Monthly Archives: January 2012

Roomology DIY project: $50 end table

I am not against DIY projects by any means, I simply never had the time to tackle them. After watching countless HGTV shows and reading blogs on refinishing furniture I knew I could probably DI-myself, but did I really have the time to shop around and look for pieces that were both fixable and affordable? That’s what I thought, until this past summer. While stopping for some zeppoles at a local fair, I walked through the community yard sale they had set up as a fundraiser. Needless to say, I walked away with a dozen zeppoles and a pair of end tables for $30.

Here is what I started with. The hardware had to go and I was not very fond of all the detailing but those were minor things to change.

Step 1: Remove the doors and hardware, find a good spot outside and grab an electric hand sander. After sanding for what felt like the whole day (only about 1 and a half hours in real time) I was able to get the table down to the bare bones.

Step 2: Primer. A small can of basic primer did the job. I used a roller on the top and sides of the table and a small brush for front detailing work.

Step 3: Paint. I chose Pebble White by Glidden and applied 2 coats.

Step 4: To add a fun twist to the piece I bought 2 pieces of patterned scrap-book paper and an 8 oz. bottle of Gloss Mod Podge. Using it as a glue, I carefully placed the paper over the area I wanted to cover and then applied another 2 coats of Mod Podge on top to act as a sealer.

Step 5: Spray the entire piece with a sealer.

Step 6: Attach doors and new hardware and enjoy!

Including the original cost of the table ($15) plus all materials I spent approximately $50.

Although DIY projects may be time-consuming, they are definitely rewarding when you are done. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the second table. Any suggestions?

Up for debate: Are coffee table books mandatory?

I’ve been having a kind of internal debate recently about coffee table books… mostly, whether they’re almost mandatory because there’s hardly any substitute for them. Given the fact that most coffee table books are basically overpriced coasters and that technologically we’ve progressed far beyond the paper book (and also because no one actually reads them) I’m kind of hoping the answer would be no… but aesthetically it’s kind of hard to come up with alternatives. I’ll lay out the evidence here, let me know what you think. Here are rooms with books on the coffee table:

Yup, that’s home. I’m ready to curl up and pretend to read one of my coffee table books. From decorpad.

Here the books serve to reinforce the rectilinear geometry of the room. From eclectic revisited.

This room feels cozier with a pile of magazines on the coffee table and a stack of books as an end table.

An orange coffee table book provides a splash of color in a sea of neutral.

A modern space made more accessible and personal through its coffee table books, from Tumidei.

Even the most modern living room is displayed with coffee table books.

AND NOW, here are some living rooms sans coffee table books

How about coral and candles, does that do it for you? From HomePortfolio.

How about vases and bowls? From HomePortfolio.

A tray of pretty things that are all perishable doesn’t count, regardless of how cute they are.

Great midcentury room with a practically bare coffee table. Awwwwwww. (Pitying sigh.)

Beautiful room again compensating with perishables.

Without coffee table books to personalize the space, this room ends up feeling a little hotel-ish.

So what do you think? Does every living room need coffee table books? If not, what else could you use on the coffee table instead? Roomology wants your opinion!

Scrabble-inspired design

I personally am a total Scrabble nerd, so I was excited to see this month’s one-day makeover in House Beautiful where the Scrabble board take center stage on the coffee table.

The happy homeowner playing on his new board.

Turns out designer Peter Dunham used this awesome vintage board from Restoration Hardware

which even has a cool storage drawer,
on sale for $139 at the time of this writing.

I’m totally into this trend. I mean, I feel like everyone I know spends waaay too much time on Words with Friends. So I wondered what other Scrabble-inspired designs are out there…

Adorable Scrabble tile throw pillows, $100 from dirtsastudio on Etsy. Or, you can get any 4 letters you want for the same price.

I love the idea of Scrabble tiles as custom wall art. You can order any combination of letters from the aptly named, $6/tile. (Or if you’d prefer to go the Etsy route, there are some crafty people selling tiles on there as well, such as Embie Online.) The second image above is a DIY project done by Jen at— check there for a step by step.

Personalized Scrabble initial mugs… I want all 26. $12 from AndGeorge.

Refrigerator magnets, $11 from Amazon. Adorable image from Atypical Type A.

Roomology Loves: Layering area rugs

What do a California living room and Prince Charles’ country home have in common? Something I am absolutely obsessed with… small, vibrant area rugs over larger, natural, neutral carpets. Here’s the California living room from House Beautiful:

And here’s the photo of Dumfries House from Architectural Digest:

To me this look brings a feeling of comfort and casualness into spaces where hardwoods might look overly bare. Here are a few more examples:

 From Houzz and designplusyou, respectively.

Not only is this a great look, but it’s a budget-friendly solution to covering floors, especially in buildings that require you to have a large percentage of your floors carpeted, because a large jute or straw rug is very economical, allowing you to splurge on the smaller rug in the center. If you’re going to try this look, it’s best if the larger rug is significantly larger than the smaller rug; if the two are too similar, it gets visually confusing. As you can see above, it may take more than one jute rug to cover the floor. It’s also good if there’s some contrast between the two, so that the smaller rug will pop.

Here are some great affordable natural weaves for the bottom layer:

The Tarnby rug from IKEA is a rock bottom $149 (about 7’x10′).

A 9’x12′ braided jute rug from Ballard Designs is on sale for $240 right now.

Jute Boucle rugs from West Elm, $399 for 9’x12′.  And now, my nominees for the accent rugs

The light yet geometric Souk rug from West Elm, $199 for 3’x5′.

I’m fairly obsessed with the colorful Tauna Kilim collection at Pottery Barn, made of recycled yarn. 5’x8′ for $299.

If you’re into the cowhide look, you can get a great one at IKEA for $199,

or a fuzzy little sheepskin for $30.

The Caura rug from cb2 has it all– great colors and a pop of light. $299 for a 5’x8′.

My favorite might be this ivory hide rug from West Elm, $599.

Roomology Favorite… Vintage Book Prints

My favorite Christmas gifts this year were three art pieces printed on vintage dictionaries and books.  What an incredible idea! I imagine displaying these pieces as a perfect grid in a library, office or  nursery.  Simple for anyone to do at home, but if you are not in the mood to design your own they are very affordable.  Most of the items I found on were around $5.00 – $12.00.

My favorite of the three is this Audrey Hepburn print from Ephemera And More. They currently have a “Buy 3 Get 4” sale and at an average cost of $10 a print that is a steal.

Another print I need to find a frame for is one designed after the Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture.  You can find this at the etsy shop Encore Prints which is also having a Buy 3 Get 1 Free special.

The last Christmas gift was this “Keep Calm and Carry On” print.  This print came with a matte and frame from the Canton Box Company.

I found a ton of shops on Etsy who specialized or sold these items.  If you have the time and equipment (any standard printer will do) you can easily recreate these for yourself.  Find an old book or dictionary, pull out a page and run it through your printer.  Print a silouette or any image on top, frame and matte the image and sit back and admire your own custom vintage art!

Modern upholstered dining chairs that fit your budget

A lot of people love the look of stark, modern chairs, but let’s face it– no one wants to spend a whole dinner party sitting on a chair that’s not tush-friendly. So I’ve put together a list of my favorite modern, upholstered, budget-friendly dining chairs, from as little as $90.

Gus Modern has an upholstered version of the classic Eames chair in two contrasting colors. Considering the wide appeal of this shape and the wallet-friendly price ($500 for the pair), these are an instant Roomology favorite.

 I like the combination of colors and materials on the Sean Dix Slingshot chair, $329 from inmod.

 The simplicity of the blu dot Knicker chair is belied by cheeky bit of fabric running down its back legs. $279 from AllModern.

 I can personally vouch for the comfort of the Zuo Modern Trafico Dining Chair, only $102 at Matthew Izzo.

 The IKEA Nils chair has budget-friendly modern style AND arms for only $90.

 I like the criss-cross oak frame of the Savile Chair, $385 from DWR.

 The Patara chair from Soho Concept comes in fun, bright colors and is made of organic wool. $343 from AllModern.

 Love the cantilevered frame and comfy-looking upholstery of the alta chair, $199 from cb2.

Roomology loves: Desks that hide power cords

I saw this awesome desk featured in House Beautiful this month and I thought, THANK YOU. About time desks came up to the 21st century! We need more than just space to write… we need integrated power stations, quick access to our power cables, something that hides that mess of cords, and something that keeps me from bumping my head on the top of my desk every time I have to plug or unplug something. Viola, the StudioDesk by Bluelounge fits all of these qualifications for $600.

As you can see, it has a sliding mat that allows easy access to the cords and power supply. Then there is just one master cable that goes from the desk to the wall outlet.

This made me wonder whether there are other products like this? For those who want to see what else is out there, here’s what I came up with…

I’m really into the One Less Desk, $750 from Heckler Design, especially for small spaces, as the keyboard shelf can slide under the upper shelf when not in use, making it only 12″ wide. Plus it has integrated cable management at the back….

Everything is nicely organized and out of the way.

The Bivi Table has an integrated trough at the back to hold all your power cords for $539.

The Herman Miller Sense Desk holds the cords in a wire basket. $949 from allmodern.

Another option from Herman Miller lets you plug right into the back and has an ergonomic armrest for $960.

At $2000, the Type 21 Desk from Caretta Workspace is a high-end option, featuring solid cherry hardwood and an awesome cord management system in the back.

Room&Board offers cord management systems that attach with self-adhesive to the back of their desks, ranging from $9-35.

Finally, I bought this iHome charging station for my gadget-loving father for Christukah, and he says he loves it. It can hold 2 iPhones/iPods, an iPad, and one other device, a Kindle/Blackberry/etc. All those messy cords are hidden in the bottom and there is just one plug that goes to the outlet. Not as cool as when it’s all integrated into the desk itself, but it does the job. $60 at Sears.

One small kvetch (if I may)… I wish there were some more (affordable) transitional or traditional desks that had these slots and recesses for cords incorporated. Come on manufacturers, people with traditional style have computers and tons of devices that need charging too! 🙂


A Roomology Favorite: The 85 Lamp


I was introduced to Droog Design  on my first visit to the Salone del Mobile in Milan about 5 years ago.  I instantly fell in love with their style and grabbed every brochure they had.  I became an instant follower and watched them grow and expand from Amsterdam to New York.  Above is their 85 Lamp.  There is something so raw yet elegant about this chandelier that makes this an instant classic in my book.  At a price of around $4,000 (and considering I do not currently have a dining room) I will have to  place this on my “One Day I will Buy” list.  Until that faithful day comes however… here are a few similar pieces I found to hold me over. 

The Pottery Barn Edison Chandelier is a great example of raw industrial design.  They have broken down the lamp to the most basic parts.  The wires, bulbs and  sockets are all visible and you have complete control over where to hang each of the 10 lamps.

 I think the Cluster Glass Pendant from West Elm is what happens when Industrial design becomes a little more glamorous.   Perfect for an entry way or over a small dining table this small fixture makes a large impact at only $199.

Feel like being crafty??  Here is a step by step guide on recreating this lamp yourself.  The directions state it should take about a half day to create so figure by dinner you could be dining under a new custom lighting fixture.  If anyone tries this I would love to see the finished product!

From the department of surprises: ceramic countertop edges out natural stone

On the basis of my previous post on alternatives to carrara marble counters, a client and I set out for a stoneyard in Brooklyn with the express intention of purchasing quartzite (a natural quartz slab) for her kitchen counters.  Much to my surprise (and hers), she left there that day having decided against the quartzite in favor of a ceramic countertop product I have never even heard of before:

White Neolith CountertopThe product is called Neolith, and it is made by the Spanish company Thesize.

My client chose it because she was looking for an all-white countertop and liked the clean, modern look of the ceramic.  She chose this white color which the company calls Nieve.  She also liked the fact that Neolith is a matte finish and that it is zero maintenance.

After further research, I can report some other advantages as well: Neolith is lightweight, environmentally friendly (and does not release fumes or use harmful sealants), fire-resistant, hygenic, easy to clean, extremely durable (with no scratching or chipping), and will not fade in sunlight (a problem with some resin-based countertops like Caesarstone).  You can use knives directly on the surface and place hot pots right on it.  It comes in a variety of widths and colors.  My only caveat: the edges of the counter are mitred together, so you can’t have a bullnose or round edge; it can only be a square.  However, most people who would want this look would want a clean, modern edge in any case.

While the Nieve was the choice for her, I actually loved the some of the darker color choices for modern kitchens which looked like cement or basalt:

The company also has some bright color options for the superdaring, like this cobalt blue:

What do you think of this look?  Is this something you would use?  Please comment and let me know!

Up for debate: hardwood floors v. tiles that look like wood

OK, so I was shopping for countertops with a friend, while we did choose a gorgeous granite for her kitchen, what stood out most in my mind from that trip was the gorgeous ceramic tiles I saw that look like wood. If you don’t believe me, see if you can tell the real wood floors from the faux tiles below….

Allright, so it’s a trick question… these lovely photos are all tiles. Were you fooled?

Now, now, before you get all, “Well that’s all nice and good, but I’d never go for it because I want/need/love real wood,” allow me to expound upon a few of the advantages of ceramic/porcelain over hardwood floors

  1. Avoid the anathema of all hardwood owners… the dreaded chips, nicks, and scratches. Anyone who has paid for hardwood and then cringed when their friends arrive for a party wearing high heels knows the dangers here.
  2. While wood can expand or crack in wet environments, tile resists moisture, allowing a wood look on decks, around pools, or in baths or kitchens.
  3. You can make those planks as wide and/or long as you want without paying out the wazoo. Modern looks call for wide planks, but let’s face it, those wide planks don’t fit within every budget. With tiles you can easily get widths of 8″, 12″, 16″, or even 20″.
  4. With tiles you can have radiant heating… and as it was so well put in Dwell, anything else is just blowing warm dust around your house.
  5. Tile is supereasy to clean and maintain.
  6. Tiles stay cool, which is a blessing over summer months or for those who live in warm climates.

On the downside… well, tiles provide for less noise insulation (although cork underlayments and other under-tile insulators are available), less comfort for those who are standing for long periods of time, and may have less appeal for homebuyers who are not in the know. It’s also recommended that you keep a few extra tiles just in case you need to replace a chipped tile and the line of tiles you’ve bought is discontinued.  I’d also advise being supercareful about your grout color… if the color is off, it will make it obvious that it’s tile right away.

So, having said all that… here’s a roundup of the coolest wood tiles I’ve seen.

Love the varying widths of the Xilema porcelain tiles (shown here in Ciliego).

The hyperrealistic porcelain tiles from Sant’Agostino Ceramica come in 16 colors.

The clever W-Age ceramic tiles from Provenza provide look you could never achieve with real wood: crosscut to show the rings. Downright cheeky if you ask me.

I like the contemporary look of these Timber Glen tiles from daltile (shown in Cocoa).

Halcon Ceramica’s Forest line (shown here in Caoba) looks nicely weathered.

The Fondovalle Ironwood line comes in 4 colors, including awesomely modern Nero Bruciato, shown here.

Novabell Ceramiche has three lines of wood look tiles, including the above-pictured herringbone pattern.

So… what do you think? Would YOU trade in your hardwood?