Archive for July, 2008


Stupid Universe

July 29, 2008

I was a little upset yesterday, so I painted the fireplace.

Yesterday morning, after endless hours of searching job sites and submitting resumes and sending clever cover letters, I was offered a really fantastic freelance writing job. A job that would have been challenging and exciting and a great career move. And it paid well. I was psyched!

And then, just a short time later, I was un-offered the job. There was some sort of miscommunication within the company and they realized that my particular talents were not what they needed for this particular job. I’m glad I didn’t order that Calvin Klein handbag I’ve been eyeing lately, as my reward for landing a job. That I didn’t actually land. My contact at the company was really nice about it and assured me she would use me for other projects I was a better fit for, and I know it wasn’t anyone’s fault. Except the Universe. Stupid Universe.

I’m not very happy with the Universe right now. It keeps promising me that it has a plan, and that everything happens for a reason, and then it goes and pulls some stunt like this and is all “Ha-ha SUCKER!” Oh Universe. I wish I could quit you.

I put on a happy face, which is really really hard for me because I’m basically a cynical suspicious New Yorker who believes that the world is a swirling vortex of nothingness and there is no purpose and we’re all just limping toward oblivion. And that’s AFTER I’ve had coffee. I told myself “no big deal.” Tomorrow is another day. You only live once. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Comfort was cut TWICE from SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, and she took it like a champ. I had to find my inner champ.

So I put on my work clothes and painted the fireplace. Because when the going gets tough, the tough go decorate.

It’s nice to have a fireplace in Los Angeles on all those winter days when the temperature plummets to a bone-chilling 65 degrees. Although the fireplace is not original to my 1925 Spanish style house, I like it. I don’t love the wimpy little mantel, which looks too insubstantial for the size of the fireplace, but at some point I can probably do something about that – add some molding or perhaps a completely different mantel. The tiles on the hearth are miles from Batchelder – they’re large marble tiles from Home Depot that some previous owner slapped on in the 80’s – but if you squint and stand back far enough – hey! Marble! Classy!

Picture of old colors (because still no camera):

When I painted the walls a few weeks ago, I left the fireplace the old color, which was a 50% reduction of the wall color I never liked. And you know what they say – 50% of something you don’t like is still something you don’t like. But yesterday, feeling a bit down about the job situation, I threw on my work clothes, grabbed the paint, and changed the color. The fireplace is now that nice Milfweed color – a soft yellow-leaning ivory.

So, still no job. But a nice freshly painted fireplace. I’d be tempted to sit by a roaring fire with a cup of hot chocolate, except that it’s the middle of summer in Los Angeles. Back to the job hunt.

Universe – you and I are not done here!


The Circle of (Design) Life …

July 25, 2008

The people at HGTV are really smart. They’ve figured out a way to ensure that they will always have new programming.

The design shows go into someone’s house and completely personalize it. They paint the rooms orange! They staple sheets of shiny silver to the walls! They drape canvas from the ceiling! They use a garden planter for a nightstand! They use a nightstand for a garden planter! It’s unique! It’s special! It’s designed Just For You!

And then, when it’s time to sell, the staging shows come in and completely remove all traces of personality. They paint walls a neutral color. They take away almost all of the furniture. They artfully arrange a bowl of green apples on the completely clutter free counters.

They leave a blank slate for the next owner.

And so it goes, the unending Circle of Design – design, neutralize, design, neutralize.

Respect the design cycle, and you will be on the path to enlightenment and a nice furniture flow. Reject the design cycle and you will live in chaos and confusion, and no one will bid on your house.

Now please excuse me while I go off to find some crystals to glue to my ceiling.


Pack It Up

July 22, 2008

R. and I went on a little mini-vacation recently. Just two nights out of town. We drove up the coast to our favorite little seaside place – very non-touristy. Not a Starbucks for miles. There’s nothing to do there, really, except walk along the beach, watch the ocean, sip a coffee at one of the tiny local cafes, and relax.

I took four bulging pieces of luggage with me, one just for shoes. Four suitcases! For doing nothing at the beach!

I am not good at packing. And as I was struggling with my overflowing suitcases, it occurred to me that packing is a bit like decorating. The problem I have with packing is that I don’t really have “outfits,” so I always end up guessing what I’ll want to wear while I’m away. Also, a lot of my clothes don’t really coordinate with each other, color-wise, so it’s a challenge to throw things into a suitcase and know that I’ll be able to pair things up when I get where I’m going. I don’t want to look like a crazy lady. Even at a low-key beach town where no one will see me.

Likewise, my house sometimes feels like it doesn’t “go together.” In the past I’ve bought items because I liked them, not necessarily because they worked with other things in the room. This is nice, in that I look around and take genuine pleasure in the things I own. But it’s also been a challenge because I like a certain amount of calmness and order, and it’s often been hard to get all my disparate pieces to work together. That takes a certain amount of decorating skill, which I don’t quite possess at this point.

I wish I could achieve that wonderful type of effortless style in my home – the kind that takes a lot of thought and looks totally unplanned. I like a sense of calm and order, but sometimes I feel my house looks like it lacks spontaneity. I’m not quite ready for real spontaneity. I need to get coordinated first, and then I’ll make it look spontaneous.

Anyway, we’re back now and the beauty of the ocean is just a memory, and I have four large suitcases to unpack. It’s great to be home!


Tickling the Ivory

July 15, 2008

Hallelujah, praise the Lord! The new paint color looks good.

Thank you, paint gods for this tiny miracle.

Anyone who’s ever struggled to pick a paint color will understand what I’m talking about.

Paint is a strange, bewitched shape-shifter. It looks innocent enough in the store on that microscopic chip. Oh – nice green, you think. Then, when you get it home, it has transformed. Suddenly it’s gray. Gray? What the … where did that come from? Picking paint color is an art, and I am in awe of people who do it well.

The color I used is called “Milkweed.” My husband and I just finished watching a marathon of the first three seasons of WEEDS, the quirky drama from Showtime about a suburban mom who’s a pot dealer. If you know the show, you’ll understand why I almost asked the guy at the paint store for two gallons of “Milfweed.” (If you’re interested, you can read a discussion of WEEDS on my other blog, DOLL CANNOT FLY.)

Milkweed is a lovely pale ivory color, which seems to have a base of yellow-gold (although please don’t take my word on that, since I am quite color-challenged.) I was slightly hesitant to paint the bedroom such a light color, since I like the idea of a cozy cocoon-like bedroom. But, that room is in the back of the house, where it faces north-east, so it gets less light anyway. I figured any color back there would read a bit more intense, so if I used a less intense color to start with, it would appear more intense. I had originally thought of painting the bedroom green, but that seemed too daunting. Did I want a yellow green? A gray green? A blue green? A sage green? I couldn’t handle it.

The rug I have in that room is a lovely Karastan, with an ivory center and a pattern that features bronzy browns, some green, and accents of blue and red. After a long search, I recently found a Calvin Klein duvet cover in green, which picked up the green in the rug very nicely without being all matchy-matchy. I also found some drapes from Restoration Hardware in “pecan,” a great bronzy brown. The room was really starting to come together, but I was not happy with the old wall color.

I was hoping the ivory would work, since the rug had ivory in it. My thought was the ivory would be a nice neutral background that would let the browns and greens “pop,” but the room would still be calm enough to be a serene retreat.

I’m very happy with the results. I’d love to hear about any decor triumphs you’ve had! It’s very satisfying when it all comes together, isn’t it?

My camera is still broken, but I borrowed one before I painted (the lighting isn’t great) and here’s the room with the old color, which had a sort of fleshy pinky tone. Not good. The ivory looks so much better.


Paint, Part II

July 13, 2008

Two gallons. That’s all it will take. And then I’ll be happy.

Okay. Not happy. I’ll never be happy until I live in one of those grand Spanish Colonials up in Rossmoyne, with all the arches and a little courtyard and a flat patio with sufficient space for outdoor entertaining.

Okay, that’s totally not true. I am happy. Right now. I realize that I am very fortunate and I have a lot of wonderful things in my life and I know that material possessions mean nothing, in the grand scheme, and if we constantly look outward for satisfaction we will constantly be disappointed and empty. I know that a beautiful Spanish Colonial with an authentic Batchelder fireplace or perhaps Catalina tile will NOT make me a better person. A beautiful house is just a “thing.” (A fantastic, wonderful thing that I covet.) But true happiness comes from within, and only when we are content with where we are and what we have, will we truly be able to yada yada yada.

I’m painting the bedroom.

After seeing how nice the living room/dining room look with the new ivory paint, I’ve decided to do the bedroom too. I think I’ll use the same color, because choosing paint colors? Seventh circle of hell! I did a test board in the bedroom and I think it’ll work. I think it ties in very nicely with the ivory in the rug and is a nice neutral background for the other colors in the room, especially the pecan drapes which should look great against ivory walls, and there seems to be some yellowish-ivory in the duvet, so I THINK it will work. Of course, this is me, the Queen of not knowing colors, so we’ll have to see.

I keep feeling I have to do all these projects now, while I’m not working, because I know once I get a fabulous new job I’ll be too busy to do much around the house for a while. You know – la di dah, I’m just going about my life, doing this and that, tearing the house apart, knee deep in paint cans and oh? What’s this? You’d like me to come work at your ad agency and think up clever banners for web campaigns? Well, I suppose I can finish faux-marbling the fireplace later. (Pssst – not really! I would NEVER faux-marble anything. That’s just me trying to fake out the universe with my very busy and involved life, because when you sit around waiting for things to happen, they never do, and then as soon as you start to tear down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room you have to fly to Singapore. Or something. I have a very active imagination.)

So – new paint in the bedroom. We’ll take it from there.


Your Windows Are The … Uh … Windows To The Soul Of Your House

July 11, 2008

Being that I was raised by hippies, which, in the world of home decor, is akin to being raised by wolves, I know nothing about window treatments. Window treatments is the fancy way to say drapery, except that every time I say “drapery” I think of Monty Python’s “shrubbery” and the quest to find the perfect shrubbery, which would allow the King’s party to pass through the woods. But after the King et al. had found a very lovely shrubbery, the Knights Who Say Ni demanded another one, to be placed alongside the first one. It was a fool’s quest. The King would never find the perfect shrubbery. Because there was no such thing.

My own quest for the perfect shrubbery-drapery has been somewhat Pythonesque, because really, how hard can it be to buy curtains, but as it turns out, it’s very hard. For me. Like almost every home decor decision I try to make, there are ISSUES here, people. Color. Style. Cost. Not to mention the whole philosophical aspect of do we even really need new drapes, when the ones we have are fine. Except that they don’t keep out the sun. Which, okay, that’s a desire, not so much a need. And seeing as I am presently, shall we say, between jobs – are drapes something I should even be thinking about when there are other things like gas and food to consider? But what are we doing here, on this planet, if it’s just about the necessities? Is life just about what we can scrounge up? What we can get by with? Shouldn’t we aspire to more? Shouldn’t we want to surround ourselves with beauty and luxury? Isn’t that part of the eternal dance of the soul? Do we not have an innate desire within us to experience joy and pleasure, and if that means nice drapes, isn’t it an affront to the universe to reject such adornment?

Does anyone else struggle with these BIG QUESTIONS? Or do you just go out and buy drapes?

I’ve read that drapes are like the jewelry to your room’s outfit. I guess the rug is like the pants, and maybe the couch is the cute top, and then the drapes are like the earrings. But not like that cheap costume jewelry that you change depending on the color outfit you’re wearing. They’re more like the classic pair of diamond studs that you can wear with anything. Mmmmm. Diamond studs. Add those to the list of things I want. Cause I’m a classy kind of gal. And no cubic zirconias, thank you very much. Because they are NOT just like the real thing. And that is why I want the nice Thai silk drapes from Restoration Hardware, not the polyester ones from Sears. Not that there’s anything wrong with Sears. But there is a difference. The Thai silk from Restoration looks nicer, I’m sorry. It’s true. The drapes have substance. I like the way they hang.

Of course, there’s still the issue of color. Which means it’ll be like, another two years before I buy drapes. Maybe I’ll just go buy a shrubbery instead.


Happy Dance at Home

July 9, 2008

My friend Scott sent me this video recently. It shows a guy named Matt doing a little happy dance at various locations around the world:

Happy Dance

Matt’s story started a few years ago when he quit his job to travel around Asia. He decided that wherever he went, he would make a little video of himself doing his little dance. In every tiny village, in every remote spot, Matt danced. And he put it on video. And, as happens, the videos ended up on YouTube and Matt became known as “that guy who dances in those videos.” Then, the makers of Stride gum contacted him and offered to send him around the world, to even more exotic locations, this time on their dime. Good publicity for Stride, more travel/dancing opportunities for Matt. Eventually Matt expanded the videos to include other people dancing with him. All over the world, people doing a silly little happy dance.

I don’t know why these videos move me so much. They seem to capture a kind of joy we all have in just being alive. People are pretty much the same everywhere. We all want to feel joy. We all want to feel that we’re connected somehow, to other people and other places. It’s just a little happy dance, and pretty much everyone, everywhere looks silly doing it. But the point is – just dance. Feel joy.

What does this have to do with home decor?

I think that for many people, our homes are a place where we express our joy at being alive, being part of the planet. Our homes are where we feel safe, where we feel relaxed, where we gather with friends and family to celebrate special occasions, and everyday life. Whether your home is a place that’s vibrant and full of color, a minimalistic contemporary space, or a funky mix of whatever, our homes are an opportunity to say to the world “This is my space. This is my happy place.”

It doesn’t have anything to do with how much your house costs, or how expensive your furniture is. It’s your own little safety zone in a big, big world.

I recently painted my living room and dining room. There was nothing wrong with the previous color, per se – it just didn’t make me happy. It was an odd, off color. It always felt heavy and slightly oppressive to me, and just wrong. The new color is light and serene and classic. It makes me happy now to be in those rooms.

I’m in between jobs right now (thanks, economy!) so I’m spending a lot more time at home, and it seems more important than ever that I feel good while I’m there. As I search for work, and try to figure out what I want to do with my future, what my possibilities are, I want to be in a space where I feel joy.

All it took was a little paint and a couple of days. I have now transformed those rooms into a place where I feel happy. In fact, I think I’ll go in there right now and do my own silly little happy dance. (As soon as the Advil kicks in. Painting ceilings is mad hard work!)

I hope your home is a place where YOU feel like dancing!