designing hardcore whilst pretending to be picking your teeth.

this month’s rue magazine blew a gluten-free scent of humility back into the visual stinkbomb of tycoon-income art collections and summer homes i’ve been suffering for a couple days now.

berkus and brent / rue magazine / nov 2013

alexandra kaehler / rue magazine / nov 2013

paul and katie hackworth / rue magazine / nov 2013

paul and katie hackworth / rue magazine / nov 2013

paul and katie hackworth / rue magazine / nov 2013

berkus and brent / rue magazine / nov 2013

berkus and brent / rue magazine / nov 2013

after the relief, though… (dare i say it–) boredom?

to be hip is to achieve aesthetic perfection whilst maintaining the appearance of not giving a fuck.  forget coordinating paints, matching woods, buying furniture sets, or showing any outward signs of luxury.  marble floor?  rip that shit up and turn the broken slabs into a makeshift barcart/island on which you scrape and fold your homemade artisanal fudge to sell at the weekend pop-up market.

this works in a nineteenth century factory with bricks and woods and metals and other rad textures.  this works on teenage runway models with long, slender, perky everything.

this is why you can put dirty white jeans + birkenstocks on kate moss or a broken elementary school desk + succulent in an empty barn and call it design.  when those guys with good bones don’t try, their natural state pwns.

the same how-to guide leaves rest of us looking destitute.

so we of the tallest bell curve bits lean on tailored jackets to hide the lumps and sequined throw pillows to hide the mcmansion. hip is a club as inaccessible as the one percent.

what is it about ‘trying too hard’ that makes us recoil? is it a fear of things sincerely, not ironically, old-fashioned?

imagine the chateau de chambord – now empty of all but stone walls – filled with jewel-tone velvet upholstered louis XVI chairs, dramatic narrative tapestries, plaster cast dragons dressed in hand painted golden scales.


chateau de chambord / aug 2013

some modern day fool rolling through (me?) would likely plop an eames rocker on a brown cowhide rug by the fireplace and pitch it to a magazine.

which is better? (more on my gal chambord, later.)

i read a thought-provoking piece this week by fashion blogoddess leandra medine about her underdressing habit sparked by a traumatic tweenage overdressing to a bat mitzvah.

we the plebes chronically underdress our spaces in the pursuit of cool. earlier this year, i had hoped that gatsby-era sparkle might make a return with movie hype via the likes of kelly wearstler. sure enough, who should enlist her but what?me?pretty? posterchild cameron diaz.


kelly wearstler / elle decor / oct 2013


kelly wearstler / elle decor / oct 2013


kelly wearstler / elle decor / oct 2013


kelly wearstler and cameron diaz

when flannel-and-toes diaz asks for sparkle-and-shine in her home, it’s time to rethink reclaimed wood as the muse of hip irreverence.

waiting for the change. watching you, rue.


roast your armchair with a hershey bar and graham crackers

oddly, words did the heavy lifting this month in elle decor.  

“i don’t like a lot of curves — all that modern furniture that looks like a collection of marshmallows.”

DAMN.  gauntlet slap.  who wants to play?

haynes and roberts / elle decor / june 2013

that marshmallow couch is all like, bitch let’s take this outside.

i’m with the couch.

anti-marshmallow supremacist john saladino doesn’t mince words when prosthelytizing:

“so much decorating today is in-your-face — the wow factor.  i like holding back.  i’m more interested in what you leave out than put in.”

a little pretentious for my taste.

i read magazines in rounds, the first round without actually reading any text in order to gauge my unbiased emotional response to design.  timothy haynes and anthony roberts had me awe-gasping straight into a choking hazard.

haynes and roberts / elle decor / june 2013

haynes and roberts / elle decor / june 2013


saladino’s work?  barely caused the needle to twitch on my speedometer.

john saladino / elle decor / june 2013

john saladino / elle decor / june 2013

he has a subtlety obsession tipping into fetish, methinks.

on my second pass through his feature in the magazine, i stifled a yawn and took a close read of his clear descriptive vision.

“they’re metamorphic colors that change according to the time if day–gray to celadon, beige to taupe. they’re always implicit, never explicit.”

unlike his monologues.

john saladino / elle decor / june 2013

“i never do anything obvious.”

except talk, apparently.

subtlety belongs behind the professional photographer on the side of the room where you throw all the old newspapers and toy monkeys to get them out of the way of your photoshoot.

while paging through his rooms, i had flashbacks to architectural digest’s february issue celebrating blandness.

terry hunziker / architectural digest / feb 2013

good enough for a layman’s home and wholly inadequate for a glossy interiors spread.

magazine features should cause a cardiac jolt.

kelly wearstler / lonny magazine / june 2013

eyes bugging at the weirdness?

apparently, marshmallow furniture gets the hollywood regency tycoon kelly wearstler seal of approval.  i’m already buzzing with a dozen ways to fit that funk into my lookbook.  (note the checkerboard coffee table.)

(s’more checkerboard.)

kelly wearstler / lonny magazine / june 2013

(take my love with a grain of salt.  by now, i’d applaud a checkerboard-painted landmine.)

as mad men starts a slow jog to the finish line and the great gatsby gains momentum in its pole dance, we’re seeing a natural pivot away from the mid-century modern cupcake shop and towards art deco froyo.

i’m game for a new shock wave of inspiration as long as “beige to taupe” is never quoted again.

new look. really, really old chair.

all right, y’all. new blog name. new look.


in other words, my place about places. also math.

let me explain.

these musings on interior design had been bubbling inside me for years before i started this blog. in december, i finally grabbed a domain name in a rush to get words on paper before this mental pressure cooker burned down the city.

well i love me some behr raging sea, but marrying your blog to a brand name other than your own is at best unintelligent. an adjustment was needed. (…and ideally done before producing any more content. forty-three posts take a long minute to reorganize.)

this name is a little more timeless, a little more likely to roll off the tongue, a little more relating directly to me. you may crack a smile if you’ve ever lived the college joyride of differential equations.

it’s also a little less free advertising for behr. the new about page says mo’.

final thought:

i just saw these green velvet pieces in the new lonny and nearly dropped my ipad.

gribbon and tepper / lonny magazine / june 2013

remember the comic-con chair from craigslist?


i clawed through that article like a madwoman to find a description.

“The 1870s velvet-and-horn furniture hails from Texas and came from the Upper East Side apartment Tepper grew up in…”


i dunno what to say.

welcome to the new blog.

style by dr jekyll and mr hyderabad

so, you’re the child of conservative immigrant parents.  to which face of your double life do i have the pleasure of speaking?

the pushover?


or the rebel?

rachelle francey / rue magazine / may-june 2013

i fully shed the pushover just a few years ago and now have a year of my twenties left.  good god.  (though when i started panicking about this yesterday, syed said “why? you’ve always been a thirtysomething.”  …point.)

i’m bored by conformity and am in danger of entering a cliche-loop where i say i’m about to say something cliche and how cliche it is that i would say that i’m about to say a cliche about cliches.

the pushover is gone.  problem is, by now even the rebellious shit feels cliche to me.  count the number of times an eames shell appears in the may/june issue of rue at your own risk… they’ve spread like weeds across the industrialized world straight into my home office. (just kidding chair i love you please don’t leave me.)

i’m bored by conformity, which is why my eyes popped when i saw this bedroom in architectural digest.

philip galanes / architectural digest / june 2013

jaw-dropping coolness.

would you have EVER considered marrying a mod-yellow womb chair to an antique indian bed?  shouldn’t the chair be finishing the bed in a round of mortal kombat?  of course, leave it to the CEO of knoll to make art of oil and water.

i started wondering how others pair iconic MCM furniture with traditional pieces, turned to houzz, and realized that a few designers lug this bit around in the tool kit.

laidlaw schultz architects / houzz

maryam montague / houzz

derrell parker / houzz

sharyn cairns / houzz

…and realized that i do too, subconsciously.

my place

a common pursuit of balance and contrast will inevitably lead decor-obsessed brains to converge on the same great idea.  of course, the pros reach the most daring heights.

(in other words i cannot stop staring at the knoll CEO’s bedroom.)

hope this one never goes cliche.

from coffee to cocktails (your home, not your outfit)

so the other day i was bumming around my living room in the 2 pm glare, eyeballing how the walls might look in ultra pure white.  quick mental math!  can i paint everything and replace all my furniture for $50?

don’t judge me.  i made syed promise not to judge me before telling him that i wanted to paint our living room white.  he paused for a second, then took on his fiercest “stop being an unreasonable female” face…  the one he’s aimed at me ohh maybe twice since we met in 2004.

ok.  simmering down.

i named my blog after a paint color, for chrissake.  why would i want to deface a cocoon so carefully tuned to comfort us after work?  am i a tween on an abc afterschool special or some shit?  i define cool, not the guy in tats passing me a cigarette.

still, i’m curious why dim, moody, soothing spaces have fallen out of popular favor lately.

dark walls do sneak into magazines despite the ongoing white room orgy in interiors photography.  why the general shortage?  because they obviously don’t photograph with the ba-BAM of their counterparts.

abigail turin / architectural digest / april 2013

it’s like biting into a watermelon with your whole face.

…not something i’d do in a blizzard.  i wonder what this crisp white space looks like at night.  do light fixtures give the walls a dingy, yellowish bleh?  hmm.

conventional wisdom and the limitations of camera technology play to the strengths of white.  interiors photography must occur in maximum daylight.  don’t even consider the alternative, just deal.  this law might as well be etched on a tablet delivered by moses.  thou shalt and whatnot.

this room is already stunning in daylight:

jenna lyons / domino best rooms / spring 2012

by night, it will stop traffic.  spectacular light fixture + extensive architectural detailing = boom.

i start with the exception.  you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

it is left to us to apply our brain’s instagram (brainstagram?) nighttime filter to these spaces that photograph just a tad awkwardly in the daylight.  observe:

casper vissers / elle decor / jan 2013

not blown away by the daytime shot?  fast-forward to night:  white high contrast furniture to define the space.  dark walls receding to visual infinity.  blazing fire.  voluptuous chandelier.  win win win.

(note the checkerboard table.)

try another one:

fisher weisman / architectural digest / april 2013

your retinas are stimulated but not totally pleased with what they’re seeing, amiright?  the daylight against all these textural dark surfaces reads harsh.  i want to desert the house for the sunlit yard beckoning through those patio doors.  this room was born for the night.

strange to say that about a home office, but here we go:

brandi and mikkelsen / lonny magazine / dec 2012

call this a contemporary take on a gentleman cave, good for mallard displaying and pipe puffing.

ok let’s be honest – this room is preposterous in 2013.  it’s too dark for a productive workday and too technologically backwards for evening.  not sure why it exists.  add a chaise lounger and a couple floor lamps, and i might buy the story.

this room is so similar to mine, my subconscious has already moved in:

matthew patrick smyth / elle decor / dec 2012

a low rectangular lamp, a few flickering candles on the tray, a distant light reflecting in the mirror… yeah pretty sure if i wiggle my toes, you’ll see me sitting there just off to the right.

this bedroom is a no-brainer:

tamzin greenhill / elle decor / march 2013

perfection.  next.

more daytime harshness with the promise of a gorgeous night:

domino small spaces / spring 2013

jankety.  but in dim light under a lit blue star, the muted versions of all those colors will pool together cohesively.

and now back to where we started.

my place

subtract the sun.  mute the colors.  add flickering bursts of candle light, sparkle, and reflection.  don’t see it?  stop by some night for a cup of chai.

until cameras learn to capture what the human eye already knows, we’ve got to read between the lines in pretty pictures.  look past the magazine editors.  turn down the cigarette.  aren’t you, like, twenty-eight or something?

checkerboard vindication

this page out of the may 2013 elle decor gave me a chuckle:

remember my rant about the new chevron?

mark jacobs must be snorting fairy dust.  everyone with pupils and a soul wants a piece of this guy.

all these months later, i’m still not satisfied with the availability of mod checkerboard in interiors.  elle decor scraped the barrel and came up with… a shot glass.

step it up, designers.  we need you.

home office tips to enabling workaholism

been getting intimate with the new home office, four to sixteen hours a day.

harrowing work weeks help me realize why modern day commercial offices are bright, sleek, and colorful, and why your home office should reflect that aesthetic for maximum depression-avoidance.

note this collection of home work spaces i stored away as inspiration from the feb/march 2013 issue of rue magazine.

this is most pleasing to me:

liliedahl and silacci / rue magazine / feb-march 2013

i imagine a pulitzer-prize winning body of short stories, perhaps olive kitteridge, emerging from a leisurely few years spent chewing my pencils at this desk.  so romantic.

also a death wish for an engineer with a deadline.

this is funky and modern:

anthony gianacakos / rue magazine / feb-march 2013

a little cramped, though.  i imagine staring happily at this vignette from a couch eight feet away rather than wanting to sit at the chair with my laptop.

this one wins:

erin hiemstra / rue magazine / feb-march 2013

it’s a skoch too curvy, too furry for my taste.  BUT all the critical requirements are met:

1.  wide, deep work surface

2.  floating desk

3.  oodles of light

so far, my office passes the 16-hour test.  once the daybed is finished, it’ll pass the 24-hour test.

hmm.  see you in a few decades at my retirement party.

if your comic-con outfit were a chair

…it would look like this.



“cowhide with 22 horns.  great conversation piece, functional too.”  yes, perfect for an episode of uncontrollable laughter as you browse detroit’s craigslist in the middle of your workday.



yours for $450.

even in its ludicrous way, this chair shows thoughtfulness and artistry.  discoveries like this make me feel warm fuzzies for the diversity of mankind.

fish and sofabeds stink in three days

my den is a rubik’s cube.

my sofabed is that last stupid yellow square that you just can’t figure out how to get to the other eight yellow squares on the far side of the cube.

i used to think that sofabeds were brilliant.  i was wrong.  sofabeds are absurd.

take the heaviest, most expensive piece of furniture you will ever own.  add to it a heavy, expensive mechanism and crappy mattress to make it even heavier and more expensive with marginal added functionality.  take a survey of your limping overnight guests, the four burly male friends who keep helping you move, and your spouse.  then weep in shame.

so.  i need to replace our sofabed.  the mattress is comically uncomfortable, the seat cushions sag into the the folded mattress, and the whole assembly is upholstered in beige microfiber such as you might find in a model home.  in 2003.  in iowa.

was i totally baked when purchasing this thing?  i am baffled.

anyhoo; while the sofabed runs the craigslist hamster wheel, i have five goals to meet in my search for a replacement:

1.  provide comfortable lounge seating.

2.  provide comfortable accommodations to overnight guests.

3.  move easily.

4.  cost <$500.

5.  fit the den’s bright, colorful, modern, casual aesthetic.

in my budgetless fantasy, the lounge seating in this room would be upholstered in warm congac leather – perhaps from restoration hardware.

restoration hardware / $2000

my fantasy fails 2) 3) and 4).  (as do all new sofas.)


west elm / $1300

fails 1) 3) and 4).  probably fails 2) because the sleeper mattress union has negotiated an anti-human vertebrae policy.

can’t even meet 4) with ikea’s version.

ikea / $800

maybe something pre-owned will help me meet the price point.

craigslist detroit / $400ish

price point, yes.  eyeball test, no.  in detroit, craigslist sofas fail 2) 3) and 5).  blame the shortage of transient young professionals with good taste.

not optimistic about craigslist sleeper sofas, either…

craigslist / $300

fails 1) 2) 3) and 5).  if that lumpy thing is worth $300, i will eat my hat.

time to consider other types of furniture.

ikea / $300

futons fail 5).  maybe 1) and 2).  i should probably at this point create a sixth goal:

1.  provide comfortable lounge seating.

2.  provide comfortable accommodations to overnight guests.

3.  move easily.

4.  cost <$500.

5.  fit the den’s bright, colorful, modern, casual aesthetic.

6.  belong in the home of a grownass person rather than a frat house.

chaise loungers fail 2) and 4), but feast your eyes on this: / $750

damned if i wasn’t seriously tempted at this moment by a vision of mottled cowhide against my ocean-deep bluegreen persian rug.

i’m not getting anywhere.

how about a daybed?

daybed1 / $380

not that kind.  hear me out.

a mattress = comfortable sleeping.

a mattress + cushions = comfortable sitting.

a frame + a mattress + cushions = painless moving.

obviously a daybed will meet my first three goals.  but can it fit in my office aesthetic, and can i get it for cheap?

first, elle decor to massage the vision:

sig bergamin / elle decor / april 2011

claiborne swanson frank / elle decor / nov 2011

bright.  colorful.  fresh.  eclectic.  relaxing.  the image is crystalizing for me quickly.

what’s on the market?  west elm has a contemporary interpretation.


west elm / $450

lukewarm.  the last thing i need is another overpriced pile of woodmash made in china.

as i foraged for daybeds through the internet, this copper number kept tugging at my gaze.

wayfair / $330

the silhouette is garbage, but copper!  COPPER!  copper.  i swoon.  copper needs to happen in my home office.

i want a metal frame in straight lines – none of that curly traditional shiz – with a throwback reference to vintage wrought iron detailing for flavor.  then i’ll spray it shiny copper and the universe will rejoice.

pottery barn feels me.

pottery barn / $700

pottery barn / $700

but this thing has to be cheap to leave room in the budget for spraying, mattress, cushions, and linens.  low cost imported knockoffs…?  bueller…?  bueller…? / $130

this is how we do it.

look away from the hardwood sirens

i am on a desk odyssey.

once syed got around to reading my post re: the den, his face took on that manic appeal and he requested immediate implementation.  “let’s bang it out this weekend.  order the desk today so it’s here by tuesday.  i wanna start hosting meetings next week.”

say whaa?  you just interrupted my mental saga.  the one starring a coffee table.  ok.  office.  right.  on it.

since we have so many bad pieces in the space – desk, sofa, and office storage – cost will be the enemy.  should we choose to replace the existing brown lump, a comfortable and attractive sleeper couch will eat all our money for brunch.

desk.  attractive easily-moved desk.  cheap attractive easily-moved desk.

guess that rules this guy out.

Picture 91

west elm

$450 isn’t a back breaker for such gorgeosity.  i can do better, though.

a parsons table is prudent.  overused, but prudent.

Picture 94

west elm

west elm’s weighs in at $350.  considering its size, simple design, and engineered wood construction, the price tag smells funny.  pretty sure i can find one used.  checking out fred’s unique furniture



definite maybe.

then there’s the one from last week:



refinished?  as-is?  the warm tones contribute rather perfectly to a space evoking brightness and soul:

Picture 89

i need to mosey my way over to fred’s warehouse to see these gentlemen in the flesh.

how about this simple one on craigslist?



in a dingy old office park, yuck.  in an airy den, promising!  might as well go super cheap + elbow grease if i’m going to settle for wood veneer.

every once in a while, i pass across something like this:



solid oak and a total failure of mobility, but those lines!  that finish!  picture it in a sea of colorful rugs, gallery walls, molded plastic midcentury chairs.  the vision makes me twitchy.

desk progress will have to wait until the weekend… fred’s weekday hours cater to the retired / unemployed.  in the meantime, there’s no shortage of mental energy needed to plan out the rest of the room.

this wobbly black-brown LACK coffee table is no longer distracting.