Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Writer Envy

So, a small break from all the decorating talk to say a few words about the book currently on my nightstand. (Actually, there are 3 books on my nightstand, but this is supposed to be a somewhat quick little post.) Even though I've got my Hot New Writer radar cranked down pretty low these days, I still noticed a lot of press and attention given to Miranda July's story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You. I always feel that little bit of....frisson when I see that a new story collection is out by some hip young thing. Frisson, which you know, is actually more like a little shiver of unadulterated jealousy.

I wanted to read the book, and yet I didn't, especially after seeing how cute and ingenue-ish looking Ms. July is. Cute, waifish girls with adorable haircuts are not supposed to be good writers, too. That's specifically one of the rules made by the just and honorable Writing Gods. Right? Oh, and then add in that she also made a movie that won special jury awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Really, how good could she be?

Well, turns out the answer is: Pretty Good Indeed. (Dammit.) I'm enjoying the book very much, and as always, when I enjoy a book very much and lay there admiring the writer's wit and graceful turns, I get that old, biting sense that I need to be writing, too. Really, really need to get on that.

If you look over there at my "About Me" square, it says that I'm blogging to tear down a massive Great Wall of China-sized writer's block that's been lodged in my face since.....since a long time. Maybe the blogging is doing it's work, because the writing voice, that little echo in my deepest inner ear, is making itself heard these days, and I'm listening.

In the meantime, I'm glad that I picked up this collection of stories. July's stories are on the short side, and quirky enough to remind me a little of Aimee Bender's work, but without what I consider Bender's love of the gimmicky hook. She has some great lines that resonate and reveal in all the best ways that the short story form is supposed to do. Like this, from a story about two young girls who have run away to Portland together and gotten jobs:

"Everything we had thought of as The World was actually the result of someone's job. Each line on the sidewalk, each saltine. Everyone had rotting carpet and a door to pay for. Aghast, we quit. There had to be a more dignified way to live. We needed time to consider ourselves, to come up with a theory about who we were and set it to music."
Lovely. So much for the just ways of the Writing Gods, not that I had any real faith in them, anyhow. (July's website for the book is also super-duper cute without being cutesy, and the "About" entry on her other site is enough to arouse envy and grudging admiration from any soul with creative aspirations.)

As for me, I spent the day daydreaming of and being nostalgic for college campuses I have belonged to and visited, like UCLA and my alma mater, CSULB. I've had some serious longings lately for my county of birth, L.A. County, and for college campuses in general. I realize lately that if I want to get there, to get back to them, then I'm gonna have to play like a salmon and swim terribly hard upstream to escape these suburban, exurban sticks and find my way home. And the only real way to do that, it's becoming more clear, is to become myself, somehow, and buckle down to listening to those narrative- and metaphor- and sentence-lovin' voices in my head, and not be afraid of what they have to say.

Jeez. No wonder it's easier for me to just take pictures of and talk about the john.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quick Design Lust Post: The Bathroom

There are actually 2.5 bathrooms in my house: the master bath , the "kids bathroom" down the hall painted bright yellow, and then this one. Since the other 2 are upstairs, this is the most public bathroom, and though it's the smallest, it's also my favorite.

This next picture below shows how the previous owners had the place decorated when we bought the place over 3 years ago (!). It was the primary bath of a teenage girl, which I guess explains the red M&M clock. Even so, if I was her mother, no way would I have let her pair purple accessories against the orange-ish brown tiles:

Not a terrible looking room, but certainly not all that inspired, either. I lived with this same bathroom, with its white walls and cheap builder-grade fixtures for over a year, and couldn't quite figure out what to do with it. This was my initial decor for the bath, which was perfectly okay, but even then, was fairly yawn-inducing:
For a while, I considered tearing out that rather unattractive white wraparound counter and putting in a stand-alone vanity sink. But, the room needs some counter space, as this is the bath that our infrequent house guests use, too.
Also, this was meant to be a quick, cosmetic fix-up, not a total design overhaul. I did know that I wanted the feel of the room to somehow jibe with the style of my retro-modern living room. Then one day, I was flipping through a catalog and was struck by a picture of some pretty aqua-blue robin's-egg hand soaps, all tied 'round with a dark brown ribbon. And voila, my inspiration was found. (If you think hand soaps are a strange source of inspiration for my bathroom design, well, I can't wait to show you how the colors in the family room were inspired by a drinking glass from Ikea.)

Myk and others were a little dubious at first of my idea to paint the walls dark brown. My argument was: since there are no windows in this room anyhow, even with bright white paint, you'd still need to flip on the lights to avoid doing your business in pitch-black darkness. Speaking of the lighting -- one of my favorite parts about sprucing up this room was being able to change out the dreaded 4-globe fixture about the sink. (Sorry I don't have a photo of its replacement, which has milky white glass and brushed nickel.) Also, even though I again don't have a photograph, I need to mention the terrific job that Myk did installing white crown moulding around the ceiling. This room has an extra-tall ceiling, and the white up there against the brown really draws the eye up and adds a feeling of space to what might have otherwise felt like a small, dark closet.

We also changed the faucet to a brushed satin nickel, the same finish as the towel rack. Just to the right of the door here, there's a shower with white faux-tile and a glass door. After this project was done,
this became one of my favorite rooms in the house, and it alway gets a big (positive) reaction the first time people see it. What a surprise to enter, flick the switch and see all that dramatic contrast and the rich cherry-brown walls. Barring the need for some kind of artwork on the big bare wall to the left of the door, it also feels great to know that this is probably the only room in the house where I don't feel the need to buy anything else to declare it done. No wonder I love it!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Design Lust, Day 1: Bedroom

Sorry for the slight delay on getting started here on my proposed "design week," focusing on my house. Like I said, things have been extra child-centered around here these days, and like Willie Nelson says...funny how time slips away. But enough dilly-dallying and excuses. Let's just jump right in.

I'm starting with the least finished and realized room in the house, our master bedroom. (Excluding Myk's office, but that's His Domain, and I have no say in there.) My head is bursting with ideas and colors for this room right now, but any plans for a re-do here (or any other room) are on the back burner until we tackle our next major project, The Ikea Kitchen. (Another subject altogether, which will probably deserve it's own week of posts somewhere down the line.)

Still, while the major projects of painting and wallpapering and re-curtaining the room will have to wait a bit, I've been buying things here and there, in anticipation of what this room will need someday. The first of these recent purchases was a new bedspread. Over the winter I brought back out, after a spell of retirement, my beloved patchwork duvet cover from Anthropologie, bought at least five years ago. I loved that bedspread, and got really thrilled when I noticed once while watching Gilmore Girls that Lorelai had the same pillow shams on her bed. However, the patchwork had a rip in one of the squares that only grew larger and larger with use, and it was a bad rip, not something that could be repaired. That one ripped square grew to become a big flapping rip of several squares, hidden only by my fleece winter blanket. Plus, it was a little feminine and girly and shabby chic-ish for Myk's taste, so I promised that the next one would be a little more neutral and less floral.

In May, after much catalog-perusing and heavy thought, I bought a dark tan/linen matelasse bedspread, the kind I'd seen and loved in the The Company Store catalog, but bought at Ross for much, much less. I love the clean and crisp look of this, especially paired against a set of white eyelet sheets (which are out of rotation on the bed this week). Despite my promises of making the bedroom less feminine, I think I'm going to have to take that back. Note the floral, chintz pillow. It's only ONE decorative pillow, though, so I think this is a bit of a compromise. The only problem with the bedspread is that's it just a bedspread, and a very thin one at that. The colder months ahead are going to require something heavier in addition to this, and I can't quite figure out where to go. A throw? An actual comforter over this? More catalog-perusing is definitely in order.

The other, much more recent purchase, was this vintage Turner print that I found on Ebay. I wasn't really shopping for a print for the bedroom, rather I was instead hunting down a Turner flamingo mirror for the living room. (Which I found! More on that later.) Still, when I saw the great price, the nice big size, and the colors in this print, I knew it was perfect for the bedroom, especially for my visions of what the bedroom will look like someday.
So, here are my thoughts for this future master bedroom of my dreams: The word that keep coming to mind when I think of the design and feel of the room is louche. An old-fashioned word, meaning "shady, shifty, indecent and disreputable." And decadent, too. No, I don't want my room to look like a bordello. But I was struck by this image on the home page of visual artist Ray Caesar. (I'd post it here, but couldn't grab it off his site.) Obviously, I won't have the stained mattress, but so much of that image resonates...the wallpaper, the window fan, the very vintage, mid-century feel. This is what I want. A room that Blanche DuBois, that randy old broad, would feel right at home in.

The pine sleigh bed, the side tables, the bed lamps, the paint color...all of them are out. As are the green window curtains, which are pretty, but also remind me a little too much of that Gone With the Wind skit from the Carol Burnett show. (And yes, I AM that old, to remember this from my '70s childhood.) (The curtains framing the room in the above shot are staying. The shot was taken from the bathroom, looking into the bedroom.)

Behind the bed, which will exchanged for the black wrought-iron bed currently used in the guest room, will be an one accent wall that is wall-papered. I am very, very fond of an Osbourne & Little wallpaper I saw in a recent issue of House and Garden. A web search of that design was unsuccessful, but I did find this one, which is quite similar in feel (the other one had birds, too) and the overall look of this shot deserved inclusion here, because it strongly hints at the feel I'm going for:

Those lamps are also very similar to what I see next to the bed, too. The Turner print will move to the left of the bed, above a small loveseat I'll bring out of the garage and slipcover. I'm not sure what will go over the bed....right now, I'm thinking of one large or several small Venetian mirrors.

I realize now, after struggling to write this post, that reading about what I'm planning to do someday is not half as exciting as simply showing you pictures of what I've already accomplished. I have more to say about the bedroom, my plans for which are rooted in the bedroom of my teen years, and my interest in design, which I realize lately has been with me for much, much longer than I recognized. But I'll give us all a break and stop here for now.

More tomorrow (or rather -- soon!) of a much more finished and realized room in our house. Thanks for making it down this far!

**Edited to note: As with all my posts, you can click on any of the above pictures for a much larger, better detailed view of the photos. This is especially helpful with that first shot of the bedroom.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Design Lust

Boy, am I in a strange mood these days. Who knew that your firstborn starting kindergarten could throw you for such a loop? But it's only been two days so far, so maybe I can't blame it all on school starting. The thing is, somehow, for the last month, starting around our trip to Hawaii, I feel like my childcare and mothering duties have ramped up even more. I'm not sure why this is so. I'm not even sure HOW this could be so. But man, I'm feeling very, very childcentric these days. Perhaps this is why I''m so drawn lately to images of austere, beautiful and lonely rooms, like the one pictured above. I would like to be the woman in that room, with all those beige books surrounding me, dressed in a long skirt and heels and having nothing more pressing to do than to idly leaf through a magazine. In my world, it's 99 degrees every day this week and I'm wearing jean shorts and flip-flops like it's a uniform. When I sit down for a few stolen minutes to leaf through my new issue of Domino, I'm likely to be surrounded by sippy cups and Matchbox cars and random pieces of pink plastic princess accessories. But in my mind, baby, I'm just like that blond sylph on her white carpet, and the only sound I can hear is the distant hum of the maid vacuuming the east wing.

Today Grace at Design*Sponge posted about the Conde Nast image store (and the image on her site is by far my favorite, but damn, she snagged it first.) Conde Nast is the publisher of many, many magazine and they now have an online shop where you can purchase (for a rather hefty price) vintage images and illustrations from the covers and pages of House & Garden. This is where I got my image above, and where I wasted many moments surfing through so many beautiful images of home and decor and food fabulousness that it put me into a rather cranky mood. Upon reflection, I recognized that the true name for this mood is envy. Envy and lust as I perused image after image of pristine and inspired decorating. Who are these people?, I thought. Who are these people, and how the hell do they have so much money to live like this? This is the same exact thought that runs through my mind any time we drive through a gorgeous, high falutin' neighborhood and I stare out at all the beautiful homes, practically licking the car windows and wondering: Who are these people, and what did they do to make all this money? Because, really, there just can't be THAT many doctors and lawyers in the world, can there?

Anyway. I've decided to spend the next week blogging about my own modest home, and the design choices and purchases I've made recently. Including, at long last, some pictures of the couch we ended up buying for the family room, after those posts many months ago chronicling my frustration at all the puffy couches sold at the big retail furniture stores.

I could be blogging about kindergarten, and one very excited and happy little girl, and while I'd love to bend your ear bragging about just how great and confident she was on that first morning, I'm going to stake my claim here on this blog and say this is my space, my own private design Idaho this week, and dammit, we're going to talk about the couch instead. See you tomorrow!


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Home (And How)

We're home. (Thank you Genevieve, for the good trip wishes, and for checking in on me.) My goodness, what an adventure. It's been about a full week since we returned, and we're almost, almost back to normal around here. I was so intent on having a clean house to return to, but in the end, I'm not sure my efforts made much of a difference, once our suitcases exploded forth their musty vacation clothes and all myriad of just....crap that seemed to stow away back home with us. (Not even souvenirs...just crap.)

Above is a shot from our first evening in our hotel room, from the balcony. We booked an ocean view room, but were upgraded to ocean front, instead. Nice!
Another shot from the balcony, of kayaks scooting past
Another day, another gorgeous sunset.
Here's a shot of me, the night we all shared expensive personal pizzas for dinner in the open-air hotel lounge. This is about as relaxed as I felt and looked the entire trip (not counting the massage in the spa, which was a lovely treat, but all too soon forgotten). Note the full-sized margarita in hand.

Why so tense in the land of paradise, you may ask? Why couldn't I feel more relaxed on the vacation to commemorate my tenth wedding anniversary?

I present:

These two.
Monkey One and Monkey Two, we call them, although I think that the sounds they make as they spin and spiral through the world are technically closer to that of chimps. Wild chimps. On acid. Wild chimps on acid who needed to be corralled and sprayed down with SPF 50 each time we entered water and sunshine, in that land of endless water and sunshine. If you're not a mom, or a parent, I probably sound like very whiny, spoiled woman right about now, daring to bitch about a TRIP. For a WEEK. To HAWAII. But, if you are a mom --- well, 'nuff said. It was a wonderful trip, a challenging trip, a beautiful trip. (Note my reluctance to use the word "vacation," though.)

So, yes. We are home now, and how. Home with a vengeance. I knew that it would be an adjustment, having Lily here full-time now that preschool is over and done with, but, sakes alive -- it's so different, and so much....louder in the house this week. It's been hard to get a thought in edgewise up here in my head. You would think that, being home full time and having access to me on an even more constant basis would tone down her deep and unquenchable lust for my full attention every minute of the day, but uh....no. That would be a.....no.

Still. We are home. Kindergarten (only half day around these parts!) is just over a week away. So, one big, Olympic-size adventure under our belts, and one even bigger one, of a different sort, just up around the bend.