My husband Chris is an artist who has been making machined metal sculptures for over a decade, at a rate of about a dozen every year. While we have been together, I have watched his craft and career evolve and grow, and I am exceptionally proud of his accomplishments. Chris has also been very fortunate to find patrons of his work, and so his artwork, which begin as a little spark in his mind, usually make their way out into the world to a permanent home.
Pending the departure of one of Chris' pieces, we're lucky to enjoy the work ourselves in our own home. Although Chris has sold nearly most of his sculptures, we have more than a handful that have become temporary fixtures in our home. Lately, we've been trying to come up with ways to display his work in our home in a way that is truer to our combined aesthetics. Chris' work is technically precise and have clean and glossy surfaces, and are typically displayed against white walls or on white stands in a gallery or museum setting. They would undoubtedly look at home in a sleek, minimalist environment, but that's a little boring, isn't it?
Chris was interested in photographing his work in a more natural environment, and allowed me to style his work to my preferences. I'm going to admit that I had way more fun styling these "shelfies" than I thought I ever could. Chris' sculptures aren't material representations of any particular object found within our world, but for me, they can invoke certain emotional reactions borne out of my perspective. I'll find that when he finishes a piece, each one has its own distinct personality and presence. While styling Chris' sculptures, I placed his work within the context of commonly known objects - plants, books, machines - to express that twinge of my own personal response to his work.
This year, Chris has been experimenting with these striking black dibond drawings of his new pieces. I love how his sculptures pair with these stunning drawings. In these photos, each of the drawings correspond with the main sculpture.
You can see all of Chris' sculptures on his website.
My husband Chris and I have lived in our three-story, single family Victorian in Baltimore for the last decade. Our house is nearly 120 years old and has amazing bones. By the time we moved in, our home had been split into two units and had undergone more than its fair share of half-hearted renovations. We were definitely not in a position to undergo a complete renovation when we moved in, so we have been remodeling the house very slowly, room by room, over the course of the last decade. ***A very special note of thanks to Tessa Sollway, my talented photographer gal pal who took the amazing "after" shots.
When I was in college, I waited tables at a 24/7 diner. On some shifts, I would volunteer to wash dishes and prep food in the steamy little galley kitchen. What I remember most about this time, other than burning my hands on hot plates and having fun with my coworkers, was the little kitchen where I worked. The narrow kitchen space couldn’t have been much bigger than 100 square feet, but it impressively fit a few lowboy fridges, an industrial oven range, a dishwashing station, and a slew of pots, pans and cooking utensils on open shelves and hooks. The tight footprint made my job a little easier, with all of the necessities within reach.
Years later, in 2010, my husband Chris and I were fortunate enough to not only have our own home, but also have enough funds to renovate our old kitchen. When we were designing the kitchen layout, functionality prevailed in every single aspect of our decision making. We cook nearly all of our meals together and aren't afraid to get messy, so we knew that our kitchen needed to be a true workhorse. I thought about my dishwashing days, and the various commercial kitchens I had worked in during my years in food service, and collaborated with my husband to figure out the best possible layout for our kitchen. We initially rejected a bunch of different layouts, but when I proposed a kitchen "peninsula," everything else fell into place.
Not technically an island, but pretty close! Our kitchen is large but a floating island didn't feel right. This peninsula has the effect of creating a small galley kitchen within a larger space. It is also centrally located, so if I am standing at the stove, I only need to do is turn around to face the sink area. Our pots and pans hang within reach on a half circle pot rack and stainless steel pegboard (sourced from a car parts supplier). Two sets of drawers flank the oven, where we store our dining and cooking utensils, oven mitts, storage containers, and baking dishes.
Next to the pot rack is our pantry. This used to be where the oven sat in our old kitchen, but the small confines of that nook made it a little hard to cook. A reach-in pantry makes a lot of sense in this spot, given the location next to the stove. We briefly considered adding doors, but realized they would only get in the way. I also like seeing everything at once so I can easily keep track of our dry goods. Organizing everything into boxes and baskets helps keep this space in order. We tucked the microwave into the pantry so it would be out of the way, but still easily accessible.
These shelves and mug rail were in our old kitchen, and we liked it so much we reinstalled them after the renovation. Dishes and bowls go in a drawer underneath.
That refrigerator is a vestige of our old kitchen. I'm pretty sure it is over thirty years old, but it is still kicking it after all these years. They make prettier ones these days, but I'll admit that the faux wood detailing has surprisingly grown on me, and is not a complete eyesore in its newer digs.
This is a long expanse of countertop which comes in handy for food preparation. We keep our lesser-used kitchen items in these drawers. We left an open space underneath of the countertop to fit a rolling cart, in lieu of another base cabinet. The cart has a butcher block top, and I like to use this surface for kneading dough and making pizzas.
We completed this kitchen renovation project in 2010, so much of what you see are hallmarks of what was trending heavily at the time: subway tile, open shelving, and pegboard kitchen storage. I have to say that the practicality of these elements is not lost on me at all, even five years later. We built this kitchen to do some heavy lifting when it comes to cooking, and I'm still really pleased with how seamlessly Chris and I move around in this space when we're cooking together. I hope you've enjoyed taking a look around!
My husband Chris and I have lived in our three-story, single family Victorian in Baltimore for the last decade. Our house is nearly 120 years old and has amazing bones. By the time we moved in, our home had been split into two units and had undergone more than its fair share of half-hearted renovations. We were definitely not in a position to undergo a complete renovation when we moved in, so we have been making over the house very slowly, room by room, over the course of the last decade. This is a first in a series of posts about our home.
***A very special note of thanks to Tessa Sollway, my talented photographer gal pal who took the amazing "after" shots.
The Dining Room in 2005. When my husband and I moved into our home, there was, inexplicably, drop tile ceiling installed in the dining room (along with the rest of the first floor), beige contractor grade carpet, and a brass chandelier. I did not like any of these things. The drop tile ceiling came down during our the first week in the house and new drywall went up. Miraculously, we left that dusty brass chandelier and carpet intact until about two or three years ago.
After the dining room was newly drywalled and primed, we were presented with the unique privilege of actually picking out paint colors for our home. Up until that moment, Chris and I had never had the freedom to paint our walls whatever color we wanted. We both grew up in homes where the walls were always painted white. While I was a renter, I never saw the point in painting a place that I would end up leaving within a year or two, so the white walls stayed put. But when we had our own walls to paint? It never occurred to us to choose white. There were so many other colors to choose from, and we thought we would be offending the color spectrum if we didn't paint each room in our home a different color.
My process for picking paint colors sort of went like this: randomly picking out a few fistfuls of paint swatches at the local home improvement store and then deciding on the final color based on an irrational logic that I cannot publicly admit to. I definitely had moments of retail paralysis, where I was so overwhelmed by the racks of paint chips and ended up choosing a color for the sake of well, choosing a color. As soon as we got home with our newly mixed cans of paint, I realized how much I disliked the color I had chosen for the dining room. But the paint was paid for, and I rationalized with myself that maybe, just maybe, I could learn to like it.
What you're looking at here is some sort of "buff" color. As you can see by the pictures, our dining room walls ended up the exact same shade of powdered artificial cheese. While this always reminded me of cheap boxes of mac and cheese (which happens to be a very guilty pleasure of mine), it never quite grew on me.
Trial and error in 2013. By the time the stars aligned and it was time to update our dining room, I had sworn off color altogether. I spent an unreasonable length of time deliberating the perfect shade of white. I finally narrowed my choices down to about eight different white hues. You're probably laughing right now, but I really, really did not want to repeat my last mistake. I ended up choosing Benjamin Moore's White Dove, which turns out to be a really great neutral white that does not make me cringe.
Above is the dining room in 2013, after we added bamboo flooring and repainted the walls. I was definitely color shy at this point and on full whiteout mode: white walls, white artwork, white chairs, white bench. As much as I love staring at pictures of gorgeous white washed Scandinavian homes, the room felt uncomfortable.
In 2014, we added the floating bench under the window and a swing arm lamp, while rearranging the table so it would feel a little cozier. This year, I finally learned a very obvious lesson in interiors: if you have a neutral backdrop, use art, textiles, plants, and dare I say, "home accessories," to play with shapes, colors and textures, without any major commitments.
2015. Here is what my dining room looks like now, on a good day.
This bench cushion is covered in an old flat sheet I dyed using the shibori technique. (I found this DIY tutorial to be really helpful). For the sake of transparency, I will tell you that I very lazily wrapped the sheet around the seat cushion and jammed the excess fabric underneath, instead of actually trimming the sheet to size and neatly fastening everything together. The blue and white throw pillow is actually an old pillowcase that I also dyed. The kilim pillows are new and add some much needed cushioning. (Dabito had a post about kilim pillows a while back and I was ON it).
That small and colorful print by Matthew Korbel-Bowers makes me disproportionately happy.
Let's talk about this dining room table! This table was a collaboration between me and Chris from 2011. I nailed some salvaged oak floorboards to a an old, heavy solid wood door. After beltsanding the original finish off, I bleached the wood and finished it with a wipeon poly. Chris designed and built the trestle base out of some metal he had laying around. I’m really proud of this table because it is something we made together using almost all salvaged materials, and because it is something we use almost every single day.
The large black dibond drawing in the picture above is one of Chris’ designs. He is a metal sculptor (that's his piece on the table), and after he finishes a sculpture, he makes really detailed drawings of his work that stand apart as works of art in their own right.
Because there are no storage areas or excess stuff, it’s pretty easy to return this room to “ready” in a few minutes. I try to keep things minimal in here because I’m a naturally messy person and will create my signature piles of paper if given the chance. When I come home, I habitually dump my bag and jacket on those two white chairs, and only sometimes will I remind myself that I am an adult and actually hang up my things in the entryway.
Thanks for taking a look around! Check back again for more "Open House" posts.
Paint: Benjamin Moore - White Dove
Floors: Bamboo (similar here)
Dining Chairs: IKEA (discontinued), Overstock
Lamp: CB2 Mantis wall sconce and IKEA VÄTE ceiling lamp
Pillows: Kilim pillows from Kiss Pillows, grey linen pillows from H&M (discontinued), DIY shibori throw
Art: "It's Peaceful At The Bottom Of The Pool" by Matthew Korbel Bowers, drawings by Chris Bathgate, painting by Chris Antkowiak.
If there is one thing I took and ran with from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, this is it: "Decorate your closet with your secret delights." Marie Kondo wrote one page on the matter in her book, advising to "transform your closet into your own private space, one that gives you a thrill of pleasure." Who wouldn't want to do this?
And after discarding and donating three quarters of my wardrobe, I was surprised to find that the clothes I loved and decided to keep tended to be brightly colored and patterned. This was a slight revelation to me, as I typically think of myself as a boring dresser (too many black and grey clothes). I took it as a sign, and accordingly, made some minor adjustments.
I have longed to figure out a way of incorporating wallpaper into my home, and was really pleased to find out that Hygge & West came out with a line of removable wallpaper tiles. I ordered one single tile with Lina Rennell's Raindrops pattern and tried to figure out how to make it work in my closet. I ruled out just placing it directly on the wall; my closet hardware would obscure the tile ruin the effect of the pattern. We had an extra IKEA frame sitting around, so I painted the backboard white and placed the wallpaper tile on top. My husband rigged a hook so the frame would sit evenly on the closet hardware. You can still see the hardware, but it's much better than the white cavern it was before.
I love this pattern. It suggests movement, has some gradations in the color, and is relaxing to look at. The white frame and painted backboard highlights the wallpaper tile and allows the pattern to have a more formal presence. Wallpaper = art! And art in the closet? An amazing mood lifter. I start and end my days at my closet, and it's a great place to reset.
Now I spend a lot of weekend mornings hanging out in my closet. Our bedroom is the sunniest and warmest room in the house, which has been a refuge on these wintry and freezing days we have had lately. I am usually perched on the underused bar stool I swiped from the kitchen, listening to podcasts and records while catching up on my favorite blogs. I keep a few books out on my dresser/desktop as a reminder to finish reading them.
Oh yes, and the new Sleater Kinney album is pretty much the best. Beautiful album art and some of the strongest voices in rock and roll today, if not the last two decades.