homegrown and handmade
In my ongoing effort to use all of summer’s mint before winter gets it, I dried a bunch and rigged two dozen tea bags. Hang the mint upside down for two weeks. Then, when it’s so dry it crumbles, bundle 2 tbsp-doses in double-layered, extra-fine cheesecloth, and secure the pouches with kitchen twine.
This is one of the best examples of “rigging” I have seen in some time. Good friends of mine moved into a fantastic new apartment recently, but as with most Brooklyn rentals, a few details were a little janky. Such as: The weird 70′s fireplace with faux stonework, which was doing nothing for Scott and Nina’s minimal mid-century aesthetic:
And so, Scott came up with a clever DIY Rig. At Pearl Paint he bought sheets of foamcore, which he then cut to fit the fireplace’s dimensions. Next, he covered the foamcore with faux tin-ceiling wallpaper, in white, and then adhered the new façade to the fireplace with poster putty. Voila:
p.s. You can do this, too. No problem!
an aisle of old french doors
The Berkeley, CA equivalent of New York’s Build It Green! NYC is a place called Urban Ore, where used and salvaged housewares––everything from doors to faucets, electronics, and tools––are on sale at good prices with hopes of getting a second chance at domestic bliss. To be honest, pretty much everything in this giant warehouse and its adjacent scrap yard requires re-purposing, re-painting, or re-finishing of some kind, but the potential is overwhelming. I had the pleasure of visiting when I was in the Bay Area this past weekend (thanks, TB), and what I found was wonderful, the collections especially:
brass and enamel doorknobs
salvaged bathtub feet
The weathered bathtub feet would make really beautiful bookends, I thought, but because they were so heavy (oh, so heavy, and I was carrying-on back to Brooklyn), I opted instead for a set of travel-friendly porcelain drawer pulls, to replace the rusty ones in my kitchen. Just $20 for 17:
mid-century porcelain-and-brass drawer pulls
Urban Ore, 900 Murray Street, Berkeley CA; 510.841.7283; http://www.urbanore.us
The following images are from Hans Sylvester’s Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration From Africa. The people pictured are members of the Surma and Mursi tribes of the Omo Valley, bordering Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan. I am in awe:
photograph by hans sylvester
photograph by hans sylvester
photograph by hans sylvester
the fire pit
That’s right, this was the kitchen in which JB and I cooked some of the finest 4th of July food ever––hamburgers and s’mores. Inspired by Francis Mallman’s new book, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, we built this wood burning fire pit from scratch, to cook in, to keep warm by, to lose time looking at during our weekend on Lake Sunapee. It took cunning and a lot of heavy lifting, but our efforts paid off; balancing a grill rack between some of the rocks made for a perfect cook-top. Mallman is right, there is a beautiful thing that happens when smoke and hot metal hit cold meat––the almost sticky crust that covered our hamburgers was unlike any we’ve achieved using a propane grill. And there’s a beautiful thing, too, that happens when you’re left alone with the fire after the food is all gone. Hours pass, stories get told, and the moon crosses the sky slowly until what’s left of the throbbing, silent coals sends you reluctantly off to sleep.
In lieu of a Brooklyn brownstone to renovate and blog about, I am currently undertaking a renovation project of another sort: The dollhouse. It is actually an architectural model that I inherited from a friend (one of several, Mr. Urffer was an architect). This one was left abandoned in a storage unit for 50 years. SS likes to joke that even the mice are too spooked inhabit it!
Personally, I love everything about it, the brass door hinges, the clapboard siding, even it’s decrepit-ness. All of the tiny details are perfect––it was made meticulously to scale and constructed with the proper materials, even. Notice the beautiful dormer windows…they are double-glazed and they actually open and close.
This is a side view, and inside the open door is a mudroom that will one day be a tiny kitchen.
the front of the house
I can’t wait to build and plant little window boxes and install a porch swing. First, though, I have to replace some of the windows and repair the shingles––with the house were a box of extras. Then, a massive spring cleaning is in order.
a bird's-eye-view of the interior
The roof of the house lifts off so that you can see the diminutive beam-and-board constructed interior of the main room. I am thinking to modernizing the living space by building a sleeping loft in the unfinished second floor, and making a silver Calderesque mobile to hang from the beams.
I like the idea of a cozy cabin aesthetic; a stone fireplace made out of river rocks, a sheepskin rug, a farmhouse table.
My fantasy country home in miniature. Stay tuned!
recycled bottle" greenhouses"
I know that it looks totally janky, but it works. Simply cut an old plastic bottle in half, fill the bottom half with soil, plant your seedlings, and cover with the top half of the bottle. If you have trouble fitting the top half into the bottom some, just cut a few slits along the edge of either one. Instant greenhouse! Remove the cap for easy watering access, or just to let the plants breathe a little. Above, those are tomatoes that I transferred from the cheap Jiffy box––they’ve outgrown their peat pellets, but they’re still too fragile for the real world.
new tomato plants
austin red pear tomato
SS's lamp before painting
In the spirit of recycling, I am making an effort to reinvent old things rather than buy brand-new replacements. This old lamp is one that SS has had for years––he’s attached to it, which means there was no negotiating its removal from our apartment. The compromise? It sat in a closet for 6 months.
Recently, I went to see Russell Whitmore of Erie Basin who is a wonderful re-inventor of old things, and he showed me a milk glass lamp that he had painted black. It was my Eureka moment, for sure. With SS’s permission and a little black oil-based Benjamin Moore metal paint I got to work at turning SS’s lamp into a gothic black beauty. The linen shade is from Just Shades.
SS's lamp painted with a new shade
my mother's use of mari balls
Do you remember the Japanese mari balls that I’m currently using as curtain ties in my dressing room? Have a look at how my mom has made use of them––she’s strug them in twos from an antique game rack alongside weathered temple bells. The contrast between the bright, bouyant mari balls and the heavy bells is so beautiful, I think. And I love the idea of mounting the rack over a built-in bookshelf. It’s so unexpected. Plus, nothing is permanent here. It can all be changed so easily!
the full installation
my mother's mari up close
osborne & little in my living room
Here’s how it happened: I wanted to wall-paper the protruding wall behind the couch. JB did not. I thought it would bring the necessary grandeur to the otherwise ordinary space (in fact, I would have wall-papered the entire room if he’d allowed it, but, baby steps). He thought it’d be money wasted because we wouldn’t be able to take the wall with us when we eventually moved (we rent; he had a point). But then I fell so hard for Osborne & Little’s “Savernake” (after the English forest) that I bought a roll, anyways. One month later, it was still stashed in my clothes closet, waiting for…what? My purchase of an apartment? Not going to happen anytime soon. I had to start thinking…
Then I remembered the many (17) frames I had stored in the basement (left-overs from my single-girl apartment in Manhattan; I’d covered my kitchen walls in pages from Albertus Seba’s Cabinet of Natural Curiosity). What if I framed wallpaper in pieces? Would it bother me if the pattern didn’t line up perfectly? I wouldn’t know until I tried. Above is the end result. I actually like that the print is a bit off; it’s much less stuffy that way, but the point is still clear. And the best part is––I can change it when I get tired of it! $100-or-so for one roll of new wallpaper is a small price to pay for a look-changer. If I had my way I might switch the brown-and-white out for the lavender version of the same print in the spring:
osborne & little "savernake"
Next up: Reupholstering that couch! Stay tuned…
TIP: To hang pictures in perfectly aligned collages, use a Black&Decker laser level. I owe JB for that one.