Category: Home

Home is Where the Art Is

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” 
― Pablo Picasso

Tucked away discreetly on Bermondsey is an absolute gem of a find if. Step with me into Pure and Applied: a workshop, antiques shop, print sellers, and gallery combined.

We first discovered this place during an annual street festival, which Bermondsey throws every year and in which all the shops and sellers throw open their doors and plenty of others join in to hawk wares ranging from homemade to high design artisan. Bermondesy Street is home to several restaurants and stores and is delightfully free of brand franchises–although this may change as its popularity has risen and development works near London Bridge have made it more accessible. But nevertheless, it remains downright charming and fun to visit and we look forward to the summer shindig every year.

 

 

Because Pure and Applied is so unassuming, we nearly missed the door opening to its wonders, and what a loss that would have been! Step inside and you are instantly bundled in an eccentric cocoon of old paper and wood, with the glorious attendant scents. Piles of historic prints are stacked everywhere with a mix of antique frames crowded on every wall. Print drawers and glass cases house some treasures, but most are free to rifle through as you, the happy wanderer, deem fit. A few walls serve as an artist gallery where you can purchase current art, and all the way in the back sits a huge, iron hand printer that’s worth a peek if you ever stop by.

While the shop look may be bohemian, they service all kinds of clients from humble household jobs all the way up to world class museums and galleries. I fell in love with it and return to it whenever I’m on Bermondsey Street, but it’s taken me years to finally get around to my own framing projects.

Naturally there was nowhere else I wanted to go when I was ready to bite the bullet. One of my long term goals was to begin framing all our pieces, not least of all because some of them have literally be carted around the world at this point and it was starting to feel like I was risking danger by not having them properly mounted. After major leaks damaged every single ceiling in the flat and resulted in gallons of water pouring through it, I decided it was time to begin putting things under glass.

I’ve been collecting antique prints for years. My goal is to have a gallery wall in my someday house that’s a perfect jumble of all the random things I’ve found over the years. This includes several old maps (I want to eventually own an antique map of everywhere I or Jeff have lived or traveled), a sheet of early modern parchment with marginalia art, hand-colored prints cut out of 18th century books, and magazine covers from the 1920s. On our recent trip to Portugal we chanced upon the most incredible bookstore I’ve ever seen in my life, and walked away with a Portuguese automobile advert from the 1930s, and after spotting an original print in a bar in Athens, I tracked down a reproduction of an aperitif advert that I fell in love with. Some are big, some are small, and none of them match one another–I love each one dearly.

Jeff and I always wanted to own proper art someday, sourced from artists local to our cities or neighborhood, and got our first piece from a London artist last year for our anniversary after seeing her work at an East London market. Charlotte Gerrard’s inspiration is animals and she did a wonderfully charming series based on cows…which you would not think would stop either Jeff or I in our tracks but managed to halt both of us at once, which was a pretty good sign we should buy from her. It was the first “art” we purchased and the first piece I had framed, followed recently by a reproduction printed map of Dublin in the early 20th century made by temperance workers trying to name and shame every pub in the city. Needless to say, there are a LOT and Dublin is no dryer for their efforts.

Both of these projects were custom frame jobs, where the Pure and Applied team made recommendations to help make each piece look unique and fun. I’d love to purchase one of their antique frames someday, but I’m pretty sure these would be massively out of my pricepoint, and of course you need the serendipitous match of a similar sized piece of art. In any case, the prices were on par with what you would pay a quality framer anywhere else I looked, with the benefit of proprietary frame designs. I’m very much a snob in that I like things that not anyone could just find or pick up (see also my love of vintage clothing, irritatingly niche perfume, or custom anything), so this place suits me down to the ground.

Each piece framed is very much a project, however, and I budget for them one at a time without rushing. Our cow print was my Christmas present and the Dublin map was my birthday treat, six months later. So far they are sitting under our kitchen bar awaiting their fate. I don’t want to hang any of them up and put holes in our walls when there is a likelihood of us moving in a couple of months, so at the moment they are carefully wrapped up. But whether we sign another lease or move to a new apartment this fall, I know they are not rolled up in our spare room somewhere and will be properly displayed very soon.

It’s going to take me a long, long time to frame our collection, but it’s been so fun to start the process. To have found such a cool place to do it through is the icing on an already decadent cake. Seriously, check them out if you’re ever in Bermondsey and want to revel in some shameless artistically, expert eccentricity. You won’t regret it.

The Upside of a Ceiling Collapse

“Any fool can write a book and most of them are doing it; but it takes brains to build a house.”
– Charles Fletcher Lummis

As some of you may recall, we dealt with a series of leaks in our building over the summer which, since we are on the ground floor, our apartment took the brunt of. A steady stream of water flowed through our walls and ceilings until finally about a quarter of our bedroom ceiling came down on us (literally) and our master bathroom was damaged so badly that we had to turn the majority of the electricity off in the room to safely access the area. It’s been really frustrating to deal with several months of insurance people, repair work plans which couldn’t start until the new year, and just generally feeling like our living space was compromised and could get worse at any minute.

Thankfully the repairs have started, though it’s not all rosy. We’re sleeping in our living room (again), while our master bedroom is effectively gutted and rebuilt. We’re using our second bathroom (and thanking our lucky stars that we have one), but the showerhead in it just broke for the second time. There is some kind of water damage in every single room of the house so we are having to do repairs in a rotation so that we retain some kind of functional living space. I’m eyeing some of the repairs in the ceiling already because I’m worried the drip has started up again and my paranoia is in full swing. Basically everything is just harder than it needs to be right now.

But a few good things are coming out of this process!

We’ve built a relationship with our landlord instead of relying on the management firm to handle issues. We’ve also tried to demonstrate that we are conscientious tenants who are able to help manage a less than ideal scenario. We will have to decide whether to renew our lease this year or move again, and having a good relationship with our landlord is a definite reason to consider staying put–which would also be a much less stressful proposition!

We negotiated. Because we have lost the ability to live in whole rooms of our apartment for weeks at a time over the past few months, we were able to negotiate on temporary rent reduction, which has enabled us to make larger payments towards debt.

It’s compelled a few good habits and shake ups. There is nothing like the reality of impending building works which will compress your living space to make you seriously evaluate your wants and needs! Jeff went through his closet and got rid of damaged and stained items that he had already replaced with better pieces. We both also identified a bag of items to donate to a trusted charity, and prioritized a few items that needed dry cleaning or a tailor. The journey towards less but better continues!

We also became a lot better at forgoing big weekend cleaning sessions (impossible due to the amount of dust in the air and closed of rooms) in favor of smaller and more regular tidy ups.

We’re styling. Our apartment was painted three mismatched colors in different rooms, none of which correspond with one another, before we moved in. We’re talking lavender, gray, and seafoam green walls. While the height of privilege problems, because we didn’t have exact paint reference to repaint damaged walls in the same hues, I got the landlord’s permission to do a nice neutral gray throughout the whole apartment. Well, except the second bedroom/storage closet. That’s staying seafoam green. Alas.

We evaluated. Going back the issue of whether or not we will have to move, we’ve had a chance to review our budgets and consider what our life would really be like if we chose to live in a smaller space or in a different location. Could we find the same square footage and amenities for a better price? What is our physical set up really worth to us? We love our neighborhood, but do we want to live here another three years? We don’t have all the answers to these questions, but it’s valuable to be thinking of this now rather than when we’re up against the wire. The last time we moved it was with very little warning and it’s an experience I’d strongly prefer not to repeat!

We’re still in the middle of this work and there is still plenty of time for stuff to go wrong. Meanwhile, we’re stressed and cramped and trying to recapture the romance of childhood when camping in the living room was a treat and not a project. But if we get some of these upsides in exchange, that will make it worthwhile.

Slow Days

“I don’t want to be alone, I want to be left alone.”
– Audrey Hepburn

Its not terribly exciting, but one of the things I really like is “doing nothing” with Jeff. We both work hard and long hours during the week and make it a priority to spend the weekends mostly together. Of course we’ll occasionally meet up with friends or run errands (Jeff goes golfing with the guys, I will meet up with friends for brunch or coffee, and so on), but most weekends will find us at home doing un-glamorous grown up things like laundry and cleaning the house.

Often, and especially during the cooler months, we may spend whole weekends at home and barely leave the apartment. This is by no means an every weekend kind of thing, but during particularly busy seasons or after a grueling week, by mutual consent, we’ll decide to do as little as we can reasonably get away with. We call these “Slow Days,” and they have a very specific formula.

Pajamas and exercise clothing feature heavily. Actual exercise is optional.

Podcasts. It’s a bit of a family tradition but we normally listen to NPR classic “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” together while we cook breakfast. Breakfasts are either roasted potatoes with eggs and avocados, or french toast. Almost without fail.

Naps may be involved.

We’ll play video games. Jeff is much more of a gamer than me, but there are some that I like and do play regularly. We may also play board or card games.

We’ll read. I normally have at least one book and audiobook going at any given point, and Jeff will catch up on news. We are both political junkies, but we take Slow Days to catch up on a lot of the news that we might have missed in the sturm und drang of the day to day media churn.

We will normally do a few chores to help justify our extreme laziness, but we usually do them together.

I’ll normally indulge in some skincare and slather a mask on my face. If I’m feeling particularly energetic I’ll groom my brows, wax my upper lip (let’s be real), and

At some point, because I’m hyper, I’ll get a bit bored and probably tidy something up or run a small errand. This is when my spice rack gets organized, or my pile of clothes that need to be taken to the dry cleaner gets separated from items for the regular wash.

Quite often, we’ll go hours not speaking to one another, even if we’re in the house together. Not in an unhealthy sense, but in a companionable silence sort of way that I’ve really come to value over the years. At the end of the day, there’s only a few people who I feel able to be “alone” with, without trying to be funny, clever, engaging, or “switched on” in some way. These people are my best friends (shout out to X. with whom I spent many a summer vacation day reading in silence–the stuff lasting teenage friendships are made of!) and my husband.

When you give yourself permission to have a slow day, what does it look like and does it involve anyone else?

The Faustian Cabinet Has Arrived

“If you love something, it will work. That’s the only real rule.”
– Bunny Williams

A quick moment of apartment appreciation, minions. We’ve lived in our current place for two years and our lease is for a year more, after which we may either need to move or at least try to negotiate on rent a bit more. We struck a bargain when we moved in that we would furnish the place ourselves in exchange for lower rent and we have done so…very, very slowly.

I don’t like living in what feels like a barebones apartment sometimes, I’m ready for a home that feels intentional and grown up, with art on the walls and furniture bought to keep instead of disposable IKEA goods. Simultaneous and paradoxically to that, I enjoy the ease with which we have been able to move, be it to another country or a new apartment on short notice. Owning fewer possessions definitely helps with that!

However, the older I get, the less satisfied I am with living out of suitcases. Our first ever apartment in Utah was starving newlywed accommodation, our first London apartment was a shoebox and not very nice, but this apartment feels like the first proper grown up place. I’ve enjoyed the process of putting it together, even if that process takes a long time and is constrained by the realities of budgeting and strategy. We bought a bed and a wardrobe when we first moved in, for obvious reasons. Over the coming months, our next purchase was a couch, which again is fairly standard. From Etsy we bought a coffee table and stools, from John Lewis a rug. After about a year we splurged on our fabulous vintage chairs and then closed our wallets again for a long while.

Furnishing is a balancing act. I’m a magpie who loves interesting, colorful pieces with personality while Jeff would be a Danish minimalist if he could. Smashing those two styles together into something that involves taste is a tricky, but I think we’re doing okay so far. He has his industrial tables, I get colors and patterns so long as the lines are modern. I get to do the majority of the selection, but he gets veto power so we don’t get overwhelmed with my magpie tendencies. It works. So when I spotted our latest piece online, I knew it would work too.

It’s a vintage piece, but one that’s been upcylced. It’s a muted dark blue, which goes with the blue-gray leather of the sofa, and the blue and white rug. The gold touches keep it feeling chic instead of just a solid block, and it’s deep enough to absorb a lot of items that heretofore didn’t really have a home in the apartment–thus tidying up mess and satisfying Jeffs desire for lack of clutter. I’m absurdly pleased with it and it really has helped me feel as if the front room is “finished” in some way. The only other thing I would want to do in this current apartment would be to frame and hang our art, but if that doesn’t happen until our next lease somewhere, I think could be satisfied.

As promised, this is my last purchase for the year (minus the usual things like socks, underwear, or unsexy items like toothpaste and shoe inserts) and any failures on this point will be publicly documented for shaming purposes. I’m fairly confident that being able to gaze on my growing domestic kingdom will help keep me in financial check. How could you not feel happy in a room that looks like this:

 

 

A Month of Healthy Eating

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” 
― Hippocrates

Bad news for me, team: I lost nearly 15 lbs in a single month doing nothing but changing the way I eat. I didn’t step foot in a gym, didn’t exercise at home due to an erratic work schedule, and made no other significant changes to my day-to-day life.

Why bad news you ask? Because it’s become abundantly clearly in record time that while I knew my diet was affecting me, I didn’t at all realize the extent. To see this much change this quickly has been startling.

Now, let’s be clear, I also changed up my birth control in this time frame (see here for the recap) which, based only on anecdote and personal experience, I thought may also have affected my weight (remember, the science is still out on this point). There’s no way to tell if this may  have had an effect, but I fully intend to talk to my doctor about it at a follow up appointment this month. There’s a working theory that I may be negatively affected by some unknown food item group (which is the most stupid, millennial thing to type) but that’s still up for medical confirmation. More info on that if and when my delightful GP helps me figure it out.

So, what did I do exactly? I’m sorry to say that there is nothing here you haven’t heard or read about before and there are no tricks, I simply cut out all the foods that make life worth living: no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no grain based anything. I massively upped my intake of fresh fruit and veg and have eaten more eggs this month than probably at any other point in my life. Seriously, if I never eat a hardboiled egg again, it will be too soon. I virtually eliminated all snacking, even healthy ones, and instead stuffed myself full at almost every meal with salad. I don’t care who tells you they love kale, there’s a 50/50% chance they are lying to you and dying a bit on the inside.

It worked. I’m feeling great. Damn it.

I didn’t tie this to a New Year’s resolution, I didn’t talk too much about about it or make a big deal out of it online or to friends, and I certainly didn’t have any weight expectations going into this. Like my birth control choice, I decided at the end of last year to try and proactively sort out some behind the scenes health and body issues that have bugged me for a long time and evaluating food groups is part of that overall project. The weight loss is just a welcome, if startling, side effect.

I mean…yikes.

I was looking forward to reintroducing a lot of food back into my diet…but honestly I think my consumption of these things will have to stay reduced if I want to continue trying to be more healthy. Things like dairy and alcohol are not food groups I ingested a lot of anyway before this started, but bread on the other hand… And while I don’t and never have eaten processed foods and have made good headway in reducing my sugar intake over recent years, clearly I could have been doing more to eliminate something which I suspect is one of the main culprits to my recent health roller coaster.

Final disclosures: I remain an unrepentant omnivore and moderate, I don’t think foods should be eliminated from anyone’s diet without medical advice and I’m certainly not urging anyone to do so. That being said if you do feel physically crappy for extended periods of time, notice changes to your body or brain rhythms, or sense that something is “not quite right” internally, talk to someone about it. Seek answers and options. I’m trying to be a less passive passenger in my own body than I have been for several years, and to have this many positive outcomes so quickly has been extraordinary.

To the comments! Have you made any big health adjustments in your life? What were your motivations, and what were the outcomes, both good and bad? 

The Hidden Drawer

“But have a care! It is a bitter blade, and steel serves only those that can wield it. It will cut your hand as willingly as aught else.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien

We have lived in our apartment for over a year and have only just made an embarrassing discovery. We have a cutlery drawer.

How could you just have discovered this, you ask?

Part of the reason we decided to move into this apartment was the fact that it had recently been renovated and a brand spanking new kitchen had been put in. It’s so shiny, guys, we nearly cried the first time we saw it. It’s not my Platonic Ideal of a kitchen but coming from the one room flat we lived in for three years that had one small cupboard stuck on a wall and about two feet of counter space, it’s downright Nirvana. The whole thing is designed for maximum storage and it’s nice to actually be able to put things away in an orderly fashion and cook with new appliances.

One of those appliances is a flat topped stove with built in ventilation and other systems that I’m sure I don’t properly understand. It appeared as if some of the design of this stove was also built beneath the surface of the counter because it because there was some bulky hardware when I opened the drawers situated a bit further down. Turns out I should have tugged on the nooks and crannies of this a bit more because I found a random tab on it the other day and put some elbow grease into it…and this popped out.

Jeff was in the other room and I had to call him over to make sure I hadn’t lost my mind. He too did a double take and demanded where this totally new drawer had sprang from.

After shaking our head at ourselves a bit, we resigned ourselves to our stupidity and stocked the drawer.

This is actually our first proper cutlery drawer of our married life. We begin to feel quite grown up.

ETA, the album of the week is Say Less, by Roy Woods

 

Five Things I Loved in January

“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”
― Oscar Wilde

2017 is off to a rocky political start but there are small pleasures still to be enjoyed and we at SDS believe in signal boosting the good things in life, no matter how small. Here’s a rundown of the media, beauty, and little luxuries that kept me healthy and functional this month. Share yours in the comments!

 

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Hot water bottle. Our new apartment is lovely but the insulation is not the best, plus we tend to keep the temperature lower for both money and environmental factors. Why else were lovely jumpers invented? At any rate, I tend to get cold at night partially because Jeff claims he overheats when he cuddles me too long (side eye) and partially because I have poor circulation in my feet. In looking for some kind of seasonal solution to this most wintery of problems, I noted that retro looking hot water bottles are everywhere in Britain in a way that I don’t remember seeing in the States. I always thought that hot water bottle were old school and a bit silly but eventually I decided to spring for one on Amazon (in late December, so it doesn’t violate my shopping ban). Kittens, I repent. I grovel. I abase myself for my ignorance. This thing is incredible.

 

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Pestle & Mortar. I have been test driving this beauty brand since December and it has been a good decision. A small company and based in Ireland, they ship worldwide and meticulously detail what goes into their small but impactful line. I’ve been using this serum and their nighttime retinol oil everyday this month and to say that it has been doing good things for my face would be an understatement! I gave the sample of their moisturizer included in my order a go and liked it so I will likely make that my next test drive when my current moisturizer runs out.

 

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Everlasting Mini Liquid Lipstick Set, by Kat Von D. This was a Black Friday indulgence that I’ve been testing out ever since and it gets rave reviews from me. Very uncharacteristically I’ve been reaching for non-red lips this winter so far and this mostly cool toned set of colors has been scratching some kind of beauty itch. Excellent staying power and opaque pigmentation, with modern vamp colors–what more could a girl want?

 

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tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush, in Seduce. Yep, another beauty pick, sue me. I’ve been having a bit of a neutrals moment lately (very out of character again, what is happening?!) and this blush is another of my Black Friday buys that I’ve been wearing almost exclusively ever since. The screenshot doesn’t really capture its tone accurately; I might have to throw another pic up on Instagram to show how it looks in the pan so keep an eye out there. tarte expanded their line of blushes last year to include more neutral tones–previously they were known for the pigmented, bright colors of their blush so this was a bit of a departure for them–and the formula is just ace.

 

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To Walk Invisible, by the BBC. This period drama about the lives of the Brontes is not entirely unlike their works in some ways: quiet in places, slow, and intense in spite of (or perhaps because of) both. This film encompasses the last few years of their brother Bramwell’s life, when his descent into alcoholism and their father’s illness put their prospects for support as Victorian women into sharp relief. Their resolve is to try and publish their work, and the rest is well documented history. The moment that hit me most was when their manuscripts are returned from yet another publisher, and they immediately pull out their list of targets for the next one to contact. There’s a lesson in that.