Thursday, July 30, 2009

The pouf makes Apartment Therapy

My celebrity footstool is here, thanks to AT blogger Amy Azzarito. Amy got hammered about a year ago for suggesting a $20 Moroccan pouf, yet she fearlessly revisited the subject.

Many thanks to Red Shoes for jumping in and saying something nice. Those AT'ers are a tough crowd.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DIY Wednesday: Make a Moroccan pouf out of the world's ugliest party dress

Welcome back to DIY Wednesday. Today we will be making a Moroccan pouf out of an old party dress. And best yet - it doesn't have to cost one cent.

This pouf project is inspired by the Moroccan style ottomans that have been popping up like toadstools all over design magazines and blogs. This is partly because Moroccan design is hot right now. But it's also because poufs are a pretty useful little piece of furniture, especially for an apartment dweller like myself. A pouf can double as a footstool, side table, coffee table, extra seating and even storage.

Below are two of my inspiration poufs, one from John Derian and the other from My Marrakesh.

My Marrakesh

For more Moroccan pouf inspiration, check out Anne Sage's post at The City Sage.

Here's the catch - Moroccan poufs can cost anywhere between $70 and $325, too much for this frugerati decorator.

While pondering my knock-off dreams, it has occurred to me that Moroccan style shares a certain vibe with party dresses - jeweled tones, sparkly embellishments and overall shimmer. Poufs are pricy. Party dresses are plentiful and cheap. Americans discard 10 million tons of clothing a year. I see outdated party dresses, bridesmaid dresses and assorted other blingy attire hanging for weeks in thrift stores before being sent off to their final resting place - some landfill.

To make a large pouf (15 inches tall by 22 inches wide) you will probably need two party dresses. (A set of heinous bridesmaid dresses would be perfect.) In my case, the dress came with a full-length jacket of the same fabric, which provided just the right amount of fabric.

Although I call this the world's ugliest party dress, it actually isn't. That was hyperbole to suck you into this post. I actually had a hard time cutting this dress up. It was handmade, for one thing, and vintage. However, it was also stained (and already drycleaned) and so formal and shiny bright it could only be worn if:
  • You were attending the presidential inauguration . . . of JFK

  • You are a villainess from The Chronicles of Narnia.

So, I like to think I am honoring the dress by rescuing it from sure destruction and turning it into something useful.

Materials needed:

1 sheet of paper at least 36" long and 12" wide

1 or 2 ornate party dresses

A bunch of paper, rags, fabric remnants, old blankets, etc. for stuffing your pouf.

First, we will make a pattern for our pouf.

My pouf design is made up of eight sections sewn together in the shape of a pincushion. Using pi (remember pi?), you can make any size of pouf you want. Or you can use my pre-calculated pouf pattern available here. A large pouf will be about 15 inches tall by 22 inches wide. A small one will be about 8 inches tall by about 18 inches wide.

Your paper pattern, when folded, will look like this.

1. Unfold your paper pattern and pin it to your party dress. If your dress has a lining, include the lining as well. Cut out a section. (You may have to get creative about placing your pattern pieces so that you have enough fabric for a complete piece.) Continue until you have cut out eight sections. Save any scraps, snaps or embellishments from the dress.

2. For each of the eight sections, measure down about three inches from one tip, fold and sew in place. This will eventually create a hole at the top of your ottoman to allow for stuffing.

3. Pin two sections together, wrong side out, and sew along one edge using a 1/2 inch seam. Sew the remaining sections together along one edge in sets of two. Sew each set of two along one edge into sets of four. Sew your two sets of four together along both edges.

4. Pull the fabric through the hole at the top of the ottoman to turn it right side out.

5. Stuff your ottoman with whatever is available. I found mine made a great storage location for the wads of fabric I keep around for future projects.

6. To make a 'lid' for your ottoman, you can use any Moroccan-inspired shape. To make a basic octagon, cut an eight-inch circle out of paper. Fold it in half, in half again and in half again. Cut a straight line across the curved edge. Pin to a piece of your remaining fabric and cut out an octagon. Fold over each edge half an inch and sew. (If you only have small scraps left, you can piece together several small diamond shapes into a star.)

7. Hand bast at least one edge of the lid to the top of the ottoman. Use your recycled snaps to secure the other edges. (Or use velcro.)

8. Optional: Decorate your ottoman with any sequins or other embellishments from the dress.

The finished product.

Note: the large ottoman is quite large. In fact, I fell to the ground in shock and dismay after stuffing my pouf and realizing it turned out exactly the size I had measured and almost the same size as John Derian's, which also happened to be an enormous size in my wee apartment. Stuffed with rags, it is also heavy as a month of dirty laundry. That is why I have included several pictures of it finished so that you will not be surprised if your little project turns out to be Jabba the Hut.

On the other hand, it is tall enough to be a side table and provides a nice comfy seat. But if you're just looking for a place to put your feet up, go for the smaller pouf.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Trash picking inspiration

From Apartment Therapy. Alex, the owner, paid no more than $300 for anything in his place and picked up these lucite boxes from a store's Christmas trash. (Note the interesting placement of the chandelier, too.)

See the whole place here.

In the park a ball plays alone

Harry Chapin Park on an early summer morning.

Always there are toys abandoned all over the playground as if the Toddler Rapture came and took everybody below four, leaving only the scooters and stools and strollers. (Note to used toy thieves - an easy hit from 5 p.m. to 11 a.m. the next day.)

On this particular morning, a ball rolled into the fountain and got caught up in an endless loop.

Cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Big blue ball will be spinning 'til noon
When you coming back kids? We don't know when.
But we'll leave our stuff again. You know we'll leave our stuff again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blog award

I received a Blog Lovin' award from London-based blogger Huma at Her Little Place. Huma, who writes for The Guardian and The Observer, has, among other things, a post devoted entirely to cupcakes. This is the kind of journalism I have come to respect.

At any rate, blog awards are to be passed on to other bloggers, which is a stressful thing for a intronerd like myself. I was the one who never passed on the chain letter and got 10 years of bad luck. I hate board games. I'm not a huggy person. Group things, especially group things of a warm and fuzzy nature, boggle my mind, and I know I'm going to do it wrong.

So, with that in mind, I will pass this award along to a couple of blogs that are not mega huge (because mega huge blogs don't need them anyway) and are of the home design-y genre since the world is a big place and you have to limit it somehow:

The City Sage for gorgeous pics and a very weird sense of humor. (Orphaned pony charities and herds of Panton chairs.)

I Suwannee for cool bookcases and other stuff and for being hilarious. (Mini-sombreros and the chifferobe, among others.)

Modern Homebody/Kelly+Olive for interesting stuff, DIYs and being hilarious. (Where else can you get car dealship potato salad recipes?)

Nick Olsen and Nick Olsen's Dream House for affordable style and being hilarous. (To start with, he refers to his boss as Mugatu.)

The Estate of Things for interesting stuff, DIYS, public disagreements, and being hilarious.

I think there's a trend here.

Four Walls and a Roof and From the Right Bank to the Left Coast for great taste and understanding why more things should be grey.

Noel Marie for tips on frugal living in Brooklyn.

Down and Out Chic for being so chipper.

And some follower awards: (Don't you think followers deserve awards, too?)

Red Shoes for longevity and thoughtful comments.

Karen for great tips.

Alek for consistency.

Christine for showing up just about every day even though she links to 4o million blogs and has hundreds of followers.

Angelo Surmelis for being my one and only celebrity follower.

I'm done, right?

I have to tell all of these people they got an award?

What a racket. I'm too lazy for that.

(Also if I've missed someone, please give yourself an award. I love you all.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DIY Wednesday: How to make a jewelry tree

I'm not sure if I'm organized enough with this blog to support any kind of regular feature, but we'll give it a try. Welcome to DIY Wednesdays where I will feature a do-it-yourself project of my own or someone else's I admired.

These DIYs will:
  • Not require a whole lot of skill
  • Not require much in the way of materials (extra points for using stuff that is essentially free)
  • Look cool in a modern sort of way. (Sorry, no roosters, lace, or Last Supper done in bottlecaps.)
This DIY qualifies on all three counts. The basic material is a tree branch. (For those of you who did not know that jewelry trees are cool, check out Bed, Bath and Beyond or Urban Outfitters for the retail version.) The basic concept is that you spray paint a tree branch with the optional step of inserting it into a base.

This jewelry tree featured at CasaSugar doesn't require a base. (Also check out the totally cool dresser layout featuring squares of mirrored glass.)

Two Tumbleweeds did a great job on this one, which features a 50 cent wood base from Jo-Ann's. It looks very similar to the store-boughten kind.

And here is a more recent one from Centsational Girl. I like that Kate was not constrained by the tiny dimensions of the retail jewelry trees. (The Urban Outfitters version, for example, was designed for elves. )

Tune in next week when I will show you how to make a Moroccan pouf for zero dollars.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sidewalk hieroglyphics

One good thing about a lot of rain is it keeps the sidewalks clean. Normally Montague Street and environs stink like a render farm by July.

Another benefit is that you notice things on the sidewalks when they are shiny wet, like the painted marks all up and down Columbia Heights, which are as inscrutable as crop circles. I think they are made by:
  • The Con Edison people or
  • Extraterrestrials

This is the only one I understand. It's pointing me in the direction of home.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Long Island hydrangeas

Hands down, the most gorgeous anywhere.

Simplified summer decorating

It's finally warm enough in New York to qualify as summer, and lately I've developed the itch to get rid of stuff. Last summer I wanted to toss green floral pillows on everything. This summer I want to strip down to the bare minimum.

This could be because:
  • I brought several bulky items into the room, namely birch poles, throw pillows and something else I'll tell you about that is bigger than a really really big bread basket, which was just enough to make our 480-square foot apartment feel crowded. For every item brought into a small space, another item has to go.
  • Bloggie friends Alek at From the Right Bank to the Left Coast and Anne at The City Sage have been posting photo after photo of serene gray rooms. Even though most people brighten up their decor with the change of seasons, Chris at Style North likes cooler colors in summer and just ditched the orange curtains. I am obviously heavily influenced by such things.
  • The city is already crowded and colorful. I bump up against people all day long. When I go home, I do not want to be bumping up against my stuff.
Below are some before and afters - from minimal to bare minimal.

Here I got rid of a messy magazine rack and a bunch of tchotchkes from the table.

How about you? Do you add color and accessories in the summer or do you subtract? Or do you not change anything so you can go outside and play?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mystery objects

One of the fun things about acquiring items from the street is trying to figure out what on earth they are.

The top item was found inside a cute black Liz Claiborne purse I picked up. The round piece has a felted bottom, and the wire-y part swivels. I had to ask about 45 people before I found out what it was. What's your guess? (I'll give you the answer at the bottom of this post.)

The next item is something I picked up yesterday. I found all of these glass pieces in a shoebox labeled 'glass parts from hallway chandelier' so obviously they are parts of a chandelier. The beveled glass panels I get. What I do not get are the 98 glass swizzle sticks. Where do they fit in? (I have yet to find the non-glass parts of this chandelier and have no idea what I'm going to do with these orphaned pieces. Any ideas?)

(Drum roll.) The first item is a purse hook. You slide it over the edge of a table and hook your purse underneath so it doesn't have to touch the floor. La-de-da.

Have you ever found a mystery object?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Real Simple for $5

At One year for five bucks. Via

What's your style?

Alek over at the blog From the Right Bank to the Left Coast has created the 'What's Your Style in One Picture' challenge.

Above is my entry for the moment. What I like about this Brad Ford room is the neutral color, modern accessories and touch of nature in the rough. I also like that it's EMPTY. Below was my other choice, Koray Duman's bedroom from The New York Times:

Nature may abhor a vacuum but that's because nature doesn't live in a 500 square foot apartment.

Friday, July 10, 2009

West Elm sale

I posted this partly to demonstrate that not everything I possess falls into the 'pre-owned' category. These are two brand spanking new pillows* I bought Wednesday from West Elm during their Dash for Design Sale, which should be called Stalk for Design. The pillows were originally $35. But I walked by West Elm every other day, waiting for that magic moment when they start throwing summer stuff into the street to make room for fall displays. (I finally got too embarrassed to walk into the store every time and started peering in the window instead.) The pillows hovered at $20 for weeks. Then two days ago they dropped to $10.

Of course, I need two more pillows like I need a hole in the head.

*Note the tags, which are clearly visible in the photograph.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What do you call something ugly and cheap that references something ugly and cheap?

Trompe L'oeil Wooden Milk Crate from Urban Outfitters.

What's next? A sculpture of a brick to stick under each corner of your sofa?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Craigslist Cottage

Love this because half the items pictured came from the street (table, stools, coffee table) and the rest from Craigslist. See the full story in The New York Times. Then again, this is a second home. It's probably still tacky to street-furnish your first and only home.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Before and After: From foam packing to outdoor ottoman

When it comes to DIYs, there's a fine line between hipster upcycler and trailer trash. I'm not sure where I fall with this one.

As you may have read earlier, Tom broke his foot, and I have been on the hunt for a soft outdoor ottoman that costs almost nothing that he could prop his cast on. Also, I'd prefer something I don't have to store all winter.

This week I came across a tailored skirted ottoman slipcover someone was tossing. I had no use whatsoever for a custom skirted ottoman slipcover, but I picked it up anyway. Later, I got the idea to somehow stuff it.

I found a big chunk of packing foam at work, which I cut down to size, squeezed the slipcover over it and pinned the traditional skirt up underneath. Voila! A light and disposable soft outdoor ottoman that cost me nothing but my pride.

When I brought it home, Tom laughed until he was wet around the eyes.

To my friends and family who knit

Could you make me one of these please?

Instructions here.

Thanks a bunch.