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Home Sweet Renovation

Whoa, who are you and why are you here? Do you come here often? I, sadly do not…as you can see. Unless you have a horrible memory and keep visiting and rereading posts saying, ‘Great new post Brittany!’. Which if this is the case, thank you! Hmm, so what have I been up to? Well, I started my own *small* company back in September which has kept me busy. What else…oh and we bought a house…in Massachusetts, but we still live in Brooklyn. Ahh yes, you see, right? No? Okay I’ll start from the top.

I’m a homey person…I love being at home, I love decorating a home, I like projects yada yada. But up to this point in my 9 year relationship with my husband we’ve lived with his parents and in three small rentals in London (okay, they weren’t all small, but we lived in the largest one with no money, and then they grew smaller as our funds got larger which was sort of torture). Then we got rid of basically all of our possessions in our move to NYC where we lived with two borrowed camp chairs and a mattress on the floor for months until some of our stuff turned up and our furniture orders finally started trickling in. Meanwhile, over the course of all these years we’d been saving for that eventual grown up house and my biological house clock was stamping it’s little foot. But, as I’ve probably mentioned I’m not the biggest fan of New York so I’m not keen on giving her a buncha money for a cockroach infested (okay our place is lovely and NO cockroaches, but is also rental only) apartment where renovations and all the fun stuff would be hampered by city regulations and 9,000 neighbors. Soooo, where does that take us? Two states away. To our second home…without owning the first home.

It all started with visits to our friends at the Briarcliff Motel in the Berkshires in Western Massaschusetts. We’d visit, we’d love and then we’d drive sadly back into the city. We joked on our first visit that we should just buy a place up there where you could get a giant house with land for a third of the price on a studio apartment down the street. That very night I started a realtor.com list and that became my go-to nighttime ritual where I scoured areas I’d never even been to before. Then, the day after I left my job last September, we went up to look at 12 properties. There were 2 that really stood out, but to be honest we had other things on our mind as the next day we picked up Tilly and then the day after I started my new company with work on the table. We visited the two houses again, but things just weren’t clicking on some of the finer details regarding internet connectivity etc. so we sat on it…and sat…and made random day trip drives into Connecticut to scout some neighborhood we’d seen online. We had this amazing imaginary neighborhood in mind, but weren’t actually finding it in the flesh. We toyed with an AMAZING really expensive property for a bit and then cooled on that as well when I smelled heart palpitations on the horizon. Then in April we were having lunch at Le pain Quitodien and I got an email for a price reduction on the property we still thought about from our initial viewings…I told David (the calm and cool one to my emotionally driven being) and he said, ‘Oh, let’s just make an offer.’ Ehhh…really?!? He decided that if we could get it for price X it would be a good deal and he set off on negotiations. Three days later we had a deal and then we had 2 days to get everything in order to make our paperwork/mortgage deadlines before we went away for my 30th birthday. Needless to say we did it and we closed 30 days later!

So how does this all work? Well, the house needs love…not crazy amounts of horrible-plumbing-not-working type of work, but just updating. We bought this as a project, a place to flee to when we can’t take the city and want fresh-air and maybe further down the line as a holiday rental. It’s also an investment of sorts, but not in the way that I have to only work in a palette of creams, granite and stainless steel to appeal to everyone, but more in the way that the housing market was low, mortgage rates were low and our money wasn’t earning anything sitting in the bank. The more I open my eyes to other renovation blogs, I’m finding a lot of people like Door Sixteen and Manhattan Nest to name just two, who are also doing the two home thing–which I suppose is reassuring! We’re happy that is a blend of work and redoing every room, but totally liveable in the meantime. Some rooms are just repainting and furnishing and others..buh bye.

I’m currently brainstorming the heck out of it–which you can view just a small portion of my visual mush here. The rest is clogging up my dropbox folder just pleading to be organized nicely. The first project which involves half of the ground floor and will result in tearing out the kitchen, a bathroom and reflowing things is set to get started in a few short weeks and nothing has been ordered yet! I do feel like I’m starting to make some headway into the style though (I’m definitely guilty of having way too many styles!), so now it’s just a case of trying to get personality and style, while making sure it’s not wacky. More to come as we develop the space…In the meantime, enjoy the good, the bad and the certainly ugly  of the ‘befores’ and I’ll go dream up a colour palette that is a lot less yellow, brown and burgundy.

 
 
 

Are you a Professional…what?

I’m fairly certain my obsession for a library card catalogue unit started way before they were cool. I love drawers and organization (despite being an INCREDIBLY messy youth)…I even had a metal drawer version that I stuck index cards in containing, ughm, super secret really cool things that I didn’t even know about. Well fast forward to the 2000s and, well, a wooden library card catalogue is on every designy/interiors bloggers list, isn’t it? Well.lookie.here what became the newest member of the  household this weekend! AND it’s best friend- a piece of old store signage. Way. Too. Excited. I very nearly brought home the entire word ‘TODAY’ as well. It was the same colour as the ‘H’ but in uppercase italics, which I have a bit of a personal relationship with that borders on frenemies. I love uppercase, and even have grown to love italics, but upperitalics. Nuh, uh.

Best part of the whole ‘adoption’ experience (one that included the handover of money) was when I was asked something to the effect of, ” Are you going to be using this professionally or just for decoration?” Ughm…well I don’t have a library, and I don’t use the Dewey Decimal System in my house YET…so does this count as decoration? I mean I’ll use the drawers for other stuff? Does rubber stamp pads count as professional? Trust me, this running inner monologue was as painful to be a part of  as it was to read and I ended up stuttering out something like, ‘oh,well I’ll use it, can I use it?… I mean i want to use the drawers…’ until my sister-in-law saved me from my own social awkwardness with, ‘she’s an artist’. Whew, he seemed okay with that response and off we went to find arty stuff to stuff in the drawers in case the professional organizing/library police come sniffing around Brooklyn anytime soon.

 
 
 

Seat Yourself…

Ever since Ilse Crawford worked her magic on the Grand Hotel Stockholm a few years ago, I’ve had a windsor chair (or two or three) on my wishlist. But not just any old frumpy chair, but one with a twist. I mean Ilse’s is on a pedestal all to herself due to it’s be-ah-u-tiful play on proportions…those super tall spindles….lovely!

But I’m a realist and fully aware an Ilse Special is not the cards so I had to move further afield—and West Elm played perfectly into my plans (well aside from the ol’ international problem) with a whole ‘collection’ of  accent chairs, chaise lounges and dining chairs. With the amount of stock I’m considering taking in, I might need to open a hotel just to be able to store it all…

To get in on the spindly seat love action yourself:

Modern Windsor Chaise $699 USD

Modern Windsor Dining Chair $149 USD each

Modern Windsor Accent Chair $399 USD each

 
 
 

Bed Me…

I don’t have anywhere to put it, it doesn’t go with my style and it’s still probably a bit pricey for a bed seeing as that we live in a closet BUT (of course there is a but, this is a place for aspiration and inspiration, not unadulterated whinging) I WANT this bed!! I spotted it in an Anthropologie display back in spring and was drooling then and mentally making notes. In this fantasy I lived in some warm climate with a giant wraparound porch complete with beautifully handcarved day bed, piled with pillows, and a pitcher of lemonade. I would just curl up with the dog, reading books and doing other non technological things all day. Alongside my daydream I was also making notes on how I could replicate it myself (which to be honest I couldn’t, but bear with me) because the price tag was £2,800. But now surprisingly it hasn’t sold, and they’ve knocked £2,101 off the price leaving it at a somewhat affordable £699. Which is actually kind of depressing because it means that its not within reach, but not out of reach…seriously I think I’m happier when there is no possible way I could even sell my soul to get something…

Benoa bed from Anthropologie  £699

 
 
 

fine cell work

A few weeks ago I had a fabulous evening in the new (ish) Tom Dixon restaurant, Paramount (Thirty second floor in a lot of other cities is like a residential home, but central London it’s cloudworthy). The space is fantastic as you’d expect from Mr. Dixon, and as we all got chatting it turns out it was also the scene for some beautiful shots that stylist Louisa Grey and photographer Simon Bevan created for Fine Cell Work. I soon got caught up in it all and couldn’t seem to focus myself on what I was more interested in – the fabulous setting, the great shots, the products or the story behind it all. You see Fine Cell work is a charity that was started in the sixties that supports inmates and teaches them needle work. The end results are handsticthed products, mainly cushions, with a third of the proceeds going to the inmates and the rehabilitation process proving terribly successful. The work is carried out in 26 prisons, whilst the prisoners are locked in their cells, and the earnings give them hope, skills and independence.

On a purely aesthetic level, the cushions are very well made and the subject matter of the cushions range from a typographic “Because you’re mine, I walk the line’ to tattoo art to Clint Eastwood illustrations. The lifestyle shots featured above are of the most recent collection which will be exhibited in the Tom Dixon pop up store for London Design Festival 18th- 26th of September. So what do you think, would you bring some prison art into your home?

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If you’re interested in this, you might want to check out the FIne cell work shop here. Or check out more from the stylist, Louisa here. And while you’re at it, you might check out an old photo of myself and the mister, that I just spotted on Simon Bevan’s site…i’m the one in red!

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Lifestyle mages are credited to Louisa Grey and Simon Bevan.