Friday, January 19, 2007

Paint Trends: Black

I've seen a lot of charcoal gray and black paint lately...

From Apartment Therapy.

From the Ralph Lauren Paint site.

From the Domino Design Project.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

My Clutter

Below are some photos of my clutter. I've pulled everything out and I am beginning to sort through it all. What I've realized is that my decorating issues go beyond my knick knacks. I've got some good core pieces, like my sofa and lounge chair. I also have some nice pieces that fit the style I want, like the Nambe vase. Unfortunately, I need to rethink everything else.

Italian plates and other ceramics from around the house.

The day-glow owl sculpture.

A Nambe vase we received as a wedding gift.

Miscellaneous items ranging from garage sale finds to the silver boat my in-laws brought chocolate in for our engagement party.

Reformation of a Maximalist?

My inner maximalist has spent the last few years duking it out with my inner minimalist. The result is a home full of clean-lined furniture and pristinely empty walls, but cluttered with collections of mismatched art, plants and ceramics that overwhelm every end table and and shelf in the house.

What is a maximalist? I think, mostly, it's a word I made up. What I mean it to mean is a person who decorates with clutter. Maxilmalism can be done well (think full-wall collections of art, perfectly arranged mounds of throw pillows, the Royal Tenenbaums). But apparently not by me.

For years, I've been struggling to create a serene, eclectic and elegant home, something like this fabulous minimalist pad I saw today at Apartment Therapy Chicago (see photo to the left).

But at the same time, I am drawn to the colorful and comfortably full look of rooms like this one from the Domino Magazine site (see image to the right).

The decor resulting from my internal decorating delima is neither minimalist nor eclectically homey. I've always thought the solution was to get more things or different things; that a new sofa would make it work, or new curtains, or more art for the walls...But more stuff isn't the fix.

The problem is that my stuff isn't meant to go together like the collections I see in magazine rooms. Not even close. My stuff includes everything from Day of the Dead ceramic statues to vintage Italian plates featuring post-modern horse heads. I have art deco vases, a day-glow enameled wall sculpture featuring owls, an iron-embellished coffee table hand-made by my grandfather, and the list goes on.

Needless to say, I have personal attachments to most of these disparate items. Sure I can get rid of some things (maybe those owls), but how do I decorate with the rest, balancing my enjoyment of the stuff I love with the aesthetics of my home? I want a home that looks great, not an impersonal style-shrine ripped from a catalog.

So I've decided to go home tonight and have it out with my clutter demons. I am going to get rid of some things and regroup. Once I see what I'm left with, maybe I can find a solution. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Acrylic Tub Refinishing Really Works

Replacing an old tub is expensive and time-consuming. Taking out the tub usually requires re-tiling the tub-surround as well. All that expense is fine if you are improving a home you own, but what if you rent, or your budget is small?

My mother recently hired an acrylic refinishing company to redo the bathtub in a rental property they own. I went by to check it out yesterday, and it looks amazing! For under $300, they have a like-new white tub where there used to be a chipped pink one (photo from site, not my mom's project). The refinisher I queried said that the acrylic coating comes in tons of colors, though the site only shows white. They also do tile and counter tops.

The only question in my mind is how the finish will fare over time. There are limitations on how it can be cleaned (i.e. no harsh scrubs), which worries me a little. If I decide to give it a try on our 1950's tub, I'll let you know what I think.

Amazing Teak Bench for Bath or Entryway

Domino features a deal on this beautiful teak bench in their February issue. I think it was a steal at $387, but you can get it for $348.30 by entering DOMINO207 at check out.

The magazine shows the bench as a part of an amazing pared-down bathroom based on Donald Judd's concrete art installations (p. 52). I could also see it on a front porch or in the backyard.

Red Lentil Soup for a Slushy Day

This is my absolute favorite soup. I first tried it at a beach resort in South Turkey. It was 12 am and my husband and I were starving, and this soup was all the resort kitchen had available at the pool-side bar. We each got a steaming bowl with a hunk of fresh bread. It was delicious.

Red Lentil Soup

1/2 pound dry red lentils
2 tablespoons butter
2 small white onions, chopped
4 cups water
Salt, pepper, and Cayenne pepper, to taste
4 cups plain canned chicken broth
1 cup milk

In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until just melted. Add chopped onion, salt and pepper. Saute for five minutes, stirring frequently.

Add lentils and 4 cups of water to the pan. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes and then cover and cook an additional 10 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Most of the water will be absorbed by the lentils. Add additional water 1/4 cup at a time, if necessary.

Turn the burner off and allow lentils and onions to cool for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or good blender and blend until perfectly smooth and set aside. Be sure not to leave any whole lentils or onion pieces in the sauce pan. I have a small food processor, so I blend a few cups at a time and transfer to a large bowl.

Return the empty saucepan to the burner over medium heat. Add 4 cups of broth to the pan and heat for several minutes. Add the lentil puree and Cayenne pepper to the pan and whisk until combined. Start with 1/2 or less of Cayenne. The soup will get spicier as it cooks. Continue to cook over medium heat until heated through, stirring frequently. Do not allow the mixture to boil.

Add milk and cook a few more minutes, until heated through.

Serve the soup with the juice of a lemon wedge squeezed into each bowl and a piece of soft French bread.

The soup will keep in the refrigerator for up to seven days. It tends to separate out, with the bean puree settling to the bottom of the container. Simply stir before heating.

If you live in Dallas, you can find red lentils in the bulk section of Sprouts. I have also seen them with the dried beans in Central Market. If you live in North Dallas, Shine's Mediterranean stocks them with their dried goods.

Snow Bound

You've probably heard about the winter weather that is blasting the Southwest, so I probably don't need to mention that Dallas is getting a little snow and sleet. Of course, in Dallas, a little snow and sleet means a paralyzed city. Most of the schools and offices are closed, including my office.

Luckily, I spent the weekend in NYC which had great weather and was amazing. I had never been (I know, it's terrible). We got held up at the airport Monday night for about 8 hours, so I am just now getting to my computer for the week. Hopefully being house-bound will give me time to get caught up on my magazines, blogs, and Web surfing.

FYI - LaGuardia has mice after 10 pm. They're kind of cute and certainly entertaining if you've had nothing to do but read tabloids for 6 hours straight.