Design Rant - Before and Afters

I am getting quite fed up with deceptive 'Before and After' stories on design blogs. These two particular examples come from Design*Sponge but they are not the only ones guilty of posting these. Also, I know they can't control the photos that are submitted, but they can control what they publish. Submitters: if your before and after comes with crappy pictures, no post for you!*

Example 1: San Francisco Loft Makeover

#1 - Bad Context - Of course the 'before' looks worse! You have clearly just moved in and there are boxes and a ladder in the photo. Move your shit out of the way then we'll talk.

#2 - Dishonest Photography - If you look at the two photos above, one thing should jump out at you: the way the photo is framed. In the 'before' you can see unsightly sprinkler lines, possibly to intentionally add to the bad factor. In the 'after' the photographer has framed the photo so that the sprinkler lines are concealed and you see more of the gleaming hardwoods and snazzy foyer rug

#3 - Pitiful Before - The 'Before and After' set-up implies that the 'before' is terrible and the after is so dramatic the reader can hardly believe it's the same space/item. This is not really a good 'before.' The only thing wrong with the space is that it's undecorated and not the color the new tenant wanted. Ooh, a paint job. How thrilling.

FAIL. But it could be worse...

Example 2: Wendy's Home Exterior Makeover

#1 - Bad Context - Again we have the aggressively ugly 'before' image. There's the trash barrels and yard debris, plus the whole winter bleakness going on. The 'after' is conveniently shot in the lush spring where greenery is everywhere and the lighting is better. This would be like showing you my new haircut with the 'after' me fresh from the salon and wearing a cute outfit, then showing you the 'before' me un-showered, in my pj's after a 4 day bout with the flu.

#2 - Dishonest Photography - This photography is so misleading it makes the loft photos look innocent by comparison. These are taken from such disparate angles I don't really know how to compare the 'before' to the 'after.' As I mentioned before, the whole point of the 'Before and After' is the almost too good to be true aspect of the reveal. But in this case I question it being the same house. There is no continuity from one photo to the next to illustrate what changed or what remained.
#3 - Pitiful Before - With this example, #3 doesn't apply. The before was in terrible shape, but the photos are so bad you don't get the full effect. This series could have had the wow factor. Actually it does, but only as in "wow, that's bad."
Moral of the story, step up Design*Sponge. Don't let just anything on your awesome, awesome site.
*It's more fun if you say it in the soup nazi voice.

So Awesome I Almost Peed My Pants

Sorry to be so heavy on posting today, but this can't wait. In response to my Poker Face post reader Katie commented with this:

It's a rediculously awesome Poker Face parody about typefaces. Anyone of the design persuasion will get a good laugh. Best lyric:

"You'll read my, you'll read my, you can read my Neutra Face. Even if it's bold italic."

Thanks Katie - you totally made my day!

Pa-Pa-Pa-Poker Face Pa-Pa-Poker Face

What I am about to show you is completely different than the concrete clock, but equally as bad ass. Just in a very different way.

May I present to you Johnny Weir performing to Poker Face.

I don't know if this is considered figure skating or ice dancing, but I don't care. I love it. Lady Gaga + pleather + ice skates + Johnny Weir's signature sauciness* = all kinds of AWESOME!

WARNING: once you watch this, you may be compelled to sing Lady Gaga all. day. long.

*I don't want to make any assumptions about his orientation, but let's just call him festive and leave it at that.

via Go Fug Yourself

Not Your Grandfather's Clock*

I am absolutely in love with this concrete grandfather clock.

I have always liked the formality and presence of a grandfather clock, but not the traditional styling. I'm in awe of the simplicity of the form and the honesty of the material. Not to mention this would contrast just enough with my gray walls. As is the case with a lot of things I can't get out of my head these days, the website does not include pricing - never a good sign - and since it's made in Sweden that's a long way to ship something this heavy.

I have worked with concrete before, so this wouldn't be an impossible DIY but it is a highly improbable DIY. Le sigh.

*Unless your grandfather is a total bad-ass.

via Apartment Therapy

The Demise of Perfection

As you have learned from many past posts, I am a huge fan of organization. If it can be alphabetized, color coded or sorted into bins I am all over it. However, I must clarify: I am not a neat freak. Little piles of clutter will eventually get to me but it's not the type of thing to drive me up the wall. Books arranged by color*, on the other hand, oh my god. SEIZURES!**

My quest for perfection is useful but also damning. I have the personality wherein I refuse to do something half-assed. Sounds great, right? WRONG. If I don't have the time, energy or mental preparation necessary to do it the right way, I'll just leave it undone until I have the time. Which is, never.

Jump to my current predicament: laundry. In the division of household chores laundry is solely in my domain. The washing and the drying are no problem, but I always get hung up on the folding. No matter how hard I try I always feel like I never get caught up with the folding. Every morning the hubby and I play a little game called "which pile of crap are my undershirts in?" It's super fun.

My problem, at the root, is two-fold: 1) the hubby goes through two t-shirts a day - one white undershirt for work and one graphic tee for home and sleeping; 2) I like to fold the t-shirts just so*** and make tidy little stacks. A few days ago I started to panic - what will I do once the baby gets here? I'll have more chores to do and less time to do them! Something has to change.

As of this week's laundry cycle I have stopped. folding. t-shirts. Not my t-shirts, mind you, I'm not truly capable of change. I've just given up on folding the hubby's shirts. He doesn't care, it saves me time, and once I close the drawer I can pretend its contents are folded. I did, however, put my little OCD spin on the non-folding endeavor. I took some scrap cardboard and whipped up a quick drawer divider so I can at least separate undershirts from graphic tees.

I have a sinking feeling this is just one of the many things I am going to have to learn to let go. *sigh*

*Who does that? Not only is it a little too Rainbow Brite for me, but how do you find a book? I don't remember my books by color, as the article suggests. I remember them by title and author. LIKE A NORMAL PERSON.
**Now I've offended people with seizures. Obviously I don't have real seizures. I'm just a jerk.
***I have one of those folding contraptions Sheldon used on Big Bang Theory but that doesn't speed things up. It just makes neater stacks.

WALL-E Update

On Thursday I told you about WALL-E and my firm's participation in Canstruction. I wanted to give you an update about the awards ceremony.

Five teams participated and there were four possible awards: Structural Ingenuity, Best Use of Labels, Best Meal and Judges' Favorite.

We were awarded 'Best Meal' and based on our list of materials we figured we were a shoe-in. WALL-E contains canned vegetables, baked and dry beans, coffee, cereal, taco shells, sardines, potted meat and baking chocolate, among other items! Being newbies to the competition, we were quite proud to take home an award and we are very excited to be donating such a well-rounded batch of food to the food bank.

I love that the trophies are recycled cans!


This past Saturday my firm participated in Canstruction, a national design competition. The contest begins at the local level then winning teams advance to regional, state and national judging.
As a brief explanation, Canstruction is an annual event in which teams* design and build structures out of cans and other non-perishable food items. After the judging and awards each structure is dismantled and all food items are donated to a food bank. During the build session the local newspaper snapped some photos which are available in a slideshow.

This is the first year my firm has competed and we feel very proud of our first attempt. This year's theme was Cartoon Heroes and we chose WALL-E as our inspiration. At our local level, the other four teams used only cans and made very large sculptures.** As first timers, we chose to do something on a smaller scale (closer to the 'real' proportions of WALL-E) and focus on varied materials rather than a complex structural system. Most of our research phase was spent scouring various grocery stores for the perfect grocery items to act as parts of WALL-E.

There's more to be proud of. The host for the local competition is Marbles Kids Museum and the entries are on display so that museum visitors can enjoy them. We have heard from several 'eye witnesses' that WALL-E is a favorite amongst the kiddos and many of them have had their picture taken with him. If only the kids got to vote in the judging...

Speaking of judging, the winners will be announced this Saturday so I'll let you know how we did!

P.S. - it's not too late to donate to this great cause! If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation drop leave me a comment and I'll get you hooked up!

*The competition is open to anyone but entrants are typically architecture and engineering firms.
**Click through the slideshow for examples of their progress.

Funny How The Mind Works

It never ceases to amaze me how the mind works. Sometimes I think and think yet I can't remember something. Other times the tiniest sensation triggers a very specific memory or feeling.

As I mentioned earlier, I got together with family over the holidays to enjoy some homemade bruswick stew. The evening was wonderful. The air was cold but we all ate outside, sitting around a roaring fire. The news of my pregnancy was still fresh on everyone's mind so we were inspired to tell tales from childhood, and many laughs were had.

As the fire died down and the evening drew to a close we began to gather around the food table to pack up leftovers. As I unzipped my tote* to carry home my treasured pints of stew, all of a sudden I felt like I was camping. The combination of crisp air, the smell of a fire and the sound of a zipper against tent fabric instantly transported me back to my childhood and I could have sworn I was at Grayson Highlands with my Dad.

I love that such wonderful memories come back so spontaneously.

*Which I love, by the way.

Let There Be Light

When we moved into our house all the light fixtures were brass and beveled or fritted glass. I'm sure that's someone's cup of tea, but is definitely isn't mine. Over the holiday we replaced the first of many light fixtures to get the axe.

First up, this simple pendant over the dining room table, purchased at Ikea.

Next up is the new light for our foyer. The first thing I said when we looked at the house was "I like it, but that light fixture has got to go." Why so harsh? Well, not only was it in line with the brass and glass motif, but it was a surface mounted fixture attached to a sloped ceiling! If that wouldn't drive you nuts, clearly you're not as neurotic as me. This spot called out for a dainty pendant fixture.

Aah, much better.
There will be many more lights to fall, but not yet.

Morgan's Invitation Suite

That's right, an invitation suite. Since Morgan is having a destination wedding I had to up my game to share all of the necessary information with her guests.

First up, the booklet cover. Morgan requested this quotation but I'm not a big fan of quotes on the actual invitation so I had the bright idea of using it to jazz up the front on the invitation suite.* I continued my use of the typewriter inspired font and the gray, red and powder blue color scheme. I especially like the red accent color on the word 'love' at the end of the phrase.

Again, with the love of detail shots, I had to include this image.

When you open the booklet this is what you see: invitation affixed to the right panel and all the information cards tucked into a pocket on the left panel. Morgan wanted the elegance of a simple invitation but still wanted to convey lots of information so this was the perfect solution for her. The abstract mountain range is a nod to the ceremony location and adds a touch of whimsy to an otherwise serious design.

I stacked the information cards so guests can see, at a glance, what the cards have to offer.

Here's an up-close shot of the RSVP postcard. Being a modern bride, Morgan was more than willing to forgo the traditional RSVP/envelope situation and was even game for some fun reply wording.

I'm very pleased with how these turned out, but I'm not finished with this design yet. I still have programs, favors and a second round of invitations** to whip up!

*No, I won't stop calling it a suite because I like the way it sounds. Suite, suite, suite.
**In light of the destination wedding, Morgan and Andrew plan to host a casual reception here in NC after they return from their honeymoon.

Friday Eye Candy

During a recent crafting afternoon the natural light on this granny smith was too delicious* not to photograph. Happy Friday!

*Haha, I kill me.

A Room Good Enough To Eat

Next up on the home-decor tour is my dining room. As you may remember from my floor plan, the dining room is less of a room and more of a 'space' between the kitchen and living room.

Again, you can see our new blinds. When we moved into the house all of the windows had the typical white plastic blinds. I'm sure they were great 10 years ago, but by the time we inherited them they had seen better days. They were dingy and damaged in certain areas, but they still worked so we didn't think it would be in the budget to replace them anytime soon. However, on our recent pilgrimage to Ikea we found unstained wood blinds for a steal. They were too good to pass up! Now that they're in place our windows look so much better! The natural wood tones really warm up the space without competing with the gray walls.

Before I delve into furniture, I'll hit the highlights of my tablescape. The red ceramic S&P shakers are Fiestaware and the footed cake plate is an Ebay find from a milk glass scouting mission. I don't know the time period for it I just know it is old enough to be 'vintage.'

My dining room furniture is on the very short list of hand-me-downs that I actually want to keep. My table was given to me by my grandmother along with the pair of laminated wood chairs. They are both mid-century and one was made in Denmark and the other in Sweden, although I can never remember which is which without looking at the manufacturing stamp. The little table is the perfect size for day to day, but for special occasions an extra leaf pops out on either side to double the length of the table.

To round out my seating situation I bought a pair of woven chairs from (where else?) Ikea. I like that the natural fibers compliment the wood tones of my existing chairs without trying to imitate them.

And lastly, because we all know I love a good detail shot, here's me getting up close and personal with my new chair seat.

So with that, I will wrap up this Week O Decorating. Do you have any questions? Suggestions? Random yet brilliant exit strategies for the Middle East? Do tell.

Living Room, Round 1

Now that you've seen all the components, it's time to see the big living room reveal! You can see the new window blinds that the hubby worked so diligently to hang over the past week. We bought curtains and curtain rods when we bought the blinds, and hanging them is next on the to-do list. Ok, so maybe this isn't the final reveal but we had gotten so much done I had to share it with you!

Again you can see my yummy gray wall color, my carpet tiles and just a peek of my china cabinet. In the photo you can only see one of the chairs, but I promise I have a pair of them, one on each side of the fireplace.

Also, this is the first time I've had a fireplace (since I lived with my parents) and I am loving the gas logs! It doesn't have the same feel or smell as a wood-burning fire, but the warmth and ambiance are all the same.

I'm intentionally not showing you the front wall of the living room because our couch hasn't come in yet. As a placeholder we have an ugly, uncomfortable futon and we curse its existence every day it stays in our house.

Lastly, I'm still trying to decide what to put over the mantle, but for now I have an assortment of clear glass vases to keep me going.

Still more to come!


blinds- Ikea
china cabinet- vintage, free from my boss
chairs- Overstock
throw pillows- Ikea
rub- Flor
paint- Sherwin Williams' Repose Gray

Nice Pair

Once we decided we were officially looking for a house, this is the first thing I picked out - a white Eames inspired shell chair.* I found these back in October and demanded sweetly asked the hubby to buy me a pair of them for my birthday. At $99 each, with $2 shipping, even he couldn't argue with that.

He did grumble a bit about the retro, modern design. He was convinced they would be so uncomfortable no one would sit in them except me, and even then I would only be doing so to prove a point. Boy was he wrong! In fact, when the hubby wants to unwind and play some video games, guess which chair he drags to the TV? That's right. Even my overly Southern grandfather-in-law thinks they're comfortable.

*I got them from Overstock, but they don't seem to have any more in stock. They do have similar chairs, but not this exact model. P.S. - the throw pillow is from Ikea.

Hot Pink

I would like to interrupt House-a-palooza to show you my new shoes.*

I'm not normally much of a pink person - much less a hot pink, shiny person - but I thought these were hot. I paired these with black trousers, a cream top and a black cardigan - a little pink goes a long way.

Back to decorating madness!
*Yes, those are trouser socks.** I also love cardigans because I'm always cold. Get over it.
**But at least they're nude with a fun lattice pattern!

What's Yellow, White and Awesome All Over?

It's here! After what felt like an eternity of living with all my dishes still in boxes, I finally have a china cabinet. And not just any china cabinet - a vintage yellow and white china cabinet!

I really love how the white and yellow piece against the gray walls reinforces the color scheme of the living room rug. I would like to say I planned that, but I can't exactly take all the credit.*

I picked out the carpet several months ago with not much in mind, except I knew I wanted a gray-based carpet from which to pull a wall color. A few weeks ago my boss told me he was getting rid of some furniture and if I wanted anything I could have it, for FREE. Normally nobody in their right mind gives away anything decent - so I didn't get my hopes up - but I inquired anyway. He said he had a china cabinet, (hey, I need a china cabinet!) it's vintage (I love vintage stuff!) and it's white and yellow (ooh, that will match my carpet!). He brought in some pictures and it was a done deal. The hubby and I picked it up Saturday morning and I had it fully stocked before we went to bed that night. It truly is a match made is Design Heaven.

close-up of the molded drawer pulls

But wait, the story gets even better. The hubby and I are both architects. My boss and his wife are both architects. The couple they got it from are both designers, and the husband inherited the piece from his designer parents (who originally bought the piece). I think it's just perfect that this piece has managed to stay in the design 'family' so to speak. My best guess is that it dates from mid 60's to early 70's, but if you have any more information I'd love to hear it!

Last but not least I thought I would show off one of my beloved pieces from the china cabinet.

This is a vintage casserole dish that belonged to my great-grandmother. I don't know how old it is, but I think the color is lovely and the family history is even better.

*Unfortunately I can't share a straight-on view of the cabinet with you. If you remember the layout, the china cabinet is between the windows, under the bulkhead so that it straddles the imaginary line between the living room and dining room. Since there is another wall opposite the cabinet, I can only stand so far away to take a picture. If you really want to see it, you'll have to come over!**
**Non-locals - I promise not to think you're creepy if you pop by for a visit!

Just A Quick Peek

To kick off this week of home improvement I thought I would share this quick peek of my living room and color scheme.*

Here you can see Pop-Tart enjoying the bold colors and durability of my much discussed carpet tiles. Behind her you can see a bit of my new wall color, Sherwin Williams' Repose Gray. I love the color - it couldn't be more perfect. According to the blogosphere, gray walls are notoriously hard to get right the first time, so I feel particularly smug proud that I got it right with this one.

There's more to come, so stay tuned!

*This isn't just an excuse to post cat pictures.**
**Probably not.

To Help You With Your Stalking

I have a whole slew of home improvement posts coming your way, but I thought it might be helpful to start with the basics.

I whipped up this little floor plan of my house so you can more easily break into my bedroom visualize the layout when I talk about furniture placement. I will also link to this plan in future posts, so no need to commit it to memorization.

Forget Disneyland, Ikea is the Happiest Place on Earth

Over the holidays, the hubby and I had 11 blissful days at home to sleep in and work on the house. Christmas was kept to a minimum - no cookies, no baking, no excessive crafting. A lot of times, I set unreasonable goals for myself then I feel bad when I fall short. This time, I set no other goals than to rest and enjoy my time at home. Any productive activity was just a bonus...

Or so I thought. It turns out the hubby had big plans for our 'vacation' time. We cleaned out and organized the front bedroom, which we use as an office and craft room. We cleared boxes out of the middle bedroom (soon-to-be nursery) but that's as far as we got in there. We straightened the living room and kitchen some more then took a few days off to celebrate with some friends and family.

At some point, during a trip to the mall, we somewhat spontaneously ordered our couch. I noticed Z Gallerie was having a sale on accessories, so I figured "We should at least look." Less than an hour, and many dollars later we left with our couch. Ok, not really - we ordered it and it should be here within 11 weeks. We decided on the Monaco, except we picked a dark navy fabric instead of leather.*

Picking out a couch is quite possibly the most difficult thing the hubby and I have done together. I wanted something square, sleek and 'designy.' He just wanted something comfortable. He threatened to buy something like this**, but I have to tell myself he only said that to get a reaction out of me. It should be noted that we are big couch spooners while we watch tv, so I had to agree that comfort was also a priority. The Monaco was a winner because it's boxy but it still has actual cushions not just a lightly upholstered frame. The best part is the dual function. If you put the bolster cushions on the back, you can sit up and chat like a lady.*** But if you move the bolsters to the armrests the couch is deep enough for spooning and the armrests are comfortable to lay on. Now I just have to wait for delivery.

Our biggest adventure was our (first!) trip to Ikea. Neither of us had been before, but we had been told what to expect so we were only moderately blown away by the experience. We bought lots and lots of stuff (the boxes got dumped in the nursery, so that's back to square one) which means we have lots more projects to work on in the coming weeks.
We bought:
10 curtains rods
9 curtains
9 sets of blinds
3 wall cabinets
2 table lamps
2 pendant lamps
2 throw pillows
2 dining chairs
6 plastic storage bins
We would have bought more, but a) the car was already about to burst at the seams and b) we were out of money.
I will update you as we make progress assembling, hanging and arranging things!

*Our old couch was leather and we quickly learned that 2 cats will very quickly destroy the finish. Especially when they chase each other around the living room, launching off the couch with every lap.
** Yes, with cupholders and everything. shudder
***I hate couches where you sink so far back your feet don't touch the floor and you end up all sprawled out when you don't mean to be.

Cute Freebie: January Calendar

How cute is this January 2010 desktop calendar? Download it FOR FREE(!) courtesy of Design Sponge and Julia Rothman.

Out With The Old...

Happy New Year readers! Technically, we've been in the new year for several days now, but my first day back at the office always seems to 'officially' end the holidays for me.

I'm not big on making resolutions, because I rarely keep them. If I do set goals for myself, it's usually to lose weight, eat better and excercise more often. This year, I have to do all that, except instead of lose weight I have to gain weight. The whole baby making thing, you know.

One resolution I will make is to shake things up on this here blog. In the past all my post titles have been labeled and categorized so that you know what you're reading before you read it. I liked this at first because it was deliciously organized, but now I think it's a bit stiffling. I want my blog posts to have funny intriguing titles. And, since I can still attach labels to the posts, you can still search by organizing, buying, decorating, etc.

So that's it. Did you make any blog resolutions this year?
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