Wrapped Up in Books

I finished War and Peace today and am feeling very accomplished indeed...in that case, the grandeur of the story itself more than justified the lackluster cover. Or so I tell myself.

Most people think of books simply as receptacles of learning, but those with a more visually attuned sensibility know that they can be quite beautiful aesthetic objects on their own merit. Illuminated manuscripts are a perfect example of this - my favorite being the stupendously beautiful Lindisfarne Gospels (I would highly recommend clicking here.)

More recent book design can also be wonderful, no matter the price. Penguin's classic design for its Penguin Classics series has been revitalized in an unexpected way, to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary last year.

Last summer when I was in London, I was delighted to find an array of products manufactured in celebration of this anniversary, which seemed intentionally geared to tug my bookworm purse strings.

Products include beach chairs, book bags (hah!), mugs and tea towels. Get yours at the Bloomsbury Store and Pedlars.

Three books related to this subject are sitting patiently on my wishlist at Amazon:
Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005
By Its Cover: Modern American Book Cover Design, by Ned Drew
Chip Kidd: Book One: Work 1986-2006, by Chip Kidd

If you're still feeling dubious about the whole "judging a book by its cover" thing, I would definitely recommend a daily gorging of The Book Design Review.
Doctor's orders.

Since I'm feeling particularly bookish today, expect a follow-up on some of the very special things that go on inside of books. Maybe tomorrow. I have a new book to start, after all.

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Final Day of the Apartment Challenge

Please see Tuesday's, Wednesday's and Thursday's posts for reference. In short, this four-day series was a way for me to play with a possible design for a possible near-future studio apartment, with the rather impossible budget of $2,000 (which I know most people wouldn't hesitate to throw down for a sofa alone - and rightly so - but for a soon-to-be-college graduate it's a bit scary).

We ended yesterday with a total of $1,767.63. The last room we have to work with is the bathroom. I think a black, white and yellow color combination is very pretty and makes a great impact. I like my very pretty shower curtain (below) enough to keep it in a new apartment. Though I would add that if I had an extra $40, I might have to go with the splendidly textural Paper Flowers curtain from Anthropologie.

I would pair the shower curtain with this striking isola bella bath matfrom Anthropologie and sort-of-matching pair of hand and full towels, from Bed Bath & Beyond. The bath mat is $48 and a set of towels is $25.98.

I would then add this playful and rather less typically "girly-girly" bin bin trash can by John Brauer to modernize things a bit. I've been admiring it awhile and think it would look great in this bathroom. It costs $50.

Another modern white accessory is this aspudden wall shelf from IKEA - I love its streamlined quality which reminds one of the dining room table. It costs $29.99.

I like this stainless steel set - it's basic but still modern and elegant, and it costs only $15.99.

On the walls, I would place this tiny and gorgeously detailed etching of a bumblebee by Mike Southern. I suppose you could say this is an example of my weird sense of humor playing out because the etching is scientific in appearance and not cutesy but it points to the black and yellow color scheme. It costs only $15 at Etsy.

And, finally, this lovely, dreamlike print by Laura Cameron called "Almost Reached You," which is also $15 from Etsy.

That comes to a final total of $1,967.59. Not bad, huh?

In reflection...
This blog is really a great place to vent my shopping frenzy without doing too much damage to my credit cards. In a word, it's an outlet. I submitted my first post exactly three months ago, on January 27, 2007. Honestly, the first month and a half of blogging was so much easier, because all of the ideas that had been stewing inside my head for the past few years were released. I was able to speedily produce three posts a day on things that really excited me - I wasn't just posting to fill a quota. Now, I've used up most of that early reserve, but that doesn't mean I've lost my creative energy - on the contrary!

The great thing about this series was that it allowed me to put together a few of my favorite things I had seen while searching for blogging material, and organize them into a cohesive space. This is just one apartment design possibility out of many to come.
Which is, perhaps, the most exciting thing of all.


Day 3 of the Apartment Challenge

If you're a newcomer to this week's little series, please see Monday's post first and then Tuesday's post for background. I'm moving to a new apartment ( a studio this time) and experimenting with a new look, giving myself an imaginary budget of $2,000 to come up with something for fun. I'm discussing a different area of the apartment each day.

We ended yesterday with a total of $1,302.8.
I'm including the kitchen and dining areas in one today, for obvious reasons. Most studios have tiny kitchens, and I don't even know if I'll be able to fit a little table and chairs into a studio apartment. But, as emphasized previously, this is after all a fantasy studio which may therefore hold unpractical amounts of furniture with ease!

Thus, this quite passable copy of the Tulip table by Eero Saarinen, to be found at CB2, is too cool to pass up. It costs $149.

I think it would be fun to pair with these sleek chairs from IKEA. What do you think - too matchy matchy? I like the idea of finding differently-styled wooden chairs, perhaps in a light oak or birch, from a flea market or thrift shop but I'm afraid to look for something vintage like them online because if I fall in love, I'll have to sit by and watch as they are grabbed by someone else. They cost $34.99 each. It would cost $159.96 for a set of four.

I also really like the Linus chair in this room. It adds a bit of texture (which, as you probably noticed, I am big on) and also continues the theme of beige and white. What do you think?

Anyways, on the table would be these fun flora placemats from elsewares (in a beige toned wood with white flowers, see?), $48 for a set of four.

I would pair them with a very simple set of square white Charmor dishes from IKEA (click here and here). I loved the idea of using the Pantone set from Fishs Eddy, but I decided to go with the IKEA set to save money. $31.88 for four place settings.

To add more visual pop, I would add these bright fun melamine salad plates from elsewares which repeat the square shape and add color to the table. $24 for four.

The classic, super-cheap Pokal glasses and fornuft flatware set from IKEA complete the set. $6 for six glasses and $9.99 for flatware, both from Ikea.

I would place this copy of a vintage botanical print, "Le Thé," on the wall behind the dining table. Maybe it's too "cute" to put a food-related poster in a kitchen (I considered placing it by the couch) but in the end I kind of like it. What do you think?
It costs $36 from one of my favorite quirky Parisian shops, Deyrolle.

Our final total for the day is $1,767.63. We're almost done!

Again, I would love any and all constructive feedback on this mini-series. It's something new I'm trying out, so even if you wanted to say that you don't think it's successful I'd like to know.


Day 2 of the Apartment Challenge

In yesterday's post, to which you may want to refer for background, I introduced my apartment dilemma and began what I'm calling my "flight of fancy" apartment designing spree: in (hopefully) getting my first (studio) apartment on my own this summer, what would I put in it if I had $2,000 to spend? Yesterday I discussed the sleeping area. We ended up at $463.90. Today, I'm going to continue with what is arguably the home's most important space - the living room.

The most important piece in a living room is definitely a sofa. I considered going with a very, very cheap version from IKEA but ultimately ended up with a more expensive piece because, after all, a sofa is one of those pieces that you do want to invest in a bit more than say, an occasional table.

I really like this sofa from Urban Outfitters. Playing off of a classic mid-century Danish style, this sofa is very neutral and it has a lovely shape. It would look great in many spaces, with many different styles of decor. Plus it's so functional - you can remove the cushions and it will convert into a twin size bed, perfect for slumber parties with your best friend. The price is pretty great too, for a brand-new great-looking sofa.
It costs $480.

Another extremely crucial piece - at least for me, an avid bookworm - is a bookshelf. I like this clean, geometric version from IKEA, which repeats the white shade from the bed frame.. I would stick my pint-size telly in one of the squares (hopefully it would fit) and fill the rest with books and a few knicknacks. The Expedit shelf is $129.

Beside the sofa I would stick this copy of a Neoclassical tripod table from Target. It's gold, like the bees painted on my bedside table. In a reference that probably only I would appreciate in my dorky way, golden bees were Napoleon's symbol and this style of tripod table was popular during his reign. $34.99 from Target.

On the table I would set my green lucite lamp base from PB2 and top it with this gorgeous shade from Anthropologie to add a bit of color to this part of the room. $98 from Anthropologie.

I would throw this sage Tessuto blanket onto the couch. I think it would look lovely near the lamp. At $39.95 (from CB2 it's a pretty inexpensive way to add both color and texture to this part of the room.

If there's space on the tripod table, I would stick these sweet little Farm vases alongside of it. I love the variety of textures in each piece. $5.97 for 3 at IKEA.

In front of the couch I would place this clean, spare parsons-style coffee table from IKEA, which costs $24.99. A few of my voluminous collections of magazines (carefully edited, at least at first) would be stored in the compartment below, and above would be a few of my favorite coffee table books and perhaps a tablescape (I've always wanted to build one of those and have never really had a place for it). I'm not sure how it would look but I love the idea of covering the top with a raffia or burlap-type material to add texture, like this rather pricier version by Laura Yaggy.

On the walls I would hang this print from Oh My Cavalier! (Julianna Swaney), available here for $26.
This brings our final total for today to $1,302.8.

I'm dying to hear what you all think about this so far. Granted, this is an imaginary apartment, but who knows - quite a few of these things will probably be for sale a few months from now, and if I keep working and saving maybe I can start adding them one by one - that is, if I'm still enamored with the concept.
What works (if anything)? What doesn't work? Suggestions? Comments? Concerns?


Scarves by Alyson Fox

OK, I know it's not winter any longer, but I just can't wait any longer to rave about these gorgeous scarves by Alyson Fox that I found over at Greener Grass Design. You all know how I am about buttons, and the giant vintage-looking buttons used as closure are just so perfect. One of the scarfs is shown on a model wearing a straples dress, anyway. I think the justification for wearing these in less wintry climes is that (besides the fact that they are too pretty to leave in a drawer 8 months out of the year) they are less about keeping you warm then helping you to look fantastic.

Get them here at Greener Grass Design.

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Ma Vie en Rose does the Apartment Challenge

I'm going through a rather stressful situation at the moment - which may perhaps explain (if not excuse) the complete lull in posting over the last few weeks.

See, I expected my lease to end in August which would give me a little while to relax after I graduate in June, but instead it has been pushed forward to end on May 31st...which leaves precious little time to search for an apartment what with school, work and the necessities of life (with no offense intended towards my lovely family, moving home at 21 is a miserable option which hardly bears thinking about which is why I have squished the consideration of it into a pathetic parenthesis).

I've been so worried the last few weeks about high rents and low ceilings that the positive aspects of moving hadn't even occurred to me. This will be my first apartment fully on my own sans roommates, and I realized on Friday -- after visiting a decidedly skeevy apartment which I have fondly dubbed "Rapist Haven" -- that having my own apartment means that I get to decorate!!! And it can be all me - no more bickering over shower curtain styles (for the record, I won out last time and will be bringing that beauty along with me) or couch placement.

Of course, I already have most of my furniture - my perfect flea market bedframe and squishy hand-me-down couch and chairs in bright colors. But in any case I think a trip to IKEA will definitely be in store...well, maybe after another paycheck or two.

So, here's the deal. This week I'm going to daydream about my ideal "budget" studio, focusing separate posts on each part (i.e. bathroom, sleeping area, etc.). I've been enjoying looking at the vastly different and wonderful entries for AT's smallest coolest apartment contest and it really got me thinking. I would say my price point for this "project" lies somewhere in between milk crate shelving and high-end design. I'm going to mix up pieces from CB2, Anthropologie, Ikea and others (as well as a couple of things I own, namely my bed, my shower curtain and a lamp base). I'm going to give myself a budget of $2,000. Obviously this is a total flight of fancy - I don't know too many people able to spend that kind of money on their first apartment with a part-time salary. Plus I don't think that the amount of furniture I'm selecting, while rather minimal, would fit in most studio apartments - at least not the ones that I've looked at so far. But let's just try to have fun with this. Ready, set, go!

Obviously a studio apartment consists of one large expanse in which all of the different "areas" coexist - but I'm going to divide it up into areas nonetheless, if only because it's a lot easier on your eyes and my fingertips. We're going to begin with the sleeping area. When "building" the look of this faux-apartment, I began with one important piece that I was absolutely determined to have and built off of that. Well, two actually. Because I knew I wanted to use my bed frame.* Its white-painted wood is carved in the art nouveau style, and it was (I believe) my first real bed. I owe its fabulousness to my mom's great eye and penchant for flea market deals. I've had it as long as I can remember and I've never gotten sick of it - it really attests to the value of timeless pieces, however worthless they might be monetarily.

The piece that I am dying to have is this Chinoiserie bedding from Dwell which you may remember from a previous fawning post. They're on the pricey side at $246, but I definitely think linens are something worth spending a little more on, especially in a studio apartment where they will more than likely be seen by lots of people. So, as I said, this is really the piece around which I built the look of the apartment with its shades of yellows, greens, and dusty pink. Get them here at Anthropologie.

I would also keep my little bedside table, because I love its appealing vibe of aged grandeur combined with delicacy, as well as the incongruity of placing it next to my white bed, as it is a rather dark piece.* As you'll see later on, another piece or two in the apartment will continue this theme.

On the bedside table, I would stick this beautiful phantom table lamp from CB2. I love its translucent appearance, pleasing roundness and the textural contrast of the beige linen shade with the glass base of the piece. Again, it contrasts with the white of the bed and the bedspread but I think that white and beige can look lovely together so long as they are not used haphazardly (you'll see what I'm getting at later on). The lamp is $99.95 at CB2.

On the wall beside or behind the bed I would hearken back to my first non-intro post on this blog and hang these silhouette plates by Thomas Paul...another creamy piece to connect with the lamp. $28 at elsewares.

Finally, every bedroom needs a curtain for privacy. Assuming that the bed is near a window, I would hang the glorious (if not very practical) until dawn curtain by Tord Boontje - which was possibly my first design crush. $89.95 at CB2.

Are you dizzy yet? I know I'm pretty much all over the place (the proper terminology would be "eclectic") but I'm hoping that once the other parts of the room are posted, it will come together as a cohesive whole. This is a learning process for me, being the closest I've ever come to putting together a room (almost) from scratch, and it's certainly hard to do when you're looking at individual pieces on a computer screen and trying to imagine them in a room. But don't get me wrong - I'm having a blast with my imagination, even if it produces a total failure! I'd love to know what you guys think so far.

So, the tally now lies at $463.90. Tune in tomorrow as I discuss what is possibly the most important part of any home - the living room.

* I'll post pictures as soon as I can find my USB cord...yikes!
* My mom has just reminded me that the bed is "faux Chippendale" circa 1940-50...faux it may be, but it reminds me of art nouveau's beautiful linear quality and I just love it.


Arsenic and Old Lace

I seem to be seeing lace-inspired products everywhere lately. Lace is a material that many might associate with their grandmother's curtains and chair doilies, or the petticoats donned by Laura and Mary in Little House. Perhaps not the most "edgy" or exciting of materials - right?

When one considers lace solely as an aesthetic object without all of the frou-frou assocations, it is really quite beautiful - reminiscent of patterns made in nature (such as those in a spider's web). What started this train of thought was the pair of lovely earrings I picked up in New York in February:

Little did I know, that was only the beginning.

The newness of these lace-inspired objects is really dependent upon their context, which has often been shifted. To follow are a few of my favorite examples of postmodern riffs on lace.

Marcel Wanders' Crochet Table is a new favorite of mine. It has fantastic texture - I just want to reach out and touch it! I especially love its inherent contradiction - it's made of a perfectly sturdy resin material but its delicate appearance is a deception. If the table were actually made of lace, it would of course collapse. From Moss.

And then there's Flor's Amazing Lace tiles, available at CB2. The pattern is abstracted enough, I think, to keep it looking modern.

While I have tried to show atypical uses of lace (i.e. on furniture and other design objects) and have thus avoided any clothing examples, this cut-out lace belt is just gorgeous. From Anthropologie.

Finally, we have Tord Boontje's until dawn curtain. Pretty much everybody knows about it by now, but I couldn't not include it because it's just too pretty to ignore. Even in my most whimsical snowflake-cutting episodes, I could never have dreamed of producing something as fantastical as this. Thank goodness someone else did!


A Window into French Connection

I love this bag...the fractured saturated shapes remind me of stained glass. It rather looks like an abstracted Marc Chagall piece, don't you think?

It's $78 at FCUK.
As a side note, I am really liking FCUK's wares right now. I can't think of many other mainstream retailers making chic, contemporary clothes that are on-trend without veering towards "fashion disaster," at least not in their price point.

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With all the ruckus going on about the Anya Hindmarch "Not A Plastic Bag" tote which I blogged about on Jan. 31 and Lauren Bush's Feed bag, I thought I'd introduce a new member of the eco-conscious fashion-friendly bag society - their more modern-styled cousin, the Oneless Bag from Chicago-basedFling. When trends snowball like this it tends to get annoying, but these bags are functional and they're for a good cause. At $10, you can't really go wrong and I like the clever print on the cover.

Everybody say, "Hi, Oneless bag!"
Welcome to the club.

BTW: I have a whole slew of themed posts coming up this week that I'm rather excited about...hopefully making up for my rather extended absence.

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Run Ragged

Rags are remanents of cloth that you use to wipe up the grime from the filthiest corners of your kitchen floor, serving a singularly utilitarian purpose. Right?

Well, not necessarily.

The Droog Rag Chair by Tejo Remy certainly confounds - or at least complicates - that definition. It is produced from the contents of 15 bags of rags, layered together like a cushy, dilapidated rainbow. In the spirit of Bourriaud's relational aesthetics, the Droog chair gives the owner the option of subsuming their own rags into the design. They remind me of Felix Gonzalez Torres's remarkable candy spills, which depend upon the interactive gesture of the viewer's consumption of each individual piece.

Plus, I just think they're gorgeous - like a Shaker rag rug for the hip eco-friendly set.

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The Lady and the Duke

If anything is worth dragging me out of my blogging stupor, it is the movie that I had the pleasure to watch last night. It's called L'Anglaise et Le Duc and it was directed by avant-garde metteur en scene Eric Rohmer. Now, I will admit to some bias because as a francophile the revolutionary era is probably my favorite epoque, for its cultural, social and historical fecundity. Don't get me started.

I will say, however, that as a very visual person I was bowled over by the astounding beauty of this film. You think I'm exaggerating?

The sets were constructed mostly with sumptuous fin-de-siecle interiors and - get this - painted backdrops of Paris which, in their luminous delicacy, resemble the art of that period, though on a far grander scale. Is it a play, or is it a film? Does the lessening of illusionism really matter, in the face of all this loveliness?

Looks like a painting, right? Perhaps a particularly dramatic contemporary Davidian canvas? Mais non - those are real people, and the sight of them moving across the gorgeous though clearly flat backdrops is so interesting.

I haven't even said anything about the costumes! Years ago, I thought I'd be a costume historian. Art history has dragged me away in its loving embrace but I have never stopped loving fashion, historical or contemporary. Anyways, the attention to detail and historical accuracy in the clothes, as well as the pure gorgeousness of Grace's clothes (and the elegance and beauty of her person) has to be seen to be believed.

And oh, the interiors, don't think I've forgotten them...but I will say no more. I can't find any decent photos, unfortunately. I need to go and find the nearest fainting couch before I expire with jealousy of the elegance and delicacy of the protagonist's private chambers.

I would point out that this film is no Marie-Antoinette - while the plot might seem long and boring to some anti-talkies, it is rich in depth and dialogue. I'm not going to relate the plot, as this post is more concerned with the aesthetics. And anyways, if I started going on about the fascinating Grace Elliot it would take up a whole other blog post. But I would definitely advise you to rent this movie, toute de suite, if my entreaty has perked your interest.