I’ve been thinking a lot about materialism. Specifically, is it possible to write about material items on a weekly basis – coveting them, making them, upgrading them for purely asthetic purposes – without becoming, in the end, simply about things?

Sometimes I feel shallow for caring about what our couch legs look like. Shouldn’t having a couch be enough? Shouldn’t the fact that we have an apartment to live in be all we need? It can be difficult to remember why it’s legitimate to care about the aesthetics of my home, let alone write about it, when every day I’m bombarded with articles telling me what trend I need to include in my next project or showing me neverending items that promise to complete whatever look I’m going for. This attitude so clearly goes too far, that it makes me feel like caring at all is to participate in an industry that exists not only to sell but to oversell. Can’t valuable content be created without focusing so much on if we have the Right Things? What about focusing on why we have it, instead?

Because I do think it’s legitimate, even important, to think about what we surround ourselves with and why. I don’t think the “what” is important in the way that we can get trapped into thinking it is. It’s not important to be “on trend” or interesting to anyone but yourself. But part of being human is coming to terms with the fact that we are visually stimulated creatures. And to me, that means that the objects I encounter throughout my day matter.

The first time I saw a Monet painting in person, I was sixteen and visiting England with my Girl Scout troop. And I cried. It was so moving to me, to finally see the color and emotion in person, up close. It was real, and I cried. I thought it was a first time viewing thing, but I’ve since moved to New York and regularly visit Monet’s Water Lilies at the MoMA with Sam. It’s by far my favorite place in New York (I don’t mean favorite museum, or favorite day trip, or anything. I mean if you asked me where I want to go with my free time on any given day, I will probably say I would like to go visit the Water Lilies), and every single time I’ve gone, I’ve cried. They matter to me.

I’m sure you could to find someone who would say Water Lilies doesn’t matter, but I hope it would be difficult, and I have no doubt that the majority of people in the world are on my side of this. Art, and the way it makes us feel, and the way we feel when we are physically in its presence, not just through knowing that it’s out there in the world, is important. It is essential to what it is to be human. In that way, objects matter as well. But sometimes I have trouble remembering that when it comes to the every day things in my life.

We’ve all read the articles citing studies that spending money on experiences rather than things brings more happiness to our individual indexes, and I agree with that philosophy. But what are we doing when we put thought and effort into the objects that fill our homes if not creating a daily experience? We might not cry every time we look at our living room (though I’ve certainly been known to when I come home at the end of the day and find that Sam has cleaned the entire apartment while on break from school), but where we live and how we live there, matters. And the objects with which we choose to populate our lives matter, too.

 

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Our sofa saga is equal parts really great luck and truly terrible luck. The first half involved finding the exact couch we wanted to buy from IKEA on craigslist for $100, available to pick up literally 2 minutes from the IKEA we were already planning on going to in New Jersey on the day we moved. It had been sitting in storage, wrapped in brown paper and plastic, as if waiting just for us. We picked it up, then just bought a new isunda grey cover from IKEA to recover it once we got it home. Magic.

There was the little problem, however, that once we took the legs off to get it up the stairs (something that was probably unnecessary), we didn’t have a long enough screwdriver to put them back on. Because I didn’t want to put the new cover on until the dresser was done, and we didn’t want to fix the legs issue until the new cover was on, we sat on the couch frame on the ground for the first two months we were here. While I don’t have a good before photo of the couch (forgive me, I wasn’t a blogger then), you can somewhat see what I was working with here:

There was also the problem that, regardless of if we could figure out to put them back on the frame, I hated the original IKEA legs. IKEA furniture legs are inexplicably horrible compared to the relative style of their couches. They’re just blocks of unfinished wood, and I knew they would bother me every day if I didn’t figure out a way to improve them. But it’s just for these kinds of issues that the internet has gifted us with IKEA hacks. For those of you who have not been blessed with my particular brand of crazy, you might not be aware that there exists a whole subset of people who not only brave the IKEA superstores, get their purchases home, and spend several hours deciphering ridiculous instructions in order to assemble their purchases, but who then proceed to spend even more time painting, staining, and otherwise altering their IKEA furniture and housewares. I understand this is baffling to many people. It’s ok. Feel free to proceed with the total understanding that there is no reason I do the things I do except to torture myself and others for as long as possible before we finally have a place to sit and watch some freaking TV at the end of a long day.

It’s because of this online sphere that I found a woodworker on Etsy who makes custom IKEA furniture legs. For $35 I got four new midcentury (what else) sofa legs for our Karlstad sofa. They took me about ten minutes to stain and seal, and once they were finished we finally got out the sofa cover we bought on our first trip to IKEA almost two months previously.

It was, of course, the wrong size.

It turns out we bought the full size couch, but it was advertised on craiglist as the smaller love seat, and that’s what I had in my head when we grabbed the cover in IKEA. So we had to haul out to the Brooklyn IKEA on one of the coldest days in January, riding on a ferry while my teeth literally chattered from how frozen I was. The plan was that I would head into the catacombs of IKEA to pick up our new couch cover and a few other things we needed while Sam returned the old cover, but when we walked in the average wait time for returns was 90 minutes. So we pulled a number, we both went and got our new cover, and when we were done there were still 60 minutes to go if we wanted to try to return it. We had a ferry to catch and I was not going to sit out in 10 degree weather for longer than absolutely necessary, so Sam ran back into the warehouse and just…left our too-small couch cover among its brethren on the shelf. And we left.

The lesson in all this is that measuring twice, cutting once applies to craigslit IKEA purchases as well. I’m happy about the mix-up, because I probably wouldn’t have bought the couch if I had realized it was the larger one, but it turns out our apartment can totally handle it so I chalk it up as a win.

Not bad for some $30 legs and a new couch cover (or two). It was simultaneously the easiest and most annoying project in the apartment thus far, and for those of you looking at getting an IKEA couch and who know how to buy the right couch cover on your first trip to IKEA, I’d recommend it!

 

Last weekend, Sam and I went for the first bike ride of the year! Sam will bike in all weather, but I’ll only bike when it’s sunny and warm. We just went for a ride around Central Park, but our somewhat harried ride to the park reminded me of this video, have you seen it?

It’s a short documentary-style video that efficiently tears apart the terrible state of biking in most of the US from the perspective of a dutch rider. He points out how dangerous it is for people to bike ride here, and how that filters into how we think about biking. Most Americans categorize biking as a leisure activity – I never realized how odd it might seem to a culture that sees biking as a mode of transportation to see Americans putting bikes on their cars to drive somewhere before getting on their bikes. It would be almost like seeing someone tow their car out to a race track to use it for the day before putting it back in the garage for a few weeks. Bizarre.

I can’t stop looking up bike rides to do up here – I’m hoping we can ride up to the Cloisters before this stained glass exhibit closes!

 

During the last few weeks of bitter cold this year, Sam and I started to daydream incessantly about my warmer roots, wondering if the cold over here really is worth it when we have a built in community waiting for us in California. Finally, though, it feels like we’ve come out of it for good. I spent the weekend following the sun around our apartment like a cat, finding the sunniest spots to sit with my new iPad or a book. After such a long, cold, and dark winter, it was wonderful to feel like the world was bright again.

norway1-superJumbo Continue reading

Now that I can actually see all of my jewelry, I can’t stop thinking about stacking rings.

36ten stacking ringvia

I know I’m late to this party, but they caught my eye a while ago and I just think they’re so cool. I can never decide if I like thicker rings or thinner rings better, and with a set of these I would be able to decide day by day. Continue reading

Before the great shelf building of 2014, the top drawer of my side of the dresser looked like this:drawer and organizer beforeI probably should have told you to shield your eyes, but what kind of fun is a good after if you aren’t thoroughly and unwillingly scarred by a before shot, right? Continue reading