Rock the Casa

cute stuff, fresh ideas, and style inspirations on the daily

Designer Picks: Eco-Friendly Home Accessories

Posted by Beth on September 17, 2009

Back in the dark ages (or, say, 5 years ago), it was nearly impossible to find things that were sustainable, beautiful, and affordable. Thankfully, now that even certain mass retailers have jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon, there’s no reason to sacrifice style for environmental responsibility. To prove my point, I asked LEED-certified interior designer Sarah Barnard, whose practice focuses on healthy living and green design, to go on a virtual shopping spree for eco-friendly home accessories that cost less than a Franklin. Check out the cute stuff she came back with:

Ferm Living Thistle Kitchen Tea Towel

Ferm Living Thistle Kitchen Tea Towel

“I love the gorgeous peacock blue color and the graphic thistle pattern—it’s so fresh and pretty for a kitchen,” says Sarah of this 100% organic cotton towel from Ferm Living ($19). I adored it, too, so I went poking around to find more products from Trine Andersen, the talented Danish designer behind Ferm Living. On her website, you can see the latest collections of pillows, wallpaper, and wall stickers, including these:

Ferm Living Skeleton Key Wall Stickers

Ferm Living Skeleton Key Wall Stickers

Given my slight obsession with skeleton keys, you can bet I will be buying these the minute they go on sale.

West Elm Organic Cotton Knit Throw

West Elm Organic Cotton Knit Throw

These chunky knit blankets from West Elm ($49 each) in soft, natural shades are also 100% organic cotton. “I totally want to snuggle up in my favorite chair with one of these,” says Sarah.

Viva Terra Pear Terrarium

Viva Terra Pear Terrarium

“These super low-maintenance plants create an instant mini-landscape,” says Sarah. The pear-shaped terrarium ($79), made of recycled glass, comes with sand and four air plants.

Sarah Cihat Rehabilitated Salad Plates

Sarah Cihat Rehabilitated Salad Plates

“I’m crazy in love with this recycled dishware,” says Sarah. “The designer buys up discarded plates from thrift shops, then reglazes them, adding fun and funky designs.” Each salad plate is $44 at roseandradish.com. (For the New Yorkers out there, you can also find Sarah Cihat’s work at Clio, The Future Perfect, and Matter.) I think these plates are too cool to gather dust in a cupboard—instead I’d group a collection of them on a wall.

Graham Bergh Tealight Holders

Graham Bergh Tealight Holders

“I’m drawn to things that have a mechanical vibe, and these sprocket-like tealight holders (2/$25) would make a great visual statement against a backdrop of organic shapes and textures,” suggests Sarah. You can find these candle holders, designed by a cyclist who creates products out of salvaged bike parts, at ecoartware.com.

Urchin EcoArt Organic Pillow

Urchin EcoArt Organic Pillow

This throw pillow from Bean Products has an organic cotton twill cover printed with soy-based ink, but what really excites Sarah about it is the insert. “I go for the kapok filling, a natural fiber harvested from seedpods in the rainforest, because it promotes the preservation of the trees,” she explains. ($64 for cover and kapok insert.)

To see some of Sarah Barnard’s inspiring design projects, head on over to sarahbarnard.com.

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Posted in Designer Picks, Eco-Friendly Ideas, shopping | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Limited-Edition Boutiques: Merci Gap and Areaware Design to Go

Posted by Beth on September 16, 2009

I’m not sure who pioneered the “pop-up shop” trend, but I think it’s a genius idea—a store that’s open for just a few weeks creates that limited-time-only urgency that gets people in the mood to spend. While I’ve been on a self-imposed shopping ban, I couldn’t resist heading to midtown yesterday to check out two such stores (all in the name of research, of course): Merci Gap and Areaware’s Design to Go.

Merci Gap, 5th Avenue and 54th Street

Merci Gap, 5th Avenue and 54th Street

Merci Gap opened at the end of last week, right next door to the Gap’s flagship. The ubiquitous retailer partnered with Merci, a fashion and home design boutique in Paris’ Marais district, to bring a taste of the store to American shores. Inside this super-chic shop is a mix of vintage and modern accessories, clothing, and housewares. There’s no utilitarian vibe here; the only hint that Gap is involved are a few T-shirts on a table and a selection of jeans, customized by artist Laurence Amelie, hanging on the wall. Like the original Merci, all profits will go to charity.

This adorable mural covers one wall of the shop.

This adorable mural covers one wall of the shop.

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Above: A selection of items for sale, including Droog wall straps in several colors ($25), candy-colored bamboo plates (6/$25 to $35), notebooks and journals ($7 and up), heavy white porcelain plates with pewter rims ($69 and up), and a collection of hand-blown glass items. You’ll also find extra-large linen shopping bags ($39) and linen tablecloths ($129) in gorgeous, muted shades, black rubber vases ($25 to $35), sturdy bistro wine glasses ($6 each), and Annick Goutal candles—her perfumes will be in stock later this week. Some items incorporated into the store’s displays are also for sale, including chairs, shelving units, and some very cool pendant lights made from recycled glass ($125 each). The friendly saleswoman couldn’t resist telling me that Kelly Klein had just been in to scoop up a few of them. Merci Gap will be open through October 4.

Areaware Design to Go, on 8th Avenue and 41st Street

Areaware Design to Go, on 8th Avenue and 41st Street

I trekked west through hordes of commuters to get a peek inside this shop, located in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, before it closes its doors. (It opened last month, and closes September 26.) Areaware, known for its edgy housewares and accessories from a number of young designers, created this travel supply-meets-souvenir shop with the goal of promoting both local designers and alternative transportation. Inside, it felt temporary: most items were simply displayed on tables supported by sawhorses. While there were travel journals, folding bikes by Strida ($700 and up), a few pieces of carry-on luggage, and Oboe headphones (good for tuning out obnoxious seatmates), not much else fit the travel theme. Most items were from Areaware’s own inventory, but there were also pieces from Kiosk in Soho and The Future Perfect in Williamsburg. Here are a few of my favorites:

Droop Light, $180

Droop Light, $180

Silicone Key Keychain, $19

Silicone Key Keychain, $19

Bank in the Form of a Pig, $190; Grans Candlestick, $45 each

Bank in the Form of a Pig, $190; Grans Candlesticks, $45 each

Elephant Pico, $24

Elephant Pico pillow, $24

"Seconds" Dessert Plates, 4/$90

"Seconds" Dessert Plates, 4/$90

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Black & White Shower Curtains

Posted by Beth on September 11, 2009

I love shower curtains that add an unexpected design element to the bath. Right now, I have a clear vinyl one covered with cute floral medallions in shades of blue, green, and brown. It’s seen better days. After a couple of years of daily use, it’s got a tear near the top (probably from me being a little too aggressive with it before I’ve had my morning coffee). So I spent a couple hours last night browsing my favorite sites for a replacement. I’ve been planning to paint my bathroom aqua, and accent it with black and white accessories, but I haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. I’m considering Benjamin Moore’s Seagrove or Oceanfront (check them out here, on BM’s cool virtual fandeck tool). I’m a pro at painting—I’ve done my bedroom three times now—but my bathroom walls are super high, which means I have to borrow a ladder from my super, and then climb up and down said ladder with a roller full of paint. So that’s why this project has remained on the to-do list for so long. I swear I will get to it one of these days, but in the meantime I’m going to pick up a new, graphic black-and-white shower curtain. Maybe it will motivate me to get painting. Here are the contenders:

Dwell Studio for Target Baroque Shower Curtain

Dwell Studio for Target Baroque Shower Curtain

I’ve loved almost everything Dwell Studio has done for their inexpensive line at Target, including this curtain with bold, oversized scrollwork. PRO: It’s a cotton/poly blend, which should hold up well over the long haul. CON: Some reviewers mentioned that the color bled when it got wet. Eek. $27.

Urban Outfitters Bird Toile Shower Curtain

Urban Outfitters Bird Toile Shower Curtain

Urban has a number of adorable black and white curtains, but this one is my favorite for layering an aqua blue bird silhouette atop classic toile. PROS: It matches my color scheme perfectly! And I love toile. And birds. And it’s on sale for $15. CONS: It’s 100% cotton, so it may require ironing. I hate ironing. $15.

Black Florafauna Vinyl Shower Curtain

Black Florafauna Vinyl Shower Curtain (at Bed, Bath & Beyond)

My friend Jenny has this clear vinyl curtain running amok with woodland creatures and flowers in her pretty purple bathroom. PROS: There are deer…and owls…and rabbits…and…seahorses? CONS: You can’t throw vinyl into the wash; it’s prone to rips. $20.

CB2 Pictobath Vinyl Shower Curtain

CB2 Pictobath EVA Vinyl Shower Curtain

I dig the whimsical, bathroom-inspired pop art print on this curtain from CB2. PROS: It’s got a sense of humor. CONS: It’s vinyl, so same as above. $15.

Marimekko Tuuli Shower Curtain

Marimekko Tuuli Shower Curtain (at alwaysmod.com)

OK, so this one’s not technically black and white. Sue me. PROS: This tree silhouette is one of my absolute favorite Marimekko prints, and I think the gray and white would look lovely with aqua. CONS: It’s 100% polyester, so I wonder if it would make that annoying whisper-y sound every time I opened and closed the curtain; since it’s 7 inches longer than a normal curtain, I might need to make some alterations. $49.

And the winner is…Bird Toile. I’m ordering it right now.

Posted in Decorating Ideas, Pet Projects | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Affordable Designer Picks from Kishani Perera

Posted by Beth on September 10, 2009

I’m a big fan of interior designers that bring the funky. The flea market junkies, the eBay bandits, those who aren’t afraid to throw a great West Elm or CB2 piece into a room’s mix. Basically, the ones who know that you can find good design at any pricepoint. Kishani Perera is one of those designers. She’s the founder of her own firm in LA, where she uses a strong sense of color and pattern to create interiors that look hip without trying too hard. Believe me, that’s no easy feat. (Look for her work in the October issue of Sunset, and the November issue of InStyle.) When I interviewed Kishani for a piece for Marie Claire, I knew she was a girl after my own heart. That’s why I’ve asked her to kick off this new series, which will feature a designer’s top picks from a store that’s both affordable and accessible. Kishani’s got a soft spot for the Sundance Catalog (yep, Robert Redford’s behind this one, too), which features many unique, handcrafted wares for the home. Here, a few of her can’t-misses:

Helping Hands

Helping Hands

Recycled cast iron hands function as both sculpture and jewelry storage. “I’m drawn to anything in the shape of a hand,” says Kishani. “Arrange a few of these in a cluster and load up with your necklaces and bracelets to create a useful display.” $38 each ($34 each for two or more).

Millfield Pillows

Millfield Pillows

These hemp throw pillows, reminiscent of vintage feed sacks, have bold commercial logos emblazoned on the front. $60 each.

Meridian Pendant

Meridian Pendant

“I love the simplicity of this pendant light. It somehow feels both modern and vintage at the same time.” $175 (or $150 for two or more).

Scrivener's Stool

Scrivener's Stool

“This stool is delicate and simple, with a hint of the industrial. It’d look at home in modern or traditional spaces,” says Kishani. The high back looks nice and supportive, too. Makes me want to buy a drafting table to go with it! $295.

Wright's Peak Wire Wall Storage

Wright's Peak Wire Wall Storage

“It’s super rustic, funky, and practical,” says Kishani of this multi-purpose storage unit. This would be perfect in an apt entryway or mudroom to keep coats, hats, and gloves in easy reach. $195.

Hooked Dog Rug

Hooked Dog Rug

“I just think this hand-hooked mat is really cute!” says Kishani. Enough said. $98.

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Current Crush: Skeleton Keys

Posted by Beth on September 9, 2009

Set of Vintage-look Keys from Pottery Barn

Set of Vintage-look Keys from Pottery Barn

File keys under “things they don’t make like they used to.” Just look at a beautiful, ornate old key and then take a gander at that ring of boring, stubby keys that’s always getting lost at the bottom of your purse. No comparison, right? I was just reminded of that fact as I perused potterybarn.com, checking out the new merchandise, and came across the set above. FYI: These keys are faux antique, so in my opinion, they don’t have nearly as much charm as the real deal vintage kind. I have a few old skeleton keys that I’ve picked up over the years at various house sales and flea markets, but not enough to make a collection. Suddenly I’m motivated to go looking for more and actually do something with them—which means I’ll probably be hitting the Brooklyn Flea this weekend. It’s really a blend between a traditional flea market and a craft fair, with some yummy food vendors thrown in as a bonus. I’ve only been to the original in Ft. Greene, so I’m curious to know if the DUMBO location has as many vendors. Anyone been to it?

Back to keys. So, what can you do with an old skeleton key (or keys)? I would:

  • Hang it on a long chain and wear it as a necklace. (If you’re anti-DIY, check out Erica Weiner’s vintage key necklaces.)
  • Use an oversized key as an actual keychain. This idea was inspired by the ingenious Bottle Opener Key over at urbanoutfitters.com.
  • Hot-glue a number of them onto a plain picture frame or mirror frame.
  • Glue one onto the front of a journal with a plain cover and give it as a gift.
  • Spraypaint one key (or a few) white, glue to some colored card stock, and frame it as art.
  • Hang them on the wall in a group, like the PB set at top.
  • Arrange a collection of them in a vintage glass jar.

A couple of other smart ideas I dug up online:

Country Living suggests hanging the keys from ribbons in a window, or even using them as pulls on a shade. Continuing on the window theme, I’d also try threading them onto ribbons and using them as curtain tiebacks.

Over on etsy.com, Howdoesyourgardengro created some adorable door/wind chimes using vintage keys. They’re currently sold out, but a crafty person could probably make a similar set of chimes.

To find an endless supply of skeleton keys, head on over to eBay or search the vintage section at Etsy.

Posted in Crafty-ness, Decorating Ideas | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Mad Men Style: Bert Cooper’s Office

Posted by Beth on September 8, 2009

Bert Cooper's Office

Bert Cooper's Office

In this week’s Mad Men episode, “The Arrangements,” we got to spend some time in Bert Cooper’s office. His is one of the few offices that really showcases his interests (unless you count Roger Sterling’s fully-stocked bar). Bert’s love of Asian art and culture is immediately apparent in the room—he even asks his employees to remove their shoes before entering. This eclectic mix could easily translate to a modern-day office, or even a living room. Here’s how you can get the look:

Mark Rothko's Number 12 painting

Mark Rothko's Number 12 painting

The focal point of the room is that much-debated Rothko Bert bought in the first season. To me, it looks similar to Number 12, 1951. Poster prints of this painting are available on a number of sites, including art.com, where it’s under $20.

For a more realistic look, go for a print on canvas. Sites like globalgallery.com, where this piece is currently on sale for $290, specialize in the process. Or if you’re more of DIYer, head to an art supply store, pick up a canvas and some paints, and take a stab at abstract expressionism. Just don’t try to pass it off as a Rothko.

Another decorative element that sets Bert’s office apart is that great textured grasscloth wallpaper. It has a woven look, almost like fabric, but it looks a whole lot classier than the fabric-covered walls of your typical cubicle.

Norwall Grasscloth Wallpaper from Lowe's

Norwall Grasscloth Wallpaper

Above: an affordable vinyl version available at some Lowe’s stores. Desert Sands 3 Collection, #HW26140. $38 for a 55 sq. ft. roll.

Dong Sung Trading Company Wallpaper

Dong Sung Trading Company Wallpaper

Here’s another option from York Wallcoverings—they don’t list prices on their site, but I promise to call my local Janovic tomorrow to see how much a roll of this would set you back. It’s from the Wild Orchid Collection, #RL6448. You can find a local retailer that carries it on their website, yorkwall.com.

And how gorgeous is that decorative painted Japanese screen? I bet Bert incurred some major shipping charges getting his souvenir home, but this version below, available at modabode.com, costs just a little over $150 AND there’s free shipping. Two of my favorite words in the English language.

Japanese Brush Art Design Shoji Screen

Japanese Brush Art Design Shoji Screen

Also worth noting: the wonderful muted color scheme. I love the orange creamsicle-colored sofa accented with aqua button-tufted pillows. Similar throw pillows are available on smithandnoble.com in a variety of fabrics.

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Curtain Conundrum

Posted by Beth on September 4, 2009

Why are cute—and affordable—window treatments so hard to find? I just spent nearly half the day scouring online with no luck. It’s almost enough to make me want to learn how to sew, despite the fact that I nearly failed home ec for screwing up the whipstitch on my 7th grade pillow project. Traumatic. Anyway, right now I’m looking for a valance for my bedroom window. Currently I’ve got a cream-colored twill roman shade up that I serendipitously found in the damaged/returns section at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. There are usually some good bargains to be found there, and this time was no exception. My window is super large (nearly 4 feet wide) so I thought for sure I’d have to pony up the cash for an expensive custom shade. Lucky me, someone must have special-ordered this particular style and then changed their mind. It was just the right size and marked down to less than $50, a total steal.

The window still feels a bit bare with just the shade, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to dress it up. I was really into the idea of an upholstered cornice, until I realized how much something like that costs. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out The Shade Store‘s options, including these glam ones with nailhead trim.) Then I happened across this nicely tailored valance from Tommy Hilfiger Home on macys.com. The colors are all wrong for my bedroom, but it did inspire me to go looking for more tailored or box-pleated valances, which almost look like cornices. I’d always thought of those window toppers as old-ladyish or country style, like this and this—not exactly my cup of tea. But once I started searching, I did find a few cute ones, including these:

At left is the Sakura Tailored Valance from prettywindows.com. I like the spare botanical print and tailored style, and it’s on sale for only $30.

On the right is the fun Zebra Window Valance from target.com. Animal prints (in small doses) feel a bit whimsical and exotic. This one goes for just under $30, too.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find any that quite worked for my room, although I did discover that Smith + Noble has some nice fabric options. If I had the funds for a custom valance, they’d be my pick, as I could get one tailor-made for my window for under $250. Instead, I think I’ll pick up my own fabric—either at Mood, in NYC’s fashion district, or online at alwaysmod.com and reprodepot.com, both of which carry a range of Marimekko designs—and beg a crafty friend to sew me a straight valance with a rod pocket.

I’ll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about any of your favorite resources for affordable window treatments.

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Get the Look: Mad Men Style

Posted by Beth on September 3, 2009

The Drapers' luxe headboard

The Drapers' luxe headboard

Every Sunday night, I’m transported back in time by AMC’s Mad Men. I’m drawn in by the dramatic plots and fascinating characters, but it’s the look of this show that really leaves me spellbound. (I know I’m not alone—I dressed up as Betty for Halloween last year and saw plenty of other Draper wannabes.) While most people notice the ladylike fashions, as a design buff, I can’t help but moon over those mid-century modern sets. From Sterling Cooper’s Madison Avenue offices to the Drapers’ suburban New York home, they’re spot-on. If you’re like me, you covet the sofas, bar cabinets, and consoles, and wonder where you can find similar ones. Wonder no more. Inspired by my friend Kendra, who showcases clothing with a decidedly mod twist every “Mad Men Monday” on her Budget Retro blog, I’m starting a weekly feature to show you where to find inexpensive takes on those stylish 1960s designs.

The first thing thing that comes to mind when I picture the Drapers’ home is that turquoise blue velvet button-tufted headboard. Maybe it’s because I have a similar one on my bed—though in a not-quite-as-luxurious aqua shade—from Urban Outfitters. Here are some other options at affordable prices:

Ballard Camden Tufted Headboard

Ballard Camden Tufted Headboard

Ballard Designs’ Camden Tufted Headboard, shown here in Danish Linen Sky, nails the basic shape, but (bummer) they don’t offer it in blue velvet. What’s great about Ballard is that you’re not limited to their fabric selection—you can send in your own and they’ll create a custom piece for you. So keep your eyes peeled at local fabric stores for that perfect shade of turquoise velvet.

$413 for full size (queen is just $30 more), ballarddesigns.com

Urban Outfitters headboard

Urban Outfitters Daupine headboard

Urban Outfitter’s Dauphine Velvet Headboard comes in one size that fits both full and queen size beds. This aqua color isn’t as lovely as the original’s vivid turquoise, but has the same feel at a super-low price.

$325, urbanoutfitters.com

Home Decorators Ava Velvet-Tufted Headboard

Home Decorators Ava Velvet-Tufted Headboard

The Ava Velvet-Tufted Headboard looks very similar to the UO version, but it’s got more buttons, AND it comes in every size, from twin on up to california king.

$429-$529, homedecorators.com

Hancock Park Bel Air Upholstered Headboard

Hancock Park Bel Air Upholstered Headboard

Yep, it’s pricey, but to me this one looks most like the Drapers’ in color, style, and scale. The Hancock Park Bel Air Upholstered Headboard is from Lexington, a well-known furniture maker, and you can even get free shipping at this site.

$1,199 for queen, moreheadboards.com

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Astoria Pride

Posted by Beth on September 2, 2009

View of RFK bridge from Astoria

View of the RFK bridge from Astoria, courtesy of Flickr

There’s always a trade-off. When I made the move over the Queensboro Bridge to my cozy one-bedroom in Astoria four years ago, it was the siren call of (unbelievably) cheap rent that caused me to forsake Manhattan. It definitely wasn’t my first choice in nabes. I’m more of a brownstone Brooklyn kind of girl, and Astoria’s odd, unplanned architectural mix is definitely not as aesthetically appealing. On the other hand, I appreciated this hood for its great ethnic food, low-key vibe, and many conveniences (laundromats on every corner; supermarket and wine shop right by the subway stop; quick commute). Unfortunately, there weren’t many business owners making design a priority—something I took for granted back in “the city.” Sure, I could pick up amazing Thai and, of course, Greek food, right around the corner, but did I actually want to spend time in these establishments? Hell no. In my opinion, that was the one thing that kept Astoria from becoming the next Williamsburg or Cobble Hill, which are both brimming with so many cute boutiques and restaurants, there’s almost no need to go into Manhattan. Thankfully, some savvy Astorians have been slowly changing the landscape of the neighborhood, one restaurant, shop, and bar at a time, giving me ever more reasons to stay local. Starting next week, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite discoveries as an occasional feature on the blog. Keep an eye out.

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House envy

Posted by Beth on August 7, 2009

Living in New York City, you don’t see too many houses on a daily basis. Sure, they exist, but generally out in the far reaches of Queens, and certain Brooklyn neighborhoods that I rarely visit. So, every time I do see an actual frame house, it’s always a little bit of a shock. That’s why I was so floored when I made the trek to Governor’s Island this past weekend. The island, a former base for the Coast Guard and the Army, was abandoned in 1996 but reopened to the public a few years ago. (It’s just a short ferry ride from Manhattan and Brooklyn on the weekends.) The homes originally built for the officers—many of them Victorian style with sweeping front porches—were amazing. Here are some photos I took:

There’s a variety of art exhibits being hosted in some of the homes, so we actually got an inside peek at some of the interiors. They’re full of beautiful period details—coffered ceilings, picture moldings, pocket doors—but most are in a state of disrepair. I was kind of bummed to see these wonderful old houses sitting empty, but apparently the island’s deed doesn’t allow permanent housing. With it’s quaint village feel and open green spaces, I would totally live here! What do you think should be done with Governor’s Island?

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