painting the strips of rice paper with the starch solution was simple.
The big surprise was how forgiving the starch was while I was positioning the strips. Want a bit more space? Just slide it on over.
I did start in the middle so both sides got an even distribution. The entire application, which I had set aside the day for, took exactly 45 minutes!
Clean-up consisted of letting the entire door and side light dry for an hour, and then going back with a damp rag and my fingers to get rid of residue. Again, very water soluble and easy.
From the street, utter seclusion, just what we needed.
And from our entry, precious light and many many ways for humans and animals to get a look at the street scene. Sweet.
And the best part? This was five years ago. No peeling, no yellowing, no "I'm ready for real door" whining. So a big score for durability and style and ingenuity, whoever dreamed this up!
Her Point of View
Designer Paule Hewlett takes on design, culture and modern life.
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"Life is too short for ugly dish towels. Really, ugly anything."