Author Archive

Ania’s Design Dilemma

Ania’s living & dining room is ready for a major style overhaul. Here’s her letter:

Woohoo! I feel like I won something to score one of your fast selling custom mood boards! I need advice for my living room/dining area. My husband and I dig modern, contemporary, glamorous, and beachy styles. As for stores, we love Anthropologie, CB2, West Elm, Z Gallerie, Macy’s (where we have a major gift card) and Crate and Barrel (where we also have another big gift card). I absolutely want a new longer media cabinet. Between the sectional, coffee table, side table, and dining table, I feel like our furniture is oversized and I don’t like how everything is boxy. Any of those items can be replaced as you see fit. I also don’t like how our sectional is pushed up against the window and I’ve recently developed a crush on white circular pendant lamps and capiz chandeliers. I’d love some art for the walls (the paint color should stay). I LOVE teals, blues, oranges, greens, and yellows for accessories. I really like your use of modern patterns (like the geometric duvet in your master bedroom). I also like white furniture but need help mixing it with my espresso/mahogany stuff. We really want this room to be the starting point for our entire house, so we’d love if you could make a paint recommendation for the kitchen (which is also open to the living/dining area). We’re in the middle of replacing the window casings (which is why our windows have paper on them) but we do have white wood blinds for them. Thanks! We are soooo excited! – Ania

Here’s the plan:

And now for the mood board breakdown.

1. Ania’s brown, tan, umber, sunshine yellow and white color palette is inspired by her love of mixing and matching different wood tones with white and bringing in some pops of one of her favorite accent colors (yellow) in the accessories. We’ll take her furnishings from brown-brown-everywhere to a bit more diverse collection of pieces, and we’ll bring in some breezy patterns and prints to keep things feeling layered and textured and oh so chic.

2. We’d love to see Ania’s large sectional pulled at least 18″ away from the walls (we can ground it on a floating rug to make sense of the new floor plan) for a less crowded feeling (this will also allow Ania to use some of the central space in the room instead of pushing everything up against all the walls). Then tossing a few of these delicately patterned yellow and soft tan pillows around the sectional will further break up all the brown in the room for a more layered and luxe feeling in the space. And for extra credit when it comes to the room’s function, Ania could slide a sofa table like this behind it (since we’re replacing her existing coffee table and removing her current side table it will give her another place for guests to rest drinks and things beyond the new coffee table).

3. Ania was speaking our language when she mentioned she loves capiz chandeliers, and we dug up this super dramatic extra long one for above her new dining table to create a beachy chic little nook to dine with style to spare. It’ll really soften the entire space and the curved shape will be a nice counterpart to the more linear items like the sectional and the flatscreen TV.

4. We’d love to see an asymmetrical wall of frames on the L-shaped wall behind the sectional (check out this video for tips on putting one together). An example of something we’d love among the frames would be this cute yellow and umber ginko print (such a steal) and a few other ideas would be to frame anything else with tan, wheat, yellow and brown tones for a mixed and matched yet totally layered and lovely look (a square of yellow construction paper, some cool patterned fabrics, even pretty honey-toned scarves- the sky’s the limit!).

5. We always love to see something light, round and reflective above a boxy big screen TV, so this capiz mirror (on sale!) will really bounce light around the room and soften the TV corner while tying into the capiz chandelier on the other side of the room.

6. These breezy printed medallion curtains will really dress up the dining nook when they’re hung on either side of each window to create an elegant and enveloping effect- and the texture and interest that the pattern will add to the entire space will be priceless.

7. Ania mentioned that she wanted a longer and more solid TV stand to help her hide those unruly wires so we dug up this extra long one to easily house her big screen TV and hide all of her cords and components behind a chic combination of solid and frosted doors. Best of all, the modern metal legs will tie into the new dining room chairs that we’ll be bringing in, so stay tuned for that…

8. This large 8 x 10 rug will instantly ground the sectional that we’ll be moving at least 18″ away from the wall, and will help fill out the rest of the living room and create a welcoming and warm vibe. We love the tone on tone pattern that it adds to the space, and it even picks up the colors in the curtain medallions and the new coffee table that we’ll be introducing for a mixed yet totally cohesive vibe in the entire open area.

9. We’d love to see a chunky and traditional white pedestal table (a steal from Ikea- plus it expands to seat six!) paired with some modern metal-legged bentwood chairs to replicate the old meets new look that feels eclectic and collected over time. Not convinced? Check out an extremely similar pairing in our sunroom pictured here and here (somehow old with new just works when they’re in the same color palette- and the white will really break up all the other brown pieces in Ania’s space).

10. Ania thought her furnishings were all too dark and square, so we love the idea of bringing in a round capiz chandelier and dining table along with curvy dining chairs and even a round mirror over the TV. The last round element we’ll introduce is this rich walnut coffee table (on clearance!) which is a bit of a lighter toned wood that still ties into the other darker furnishings in the room thanks to the rug (which has both tones within it, thereby marrying everything together). This curvy little addition will add tons of flow in the living area (our favorite pairing with any sectional is always a round coffee table or ottoman), and since the old side table, coffee table, dining table and chairs will eventually be updated, Ania can Craigslist them to make some major loot (which she can put back into the space to complete the room).

Oh and we can’t forget Ania’s request for a kitchen paint color, we’d actually suggest painting it the same color as the living and dining room (since they’re so open to each other it will really keep things expansive and airy) or even sliding one shade darker on the paint swatch and going for that tone in the kitchen which will make for a coordinated yet slightly varied look with dimension and ambiance.

So there you have it. A living and dining room full of chic and modern style. We can’t wait to see what you guys think!

Update: Ania sent us her after pictures and they’re nothing short of amazing! Check them out right here.

Update #2: We sadly can no longer find the time to take on client commissioned mood boards (we now whip up general inspiration boards instead) but if we ever reinstate them we’ll make a big announcement!


Ask Almost-Doctor Dan: Handy Or Harmful?

Every once in a great while we’re given the opportunity to share something that could actually help the planet even if just one in ten people who read our blog put it into practice (like toting reusable shopping bags or collecting rainwater in a barrel). And this, my friends, is one of those times. Please feel free to pass this info on to your friends and family members!

And who do we have to thank for this wealth of information that just might change the world as we know it (or at least change your impact on the planet from this day forward)? Why none other than my über intelligent little brother Dan (also affectionately known as Almost-Doctor Dan):


Remember when we introduced him here (and revisited his giant brain here)? As a little refresher, he went to Cornell and graduated with the highest GPA of his entire graduating class (a 4.21 if you’re wondering). Yup, out of all of the kids in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, he was the Valedictorian. Yeah, he’s brainy. Now he’s a graduate student at Columbia with a Master’s degree under his belt, steadily working his way up to his Doctorate in chemistry with a full scholarship from the National Science Foundation. Not only do they pay for his education but they actually pay him a stipend for rent and food- all in return for wearing a lab coat almost 24/7 and messing around with molecules and polymers all day. Sweet deal huh? Serious Einstein stuff going on.

Anyway, so on a recent phone convo we got to talking about the impending flu season and all the gross germs that seem to be swirling around more and more these days (thanks so about a million media stories on the subject) and Dan shared something so unbelievable that we just had to pass it on. In short, we learned that the idea of antibacterial soap is a marketing ploy that’s actually terrible for the environment. Here’s Almost-Doctor Dan to break things down for us:

What makes most “antibacterial soaps” antibacterial is a chlorinated aromatic compound called Triclosan. By itself this compound doesn’t appear toxic to humans, but every time you wash your hands this stuff is ending up in wastewater and eventually making its way into the environment. Think about how quickly you go through a bottle of hand soap and realize that every last drop of it ends up going down the drain. You’ve got millions of people across the country using this and it’s ending up in lakes, streams, oceans etc (where it’s not particularly biodegradable by the way).

If it were really keeping people from getting sick, perhaps an argument could be made that this is an acceptable consequence, but it really isn’t necessary! Bacteria and viruses can’t penetrate healthy, intact skin. The only way that pathogenic bacteria on your hands can make you sick is if you eat something or touch a mucous membrane (your eyes, nose, mouth, etc); up until that point they are basically harmless and loosely attached to your skin.

And to remove them from your skin before you eat or touch a mucous membrane, any soap that you use will not only dislodge bacteria from your hands but will likely kill it as well by disrupting its cell membranes. This is why the whole idea of an ‘antibacterial soap’ is just plain silly – any type of soap in and of itself will cleanse your hands of bacteria. Unless you work in an environment that requires truly sterile hands (a hospital for example) the use of these antibacterial soaps is a waste of money and resources as well as a bane to the environment.

Is that not the most interesting thing you’ve heard all day? Well, we thought it was, and we couldn’t believe that companies are slapping the old “antibacterial” claim on their bottles to encourage people to purchase them when in fact they’re doing the world more harm than good (and regular old soap and water does the same thing without the environmental harm!). By no means do we mean to be preachy, but we just had to pass this info along in the hopes that even a few other households might adopt an anti-antibacterial approach and keep tons of damaging pollutants from permeating lakes, rivers, and oceans over time (can you imagine how much of a difference this new approach could make if just ten people changed the type of soap that they purchase over the next ten years?).

We also got a letter from another Almost-Doctor (Kristin who’s currently getting her PhD in Germany) who actually works with bacteria on a day-to-day basis. Here’s what she has to say on the subject:

Bacteria, in general, live nearly everywhere. The vast majority is harmless, some are even beneficial. Even when you wash your hands with antibacterial/disinfectant soaps, the remaining bacteria grows back to their normal number within hours or a day. And as I mentioned, some bacteria are actually beneficial. For example, microbiologists who have to use antibacterial disinfectants on their hands several times a day often suffer from skin damage because the beneficial bacterial skin flora is destroyed (and skin damage can make you more susceptible to getting sick while healthy intact skin is usually impervious to germs).

When cleaning we should think of bacteria as a normal part of our environment, not as something that should be completely destroyed. It is impossible to get rid of bacteria completely, and there is no need to. Too much antibacterial disinfection in households can even become dangerous – the more disinfectants that we use, the higher the possibility is that strain of bacteria will become resistant. In addition, some scientists think a too clean environment facilitates allergies – your immune system has to be trained constantly.

Water with soap kills or washes off 99% of all bacteria. If you do not want to use too much soap, or any at all, you can even use a microfiber cloth with water only – the small fibers will collect most of the bacteria and the towel can be washed in hot water to naturally disinfect it afterwards (which destroys the microbes). These two methods of hand washing are completely sufficient for a normal household with healthy people.

So there you have it. Two insanely smart science-minded brainiacs on separate continents who agree on one thing: lose that antibacterial stuff and wash you hands thoroughly with good old fashioned soap and water to kill germs just as well and do a serious solid to Mother Nature while you’re at it. John and I are big fans of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castille Soap (the almond scent is our favorite). It’s sold at Target among other places and it’s made with organic oils and even stored in a 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottle. Basically, if you’re looking to replace your antibacterial soap and want some extra credit, this stuff is about as pure as they come (it’s certified fair trade and plant-based so it won’t hurt lakes, streams, rivers and oceans in the least). And so ends our little soap diatribe. Here’s to our health this fall! And the planet’s health too.

Need more of a reference than two almost doctors? Check out what the Center For Disease Control has to say on the subject here and here (hint: they agree with the braniacs above).