Inspirational Design: Chairs for Your First Apartment

The chair is both the most basic and most essential piece of furniture. Literally, they are what keep us off the ground (or out of bed), whether at a table or in the living room. So, when shopping for a first apartment, there is one thing that will truly define the concept of your new space: a chair. Beds can be brought from home and updated with new bedding, but an old chair borrowed from your parents will hardly distinguish your first living space as your own. So here’s a rundown of some gorgeous new and vintage chairs that will bring personality to your first apartment and many future apartments.

Centerpiece Chairs: These are the type of chairs that you center a room around. You read in them, watch TV in them, drink tea in them; these are the chairs that you spend your home-life in. As such, they should be durable, comfortable, and have distinctive design that sets the tone for your new space.

Tullsta Chair: Ikea, $99

This chair isn’t the prettiest or most exciting, but it has clean lines, comes in a variety of colors, and most importantly is easy on the first apartment dweller’s budget. I’ve had one in green for several years, and can vouch for its comfort – I’ve accidentally fallen asleep in mine many times. All-in-all, it’s a great starter chair.

Airy Settee: Anthropologie, $298

With a bump in price can come a big bump in style. Anthropologie has a lot of great chairs that are attractive and unique, even if it comes with a whack in price as well. This settee is both cozy enough for one and big enough for two, making it a great alternative to a couch if you’re short on space. The metal frame might be off-putting for some, but realize this: the hand-woven, re-purposed cotton webbing makes it like a breezy hammock for your living room.

Acapulco Chair: GreenPointWorks, around $399

Another hammock-style chair bringing the comfort of stretchy webbing indoors, this little number updates a classic style of outdoor chair with velvety-soft leather cording. Add a throw pillow, and lounge in this baby all sunday afternoon. Additional bonus: these are handmade in Brooklyn, so your eco-conscience can be at ease.

When looking for a balance between style and price, vintage can be a great option. This vintage chair has a great classic feel to it, and the color would make it pop in any room.

Yellow and Cream Chair: Hot House Market, $130

Winston Wingback Chair in Grass Green: Katie Maennle, $1,450

If you have the budget for them, designer chairs are great way to contribute to your space’s design in a long-term way, combined with high quality construction. Pricier chairs are also often customizable; for instance, Katie Maennle herself will upholster this chair for you in any fabric of your choice, if the bold green isn’t to your taste.

Smoke Chair in Black: Mooi, price upon request

Speaking of designer chairs, this all-black armchair by Maarten Baas is another example of what shelling out big bucks can get you. It’s made out of burnt wood and finished with an epoxy resin that seals and strengthens the material – so don’t worry, it doesn’t smell like charcoal. While this veritable piece of art is probably out of the price range of any first apartment renter/owner who doesn’t have a gigantic trust fund, it’s a nice source of inspiration. Also, the same look could be recreated by painting and re-upholstering a vintage wingback chair.

Multipurpose Chairs: In small apartments, it’s often necessary to have extra seating available that doesn’t take up too much space, or that can double as footstools, ottomans, etc. Other chairs can double as dining chairs, desk chairs, and extra seating at parties. The key with these side chairs is versatility.

Hallar Stool: Ikea, $69.99

This handmade stool can perform as a seat, two seats, a lounger, an ottoman – you name it. It’s made out of seagrass, natural banana fibers, and cotton, giving it an earthy aesthetic.

Urban Chair: Ikea, $39.99

Ikea has a number a folding and stackable chairs that are reasonably priced, making them great as casual dining chairs or side chairs for a party. Personally, the Urban chair is my favorite, but they have cheaper options as well. If you’re short on space, they  can just stay stacked in a corner for when you have company over.

Reclaimed Firewood Bench: The Chicago Bench Co. Etsy Shop, $85.00

These benches have a cool rustic feel to them, and are handcrafted out of recycled firewood. If Etsy’s offerings are a little too pricy for you, any amateur carpenter could make something similar on their own. The firewood gives it a worn-in feel that’s much more aesthetically pleasing than other cheap lumbers.

Stool and Vintage Patio Chairs: Hot House Market, $25-$40 each

Again, vintage is always an affordable option that brings a retro-feel to your space. If you don’t have a local flea market, there are plenty of online vintage stores now that will ship your finds to you; Hot House Market is a personal favorite of mine.

Real Good Chair in Red: Blu Dot, $129.00

These red chairs are a bit pricey, but if you have the money then the quality of design is worth it. I especially like the dotted lines at the corners of the facets on the chair. The planar lines and bright color bring a modern aesthetic to any space.

Blocky Stool: Ohio, $205-$365

Another multi-purpose stool that brings an organic look with it. Again, these are a bit pricy, but gorgeous red oak  and douglas fir wood comes at a price. These can double not only as a seat or a footstool, but also a side table.

Obviously, these are just a few of  the many, many chairs that are out there, but they’re a good start for inspiration when decorating a brand new apartment. The collection of furniture that you start with your first apartment will likely carry on to many future apartments, and if there’s one thing you’ll need in the long-term, it’s a chair.

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Jenn, Julia, Blaine, and Val’s Delightful Details

What happens when four stylish students, two of them artists, move in together? In the case of my friends Jenn, Julia, Blaine, and Val, you turn an old rundown apartment into a colorful, eclectic space full of entirely unique details.

I’ll start with Julia’s room. I absolutely love this giant graphic poster. In an apartment where you can’t/aren’t allowed to paint the walls, sometimes simply covering them up might be your best option. Typically, walls covered in posters skew a little too high school, but oversized ones like this can look great, especially on a matte paper with bold graphics.

I love Julia’s use of an old window pane as a jewelry rack. She chose to leave the glass in the pane to stick photos to, but I think an empty pane would also be a great idea – you could just drape necklaces and such over the rungs, in addition to hanging earrings on them.

A theme throughout the apartment was mixed and matched prints. This chair/pillow combination in Julia’s room was my favorite; the reds in both pattens unite them nicely.


Another good example was the florals of Jenn’s tapestry and armchair:

I love the old-fashioned floral patterns on  both of the chairs. Also, Jenn’s tapestry is another nice way of covering up boring white walls.

The kitchen was one of the less interesting rooms, but it had a few gems in it that were creations of Blaine’s. This chair was a design project for one of his classes:

He took an old vintage chair that had once been in a college lounge, stripped it down of all upholstery and finish, and then detailed it by hand with a morphed check pattern. The chandelier above the table was another one of Blaine’s designs, made out of a repurposed bicycle wheel and hubcap:

Blaine’s room, although quite cluttered, was full of strange gizmos and trinkets which turned the whole space into a giant still-life waiting to be composed.

Artists’ tools like a paintbrush and a finger cast were scattered everywhere. His walls were also laid out with a mixture of framed pictures and posters, which looked great against the wood panelling.

Little details like the moose figurine balanced on the picture frame are exactly what I love about this apartment. Finally, I’ll finish with the living room:

In person, the carved wood and leather chair was distinctive and striking. It had an old professorial vibe to it, without coming off as stuffy or boring. I also loved the display of colored glass jars and beer caps on the table next to it.

I think the assortment on this table best represents the apartment: cluttered and obviously home to some college kids, but also artfully decorated and visually stimulating.

Special thanks to Jenn M., Blaine O., Julia R., and Val C. for letting me creep around their apartment with a camera.

Beauty Technique: Newsprint Nails!

So I’ve recently been channeling my various anxieties into minute projects, and I finally came up with one that turned out well: newsprint nails! I originally found the idea from a comment on Jezebel. Basically, you can superimpose newsprint onto a base nail color for a nifty, literary look.

What you need: nail color of your choice, spare newspaper, nail topcoat, all the various accoutrements (polish remover, cotton balls, Q-tips, etc.).

I used American Apparel Nail Lacquer in “California Trooper,” Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Topcoat, Svedka vodka, and a copy of Philadelphia Weekly. In general, I think a neutral, opaque base color works best: think white, pale grey, or beige. But brights could work too if that’s your fancy!

Prep Work: cut small, approximately 1 in. x 0.5 in. strips out of the newspaper, featuring whatever words, images, etc. you want on your nails.

Step 1: Paint your nails with two coats of the base color, clean up, and let dry. If you’re like me, the “clean up” part involves going back over each nail with a Q-tip dipped in remover to make sure the polish is just on your nails, not coating your whole fingertips.

Step 2: One by one, dip each finger in Vodka, then press a newspaper strip onto the nail. Hold it in place for 30 seconds, making sure not to let it move (or else the print will smudge). Repeat for each nail.

Step 3: Wait about 10 minutes for the newsprint to dry. While waiting, enjoy some of the vodka (although preferably not the vodka you dipped your nails in).

Step 4: Top off each nail with one coat of top coat. Let dry, and enjoy!

Warning: if you let the newspaper move while applying it, this will be your result:

I’m not much of a manicurist, so mine are a little messy. But according to commenter “Snizzy-Snazz Bullets,” this is what they can look like when expertly done:

Photo Courtesy of Snizzy-Snazz Bullets’ comment on Jezebel.

Fun With Modernism

My written exams (part I of my college’s unnecessarily strenuous honors program) are finally over. I have oral exams left, which entail one-on-one sessions with experts brought in from other colleges and universities; but those don’t start until next Thursday, and for now I’m going to celebrate with some light-hearted tributes to my finally-over classes.

First up is Modern Comparative Literature. A good chunk of the class centered around James Joyce’s Ulysses, the mother of all modern epics. Robert Berry has made a pretty brilliant comic strip version of Ulysses, called Ulysses “Seen”. It’s not spectacular in any way that can compare to the original, but just in the sense that converting such a text to the visual in any comprehendible way is pretty incredible. Berry is posting the comic serially online, as an homage to the novel’s original publication  serially in The Little Review. So far, only “Telemachus” is up online. Here are some selections:

I love Buck Mulligan’s pot belly. I think Berry really got Mulligan’s appearance right; Stephen, I’m not so sure about. The interpretation of the plot is a little simplistic, and the narration of Stephen’s consciousness with images of his mom is a little cheesy. But I love the little touches and nods to the text, like the publishing name “Throwaway Horse, LLC.”

I’ll close with another comic reference to Joyce; if you’ve ever read any of his love letters to his wife Nora you’ll get it:

Personally, I find the letters more hilarious than traumatizing, but that’s just me. Let’s just say that Joyce didn’t keep his “cloacal obsession” out of the bedroom.

Why I Smoke, and Why I’m Quitting

Smoking is a bad habit. In fact, it’s one of mine. I remember years ago,when I first mentioned to my parents that some of my friends smoked, their first question was: “In this day and age, why would anyone do that?” They didn’t mean just anyone; they meant anyone young, anyone who wasn’t already addicted, and still had things to lose from it. Years later, I’m smoking somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 a pack a day, and I still don’t have a definitive answer.

There are a lot of individual reasons as to why I smoke, and I figure they’re similar to other people’s justifications. I smoke because it’s social. It’s a conversation starter, and ‘cool factor’ aside, on average I’ve found that smokers tend to be more interesting than non-smokers. Of course, being ‘interesting’ doesn’t make them good friends or responsible people, but they sure are fun to talk to. I also smoke because it’s a huge stress release. There are many times when I’ve weighed the detriment to physical health from a cigarette against the detriment to mental health of a potential panic attack, and the cigarette always wins. Smoking calms me down, it distracts me, and generally seems to fend off mental demons, for a moment anyway. Of course I’m sure that’s 90% placebo effect, but hey, whatever works.

I smoke because it’s beautiful. That sounds really silly, but there’s something I just love about seeing curls of smoke emitting from someone’s mouth or nose. It’s like they’re breathing fire almost. My inner art historian is just a big sucker for iconic imagery, and I think cigarettes and smoking definitely fall into that category. It’s not that I smoke because I want to be like James Dean or Carrie Bradshaw, but I see it rather to an homage to the huge cumulative history of great people and great characters who smoked, most of whom knew it was bad for them and just didn’t care. That isn’t reasonable or logical, but I think it’s a big part of what’s generally perceived as smoking’s ‘badass’ reputation.

The bottom line is, I really, really enjoy smoking. It’s one of those small pleasures that can sometimes make me so very happy in a time of need. However, I also spend a good chunk of time feeling bad about smoking. I think every real smoker has had that moment when you first hock up a big lump of grayish phlegm and realize, “Shit, that stuff they told us in health class was true.” When I was kid, I hated smokers, and I often wonder what kids think of me now when I walk by with a burning cancer-stick in hand.

I’m not sure if other people smoke for these reasons, but I have a feeling that some do. These are the appeals that I’m going to have to fight against soon. In less than three weeks, I’m quitting smoking. I set the date a while ago, I’m enjoying my nicotine now while it lasts, and soon I’m going to go pick up a box of Nicorette to have ready and waiting. I’m quitting for my health, for my lifestyle, and for my friends and family. I don’t blame my fellow smokers who have no plans for quitting; in fact, I really envy them. But this is my plan, and I’m sticking to it.

A Renewed Effort: Blogging, Family, and Mother’s Day

My family, some 17 years ago.

After a long hiatus, I’m blogging again. Personally, I blame my failed juice fast for my absence. I’ve come back to the blog partially because I think it’s an important outlet for non-academic writing, and also for more cynical reasons: I need a job. After an attempt at “test blogging” as part of an application process, which went miserably, I’ve realized that burgeoning writers really need to have active blogs these days. So here goes… again.

Today is Mother’s Day, and I’m already feeling like a pretty bad daughter. I sent the obligatory email this morning, complete with a colorful large font declaring “Happy Mother’s Day!”, but I haven’t gotten her a present and she called me before I got a chance to call her. I’ll make it up to her after my exams are over. But this whole family oriented holiday thing has got me thinking more generally about my family, and their role in my life. Right now it’s a pretty small one, but I’m hoping to change that soon, ideally without suffocating in the process.

I’ve always been close with my family, but since coming to college I’ve drifted away from them. My parents live two hours away, which is just close enough for occasional visits, but I usually let them come to me. Otherwise, I go home for major breaks and a little bit during the summer, but that’s it. I’ve spent my summers elsewhere for the past three years, and this year I even managed to spend my fall and spring breaks on vacation with my boyfriend, leaving only winter break at home. Over those few weeks, they managed to find out that I smoke, confront me about drinking too much, and generally make me feel like an all-around disappointment. Of course, they don’t think I’m a disappointment; the problem is, I have a bad habit of always interpreting their perceptions of me as negative. I have a huge guilt complex when it comes to my family, so I always assume that they think I’m guilty too. Guilty of what, I’m not even sure.

This summer I hope to go home for a short amount of time, find a job, and move away for good. Far away would be preferable, although logistics are pointing towards DC, which is only two hours away from home (I can’t decide whether this is a good thing or not). But either way, once I get the full independence from my family that I crave so much, I want to bring them back into my life as a source of support that’s purely emotional – no financial support, no educational support, no help with housing or income – just emotional. I will call my parents and my brother voluntarily, and I will keep them updated on my life. I have trouble doing this now because I feel like when I let them in, they have control over me; but once I’m out on my own for good, I will be able to appreciate their love and support without feeling quite so obligated to actually do what they say. I can’t pretend that familial obligations will ever disappear completely, but I think that with my independence, I will gain more control over the relationship.

The truth is, I have a wonderful family. They’re loving, supportive, generally intelligent, and occasionally batshit crazy; but above all, they’re fundamentally good people. I’m the one who has the issues, who induces all the guilt and stress on my part. It’s probably because I fear any intimacy that’s non-sexual, non-romantic. Anyway, I’m entering a scary new stage in my life, and I know my family will be there for me through it. So with that bit of sentimentality over, time for some pictures of the people who shaped my childhood. They’re mostly of my Dad’s side of the family, because I snagged a bunch of old photos that my Dad was scanning once. Here they are, roughly in chronological order:

My paternal grandmother in Tahiti, where she met my grandfather.

My paternal grandparents, holding my aunt as a baby.

My Dad and my aunt as kids. They just don't make 'em this cute anymore.

My Dad riding his bike.

My Dad's family with their new Rolls Royce. My grandfather (who I never met) bought it on an impulse. He was a little crazy, and even though I never met him, his presence has always been felt in the family.

My Dad.

My Mom and Dad, before they got married. What a foxy couple.

My Dad and my older brother, before I was born.

My Mom, my brother, and I in Maine when we were kids.

My uncle (Dad's younger brother), being a pirate. Which he is.

Hopefully I’ll get a similar batch of old photos from my Mom’s side of the family sometime. These don’t quite seem holiday appropriate, given that they’re all of my Dad’s side, but the old ones are just so gorgeous that I had to post them. Anyway, Happy Mother’s Day!

All photos courtesy of my family’s collection.

Juice Cleanse: Day 1 1/2

OK, Confession time: It’s early evening on my second day of my juice cleanse, and I have already cheated. Last night, to be specific: I ate 2 pieces of naan and a tiny serving of curry. Then this morning I had half a grilled cheese and a soup. I feel like a bit of a failure, but in my defense: this shit SUCKS.

To elaborate, the reason why I cheated and ate solid food that wasn’t on my menu last night was because I had a headache and felt nauseous. I can’t fully blame the cleanse, because I am having sinus problems and was not following the directions perfectly. I got really behind on my blending and juicing, and therefore had eaten less than I should have throughout the day. Also, I was probably eating well under the recommended servings, because this shit gets GROSS.

To be fair, the flavors of the juices and shakes are actual very interesting and often tasty; the lemon lime shake is definitely my favorite. But the texture is where the problems start. It’s basically like baby food. Drinkable goo. It get’s gross after a while. Here are some selections from my day:

Carrot Ginger “Soup”
Young Love Juice
Lemon Lime Shake

Like I said, baby food. Also, all of the blending, juicing, and cleaning of blenders and juicers that goes into making these goops is a bitch. I spent the majority of a day blending shit when I should have been studying for an exam instead. In case you can’t tell, I’m not feeling great about this cleanse.

However, against my better judgment, I’m back at it tonight. After my moment of weakness/sanity last night, I also ate a light brunch (the aforementioned grilled cheese and soup) after getting up today, because I was worried about feeling sick for my exam. I took the exam though, and since brunch I’ve been cleansing again. This is mostly because I spent far too much money on the ingredients, and have fridge full of all this green stuff that I can’t bear to waste:

The Contents of my fridge.

So, at this point, I would definitely not recommend the Organic Avenue cleanse. We’ll see though. To be fair, the headache could have purely been sinus related, and I never got hungry per say; just grumpy and desperate for a grilled cheese. I get the sense that this stuff is really filling, but low in calorie and way too high in nutrients. I also got super bloated last night, because apparently fiber makes you retain water. Fun!

Stay tuned for either a change in opinion, or my giving up entirely. As of now, I’ve decided that if I still hate it in a few days, I’m using the ingredients to make a shit ton of guacamole.