Monthly Archives: March 2012

How to Knock off a Designer Look

Some people can sing.  Some people can dance.  My one worthwhile talent is that I can knock off designer looks for cheap.  It’s actually not that hard once you learn the steps.  A lot of it boils down to research and a good memory.

  

Step One: Choose Your Look

Find an image to serve as inspiration that you’d like to duplicate in your space.  Let’s say you need a home office area in a corner of your room and you also need storage space for all of your books.  For this little demonstation–we’ll take the image below from a recent Bang and Olufsen ad.  This designer look cost about $15,000 to produce.

Step Two: Analyze

This is where you need to study the image and boil it down to its components.  In this case–what makes this space interesting is the texture created by all the books and the dark color palette.  The very squared-off, rectilinear bookshelves and work table are balanced by sinuous chairs, a sculptural lamp, a few pieces of curvy pottery, and some ornately framed artwork.  A piece of geometric art acts as a focal point.

Step Three: Research

Now things get tricky.  If you’re not familiar with the names of different furniture pieces (or their designers)–this will take you a little longer.  The secret here is that for every high-end designer piece on the market–there is a factory in Asia cranking out reproductions, and these repros are available to you for a lot less money via the internet, a big box store, or even just some guy with a poorly lit shop in low rent part of town.  It will take a little digging though.

I’ll soon be posting a weekly series on this site that I call  Designer Index.  The purpose of these will be to familiarize you with  major designers and their most important designs.  Once you have a little familiarity–you’ll be able to look at a vignette like this and know for example that the black curvy chair next to the desk is a Wishbone Chair and it was designed by Hans Wegner.  Knowing that tidbit of design history will allow you to directly google “wishbone chair” and quickly find what you want instead of spending hours searching for “wooden curvy chair” (which will eventually work too; it just takes a lot longer).

With our preliminary research out of the way–we know that we’ll be shopping for these key items:

  • a Parsons Table
  • a Wisbone Chair
  • an Elmwood Ming Chair
  • a Snoopy Lamp
  • black bookcases
  • geometric art
  • ceramics/pottery

Step Four: Shop

Because this is my one true talent–I’m setting a time limit to bargain shop for this.  I’m going to knock off this entire look during my lunch break.  I know.  It seems a little showy but come on–this is my one true talent!  You wouldn’t go to see Lady Gaga perform and expect her to just dial it in.  Would you?  This is about showmanship!  (Note to self: find more butch examples.)

Anyhoo–here is what I found.

First off, I’m going to give you an explanation of how much the key items in the designer look cost:

Parsons Table–let’s say (low-end) this cost $1169 like this one from Ethan Allen.  More realistically–this was probably about $2000.

Wisbone ChairDWR will sell you the real thing for $855.

Elmwood Ming Chair–You’d have to scour some antique stores and auctions for the real deal but I did find this pair online for $3250.  So, let’s just say $1625 each.

Snoopy Lamp-Moss sells this bad boy by Castigioni for $924

Black Bookcases– These are hard to source via online search but we can conservatively price these at $1500 each or 2 for $3000.

Geometric Art– We’ll say that this original painting and its elaborate frame job (along with the other pieces lining the floor) would come in at $5,000 altogether

Ceramics/Pottery-They haven’t scrimped anywhere else.  So let’s budget a solid $1600 for the accessories on the desk and atop the bookcases.

Now, let’s see how much I can save by searching for reproductions of the same items during my lunch hour:

Parsons Table–  this sleek table is available for $400 from West Elm.

Wisbone Chair-there are a ton of places that sell these for around $200.  I found this one for $190 from Walmart.  Who knew?

Elmwood Ming Chair– Pearl River Mart is my go to for all things Asian-inspired.  I found the chair for $495 there.  I image (given a little leg work beyond just an internet search) you could probably find one of these cheaper than this at a smaller brick and mortar import/export shop.

Snoopy Lamp- When I ran down the block to pick up my sandwich–I happened to spy this guy in the window of Sit Down New York  for $300.  You could always substitute another sculptural black and white lamp for cheaper but since I found the exact lamp for less than half of the original–I included it. 

     

Black Bookcases- Since the books are really the stars of this scene, the bookcases just need to fade into the background.  Thus, I uas just looking for something mid-height and black.  Two Expedit shelves from IKEA at $90 each ($180 total) will do just fine.

Geometric Art-There are so many options to choose from here.  This is where I got caught for time and just pulled a few options.  My favorite print out of the bunch is $18 on etsy.  I would, however, contact the artist to see if she would produce a larger scale print for me.  Etsy people are usually pretty accommodating.  My tack here would be to track down ornate frames at thrift shops for cheap and then find art in a size appropriate for them.  Otherwise–framing is really expensive.  I’d set an art budge of $200 including the frames. 

Ceramics/Pottery– These can range widely in price.  I recommend hitting the streets here as you can find great deals on interesting shaped ceramics at thrift shops.  Stores like TJ Maxx and Big Lots are also great resources for shapely, inexpensive pottery.  However, if you want to buy from the online shops–these could be anywhere from $15 and up.  I like the range of reasonably priced white and black vases awailable at CB2.   Let’s assume an accessories budget here of $200. 

KNOCK-OFF LOOK TOTAL = $1965 after just one hour of searching.  That’s a 76% saving!  This could get a lot cheaper with a few substitutions, more thorough research, and some shopping at brick and mortar resources in addition to more extensive internet searching.  A lot of big box stores will match lower prices if you print out a better deal online (then you can save on shipping costs too!).

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Brooklyn Flea Trip

It has long been on my “NYC To Do List” to both visit the Brooklyn Flea Market and to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  This past weekend I was able to mark both things off my list.  With the assistance of my #1 thrifting partner–the beautiful and talented, Ms. Spinach, I headed to Brooklyn in search of vintage deals.

In Winter–the Brooklyn Flea takes place inside a beautiful old bank building.  There are three floors of vendors and lots of local food options.  Also, the area surrounding the flea market is peppered with some sweet vintage shops.  While the selection was definitely impressive and my friend scored lots of great finds that day, I really only made one major purchase….

If you recall from my A-Frame Fantasy posting last week–I’ve had purchasing a little getaway house somewhere outside the city on the brain.  So–in a unique bout of mental illness act of aspirational buying, I bought a vintage, graphic, Danish Modern, wool blanket depicting a viking sailboat for my future bed in my future A-Frame cabin.

Okay–so it doesn’t go with anything that I own right now–but it is so bold and graphic/warm and cozy.  One day this will be pretty hot in my red, navy and grey color scheme bedroom.  Did I mention that it’s reversible?  I think future me will be very pleased.

Okay–well worst case–I can probably ebay it for a small profit.

Anyhoo–it was a nice new experience and a beautiful day to wander around.  I highly recommend it.  I’ll be back when true spring hits and the Brooklyn Flea heads outdoors.

IKEA PS 2012 Sneak Peek

I should preface this by explaining that I react to the new Ikea catalog coming in the mail the same way that Steve Martin responded to the new phone book arriving in The Jerk;  I love to sit in bed and read it cover to cover (often in my Swedish Chef voice–“Fjoergum Bjorgummmm!!!”).   Thus–I’ve been prowling around the internet a lot lately tying to get a glimpse of the new items premiering in May in Ikea’s PS 2012.  PS is Ikea’s quirkier line.  It tends to be a little more Euro-modern (old school Ikea) and less mock-country-french like so much Ikea stuff has become in recent years.  The image above shows an overview of the products.

Out of the lineup–the standout pieces, in my humble opinion, are this sofa with blue piping and a metal frame.  I’m hoping this will come in another color option because while I think the blue is very trendy–another color combination could really make this into a smart piece.  I’m thinking a warm grey frame with some khaki upholstery and white piping.  Maybe I’ll do a little photoshopping later to see just how this design could be tweaked?

Next up is this funny little Danish-modernesque chair.  I like how it’s a little bit shaker, but a little bit rock and roll.  While I might prefer a few more spindles across the back for some rhythm–I appreciate the clean lines.

Finally–this wall lamp is pretty chic.  I can’t wait to see what kind of price point they apply to all this stuff.  These little lamps might just be my new bedside reading lights.

“I’m running away” fantasy #64: a-frame edition

You know how, every now and then, when you live in New York–you’re forced to stand in line just a little too long, or you get stuck next to a certain extra smelly somebody on the E train, or you stumble upon a homeless person urinating in a phone booth–and you think, “Why don’t I just chuck all this BS and move somewhere relaxing and slow-paced?”

Well, that’s what Julia Brabec did.  In her case–she chucked city living and ended up in a ridiculously cute A-frame house in New Hampshire.  So now, thanks to Julia and these awesome pics from ReadyMade–my newest “running away from it all” fantasy involves a tastefully designed A-frame.  (Except in my fantasy the A-frame is on the beach and not the country.  Sorry–Julia, the beach is my jam–and I never feel like I can pull off the amount of plaid that I’d need to wear to fit in out in the country.)

I kinda hate to use the word “cute” as a rule–but…. seriously, how cute is this?

Also–thanks to Apartment Therapy, I was able to find floor plans for her cabin.

Oh–and in my fantasy–I’ve  built this A-frame shade structure in the yard, too.

I’m a very throrough daydreamer.

Gideon Rubin

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Amidst all the spectacular spectacle of the Armory Show—I ran across a portrait artist whose seemingly simple work stood out as some of the most elegantly moving I saw that day.  Well, he’s kind of a portrait artist.  You see—Gideon Rubin applies a certain level of abstraction to modernize his paintings wherein he voids out the faces of his subjects. 

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His subject matter looks like a snapshot of some pleasantly nostalgic, youthful memory—the kind of photo that would hang in your great aunt’s house.  Rubin then further elevates the subject matter by using a consistent, sophisticated palette of muted pastels and neutrals.  By clearing away the faces of his subjects—he creates characters in his painting that are both anonymous, yet hauntingly familiar.  They have the familiarity of childhood along with a certain eerie quality.  They make you feel at home, yet a bit uneasy at the same time.  It is like seeing a ghost, but a ghost of someone you miss and that you might actually hope to see. 

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They cause the viewer to question if these memories have been whitewashed for a reason.   As an optimistic guy—I look at Rubin’s work and assume that there are smiles missing from the blank spaces, but the most successful aspect of the work is the implied question as to what the real expression should be.  It is always hard to choose figural work to hang in your home.  It can be daunting to decide who you want staring back at you from the walls all the time.  The capacity for Gideon’s paintings to at first seem quite simple and then open themselves up via their interpretation along with their subtle palettes would make them a welcomed addition on my walls.      

The Armory Show

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I actually know just enough about art to be mildly pretentious (although I generally pretend that I know a lot more). Thus,  I was fortunate enough over the weekend to have a nice day-date walking around The Armory Show, checking out lots of new art, learning about up-and-coming artists from around the world, people watching, practicing my posing, and remembering not to touch things.  

This place was p-a-c-k-e-d.  In fact—that would be my general impression of the experience; it is completely overwhelming.  Imagine the streets of Calcutta (if someone were raining cash out of a blimp over the city)–except lined with expensive art on every mountable surface—and eerily murmur quiet.  The upside of this is that you get to see a LOT of art (and a lot of fascinating characters) .  The downside of this is that you often have little idea of what you are seeing because of the lack of curating.  Artists and galleries are sort of lumped by region of origin (from what I could tell) and you wander in and out of white-walled stalls of art like a high brow flea market.  So you never really get to hear any of the artist’s spiels like you would during a gallery exhibition.   I’ve never believed that good art should require a narrative to be good so I was okay with it.  In fact—the whole process did allow me to formalize and put into words some of my beliefs on art: 

  • If art doesn’t evoke an emotion or a memory for you—it’s not the right art for you
  • The story behind a piece of art should only increase your appreciation of something you already found engaging. 
  • The ability of art to inspire you to imagine a back story for it is typically the sign of good art. 
  • There are no steadfast rules for good art.

More Roller Shade Ideas

So–I’m a little late to the party.  As soon as I posted about Nate’s DIY tutorial–I ran across this roundup on Apartment Therapy of other DIY roller shade ideas to customize your windows.  Their write-up was posted with this image, yet the text doesn’t seem to really talk about it.  The image seems to depict a custom printing of a totally charming, handwritten, postal envelope onto canvas that was then used as a roller shade.  This might sound a little daunting but you can do this at any Kinko’s…..errr… I guess those are called FedEd Office stores now.

Anyhoo…. Basically–you’d just scan the envelope on one of their mac-daddy scanners, save it on a flash drive, scale it to the appropriate size using the PhotoShop that they have available on their computers, then have them plot it on canvas, and then you’d follow the steps outlined in the Nate Tutorial I previously posted.  Plotter canvas typically comes in 36″ widths, but sometimes you can get lucky and find a shop with a 60″ wide roll.

Totally quaint detail, right?  The birdcage and the mishmash of frames is a little old lady for me, but I get what they’re going for.

Nate’s Roller Shades

NATE’S TUTORIAL

I’m a big fan of the (recently cancelled) Nate Berkus Show.  In yesterday’s show, Nate and his scenic designer, Jim Gardner, showed how you can make custom roller shades really inexpensively using the mechanism for those cheap vinyl roller shades that you can buy at any home improvement store and get cut to size.  I don’t know how long Nate’s site will be live so I’ll boil it down for you just in case the video on the site ever dies:

  1. measure the interior dimension of your windows (inside the casing of the window)
  2. purchase cheap vinyl roller shades from your local home improvement store.  While you’re there also have them cut a 1″ thickness of aluminum strip to the same width as the roller shade.
  3. have the store cut the shades to size
  4. unroll the blinds about 2 feet longer than you would ever need to unfurl them on the window
  5. cut off the vinyl straight across (that’s right cut it off) and toss it.
  6. take a bolt of fabric that matches your decor and cut it to the same dimension as the piece of vinyl you just cut off and discarded
  7. glue fabric directly onto the vinyl that is left on the shade rod (epoxy or hot glue will do–just don’t get a big clump of glue)
  8. At the end of the fabric (where the pull will be)–fold the fabric over the metal strip and glue it in place.  This will weight down the end of the shade.
  9. Apply trim to customize.