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Posts Tagged ‘Home and Garden’

For Christmas 2012 — 25 fun gift ideas (and a bonus!)

In beauty, design, domestic life, Fashion, food, Style on December 14, 2012 at 12:26 am

Enjoy!

For the home

There’s nothing nicer than a set of unusual and stylish plates — for hors d’oeuvres, salad, dessert — to complement your everyday china. These four black plates, all different and each resembling the face of a vintage watch, are stunning; new this season from Pottery Barn, $50,00.

I love ZaraHome’s products, newly available this fall in the U.S. These purple paisley towels are gorgeous and unusual, $18.90 for hand towels, $59.00 for the bath towel.

This 15.5 inch square throw pillow isn’t cheap — at $87 — but looks like something three times the price, embroidered in cream on white, also from ZaraHome. Pretty for the bedroom, or a nice touch on the sofa.

A glossy olive green enamel thermometer, made in France, $28, is a nice touch for your window; imported by Boston-based entrepreneur Kit Mitchell.

These 8″ plates — each painted in rich jewel tones in a geometric pattern — are $60, from Mothology, a fantastic house wares, lighting and furniture site with a vintage look.

I love an array of pierced-metal lanterns scattered throughout my living room, like these. Nothing sets so romantic and calming a mood.

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Here’s a terrific small lantern, with a glass lining, that’s round, soft, weathered green cut-work metal and looks like it was discovered at some Mongolian archeological dig. From Mothology, $34.oo.

For women

This black burn-out velvet dress — something Lady Mary from Downton Abbey might wear — is spendy but exquisite; $554.73, from Plumo, one of my favorite women’s wear websites.

These metallic silver slippers are pretty enough to wear outside the bedroom; from ZaraHome, $49.90.

Oooooh la la! These red and black panties, $52, from Bergdorf Goodman, are to die for.

If she has pierced ears, these stunners from Swarovski, $75, are a great choice; (in my photo on this site’s Welcome page, I’m wearing them.) In gray crystal, they’re a gorgeous neutral elegant enough for evening but simple enough for day. I get compliments every time I wear them.

For men

I love this Timex watch — with a Hudson Bay striped band, in classic primary colors. These are the colors of the classic “point blankets” introduced by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1780 to trade with Canadian natives.

If you’re going to wear a warm hat, go for a tuque, (pronounced took); this one has the insignia of the Montreal Canadiens, aka the Habs. If you can get through a Montreal winter, you’ve survived some serious cold. From Canadian retailer Roots, $30.00.

If you’re looking for a messenger bag, this is it! A man walking his dinosaur, $48.00, from Etsy seller Matt Snow.

A soft indigo henley is a classic; $59.50 from J. Crew.

For fun

I discovered this fast-paced word game this past summer. So fun!

Need help with your snow-ball-making skills? Buy this, $7.50.

Can you really bear to leave home without travel Scrabble? The classic holiday-at-home sanity-saver, $39.00.

Build your own cardboard biplane, from the fab Japanese chain store Muji, $12.50.

For pure pleasure

These handmade marbled papers from Thailand are gorgeous — use them to cover a lampshade, line a picture frame or wrap gifts. (I got this paper from Papyrus and painted some plain frames to match it.)

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Do you know the extraordinary scents of Paris-based Diptyque? Try a candle for $60.

I love this seasoning, from Penzeys’ spices, whose selection is mindboggling.

A box of Jacques Torres chocolates. Yum! $36.00.

For a good cause

Who wouldn’t like to adopt an orphaned baby elephant? Through the work of Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who runs a foundation in Kenya, you can.

You can help prevent malaria — for $5 — by buying a bednet, through this organization.

This is the writers’ aid organization on whose volunteer board I serve; we can write a check of up to $4,000 within a week to established non-fiction writers who meet our criteria.

Please consider helping writers in your charitable giving this year!

BONUS: I’ll send you a signed copy of my new book “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” — for you or as a gift, signed to someone else — if you donate $25 or more to WEAF, the writers’ aid organization listed above. Email me at caitlinvancouver@yahoo.com with your mailing address; checks should be made out to the Writers’ Emergency Assistance Fund, or you can donate directly to WEAF, here.

Thanks!

A whole house to myself

In behavior, cities, culture, design, domestic life, life, urban life on June 30, 2012 at 1:35 am
Herbert Storey Cottage, Westfield War Memorial...

Herbert Storey Cottage, Westfield War Memorial Village, Lancaster (after 1924) (Photo credit: pellethepoet)

I haven’t lived in a house since 1988.

Even then it wasn’t a whole house, just our ground-floor apartment in a house at 42 Green Street in Lebanon, NH. I grew up in a few houses (interspersed with apartments) in Toronto and Montreal, but have never owned or rented one myself.

In NH, I loved the 1930s-era pull-out wooden cutting board in the kitchen. I liked having a lawn and a lot of room between us and the neighbors. I liked that our dog, a small terrier named Petra, could safely roam the quiet street for hours.

For the month of June, first at my Dad’s, then house-sitting, I’ve been living in a whole house. I’m now at a hotel for three nights — then back home to 1,000 square feet, no stairs, one door to enter and one to the balcony.

Houses are complicated!

Multiple doors, and stairs and a back yard and a front yard and a garden and garage and a driveway. (My Dad, typically, turned his garage into a painting studio and most of his gravel driveway into a garden. Kellys are like that.)

I’ve lived in the same one-bedroom apartment, (with such crappy closet space that I need a garage and storage lockers for things like skis, luggage, old paint, out-of-season clothing), since 1989 when I bought it, thinking, up and out to a house within a few years.

As if.

The doctor husband bailed just as he stopped being broke — and I started to. I’ve been there ever since. My second husband, then beau, moved in with me in the fall of 2001. His official moving day — seriously — was 9/11. He told the movers to come back in a week; his quick thinking on that day of terror helped The New York Times win their Pulitzer prize for news photography.

Our home isn’t large, and I also work there. But we have a great river view from the top floor, a balcony, pool, tennis court and a garage. It’s light and quiet and our monthly costs still low enough we save decently for retirement and travel. There are times I feel trapped and claustrophobic, but I value the freedom if offers me to write for a living without panicking over the monthly mortgage.

A house anywhere nearby, (in the northern suburbs of New York City), would cost $300,000+ (plus at least $12,000 a year in property taxes) — usually for an un-renovated 1,200 square foot 1950s box with a postage stamp lot. No thanks!

We could afford something battered 90 to 120 minutes’ train or car ride further north, in a much more rural area, or the decades-long burden of a huge mortgage payment. I prefer quick and easy access to Manhattan — I can be parked near the Metropolitan Museum within 40 minutes.

For the past month, I’ve enjoyed the temporary luxury of multiple bathrooms on every floor, a kitchen big enough to swing a cat in, (good thing there’s only a dog here), not to mention a walk-in closet bigger than my only (5 by 7 foot) bathroom at home. Room to keep an ironing board permanently set up.

But the responsibility!

The one I house-sat has huge gardens that needed a lot of watering in a heat wave, and a pool requiring daily attention — which paid staff do at our apartment building.

I prefer sitting very still, with a frosty G & T and a glossy magazine.

Do you live in a house?

Do you enjoy it?

Twelve Things I Can’t Live Without

In antiques, art, behavior, culture, design, domestic life, entertainment, food, life, Style, travel on June 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm
Iridium fountain pen nib, macro.

Old school, elegant, lovely! Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite columns is this one, in Elle Decor, called Twelve Things I Can’t Live Without.

It’s too often something of the esthete’s Olympics — Pratesi or Frette sheets (check), Cire Trudon candles (check) — with every Stylish Person selected vying for the podium position of Most Elegant Designer In The World.

Here are my twelve:

The anticipation of an imminent journey — preferably one overseas, (preferably to a country that rhymes with pants)

Earl Grey tea, loose and fresh, in a glass jar

A bone china teapot in which to brew tea and a bone china teacup from which to sip it slowly

Fresh baguettes

Pale pink silk lampshades

The weekend Financial Times

A bottle of Blenheim Bouquet cologne, (a 109-year-old scent, officially for men, but so delicious!)

A Big Turk candy bar: pink Turkish delight surrounded by dark chocolate = heaven

Candles: scented, votives, tapers…everywhere, used nightly. 

My Moroccan lantern, (which I painted a soft red), whose candle-cast shadows make my suburban New York living room feel like Fez

My passport and green card

My Lamy fountain pen and some beautiful stationery on which to write thank-you and congratulations notes


How about you?

What are some of the lovely necessities of your life?

Ten Reasons I Love Housework

In behavior, business, domestic life, women, work on January 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm
This is a picture of a stiff whisk broom, a ge...

Image via Wikipedia

What else would I be doing at 8:45 a.m. on New Year’s Day?

Why, washing our ancient, battered hallway kilim (a flat-weave antique rug) in the bathtub, of course! (No, really….Woolite, warm water, handle gently as wet wool, especially old fibers, is fragile. Think of it as a very large sweater. After it dries, it has the softness and sheen of new wool.)

I am ferocious about doing housework. I do it daily. I share and work at home in a one-bedroom apartment: no kids, no pets, one partner, who is a pretty tidy guy.

But the dust! The grime! The shmutz!

OK, I admit it….housework combines a variety of totally alluring qualities, especially in combination, which is why I like it so much:

— It’s a free activity. All I need is some Windex, Pledge and paper towel. In a recession, on a budget, this is a relief.

– I can (and do) do it any time the mood strikes me — 6:00 a.m, midnight, whatever.

– It makes me feel virtuous. I’m inarguably doing a good thing.

– It’s exercise. (And I don’t have to leave the house to do it.)

– It produces immediate results.

– Which offer — yay! —  immediate gratification.

– I know exactly what I’m doing. It’s hard to screw up scrubbing the toilet, shining mirrors, cleaning the bathtub. Unlike all the pieces of technology that keep piling up in the house (for which I am grateful), that so often confound me and tangle in a mess of charge cords, I know how to clean. I’ve been doing it for decades. I’m good at it!

– The place looks great when I’m done: shiny silver, gleaming wood, fluffy pillows, freshly ironed linens.

– It gets me away from the computer and moving.

– Work? Work? For those of us who work alone at home all day, there are very few ways to break up the day that aren’t a total, remorse-inducing time-suck. Suddenly realizing the laundry must be done thisveryminute is, I fully admit, a highly effective way to procrastinate.

I’m not doing nothing.

I’m doing housework!

Sprucing Up Your Castle — On The Cheap

In design, Style on November 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm
Almost a Castle

Time to spruce up the castle...Image by liber via Flickr

As we head into winter, hunkering down into long, dark, cold evenings, now’s a good time  — before the costs and frenzy of the holidays — to consider sprucing up your home, even if you can’t spend much. I once planned to leave journalism and studied full-time at the New York School of Interior Design, some of the most challenging and happiest days of my life. I’m still here, but my passion for design and making my home clean, calm and lovely remains as strong as ever.

Some ideas:

1. Flowers, greenery or a plant add color, texture and life. A bunch of supermarket tulips can cost as little as $8; if you can splurge on several, arrange them in an unusual container — a teapot or low bowl or basket. Florists will sell you a block of Oasis, that green spongy stuff they use in arrangements, and cutting it into the shape and size you need gives you plenty of options.

2. Lighting is the jewelry of a room. How’s yours? If all your lighting is from overhead sources, put as many of them on dimmers as possible. Offbeat, unusual table lamps can be found cheaply in thrift shops, flea markets, consignment shops, yard sales and estate sales. A new, fresh, pretty lampshade can make the difference between chic and shocking; try Pottery Barn or Bed, Bath & Beyond, even Target or KMart for simple choices. Dust all lampshades and bulbs. Over-lit is as depressing as dim.

3. A pair of new, fresh hand towels — $20 to $30 for two — freshens up any bathroom. Thick, plush cotton feels luxurious every time you touch it.

4. How about your bath soap? Quality soap, even at $8 a bar, will last a month and scent the room. Try Roger & Gallet’s scents (the carnation is exquisite) or Maja, an old-school Spanish brand whose olive green bars come wrapped in crisp black tissue paper.

5. A new wooden spoon or sharp kitchen knife can inspire a weary cook, while a few fresh dishtowels can add color and life.

6. Clean! While housework is a miserable chore for some people, a sparkling, fresh-smelling home shouts “Welcome!” A bottle of lavender water, about $12, spritzed onto your pillowcases as you (yes) iron them offers a gentle way to drift off to sleep.

7. A throw rug adds softness, texture, color and pattern. Consider a cozy sheepskin, sisal, a dhurrie or a rag rug. If you live anywhere near a decent regional auction house, check out their offerings in person; the Senneh kilim — an antique flatweave with intricate designs — in our hallway was $50 at one of my favorite spots, William Smith’s in Plainfield, New Hampshire. Most auction houses list their items on-line and you can always call and ask for more details about size or condition.

8. A can of great paint, some rollers and a few hours of your time can totally change a room. Farrow & Ball, a British company whose products are sold internationally offer terrific, interesting colors; Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams also have lovely choices. Check out SW’s Modern Gray, a pale, gentle shade the color of cigarette ash and F & B’s Blazer, a soft red, Gervase Yellow, a pale yellow-green and Babouche, a brilliant, rich, egg-yolk yellow. Put ‘em together with a crisp white — gray and yellow make a gorgeous combination.

9. Make a folding screen. Wood, hinges, glue and a few yards of fabric can be sourced for about $100. I made ours from cream-colored barkcloth and silk obis I found at a vintage textiles fair — it hides our clunky, old, black TV in the corner. This weekend I’m revamping it with striped faux-silk for a new look.

10. Visit a few fab websites, like apartmenttherapy.com for inspiration. Borrow some gorgeous coffee-table design books from your local library, read them slowly and make notes of whatever inspires you most. Start a design file of colors, textures, materials and periods you love, whether mid-century Noguchi, Art Deco, 18th.-century mirrors — or the newly classic Ghost chair, made of clear plastic.

11. New knobs and/or a fresh coat of paint on kitchen or bathroom cabinets can instantly and stylishly change the feel of a room.

12. New cushions, or cushion covers, can add a spot of style to your sofa or loveseat. Here’s a fun sunflower cushion, $35 — a pair would be great. Symmetry and repetition adds punch.

A few favorite sources:

Rugs: Dash & Albert (small, cotton rugs in plaids, stripes and solids); Ballard Designs

Decorative Accessories, like mirrors, small frames, vases, and lighting: Wisteria, Anthropologie, Gumps, Sundance

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