Domesticity

It’s funny how life teaches you things. Sometimes, they are profound things. Sometimes, not so much.

A few months ago, I started having doubts about our living room arrangement. When we first moved into our tiny two-bedroom, we struggled with a few things.

For one, this apartment is really weirdly shaped. Ignoring the labyrinth hallways leading back to the baby’s nursery, even our “open” spaces are strangely laid out with a variety of weird pockets and wall extensions that leave us with very few open expanses of wall.

Our initial idea was to use our couch to create a bit of separation between the kitchen and the living room. We also weren’t sure where to put the TV, and the one big open wall seemed like the best option.

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That’s an old picture (we didn’t even have the rug down yet), but you get the idea.

But as time went on and Vivi became more and more mobile, the couch breaking up the room seemed like less and less of a good idea. For one, if I tried to do a few dishes in the middle of the day, it was hard to keep an eye on Vivi if she was sitting on the carpet. And if she wanted to get to me, it meant getting her tiny body around our 7-foot couch.

So I started making plans to move the couch to where the TV had been and the TV to the wall with the window. It’s still not perfect, but the end result is much more open.

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But this isn’t a style post or even a DIY post. This is a story post. Because, let me tell you, rearranging your furniture is a regular excavation for stories.

Here are a few things we learned whilst shoving our stuff around:

If you ever think you’re not important enough to have a long-term impact, try breaking a glass in your apartment. You will find shards of glass for the next calendar year.

A few months ago, I broke a jar of salsa. I had just bought it and was putting away groceries when it slipped from my clutches and smashed onto our tile floors. (Side note: Those are the moments in life when you honestly think about just getting in your car, stepping on the gas, and never looking back. Where do you even BEGIN?) Because I have a dog and a baby, I’m especially conscientious about trying to keep, you know, hazards from lurking around on the floor. So I cleaned up the salsa, swept, vacuumed, and then got down on my hands and knees with a wet paper towel to try to scoop up and remaining splinters of glass. I did this for the better part of an hour.

I STILL find pieces of that dang glass jar from time to time.

And when we moved our couch last week? GLASS CITY. I don’t even know how pieces of glass got where they were without having actual legs to walk there. We may never know.

The point is, broken glass. It’s there, you just have to find it.

You really should measure everything before you try to move it. And then measure again. And did I mention you should measure?

I wish I could tell you it only took us moving one thing (and then having to move it back) for us to learn this lesson. But it took about three things.

If you ever want to feel real dumb, make the same mistake three times in the span of about an hour. And be SHOCKED every time you get the same result.

But after moving our file cabinet and then having to move it back and then moving our pantry and having to move it back and moving pictures and having to move them back, we finally got it. Life lessons, folks.

Babies make even the simplest tasks harder.

I know, you’re STUNNED by this revelation. But, seriously. I think most people expect that having a baby will make going out to dinner harder or saving money harder. But if you think you’re going to move your couch from one side of the room to the other in one fell swoop, you’ve got another thing coming.

Vivi was in some kind of mood when we were trying to move things and wanted to be held every second or she would scream her fool head off like she was being murdered. We would have to move something for a few minutes (while she wailed), then hold her for three minutes (while she sulked), and then put her down and repeat the process about a dozen times until everything was in place.

At one point, I was like, “Should I just strap her to my back while I move this 200-pound couch?” And then I realized that was insane and put her down again.

Sometimes they gotta cry, folks. That’s the life of a baby.

But these difficult lessons aside, we got the room rearranged. And it’s one of those changes that makes you smack your forehead and wonder why you didn’t just do this in the first place. Because now we can open our bathroom door all the way (we moved the bar that had been slightly blocking it next to the couch), use our gateleg table more easily (it can also double as extra counter space in it’s new location), and fit more people around the coffee table for dinner (there is SO much more open floor space).

You live and you learn, right?

What? You don't mop in pumps?

What? You don’t mop in pumps?

I know Memorial Day is not actually the start of summer, but it certainly feels like it. It might just be the humidity, but especially in the city, things just start to feel a bit more festive.

Of course, there is a downside to summer sneaking up on you: You may have officially missed the boat on spring cleaning. (I know. I’ll give you a minute to stop weeping and pull yourself together.)

But just in case you didn’t get around to deep cleaning the curtains and finally organizing that back closet you’re afraid to open (what, just me?), I have a solution. Recently, I discovered three areas of one’s home that can be cleaned and/or organized in about 15 minutes (TOTAL), meaning you can invest a little and feel smugly superior in less time than ever before.

Let’s. Get. Clean.

#1 Your magazine stash: 2 minutes

Maybe it’s a rack, a basket, or just a big pile that doubles as a side table, but odds are that you’ve got a pile of old magazines lying around somewhere. You’ve probably been telling yourself for a year or so that you just can’t toss those old issues because one of them has that recipe you’ve been meaning to try/haircut you want to show your stylist/workout you’re going to do in your living room/etc. But, let’s be real. It’s 2016. We have Pinterest. It’s time to cut ties and set those pages free. In about two minutes, you can whittle down that pile to a handful of favorite issues or even dump the whole thing. Just remember: Magazines can usually be recycled, so do the earth a favor and do that.

#2 Your makeup bag or under your bathroom sink: 3 minutes

Did you know it can actually be dangerous to use cosmetic products after they’ve hit a certain age? Unless you like slathering bacteria all over your face, it’s a good idea to toss makeup after a certain point. (Here’s a guide for how long to keep each item.) Today, spend three minutes checking every item in your makeup bag and throwing out anything past it’s expiration date. Don’t have a makeup bag? Settle for clearing out the area under your bathroom sink (you know you’ve got a million-year-old bottle of shampoo or something under there).

#3 The fridge: 10 minutes

Is there anything worse than getting a whiff of something foul every time you open your fridge? Today, spend ten minutes tossing all the old food and organizing what you want to keep. (Hint: Store all leftovers at eye level or on the top shelf so you’re more likely to notice them and actually eat them before they go bad.) In ten minutes, you’ll probably even have time to wash any newly emptied Tupperware, too.

Look at you! Fifteen minutes later, and you’re surrounded with evidence that you’re a responsible, neat adult. Well done.

What are your favorite quick cleaning chores?

A funny thing happened when I decided to planning my blog posts: I started seeing potential projects everywhere.

A bunch of leftover bottles? That could be some kind of cool vase, right? A messy closet? A total how-to waiting to happen. By choosing to try to be more creative, it seems I switched my brain into constant maker/doer/creator mode.

The same is true of when I go shopping for my home. Typically, I’ll have an idea in mind based on something I’ve seen in a magazine, on HGTV, on Pinterest, or in a friend’s home, and I do what I can to bring that idea to life. In the past, I might just buy what I wanted, but now I actually look for ideas that I can create.

Then again, sometimes I’m also just struck with inspiration.

A few weeks ago, I was strolling through Target for items I needed for our master bedroom redo (as one does) when I decided to take a spin down their crafting and DIY aisles. One of their sub-brands, Hand Made Modern, was having a 20% off sale, so I decided to peruse in case there was anything I could use. In the ceramics section, I spotted an unfinished vase/container and a small octagon-shaped tray. Immediately, I knew they would be perfect details for our new nightstands.

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The paint was on sale, and I was excited to find a gold paint and a rose gold paint. If you know me, you know I love gold. And if you REALLY know me, you know I love rose gold.

I knew I wanted to turn the container into a pot for succulents and the tray into a jewelry tray. I started by taping off an asymmetrical line on the container to give it a dip-dyed effect. For the tray, I created a heart stencil out of a piece of tape.

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It took about three thin coats of Hand Made Modern’s metallic acrylic paint to achieve the opaque finish I wanted. Be sure to peel away the tape before the paint dries to avoid pulling off any paint later on.

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I gave each piece 48 hours to dry before handling. The paint says it takes about a month to fully cure, but I knew, even in use, the painted parts of my ceramics wouldn’t get a lot of handling.

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I also used a Sharpie to add a little message on the jewelry tray. Because who doesn’t need a daily compliment from their decor accessories?

The final results were exactly how I hoped they would be:

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And they look even better in their new homes on our newly painted nightstands.

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Not bad for an impromptu DIY, right? So what have you been making lately?

I’m going to be honest: I do not have the best track record with household plants.

Pets? I can house train a dog within a week and my family once had a carnival goldfish for two years. Babies? I mean, I don’t exactly have years of experience, but Viv is by all accounts thriving.

But a houseplant? This is the last houseplant I had:

RIP

RIP

Not a good look. But when I decided to redecorate our bedroom, I knew I wanted to layer in some texture in the way of greenery.

And that’s how I found my way to succulents.

Like the rest of the millenial western hemisphere, I’ve found myself charmed by this chubby little flora in the last couple of years. But I was wary against bringing them into my home because, to be honest, they look complicated. Fortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Succulents are oft lauded as nearly impossible to kill and for being able to survive in almost desert-like conditions.

Sounds like my kind of plant.

As hardy as succulents are, though, there are still a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when growing your own. Here is what I learned:

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1. Choose the right soil.

Most guides agree that you can either opt for a cactus potting mix or make your own by blending equal parts gravel and traditional potting soil. Even though these little plants don’t need a lot of moisture, they do need a good drainage system. A grainier soil will provide that.

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2. Keep the succulents high in their container.

Unlike other plants where you want a bit of space between the dirt line and the top of the pot, succulents do best when they grow right along the edge of their container. In fact, most of the pros recommend placing the plants so that the succulent hangs over the edge a bit (also called a “spiller”). This prevents the leaves from getting trapped under any water and rotting or discoloring.

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I also planted an aloe vera plant in another container. These don’t need to be planted quite so high up in the pot, but they do need the same cactus/gravel-and-soil mixture for proper drainage — they can’t take standing water of any kind. Be really cautious against over-watering both plants. To be safe, only water once a week or so when the soil feels dry.

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3. Get the right light.

Succulents don’t need constant bright light, but it is good to give them an hour or so of sunshine a few times a week. Ours will live on Joey’s nightstand most of the time, but I’ll make sure they spend some time near the window. Aloe vera, on the other hand, need plenty of light. Since our bedroom tends to be a little darker, I’m planning to keep this guy on the window sill full time.

And really, that’s pretty much it! I’ve had the plants for a little over a week, and they both look just as healthy as they did when I planted them. Giving myself a big green thumbs-up over here.

Also, did you notice that cute gold-dipped succulent planner? Wouldn’t ya know it, that’s a DIY post for another day. (AKA, next week.) Stay tuned!

I feel obligated to say that I feel a little silly calling our bedroom the “master bedroom.” In total honesty, there is really very little masterful about it. Unless, I guess, you get all hot and bothered by a 10-by-12-foot shoe box with closet better suited for dolls.

But you’re not here for the “omigawd New York City apartments are small” conversation. You’re here to creep on my bedroom.

I’ve said before that I have always had a hard time decorating our bedroom. (This was the closest I had gotten in the past.) I don’t really know why. I think it’s because, for most of our marriage, we’ve lived in fairly small places where our bedroom also had to serve as storage. Plus, we just don’t spend a lot of time in there outside of bedtime, so it has always been a mental struggle for me to prioritize spending any amount of money on dressing it up.

Up until recently, this is what our bedroom looked like:

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So, you know, not terrible. Just a little…undone. I had added the more colorful bedspread shortly before Vivi was born (thank you, West Elm clearance sale), and the more I looked at it with the blue wall and patterned throw pillows and patterned curtains we had, the more I felt like the room felt too busy to ever be a relaxing, dream-inducing space. I purchased new pillows, shams, and curtains from IKEA, but the blue wall was still tripping me up.

Clearly, the first thing I needed to do was update the room’s color. I did research, stalked my stylish friends’ Instagram photos, and scoured Pinterest for the perfect warm, oatmeal-y shade of beige or taupe. The winner? Benjamin Moore’s Shaker Beige. It is this magical hue that looks a little different depending on the light, alternating between a rich taupe and a cozy tan depending on the time of day. Next, all I had to do was wait for my mom to visit (so someone could hold the Viv while I painted).

A gallon of paint and about 12 hours later, this is what I was left with:

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Much better, right? But something still wasn’t right.

Or rather, two somethings. I’m looking at you, yellow-y night tables.

I had purchased our night stands on Craigslist almost a year ago. Let me tell you, they were a challenge. Given the minuscule size of our bedroom, I needed two tables that were less than 14 inches wide. I wanted them to have a drawer, and they either needed to be white or paintable. Oh, and I’m super cheap, so I wanted them both for under $50.

Like I said, a challenge.

Fortunately, I like a challenge, and after a couple of months of searching, I found these beauties on my favorite home decor outlet, Craigslist, for $40 for the pair. SOLD.

The only trouble was that they were not white. They were, however, paintable. So I put them in the room, fully intending to paint them as soon as we had a nice clear day.

Then I had a baby. And, you know what? Babies keep you super busy. So light yellow the night stands stayed.

Until NOW.

I started by removing the hardware and sanding down each piece lightly with a fine grit sandpaper. Then I wiped them both down to remove the sanded dust.

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Next, it was time to paint. I used the same paint I had used to paint our old kitchen table (SAVINGS!) and a small brush. I wasn’t terribly concerned about creating a super smooth surface, plus the table legs had a lot of detailing, otherwise I would have used a roller.

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Two thin coats later, the tables were white. Yay! But I wanted to jazz them up a bit more. I realized I could unscrew the bottom part of the legs, so I decided to create a dipped effect by spray painting them (and the knobs) gold.

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The nice part about the spray paint was that it dried very quickly and gave the legs and knobs a more metallic finish. Ready for the result?

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Not bad, eh? Certainly worth an 8-month wait. (Cough.) Here’s what the room looks like now:

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(Sorry the lighting is always kind of terrible. Our bedroom is basically a cave, so there is very little natural light to be found.)

But, you guys? In person, this place is so cozy and serene. The wall color made such a huge impact, and all of the details really fell into place.

Speaking of details, you may have noticed there were quite a few little accessories on the night tables that I didn’t mention. Never fear, there will be more on that later. (OMG PROJECTS!)

It’s amazing how much joy having a decorated bedroom brings me. I literally take a second after I make the bed every morning just to take it in. (But just a second…then Vivi demands something of me.)

Can you believe it only took me five years of marriage to decorate our bedroom? I’m not sure if I should feel accomplished or embarrassed. Either way, I’m ready for a nap on that pretty bed.

My mom has been in town for the last few days (and my dad over the weekend), so I’ve been able to accomplish a lot around the apartment that I’ve had on my to-do list for a while. One of those big tasks was redecorating our bedroom. I’m going to do a full reveal, but I also want to share a few of the smaller projects that make up the whole room. Today, we’re talking floral arrangements.

One of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had was when I was the Flowers Editor for a wedding magazine. I know a fair amount about flowers already from my mom, but my job was basically to look at beautiful bouquets all day, forecast the trends, schmooze with the top florists from around the city, and receive bouquets occasionally from vendors who wanted to impress us. I’ve never had so many fresh flowers around in my life.

And while I love the idea of surrounding our home with fresh flowers on the daily, it’s simply not practical. But I do love the look, which is why I’ve embraced silk or artificial blooms.

The trouble with artificial flowers is that, often times, they look…well, fake. And that utterly defeats the purpose. So I’ve come up with a few rules to selecting the best-looking faux flowers for your home.

Don’t forget to pay careful attention to your color choices.

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In general, I have a really hard time finding flowers in primary shades that look realistic. It’s just a tough job to create a dye the same color as what you find in nature, and the primary hues lack the depth you see in the real thing. It works for wreaths or displays that need to be seen from a distance, but otherwise, I say skip reds, blues, yellows (except in the case of sunflowers), and even most oranges.

Do embrace pastels and jewel tones.

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Pastels are almost always a safe bet when it comes to faux flowers because — surprise! — they closely resemble a lot of real flowers. But if you’re looking to make a statement, go for something in the jewel tone family. At least it’s another natural color.

Do opt for texture.

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Big fluffy flowers are easier to fake than anything more architecturally shaped. The softer petals will all blend together in a big puff of flowers, give the appearance of softness and texture without triggering anyone’s attention that they’re not real.

Don’t be afraid to think beyond flowers.

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Cherry blossoms, pussy willows, and other stick-like options are great for adding height or finishing off more modern decor. Plus, they just tend to look more authentic. This is a great option for first-time faux flower buyers because it’s really hard to mess up.

Don’t forget your greens.

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Real life flowers always have greenery, so your faux displays should too. Greenery is also another option if you’re not ready to jump on the flower bandwagon just yet. Plus, they tend to look more real as well.

Don’t do this…ever:

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Natural colors, remember? Just trust me on that one.

Now…for the arranging!

Do select a variety of flowers in the same color family.

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Don’t worry about matching your flowers exactly — that’s not how it happens in nature! A variety of blush shades creates a romantic blend that looks more realistic as well.

Do trim your stems to fit your container.

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Just like you would a real bunch of flowers, use wire cutters to trim the stems to fit your container for easier arranging.

Do pick a focal point.

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Create cohesive bouquets by picking a showstopper centerpiece (in my case, a large peony) and arranging your supporting flowers around it. Then tuck in a bit of greenery to finish off the look.

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Ta da! I’m pretty pleased with how the whole thing turned out.

Do you decorate with faux flowers? What are your best tips for making them look more realistic?