Monday, August 25, 2008

SHELTER: A Revolutionary in Repose

Welcome to the home of Revolutionary Girl. I had spent months trying to track her down for an interview and she did not disappoint. We have a few things in common, a strong belief in DIY, the environment, and wall-to-wall carpet skeeves her out too! (Come on, if you inherited it, don't you always wonder what has been done on it and what is really down there? Ewww!)

Would you consider yourself an artistic person?
Is it something that you use in your career or daily life?
I am a web designer by profession. Growing up, I always had some kind of project going on, be it drawing or jewelry making or even repurposing things for alternative uses. I had this dream as a child that I’d one day build a robot from stuff I’d find in people’s garbage. Things really haven’t changed all that much! I’m very much a thrifter, so what is one person’s trash really could be my treasure. I also still love repurposing things – looking at an item beyond its intended use and what a simple coat of paint could do. My creative outlets now are home décor and knitting.

How would you describe the style of your home?
Mid-century modern meets Japanese pop culture meets flea market chic.

How would you describe your personal style?

That’s a tough one! I attempt to mix things up as best I can (not always successfully, I have to admit.) Usually I start with something that fits my mood, comfort being key (not counting shoes.) It starts with a neutral palette that I try to amp up with one or two bold colors or complementing patterns. I dream of being able to pair vintage thrifts with designer labels – oh, if I only had the time and budget!

How well does your home match you and your personality?
I think people would say that when I fall for something I fall hard and that I am very calculating. This totally manifests in the way I decorate my home in that I can be completely fixated on a look and then plan and plan and plan. Even when I arrange items together, I am CONSTANTLY moving things over an inch and tend to rearrange practically on a weekly basis.

Do you think your décor style matches your personal style?
The same idea of experimenting with pattern and color is definitely one that I work at on both fronts. I start with some basic furniture pieces from Crate and Barrel or IKEA, and then try to make it more aesthetically unique with vintage mid-century and depression era pieces I’ve either inherited or found on Craigslist. I love modern and vintage, and especially unique handmade items. I love a minimalist aesthetic and a warm, lived-in feel. Hmm, I guess it could be best described as design-schizophrenic! But it works or it doesn’t. That last statement I made about personal style – TOTALLY applicable to the home décor front as well!

How comfortable are you in your living space?
This house is our first and while it’s far from perfect, I’ve really enjoyed living in it so far. We have done a lot to make it our own and there is still a lot more to be done. I feel as though my home is one giant creative outlet. There are limits (rooms and walls can’t be moved easily), but I try to push the limits and make it into something creative and functional.

What specific difficulties did you have when decorating your space?
I believe if the space has great bones and a good foundation, there is potential. We have a relatively small split-level house built in the late ‘60s. What I really love about the layout is that the rooms really flow from one to the other making it seem much more open than it really is. There are a few layout issues creating irregular spaces and too many doors opening into one room. I literally spent months studying shelter magazines and websites before I really made decisions about paint and furniture for small rooms or large narrow rooms.

There’s not a lot of storage space, which, on the plus side, keeps us really aware of not collecting too much stuff. Finally, though not a deal-breaker, our home wasn’t built with wood floors. This was kind of disappointing since I absolutely love wood floors and absolutely despise wall-to-wall carpeting. At least that problem is more fixable.

What was your biggest influence in choosing your current décor?
Oh gosh, I don’t even know – everything? I am a total Internet junkie – I obsessively scour design blogs and communities (such as Apartment Therapy, Design*Sponge, Decor8, CasaSugar, Print and Pattern, and Flickr), artist blogs (like
Camilla Engman, Lisa Congdon, Ashley Goldberg, Lena Corwin, Kozyndan, and Heather Moore), as well as shelter magazines (like Domino, Cottage Living, Blueprint, Dwell, and Elle Decor). I am always on the search for creative decorating ideas and inspiration, as well as practical and DIY projects. I am completely addicted to scouring yard sales for cool things. I love finding out about lesser-known indie designers and artists that have a different creative perspective. There’s always something to learn!

I tend to choose décor that evokes an emotion, whether I am salivating over the colors, delighted by the pattern combinations, inspired by new talent, or something sentimental. I go for personality, comfort and functionality, quality and affordability.

What has been the most expensive change you have made to your space?
We recently replaced a very old, unused wood-burning stove in the family room with a propane stove. It was expensive, but given how energy and oil prices have been soaring, it will pay off in the long run. Our house was built with air circulation in mind, so the heat that generates from the stove will move up easily to the bedroom level of the house. This allows us to balance out our propane and electric costs more and more efficiently to heat our home. An added benefit is that the new stove is significantly smaller than the old one and it doesn’t generate any soot or smoke. It is also really convincing as a wood-burning stove, creating a very warm, homey atmosphere.

What has been the least expensive, yet most influential change you have made to your space?
Our kitchen and master bathroom had vinyl paneling on the bottom-half of the walls. On the first day of ownership, before we moved any of our stuff in, I took a crowbar to it. HUGE difference! In other rooms it was either new paint or even just white cotton curtains that made the difference between a having a small, dark space to something brighter. One really inexpensive and fun decorating idea is simply rearranging your books by color. Everyone’s been doing it lately, but I still appreciate the effect.

Have you done any of the décor yourself?
I’ve taken and framed a couple photos that I especially love. I also took several pottery classes, during which I made a pair of figurines that were inspired by Scandinavian pottery I spotted on eBay. I’m planning on knitting a throw pillow and an ambitious blanket project this year, I’m VERY excited!

What DIY projects have you done?

I mentioned earlier that our house had a lot of carpeting. There is something about carpeting that creeps me out; I can’t explain it. So, before we moved in, we spent a weekend installing wood floors on the main floor ourselves (with the help of the in-laws). TOTALLY worth it.

Since I love collecting furniture, I’ve found and purchased a few items that were renewed with a coat of paint or a simple reupholstering. I still have several chairs that have much trickier upholstery that are rather beyond my sewing skills. I desperately want to learn to sew, but they may wind up being a job for a professional.

What changes have you made that make you feel the most proud?
Two major lifestyle goals we’ve made this year are to minimize our stuff and to be more environmentally conscious. Even though my previous career was as an environmental scientist, there are more and more opportunities to live a more sustainable lifestyle. We recently did a clean-sweep of our house selling off furniture on Craigslist, collectibles on eBay, everything else via a yard sale, and finally donating and Free Cycle what didn’t sell. It feels especially freeing!

On the green front, we’ve been working on making a more dedicated space in our yard for composting. We’ve also been replacing cleaning supplies as they are used up with more natural or earth-friendly alternatives and bringing reusable bags when we shop. This year is also our first year participating in a local farm share program offering organically grown fruits and vegetables. I’m super excited, although it will definitely change our entire approach to grocery shopping and planned meals.

What do you plan to do next in your space?

Two of the major areas that need work in our house are the family room and the master bathroom. I feel as though the bathroom is going to be the least appreciated, but more costly project. The family room floor could be replaced. Currently it is some kind of pink faux-marbleized vinyl tile with faded and discolored areas, probably from a half-century of use. It really clashes the décor (and my tastes). It would be amazing to swap that out with something, anything really. The easiest and affordable solution would probably be floating wood flooring from IKEA or Lowes. When this is going to happen is still up in the air, but hopefully in the next year or so.

Some of the easier projects that lay ahead are painting the bedrooms, finishing the main floor trim and door frames, painting the garage door, and stripping and staining the wood patio.

Have you seen any movie or TV homes that you would want to live in?
I always liked Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in Sex and the City and loved how they showed the makeover of it in the movie production. I love the new lovely blue walls and especially the collection of framed art over her bed. The bold, graphic rug is fantastic as are the white décor accents (something I’m working on now in my own home). Although I think I prefer the mid-century furniture from the TV version to the more classic and modern digs. Another show’s set that I notice on occasion is Lost. Since many of the scenes involve flashbacks or are of island locations that were furnished several decades earlier in the storyline, some really great lamps and furniture can be spotted.

3 comments: said...

This was such a fabulous interview! I love that it was lengthy and covered a variety of my favorite topics-decor, art, DIY and the environment! Great job!

holly said...

Me too! Love all the details and seemingly "unedited" scoop! thanks.

Alexander said...

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