Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ugly Organic

Over the past few months I've had a hankering for more nature in our home. So I added plants (mostly real but I even went faux, something I thought I'd never do). And that gave me some satisfaction but it wasn't enough. Aesthetically speaking, I wanted more than just greenery and that is what drew me to a category of nature I call, Ugly Organic.  It's true, the scientific community has yet to recognize this term, but let us pretend, just for today, that this term defines a genus of organic matter that lacks perfection but has beautiful form, color and/or texture.

While Mother Nature creates so many obviously beautiful things that we love to display in our homes, the most recent trend being geodes and agates, I've grown a soft spot for objects that don't exemplify nature's perfection, yet still contain many of the qualities we consider beautiful despite some deficits here and there.

My affection for imperfection became clear last week when the family took a day trip to the beach. It was the most perfect beach day, 75 degrees and sunny with a gentle breeze. Well, perfect as far as this pale, freckled, Irish lass is concerned. Francie loved the beach.  She loved digging and rolling in the sand (her and Maggie have that in common), chasing waves in the freezing Atlantic with Dan, and sea shell hunting with me. More accurately, having me chase her up and down the beach as I scoured it for shells. In between wind sprints to catch up with my speedy two-year-old I found myself, not in search of the perfect conch (heck, you can buy those), but rather I was in search of the best color, texture, or form that the sea had to offer. I found it in a smattering of ocean artifacts all puckered with holes, scratches, and other markings indicative of a life spent at sea.

My Ugly Organic ocean artifact collection is now on display on our new hallway table.
Some of my favorite finds include: a dark gray, heart-shaped rock.
I love my heart rock simply because it sort of reminds me of a rock my parents found many years ago that looks like a city skyline.
Photo Credit: My Mom, Lauri
I know, it's a bit like seeing Jesus's face in your burnt toast or identifying shapes in cloud formations. Yeah, they are rocks, but take a closer, tap into your imagination, and you can see more.

I love the bronzey color of this shell shard.
Bronze again but more than that, I love the markings carved over time into this shell.
I love the wavy surface of this black and white oyster shell, it's paired with a small piece of drift wood, smoothed and whittled away by its time floating at sea.
Speaking of wood, this desire to seek out Ugly Organic in the world around me continued when we returned home. Currently, our yard is a muddy mess as we have a french drain installed to correct some drainage issues on our property. Amidst the trenches and mountains of dirt in our yard a gnarly root was un-earthed and calling my name.
Who knows how long it's been underground but I'm excited to clear off all the dirt and mount it on the wall (some people mount deer heads, to each their own). I may even finish it with a bit of lacquer to preserve it and add some shine then mount it with some type of bronze or gold hardware. I love how it's a little bit smooth and a little bit rough.

Finally, this last Ugly Organic accessory for our home isn't 100% from nature, as it mixes mother nature and man in a hunk of concrete I found at the beach. From a peir's footing perhaps? I have no idea. But I love its shape, textured surface, and the fact that whatever man intended to do with it, has been worn away thanks to its time spent near the ocean. Man's no match for mother nature. My hunk-a concrete  is now on display on our new coffee table.
I think a big part of my affection for Ugly Organic objects is that they're the perfect accessory for my Mid-Century furniture. Their imperfection contrasts the smooth clean lines of Mid-Century design which often emphasizes natural materials, like wood and stone, in a clean, minimal, and polished way. While these Ugly Organic objects are raw. Instead of the hand of man dictating their appearance their beauty is left to the unpredictability of Mother Nature. Which is far more intriguing and inspiring. What do you think of Ugly Organic?


Monday, April 14, 2014

DIY: Wall-Mounted Side Table

I recently tackled a design dilemma that has been burning in my brain for ages...
We started with new ceiling fixture shades, a fresh coat of Valspar's Dove Gray paint (good-bye boring beige!), and a new wanna-be Betty Mbitjana painting. I wanted some type of table or cabinet for the spot to offer a bit of additional storage space. Towels and sheets are literally jumping out at me every time I open the linen closet door, so a bit of additional storage space (even a little) is welcome. 

I love when you find the answer right under your nose. The answer to this problem was an under utilized side table in our guest room (soon-to-be Francie's Big Girl Room, to make room for her Baby BROTHER in August!!). It doesn't offer a ton of storage space I could still squeeze a little bit out of it and it was white so it sort of blended with the existing trim.
While the table was the answer it wasn't the answer with its four legs on the floor, it was just too low leaving way too much dead space between the art and table. So pulling from some inspiration I discussed a while back, I decided to mount the table on the wall to give it a bit of height, while changing how this side table was viewed. No longer the side-kick, as the focal point of the space, it needed to be a bit more commanding. Plus, mounting it on the wall would make it feel more integrated into the "architecture" of the space. A permanent feature, rather than temporary solution.

Here's how I did it:
1. First, I found the stud in the wall using my stud finder (Francie likes to use it as a phone and discuss with the unknown person on the other end how "busy" she is). The wall only had one stud in the area I would be mounting the table. 
2. I centered my table on the wall just where I wanted it, then marked where my stud aligned with the table and marked the top
3. and then the back of my table.
4. I marked the height at which I wanted to mount the top of the table, it is roughly 9" above the floor
5. On the back of the table I screwed two holes along my "stud-line". While ideally I would  have like to screw the table into to different studs horizontally into the table's backside, I had to screw two screws vertically into the only stud had to work with. Luckily, he back of the table is 1/2" thick wood, so it was up to the challenge.
6. Then I mounted my table on some books and magazines (isn't that what they are there for?) to align with step 4. You may recall this step in my floating cubby buffet project.
7. Finally, I screwed in one of the holes and Dan the other, as it was stubborn and I needed back up.

And there you have it.
To accessorize the table, I found myself some sea shells and drift wood at the beach last week that I placed on a silver platter and some architecture books. The whole look is supposed to be a little Glam-Organic mix.  With Organic elements pulled from the shells and wicker basket (acting as overflow storage for the linen closet). And the Glam pulled in from the brass drawer pull and silver platter (I love mixing metals!) as well as the black, white and gray color scheme from my DIY art, books, and table. 
Glam. Organic.
I love the shape of the platter it gives the whole composition a sculptural feel.
I also got myself a wireless LED art light on Amazon to help my art take itself a little more seriously. Thanks to my fabulous photography skills it doesn't photograph well when lit but in person it is perfect and is just what my focal art needed. 
The drawer pull and rich color of the basket also pull out the brass color found of my my ceiling fixture shades.
I knew this solution was the answer to my design dilemma because it met (most of) the five characteristics that define my personal style: 1.) It had that Unexpected Element: a floating table! 2.) Vintage All the Way: the table is a vintage hand-me-down from my mom. 3.) Mostly Mid-Century: when I say vintage side table, I mean Mid-Century (its tells are the tapered legs and fabulous pull). 4.) A Personal Touch: not only did I paint the table white (a long time ago), but I painted the art, and made the ceiling fixture shades. 5. Finally, Controlled But Bold Color: I actually went pretty muted with this "Glam-Organic" color scheme. I'm thinking I may consider some controlled but bold pops of color in a runner. OR, I might just break my own style rules and leave the space more muted, a respite from the bold pops of color found in rest of the house.  And as you can see from the table, it's all about breaking the rules!


Friday, April 11, 2014

Wood Slat Bench as Coffee Table and More Living Room Updates

Everyone, give a warm welcome to Wood Slat Bench who will be joining the Living Room.

Wood Slat Bench will be stepping in as coffee table for my beloved Kidney Shaped Coffee Table which is temporarily on sabbatical in the garage after the horrific events of this past weekend.

Some of you may be familiar with Wood Slat Bench as it has proven to be very muti-functional member of my decor arsenal over the past two years, acting as guest room headboard, and most recently as bench at the foot of our bed. Wood Slat Bench brings new vigor to the Living Room while maintaining the Mid-Century vibe that is so important to me.
Wood Slat Bench is NOT Kidney Shaped Coffee Table and to help the bench transition into its new role I accessorized it with a new red metal tray and a faux succulent plant that I picked up from Target and paired with a giant hunk of concrete that I found at the beach (more on that another time). The red tray adds a nice pop of color to the middle of the room.
While I do no not advocate for the use of faux plants as a general rule in this particular situation it seemed like the most convenient option. The middle of the room would not get the sun it needed for real succulents to blossom and they would never survive the curiosity of my daughter. My plastic plants have already endured poking and prodding by the Little Lady yet continue to thrive as only plastic plants can. For more on decorating with REAL plants go here and here.
Another change that has been made to the Living Room is the addition of a black and white chevron body pillow to the sofa. The sofa needed some pattern and freshening up, the chevrons fit the bill. 
Oh and please say hello to another member of the family who usually lurks behind the scenes, Maggie.
Finally, Oriental Rug is rounding out the big changes to the Living Room. It has been floating around the house assisting in various spaces as needed for several years but it has found a permanent home in our living room. After replacing the carpet with hardwood in December it was obvious that a soft spot for Frannie to sit play was needed. 
Plus, there was some dead space in front of our TV gallery wall and the rug filled the void perfectly while pulling in all the color found throughout the space. Aside from the adorable child's rocker given to us by a neighbor we like the area free and clear as a good portion of Francie's play time is spent dancing to Happy (thanks Pharrell) and Let It Go (yes child, LET IT GO!).
Despite the loss of Kidney Shape Coffee Table (even if only temporarily) the room feels much more functional and pulled together that it ever has before. All that's really left are draperies and some table or floor lamps. 
When all the right components (even those acting as stand-ins) are in place, working together, and meeting the needs of the entire organization the Living Room design thrives and we can focus on what's important, playing and relaxing as a family.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lesson of the Day: Butts on Chairs, Not Tables

The most horrifying thing happened this weekend. OK, let me put it in context for you, this event was horrifying if poverty, hunger, injustice, war, hatred (and a long list of other things) did NOT exist, then THIS would be horrifying.

So let's pretend there is peace on Earth, good will toward men (and women, equality in all forms also exists) then THIS happens, and in turn, it is quite horrifying.

I, Griffin, lover-of-Mid-Century-Design, Interior Designer, Vintage Furniture Aficionado go and have a seat on the edge of my kidney shape Mid-Century Modern coffee table...

and broke the glass.
Oh and I got a pretty good gash on my wrist in the process. But again, let's keep our perspective here folks, I broke the 1/2" thick glass of my beloved coffee table. Here's how it looked at its best:
And today it looks like this:
This is no joke-of-a-table folks, HALF INCH THICK GLASS.  Francie has used the thing as a jungle gym since she could crawl. It's sturdy. But let's be real here, I'm no toddler and I AM carrying another human (BTW we hopefully find out the gender tomorrow!), so I blame the baby for this?

No, no, no that's ridiculous. Don't blame an innocent fetus.

I blame the two kids (Francie and her fellow two-year-old cousin) sitting on my couch whose cuteness just HAD to be captured via iPhone when I and the coffee table went down. You see, in order to get the perfect shot (my exceptional photography skills dictate I go to extremes to capture great photos) I squatted down with my phone and noticing the table beneath me, I had a seat right there on the edge. Didn't want a blurry shot. But it was a shot I never got because within seconds I was sitting on the wood portion of the table baffled and bloodied. Yes, I blame the two cute kids'...

I'll be honest (it is the best policy, honesty that is, not blaming others for your own foolishness), I've spent plenty of energy telling Dan and Francie to avoid doing certain things that might damage our furniture. A recent example of this you ask? How about two!?

The other day Dan suggested he bring the dining table out on the back deck for a rare night of poker with the guys. Yes, my Danish modern dining table, outside, in the care of beer drinking, poker playing men. No thanks (an alternative table was found). Or that time he was showing Fran how to toss grapes into her mouth. This, I consider a choking hazard, luckily she has bad aim, as does Dan, who missed and tossed a large grape right into my dining room's drum chandelier. Really? But again, if I'm being honest, I've never considered MYSELF a possible perpetrator of such crimes against furniture. I know better.

Lesson Learned.

So here is where my table sits today, wrapped in a beach towel amongst gym equipment, a bike helmet, and the Shop Vac collecting dust.
I am in the process of researching just how pricey replacing a 1/2"thick oddly shaped cut of glass will be, anyone out there gotta clue? How about where to go to get this done? Suggestions welcome. Should the stay in our garage be prolonged, some more protective measures will need to be taken. Have I learned nothing?!

As Dan bandaged my wrist (all his first aide skills came in quite handy), I spotted our Mid-Century wood slat bench at the foot of our bed. Light Bulb! Temporary coffee table solution, one I've wanted to try just for fun but when you've got a sweet Mid-Century kidney shaped coffee table it seems like a petty alternative. Now, not so much. Stay tuned, next week I'll share my temporary living room coffee table solution, I'm digging it.

And please, let my overconfidence in the strength of 1/2" thick glass be a lesson to us all so future crimes against furniture be avoided. Most importantly, let us not forget the almost daily lesson I (hypocritically) teach my two-year-old, "butts belong on chairs, not tables."


Monday, April 7, 2014

Eyewear and Architecture Unite for Good

If the underlying message of this blog hasn't been clear, let today's post introduce you to something I sincerly believe:
Great design can make a positive difference. 

Sure, most of the time I find that positive difference in a coat of paint and new curtains. But no matter the scale or true severity of the problem when you make things (spaces, and places) look good and function better, you also improve lives. Let me introduce you to a collaboaration that takes this idea to the next level.

Warby Parker and Architecture for Humanity have teamed up to celebrate AFH's 15th anniversary with a collaborative eyewear collection, consisting of three stylish frames that merge function and looks, while improving lives in the process.
If you aren't familiar, Warby Parker is a do-good online eyewear boutique that focuses on quality materials and quality design. It's evident in their collection of eyeglasses and sunglasses that are vintage inspired with a modern twist (oh how I love anything vintage-inspired). The "do-good" comes in the fact that their product is not only affordable BUT with every pair of eyewear sold a pair is distributed to someone in need. It's not a conventional business model but as they've proven, it works.

Architecture for Humanity in a nutshell "creates solutions for global humanitarian challenges through the power of design." That's no easy feat to accomplish so they pull from a network of resources, designers, and solutions to build and re-build communities with sustainability and thoughtful design at the heart of their mission. This book, which I was given during graduate school (thanks mom and dad), first introduced me to the impactful work this group is doing, which is why it's all the more exciting for me to share this with you today.

So it makes sense then that the key to this collaborative eyewear collection is a focus on built-to-last materials including Japanese Titanium and cellulose Acetate (forget plastic) that come together with streamlined angles. The best design is always streamlined. As I look at it, streamlining gets to the point, good design doesn't need a lot of extra frills. The collection includes the Aslin eyeglasses and Fowler shades, let's take a closer look:

I don't wear prescription lenses (although if genetics have anything to say about it, they are in my future) but I've got plenty of loved ones and dear friends who do and they'd look hip in either the Oak Barrel...

Or English Oak Aslin Frames.

While I think the darker Oak Barrell would frame the face nicely the architect in me loves the wood grain detail in the English Oak frames.  Given the cause, I'm on team English Oak.

Now my baby blues could definitely handle the relentless North Caorlina sun sporting the Fowler shades in Jet Silver. With an aviator vibe (who doesn't look bad a$$ in aviators. Seriously.) accentuated with the sturdy Oak Barrel band across the brow. This unique detail reminds me of a sturdy beam that not only makes a statement but holds the whole thing together. 

As is standard with every purchase of Warby Parker eyewear, a pair is also given to someone in need, on top of that they are giving part of the $145 proceeds to Architecture for Humanity. 

This collaboration proves design can be a force for good, no matter how small (eyewear) or large (architecture) the problem is.


images via Warby Parker

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

DIY: Betty Mbitjana Inspired Art

It's another edition of my "Inspired Art" series.  I discovered this particular artist's work while viewing a home tour on the blog, French By Design.  It was similar to the one shown below in a space designed by Whiting Architects.
Awelye & Bush Melon by Betty Mbitjana Acrylic on Canvas via Central Art Aboriginal Art Store
While there was no mention of the artist in the post, with a concentrated Googling effort I was able to hunt her down on the web (thank goodness for the Internet). And I discovered it was the work of an Aboriginal woman, named Betty Mbitjana out of the Utopia Region (yeah there IS a Utopia?!) of Central Australia.

While my initial assessment and appreciation for the piece was in the fact that it had an almost childlike simplicity (which is why I also thought I might just be able to recreate it to some degree) because it's composed of mostly lines and circles and its black and white color scheme. But despite the simple shapes and use of color there is still much complexity found in the density at which these shapes and lines come together on the canvas. The density also made it hard to decipher if it had been created with black or white as the background color.

As I understand it, her work, called awelye paintings, depicts designs women would paint on their bodies as well as the dancing tracks made in the sand during their awelye ceremonies (see a video of the body paintings here). The various simple lines and circles actually represent such things as: watering holes (considered sacred), striped breasts as the line of women dance, and patterns of seeds and bush plums the women eat during the ceremony.

According the the Kate Owen Gallery of Contemporary Aboriginal Art: "Through their awelye ceremonies, women pay homage to their ancestors, show respect for their country and dance out their collective maternal role within the community."

That's some powerful stuff, far from childish. Not only that, but Mbitjana comes from a long line of woman artists and is hard at work today. Gotta feel a bit of girl power looking at her work.

Well, now that you know the backstory of today's featured artist, prepare to be underwhelmed by my version of this work. Mine doesn't represent bush melons, breasts, or my ancestors. Instead, a series of white concentric circles, squiggles, and zig-zag lines that I painted in acrylic paint over a black background on an 18"x 24" canvas.
I think the dense placement of various lines and shapes, like Mbitjana's, gives my work complexity despite its lack of any real meaning.
 Here's an even closer look at some of its details.
To give my canvas more interest and to avoid feeling the need to frame it, I continued the various patterns and lines on the sides of my canvas.
Over the course of the two-plus weeks it took me to paint the piece my family requested I paint Rapunzel into the scene or at least blend some other recognizable image into it. I like its total abstraction, let the viewer get creative and make up its meaning. I get a arterial-view-of-farm-fields-vibe, speaks to my flatlander Midwestern roots (yeah that's it). I think it best I leave the real-story to Ms. Mbitjana's work, as it's one of a place and culture most of us are totally unfamiliar with and well worth telling is such a visually stunning way.

Next week I'll share where in my house my new DIY art resides. I'm excited as I was finally able to incorporate inspiration I described in this postThe art isn't the only thing mounted on the wall.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Retail Inspiration: Moon and Lola

A few months back I went and joined a society, The Southern Blog Society. I decided it was time to get out of my little blogging bubble where I've been floating on my own for a while and meet some other folks who enjoy this hobby as much as I do. It's made up of fashion, lifestyle and DIY bloggers mostly here in the Southeast.

I attended my first meet up with the local group in Raleigh Saturday evening. It was like a night on the town for me, although I made it home just a few minutes past Francie's bedtime. Her and her daddy had a delightful evening complete with steak pizza (as the man says, "It's the world's two best foods. Combined.") and a viewing of Rapunzel.

The meet and mingle was hosted by Moon and Lola, a jewlery boutique headquartered out of Apex, NC (just up the road from me) and the originator the of the acrylic monogram.  I can't say I've ever been drawn to monograms, at least as they relate to home decor, no monogram sheets for me and please no monogram decals on my car! But as jewelry they speak to my design sense. Simple graphic form and bold colors (or even better, gold!), you might just see one wrapped around my neck one day soon.

But let's get to the good stuff, the shop's decor. White and gold glam contrasted by exposed brick and original wood floor. Here are some of my favorite details of their Raleigh boutique:

1. Embellished Edison-style bulb chandelier cascaded from the ceiling and was most definitely the focal point of the space. That an a round pink sofa
2. Even the Mid-Century lover in me could embrace the traditional yet whimsical detail of a claw foot on this shelf.
3. Lighting is my jewelry and I love this flat gold fixture (they had two in the space!), its simplicity gives it a utilitarian vibe while the gold ensures it's very glam.
4. I've mentioned an affection for glass cabinets before, perfect for display, and this one is just right.
5. Mixed Metallics, yes please. I love this gold and silver feather bowl.

I met some really nice bloggers and look forward to keeping up with their blogs. The ladies at Moon and Lola were kind enough to give us each a "swag bag" with soap and pink acrylic earrings, Francie was thrilled I brought them home FOR HER, jewelry in any form, even those she can't wear (my baby's not pierced), works for her!

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