Category Archives: Architecture + Design

At Home

Isle of This Town by Don & Ryan Clark (via Invisible Creature)

The last day that movers were packing up our home, I sat in our living room staring at the empty walls where artwork and family photos had been hanging just hours earlier. It dawned on me that in a matter of days there would be different frames with different images hanging on those walls. The thought was quite simple and ordinary, I know, but it was enough to make me think. As we move in and out of apartments and houses, our possessions come with us but the structures remain. They might see one, five, 10 or more families throughout their architectural lifetimes. They’re also one of the most defining parts of our culture, I believe. I mean, they’re where we live, after all. Everything that happens in the world and in our everyday lives somehow makes its way into our houses. All of these musings have been coming back into my mind from time to time in the past few months, making me want to read or write or explore all of these thoughts and come up with something substantial. Then today I think I found the book that already did all of those things for me. It’s called At Home by Bill Bryson, and after only reading the introduction, my mind’s already overjoyed. Take a peak:

Looking around my house, I was startled and somewhat appalled to realize how little I knew about the domestic world around me. … Suddenly the home seemed a place of mystery to me. So I formed the idea to make a journey around it … I would write a history of the world without leaving home. … What I found, to my great surprise, is that whatever happens in the world — whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over — eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house. … So the history of household life isn’t just a history of beds and sofas and kitchen stoves, as I had vaguely supposed it would be, but of scurvy and guano and the Eiffel Tower and bedbugs and body-snatching and just about everything else that has ever happened. Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.

(Bill Bryson, At Home, pg. 5)
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And Then There Were Three

I’ve never been one to really collect anything. I had the Beanie Babie phase when I was a kid, but I don’t really count that as a true collection. But ever since college I’ve romanticized old typewriters and loved their nostalgic beauty. I dreamed of one day having an entire shelf full of different models, the old, the retro, the black, the colorful. Jonathan found a typewriter on his doorstep last year (yes, literally, it was sitting by the mailboxes in his apartment building with a sign that said “FREE!”) I like to think it was fate handing it over to me. This past Christmas my parents bought me a beautiful antique typewriter. And so my collection began. This past weekend I got to see the typewriter Jonathan found for me at a thrift store in Wichita a few months ago. Say hello to the newest addition: The Cadet!

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DIY} Stacked Book Frame

Ever since we moved, I’ve been itching to tackle a DIY project. (I’ve also literally been itching for the past two days because of a lovely bunch of fire ant bites on my foot. How I loathe thee, fire ants!) Anyway, because I also don’t know how long I’ll be living in my room, I’ve had to put the breaks on getting carried away with any additional room decor or crafty plans. Instead, I revisit my most lofty project to date. I saw this framed stack of books in a restaurant in Kansas City three years ago.

My ambitious self thought, “Oh, I could make this. Easy.” And really it wasn’t that bad, but looking back I’m impressed with myself for thinking I could tackle this. Lesson: Don’t be intimidated by a project; it’ll turn out OK!

Warning: This will require using up a lot of books. E-readers, rejoice. But really, I love books just as much as the next person, and this project gives a second purpose to all those books that probably won’t ever be read again (if they ever were) in the $1 section at Goodwill.

You will need:

  • 10 or more hardback books (the more interesting their spines, the better)
  • 1 frame (I found a set of three window shutters at a thrift store; finding those key pieces is probably what encouraged me to start the project in the first place)
  • 1 sheet of plywood (the size depends on the frame you find because the plywood will be used to cover the back of the frame)
  • 1 tub of Plaster of Paris
  • miter saw
  • tacks or small nails
  • Gorilla glue
  • nails and brackets to hang the frame(s)
  • Mod Podge or paint (optional; for decorating frame)

Deep breath. Go:

1. By far the hardest part of this project is this step (yep, it’s the first step, sorry for the intimidating factor). Using the miter saw (or letting a strong man in your life use the saw, as was my case) cut off the pages and covers of the books, leaving about 1″ to 1.5″ of the spine and pages intact.

2. I kept some of the pages from the books (especially the ones with neat illustrations) to Mod Podge on the frame later.

3. Nail the plywood to the back of the frame so there is a solid backing supporting the space where the books and plaster will be.

4. (Do this outside, it’ll probably be messy) Mix the Plaster of Paris per instructions. Have a friend help you with this part because you need to work quickly: while you spread the plaster of paris in the whole of the frame, have your friend place the books in a stacked formation, being sure to press down so the books are well set. Again, work quickly because the plaster will harden faster than you think.

5. Let the frame dry. Use Gorilla glue to fill in any gaps between the books and the plaster and add reinforcement (Gorilla glue expands and dries a white color, so it will blend in best with the plaster).

6. Paint or Mod Podge book pages onto the frame.

7. Nail at least two brackets into the back of the frame and hang.

Different designs could be created depending on the room. I think this one with illustrated pages would be great in a kid’s room because it would stay relevant as he or she grows up. A dark cherry frame with darker, muted colored books would be great in a study or office.

Check out this great paper wreath my friend Leigh Anne made recently as a way of using up all those cut book pages.

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To A, With Love

“I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but I made a pilgrimage. I braved the train, the crowds, the drizzly weather. I entered your doors and I stood directly in front of your Cooled Lava Dress (Oh, how very cool it was). I visited your Bay-of-Smoke Jacket. (You knew I always wanted to go to the Bay of Smoke!). Standing on your faux-sanded wooden farmhouse floors, amongst your clusters of light bulbs turned avant-garde chandeliers, I realized I’ve done it all wrong—the liberal arts degree, the MFA, the low-paying publishing jobs, the erratic freelancing and adjunct teaching. If only I could go back. Go back and study Anthropologie (quirky spelling and all!).” (excerpt from McSweeney’s Open Letter to Anthropologie, by Anna Mantzaris)

I recently saw this via someone’s Facebook (I’m looking at you, Christina) and about died laughing/agreeing with the whole thing. It’s no secret that I refer to Anthropologie as “my happy place.” I have no shame admitting that I often visit the store with absolutely no intention of making a purchase (or, I mean, “I’m just browsing!”) just to wander around, soaking up the one-of-a-kind patterns and textures and colors. I fall for it. Every. Single. Time. The absurdly cute dish towels (that I would never, ever use to actually dry my dishes). The chairs upholstered in amazing fabrics. The dresses, ohhh, the dresses. But it’s ok. All I need is to visit, on occasion make a purchase from the sale rack – or the very rare, unmeditated, I-can’t-go-home-without-this-dress decision. I read a quote once about friendship that went something like, “I feel better just knowing that someone like you exists in the world.” Yeah. That’s how I feel about you, A.

Now go read this Open Letter to Anthropologie on McSweeney’s.

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PHOTOS: Ten Thousand Villages

A preview of photos included in my fair trade home and design story for CultureMap.

The sacred sari throw (center) is one of my favorite items they have in the store. Women who have left the red light district in Bangladesh use recycled saris to patch the quilts. West Elm has similar blankets right now, too. But in all fairness: those at TTV are cheaper and fair trade.

(Bottom) Most unexpected fair trade item: recycled glass bottle trays.

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To Curate a Life

I think I’m only beginning to truly understand what even I intended when I named this blog The Curated Life. I was primarily referring to the act of a museum curator who pieces together objects and artworks to thread together a larger picture and a story with greater meaning. It was a metaphor of what I wanted this space to be used for: piecing together meaningful stories, moments, objects and inspiration in order to develop a bigger picture. Before we moved last month, some neighbors of ours invited us to their home for dinner, and I left with a greater idea of what curating a life really looks like.

My parents and I had dinner with the Crows, a couple that lived a few houses down the street from us who we came to meet under less than desirable circumstances. Mrs. Crow is a nurse at the same hospital where my dad worked as an oncologist. My mom had raved about their house for some time now. The house itself is not very visible from the street as it is kind of burrowed behind an ever growing front garden. That’s one of its major perks because once inside the house, you have the luxury of having enormous windows without any fussy window treatments or drapes. The outdoors and indoors kind of melt and intertwine together in this wonderfully curated home and garden.

Levi napping in the study.

First I was greeted by their adorable English setters, Hannah with reddish spots and Levi with blackish blue spots. With a doggy bed in almost every room, it didn’t take long to realize this house was designed with the dogs in mind just as much as their owners. The first room that took my breath away was the so-called sleeping porch. With it’s wide-planked walls and wood-shuttered windows and low-hanging ceiling fan overhead, the room instantly transported you to an island oasis. Cozy cream linen and cotton sheets and pillows didn’t have to try hard to invite you to curl up on a pillow or chair – or, in Hannah and Levi’s case, a doggy bed. Don’t let the photo fool you because it doesn’t do the room justice one bit.

The sleeping porch. As soon as you step into this room, you feel more relaxed.

We sipped homemade lemon grass iced tea and could see where the lemon grass had been picked fresh from Mrs. Crow’s garden just steps away. “Moon River” played overhead as we strolled onto the back patio, through gardens and canopies, and back inside. Around every corner there was another beautiful bench, pillow, door frame – all making up the curated work of art that is the Crows’ home.

My favorite work of art in the Crows' home, painted by Marc Chapaud.

In Italian there is the phrase ben curato,which simply translates to well-kept. But it kept coming to my mind when I toured around this home. Yes, the gardens were well kept, as were the rooms and furniture, but what really felt most well kept were the individuals living in the space. Everything in their home – their lives, really – played off the other. Not to mention the dinner we enjoyed: delicious roasted pork, baked squash, cucumbers and tomatoes picked fresh from the vegetable garden and a blackberry cobbler, perfectly tart and sweet all at the same time.

One of the outside porches, perfect for afternoon naps and cozy reading.

Outside, every corner of the garden has its own charm: a hidden hammock, a refreshing pool and a handsome behind adds a bit of whimsy to the design.

Here is to aspiring to live a truly curated life – where the food we eat, the company we keep and the home we design is simply ben curato.

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Lowe’s, Let’s Build Something Together

Who doesn’t love a good Saturday DIY project? Since Jonathan is moving into this neat downtown loft in a few weeks, which has 15-foot ceilings, exposed concrete and a huge window, he wanted lighting that was equally industrial and unique.

Innes Station in Old Town, Wichita, KS

So we set out for Lowe’s and spent a lot of quality time in the electrical, plumbing and garden sections. We also entertained many an employee that asked “Can I help you with something?” and heard what we were planning. Favorite responses: “Well it’s all about spending time together!” & “At least you’re being creative, that’s what I love.”

1. Because we didn’t find this lovely clamp light right away, we played with several ideas for this light shade including a flower pot and a funnel (this is also the part where we piqued many Lowe’s employees’ interest and even had one of them tag along with us throughout the store just to see what we came up with).

2. This is a great “serves no purpose” detail that Jonathan decided to add at the last minute; it’s one of my favorite parts.

3. The base was maybe the biggest headache. It’s still not quite stable and will probably have a wrench added to either side to stabilize it, but I’m pretty proud at our creativity.

I couldn’t tell you what any of these parts are called or what purpose they’re really meant to serve, but I feel a little more knowledgeable and creative about plumbing and electricity now, and just might see Lowe’s more as a craft store than a hardware store.

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Not Your Boy Scout’s Campout

Somewhere between this

The Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe, 1951, Plano, Illinois

and this

Camping with Jonathan in a Marmot tent, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

this was born:

Two and a half hours northwest of Tokyo, designed by Shin Ohori of General Design Co. Photos by Dean Kaufman of Dwell magazine. (source)

The structure, featured in this month’s issue of Dwell magazine, is a place for husband and wife & business partners Setsumasa and Mami Kobayashi to test outdoor gear and clothing they design for their company, …….Research. It’s also a place for them to escape the concrete jungle that is Tokyo.

The rooftop tent can be accessed by a ladder or a mini climbing wall. Photos by Dean Kaufman of Dwell magazine. (source)

And don’t worry, being out in the middle of the woods doesn’t mean skimping on basic amenities and luxuries.

Take a bubble bath while basically being outside? Sure, I'd love to. Photos by Dean Kaufman of Dwell magazine. (source)

This girl loves camping, but if I could, I’d take one of these structures anywhere there’s a beautiful view of fall foliage. (For more amazing photos and details about the structure, check out the slideshow and story on dwell.com).

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