Inspiration for a Bright and Cozy Loft

Earlier this summer, a friend of mine let me know that she and her husband were moving to a new city. They’d already signed the lease to an open-concept loft in a converted building. She reached out to me for some inspiration in arranging the floor plan and some jumping-off points as to decorating the new place.

I simply love putting together inspiration boards, so I was eager to help out! After a few emails back and forth I got an idea for the space and for a few looks that she likes.


Given this information, I put together a rough floor plan (I couldn’t be totally detailed since I didn’t have measurements to work with) and an inspiration board to be used to start furnishing the living room and dining bar. I provided a list of links for items to buy, but oftentimes it’s just as useful to look at an inspiration board and purchase similar items things along the way.


Sofa | Leather Stools | Media Unit | Pillow 1 (similar) 2 3 | Art Prints 1 2

Since the brick wall was already painted white, and the wood floor was finished in a light-to-medium tone, I decided to bring in color using a vibrant sofa and cool accessories. This isn’t really surprising considering it’s my usual design strategy! Not knowing if the lease allowed for hanging items on the brick, I picked inexpensive prints that could fit in light frames and attached using extra-durable 3M hooks. I love TV, so I don’t shy away from including TVs in inspiration boards, but I do like to make the area a little more interesting. I thought a media unit with a shelf up top could be accessorized in a way so that the focal point would still be attractive even with the big black box turned off. I also included a lighting solution involving a long white cord and paper lampshade (the kind found at IKEA or World Market) so lights could be hung from the ceiling without being hard-wired.

I didn’t have a lot of detail to go on regarding the bedroom and bathroom half of the loft (behind the amazing sliding barn door), so I just imagined what the layout might be like.

basic loft layout.jpg

I don’t have any afters since the couple didn’t move in until fairly recently. I am confident that however they decide to decorate, it will look great, and I’m so happy I was tapped to lend a helping hand.

If you are ever stumped for design inspiration you can always email me for some brainstorming! I would be happy and honored to help out. 

My Wooly Valentine

Last Friday night. It was destiny. We were headed over to North Park, one of our favorite neighborhoods, to meet some friends but first I wanted to stop by West Elm to see if they had anything good in their clearance section. I was thinking of desktop organization or a good deal on some kitchen stuff (typical… the obsession with kitchen stuff continues). Well, yes, I will say they had a great bargain in the clearance section. A HUGE pile or rugs they had been using in-store to anchor their show “rooms.”

With minor convincing/begging, a new member of the family came home with us.

West Elm Kasbah Rug

For only $99 I made it home with a rug. And not some skinny little flat-weave rug, either. A wooly mammoth, a 5×8 shaggy Moroccan-inspired (India-made) Kasbah rug. You may know Morocco has a special place in my heart since it’s where I did my 6-week study abroad program in 2009. Because of this, the Kasbah and the Souk rugs have been a couple favorites from West Elm for a while now, and this score was too good to pass up! I may or may not have logged some time laying on it and whispering “my preciousss…”

West Elm Kasbah Rug

West Elm Kasbah Rug

The original price was $499. Since they had it out on the ground for a little while (one of the associates implied it had been a week or less), it was marked down with the rest of the display rugs at $99. I’ll save you the math, that is a fifth of the price! 80% off is music to my ears! Especially when I wouldn’t have had it in me to buy one at full price, ever.

It has replaced our flat-weave cotton Zebra rug (which was constantly rolling up, getting lumpy, etc) in the living area. I like that wool is natural and that I don’t have to worry about weird plastic VOCs in my living area. I love the way it covers up the boring apartment-brown carpet. I love, love, looooove how it looks with our vintage coffee table. I can’t wait for it to become staple in my home’s “look” in different rooms and with different pieces of furniture as time goes by.

A Piano in the Home

I believe that the last time I shared photos of the TV wall, the living room looked like this.

After hanging art

I like the art, I like the symmetry, but something seemed to be missing. With the addition of our pine shelves (to the left of the photo), it was getting to shelv-ey around here (what with spanning the whole left wall, and the Expedits dominating the TV wall). Now, this:

Wurlitzer Piano as Decor

I am so happy we hauled the (scavenged, free) vintage Wurlitzer keyboard (officially called a “stage piano”) out of storage. The instant I picked it up at the dump, I knew I wanted it somewhere in my home, but it went to go live in the I Heard A Lion practice space for a couple of years. Once we moved, though, I was unsure of where to put it in our small apartment so to maximize “useful space,” we disassembled it and stored it in the closet.

At first I thought maybe it would seem a little weird to have a vintage keyboard as a decor item at such a prime location in the living room, but its placement has made all the difference in the world! Since I don’t play, knowing what part of the house to put a keyboard in wasn’t immediately evident. Doug does, though (duh, self) and it’s fun for kids that come over to play with it (it makes a little bit of sound even when it’s not on, so it’s fun for them and not annoying for the adults). Pianos in the home are not strange at all, so I don’t know what was with my mental roadblock concerning this piano. Growing up, we always had a piano in the house. My mom’s isn’t large, but it isn’t small either. She plays well, my sister took lessons for a long time, but I was too hopeless to continue my instruction. Now, Doug plays sometimes.

We need to replace some parts inside it because it’s a little out of tune, but it’s still nice. Now I absolutely love having it as one of the focal points of the living area! Really though, I just like gazing at it.

Wurlitzer Piano as Decor

The perfect yellowy beige color typifies that era of musical equipment for me. I’ve seen amps and other gear this color and am always drawn to it!

Wurlitzer Piano

Wurlitzer Piano

I keep going back and forth on what to put underneath it, though. I had filled it with tall stacks of books, but recently we brought my old guitar home from my parents house and needed space for it and its stand. Mosey’s dog bed moved under the piano for now… but the corner is constantly evolving :)

It’s nice to be back to blogging about home stuff. I have a ton of bottled up posts!

Bugs, be Gone!

I will say one thing about our apartment complex–the maintenance guys are very attentive and quick to respond, when we place a service order through our company’s website.

For a week or so I had been seeing some straggler ants on the linoleum by the front door. I would just kill them, scan the area for their buddies, then go on my way. I even saw a stray in the bathroom a few times, but didn’t think too much of it… a nuisance, but probably just looking for moisture, as bugs tend to do.

One day, though, I killed 10 in the kitchen before work and decided to put in a service request. Living for over ten years in Temecula, which is notoriously bad with ants, has instilled a paranoia in me that once I see even one in the kitchen, nothing is safe anymore. I put in the service request and we had an appointment set for the next week.

Kitchen Unloaded

Unfortunately for us, prepping the kitchen and bathroom for the exterminator’s attention meant (dun dun dunnn) emptying every cabinet and drawer and wiping them out.

When’s the last time you emptied your whole kitchen and wiped out every cabinet? My money’s on “not recently.” You will be surprised how grungy drawers can get (yuck!) and surprised at how much stuff fits into even a small apartment kitchen:

Kitchen Unloaded

(The majority of our pile was not as picturesque as our coffee table full of dishes from above.)

Glad to get that taken care of. Doug hemmed and hawed about it, thinking what a pain it would be to empty out the whole kitchen… then again he’s never lived through a full-blown Southern California ant invasion, so really he doesn’t know what we’ve avoided. I was at work when the exterminator came, but Doug said that he was professional and quick. Yay!

My major take-aways from this experience were:

  • So glad we’re not moving after all (read: look at all that stuff!)
  • I’m glad we can call and have something like this arranged for us, unlike with a previous landlord who was very, ahem, laissez-faire with repairs, etc.
  • Well, now the inside of our cabinets are clean and kinda reorganized!
  • I still really, really like my whiteware dishes (from Crate and Barrel).

Chalk one up in the renters’ column… you don’t have to pay for things like this! Additionally, we finally got the large burner on our stove fixed (we had been cooking with three small burners) and it’s amazing how much faster a kettle boils on an appropriate sized coil! Imagine that!

Any boring but important repairs around your place lately? 

The 5 Kitchen Tools You Need

When I thought up this post, I wanted to do an experiment. “If I could only have five kitchen tools, what would they be?” Excluding tabletop items like plates and silverware, here’s what I came up with, and my rationale.

Top 5 Kitchen Tools

  1. Every kitchen needs an 8-inch chef’s knife. This much is a given. Get a sharp one with a nice point, and you can do most of your detail-work, paring, with it as well (although paring knives are safer since they’re less unwieldy). I wholly recommend this one–my favorite feature is the hollows along the edge, which reduce the effect of food clinging to the knife after you’ve made your cut. A great chef’s knife can also be used to peel/smash garlic.
  2. If you make the investment of a good knife, you must have a cutting board to keep it in shape. The people who lived in the apartment before us just used… the kitchen counter. There are cut marks all over and it’s so awful–not to mention bad for the knife’s blade! Getting a good cutting board (wood or plastic) is very important. And never, ever use a knife on tile, glass, stone, or metal. Just don’t! If you get a large and attractive cutting board, you can also use it for tons of other things. Decor, serving tray, perched on an ottoman to make it a coffee table? All of the above.
  3. If I could only have one pot/pan, I would get a nice large sauté pan (with lid). The large surface area on the bottom can be used like a skillet (frying pan), but the high sides and lid can act as a saucepan or stockpot to make rice or even soup or chili, if you have to. This one in particular has some slope to it which makes it almost wok-like, too. Every pan has its own use, but this one is a nice, useful hybrid and can perform lots of duties in a pinch.
  4. My go-to item for stirring, flipping, everything is my bamboo spatula. If you want to cheat on this “five tools” challenge, you can grab this set, which is what I have used for years and I loooove. Bamboo holds up really nicely (I prefer it to regular light-wood spoons or turners) and will not damage nonstick pans. Overall, one should avoid using metal utensils in any pots and pans unless it’s a non-coated stainless steel pan.
  5. The sauté pan I listed above can go in the oven, but there’s just something about a rectangular, covered casserole dish that I wouldn’t want to be without. Use it for anything from casseroles to roasting meat, to brownies or cakes.

I hope this is encouraging to someone who watches the Food Network and sees the chefs using all this specialized gadgetry or walks into a kitchen store and gets glassy-eyed. You can create amazing meals at home with the most minimal of tools. Even someone with the smallest of kitchens surely has space for these… right?

But, just for fun… come back Wednesday for 5 unnecessary but awesome-to-have tools. ;) 

More Thoughts on Moving (Gripe List Edition)

As I mentioned the other day, as September approaches I’m getting antsy about the prospect of possibly moving to a new place. Spending an extended amount of time at a few of our friends’ really nice places this weekend has only compounded my desire to pack up for greener pastures! Taking into account the rager that kept me up until 4:00 Sunday morning, let’s just say that most of my thoughts this weekend have had to do with the possibility of a new place.

Time for the gripe list. If for no other reason, I’m doing this for me–so I can see it all written down in one spot. Maybe rereading it in a few weeks will tip the scales one way or another?

  • First and foremost, if nothing is done about the noisy parties, we are so out of here. It’s kinda a dealbreaker at this point. Repeated complaints from a lot of tenants have done nothing, but rumor has it “something” will be done today.
  • The paint. I don’t mind that everything is painted white, white, white. I have nothing against white paint–in fact I like the idea of a blank canvas. However, I don’t know what kind of paint they used but on frequently used or brushed-up-against places, it flakes off and leaves little white pieces all over the floor–especially the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. This is so aggravating! It looks really shabby and we’ve only been here a little over eight months.
  • The neighborhood. Not only was Doug’s bike stolen, but his truck was vandalized and the object of an attempted break-in. It got to the point that selling it became an attractive option. I don’t know why it was targeted, and it still makes my blood boil since I know it was special to him. Thankfully my dad generously gifted us a 12 year old vehicle that does not draw attention to itself and has been unscathed so far (knock on wood).
  • Wonky layout. The long and lean apartment makes it so awkward to space plan. I’ve been challenging myself to be creative but I think I’m just the kind of person who likes walls, and doors, and real divisions between rooms. At least now I know I wouldn’t do well in an urban loft type of place!

Renters, what would you do? Is it worth the hassle? Getting a new place is tempting but the physical act of moving is the worst! Weigh in! 

If you didn’t read the whole gripe list, I am not offended! If you did, please know that despite my renter’s remorse about our current place, things overall are on the up and up and I’m not letting this drag down my mood or anything. Overall these are happy days! I’m happy to be living in America’s Finest City and enjoying life!

Pondering a New Apartment

September is looming. The end of a lease is kind of like a DTR for apartment dwellers. It says, “where do you see yourself for the next six-to-twelve months?” To get the best price, you often have to lock yourself in to a longer time commitment.

Tons of thoughts are swirling around in my head. I am not in love with our apartment complex, but I know our “generous” 825 square feet is hard to find at a reasonable price. Most 800+ apartments/condos/houses are in the $1600/mo. range here in San Diego! I don’t know why I feel uncomfortable sharing how much we pay per month, but I do. I’ll just say it is certainly less than $1600.

We walked through an apartment that is 725 square feet yesterday. 100 less square feet, but over $200 less per month than we are paying now. I know that if we consider homes in the 700 square foot range, we might be able to find a few good candidates at a lower price point. Saving $200 per month amounts to $2400 per year! But can I (we) live in that small of a space?

The cons about our current place:

  • Noisy neighbors
  • Awkward layout
  • Expensive
  • Third floor
  • Little natural light
  • Inattentive management

The pros:

  • We already live here (i.e, no moving trucks!)
  • Unusually large sq. footage for a one-bedroom
  • Dishwasher
  • One reserved parking spot
  • Pool and hot tub (that is, during the rare moments when they aren’t too crowded)
  • Easy freeway access

Luckily, I have a couple of months to ponder this and troll craigslist to see if a better option opens up. I don’t really want to move again, but I do want a new place! The truth is: I want to buy a new place! With all these bloggers I follow making big moves I want to have my own homebuying adventure and start rolling some of our hard earned money into real estate equity (doesn’t that sound grown-up?) rather than filling the pockets of our property management company every month, and having nothing to show for it.

As I diligently try to squirrel extra cash into savings for a down-payment, I will continue to hem and haw about whether we need a new apartment or not.

Any advice for me??