Archive for the ‘home decor’ Category



When last we saw Bad Blue, the roadside chair, he was lying on my basement floor flayed and partially eviscerated. Actually, that’s when you last saw Bad Blue. I have been looking at Bad Blue, lying there reproachfully, almost every day for the past year when I go to do laundry or run on the treadmill.

After months of inaction, I was having a bad day generally and decided that pulling staples from a dusty old chair was just the thing. The Bad Blue project began afresh.

The pace of work accelerated, and a couple weeks ago it was time to visit my favorite ramshackle fabric store on their $6/yard discount day. Forty two dollars later, I had Bad Blue’s new skin:



I have this fantasy where I take Bad Blue back to the house where I found him, and I walk with him up the driveway and up to the house. Bad Blue is nervous, but we knock on the door, and when the people open it, they don’t recognize their long-lost castoff at first, but then the light of recognition comes into their eyes, and they grip Bad Blue by his wings and hold him out to get a good look and make exclamations of disbelief. It’s just like Pygmalion. And then Bad Blue and I walk back down to the car while his old owners stand in the doorway smiling wistfully.

But then, what if they weren’t pleased? What if Bad Blue walked his stiff-legged walk up to their door and their guilt and shame at throwing him over were so great that they slammed the door in his face? I can’t subject him to that. So instead, I’m going to put on the finishing touches, and sell him. But I’ll slow down a bit when I drive by that house on the way to the shop.

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One of many hand-knit items for sale in our shop. Don’t worry, it’s only a little pot! HA!

My mother and I have started a tiny business. Sarobi Interiors, which will one day be a thriving, full service home decorating firm, is, for now, a booth of goods in a corner of the Mill 77 Trading Company in Amesbury, MA.

Why did we decide to embark on this when my mother is a full time R.N./Nursing Supervisor and I have two jobs already plus two kids under the age of six? It’s been a dream of ours for some time now. Both being design enthusiasts and avid amateur decorators, we elected to take the plunge and hopefully parlay our booth into something more.

But secretly, I was driven by a deeper purpose: the fear that I was about to be evicted from the United States for being a hippe-pinko-socialist. “Love it or leave it!” an angry mob would cry as they wrapped me in a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and dumped me into Boston Harbor. And who could blame them? A vegan atheist who made her own Obama banner and drives a Prius bearing the bumper sticker “Got science?” Man, I was one composting toilet away from a one way ticket to Sweden. But no more! Now, I can be venerated as the heart and soul of this nation, a driver of the economy, an All-American striver for life liberty and money.

Our business is a small one to be sure. So exceedingly small that it can fit in a 15′ x 5′ half room we rent from someone else. But we’ve got pluck. And dedication. And a naysaying in-house lawyer/husband/son-in-law who sternly advises things like LLC status and a close read of the Massachusetts income tax statutes. Killjoy.

So if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and check the place out. Even better, buy something! It’s salvaged, repurposed, and retrofitted goods, so we’re green friendly (hippie-pinko-socialist tendencies die hard), but capitalist all the way! So support our small business this holiday season, and wish us luck, dear readers! To find our booth, take a right upon entering Mill 77 on Route 110 in Amesbury, and look for the last room on the right. Our tags bear the dealer code DBPEA. Let us know what you think if you do stop by!

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Reality of a boys’ room.

Cleaned up reality, after strenuous exertions. Duration: 3 minutes.

One of my very most favorite design blogs is Style Carrot, written by Boston-based Marni Katz. Her curatorial eye and design sense make her posts invariably interesting. I especially like her oddly specific montages: 40 painted built-in bookshelves; 54 living rooms with gray sofas; 64 rooms with black and white art. One of the latest was 27 little boys’ bedrooms. As a design enthusiast and mother of little boys, how could I be but drawn in?

As with all good design, the best kids’ bedrooms should be aesthetically appealing, functional, and comfortable. The trouble is, to put it in business degree speak, who are the stakeholders? Most of the time, one designs for oneself or for other adults. Even if an adult client can’t figure out how to make a room look good, he or she can usually appreciate a beautiful room. Little boys cannot. Little boys have no taste whatsoever. They love gaudy plastic toys, and promotional pamphlet maps of Water Country, and polyester Iron Man bedding sets. They do not love muted old-timey camp blankets, or wooden toys with a light wash of vegetable dyes, or tidiness.

It’s not that, when designing a kid’s room, one must throw out all hope of a good aesthetic result, but expectations must be adjusted. We can design the shell, the scaffold, but they will people it. We can wallpaper, but they will tack up Marvel comics posters. We can layer a worn kilim over a jute rug, but they will leave Star Wars underwear and battery powered Cars 2 merchandise all over it and never pick it up.

This one’s pretty believable. Though very tidy.

The 27 boys’ rooms in Style Carrot’s post run the gamut from excellent to absurdly, laughably unrealistic. Some of the most unrealistic can still be viewed as aspirational, or as simple inspiration for something with real-world applicability. Something like watching a haute couture fashion show and then hitting T.J. Maxx. We all need inspiration. But let the boys have some too. It can be tough; I am a neat freak, organization fiend, and design geek. There are rooms in my home that I am doggedly determined will remain kid free. My bedroom and the living room, for instance. Then there are rooms given wholly over to the boys. A dark corner of the basement and their jointly held bedroom, for instance. The rest of the house is a constantly shifting battlefield or DMZ, depending on the day. They make incursions with lego men, catapults, and giant green Hulk hands. I fight back with mossy terraria, stacks of field guides and jars of ferns.

Unreality. While pleasing to the adult eye, this is a cold, gray cell to an actual little boy.

I don’t like to wallow in nostalgia, but I do recognize how short this span of their boyhood is. So I give them their room, and I let them revel in it. And secretly, as I pick my way over the Power Rangers, robots and talking puzzles in the dark to turn off their spinning Superman nightlight, I revel in it too.

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Most of Wednesday, I was crouched on my parents’ dining room floor reupholstering their dining room chairs. I live almost entirely in a barter economy: home-cooked suppers exchanged for babysitting, veterinary services for more babysitting, interior design for still more babysitting. Since I ditch my kids with my parents on a regular basis, redoing a dining set seems a fair price to pay.

The origins of the project arose during my first visit to my new favorite store: Exeter Handkerchief Company Fabric and Furniture. Three floors of a ramshackle old clapboard building next to the Amtrak station, and all three are packed wall to wall with bolts and bolts of fabric for home projects. You won’t find fabrics for making clothes and costumes here (its only flaw) but you will find an entire floor of fabrics all priced at $9/yard (and $6/yard on Tuesdays!) It was there on the third floor that my mom found a lovely damask with a black background–exactly dark and busy enough to hide the filth dropped on my parents’ furniture by my gross kids.

As compared with reupholstering a wingback chair like Bad Blue, dining room chairs are cinchy. So, rather than throwing out a bunch of chairs because their cushions are appallingly filthy, just do what I did and spend 7 hours pulling staples, stretching fabric and gripping a staple gun until your hands are useless, blistered claws! Here’s how:

Start with a gross chair cushion.

Turn the chair over and unscrew the seat from the frame. If you have a four year old, make him do it.

Using a screwdriver and pliers, pry up EVERY SINGLE staple holding the old fabric to the seat. Don't just rip the old fabric off. That's not good enough.

Make your four year old help you pull staples. Mine said things like, "This is just like pulling toothpicks from a rhino. Or ticks off an elephant."

Once you have the old fabric off, use the nasty old stuff as a template to cut a piece of your amazing new fabric. If you are using a fabric with a design that runs in one direction and/or has a repeat (think wallpaper patterns), you need to pay attention to how you cut the fabric so that the design motif will be centered on the cushion. If this is your first reupholstery rodeo, you might wish to select a random, non-directional pattern so you don’t have to worry about centering anything.
After cutting your fabric, place the now denuded seat face down on the backside of the new fabric piece. Begin wrapping the fabric up over the sides of the seat like it’s a present. Pull the fabric taut, but not so tight it puckers, and place a couple staples to hold it in place. Then pull the fabric taut along the opposite edge of the seat and place a couple staples there. Do the same for the two remaining sides, and then add staples all around. Recall how ridiculously many staples there seemed to be when you were pulling them? Do that.

Wrap the seat with the new fabric, pulling it tight but not so tight it puckers. Place a few staples to keep it in place.

Gather the corner fabric like such and staple it down as well.

And then you’re done. Just repeat for all the remaining chairs. Which, in my case, since my parents had five children without a thought for my future reupholstering situation, is a lot of chairs.

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Work continues on Bad Blue, but in fits and starts as dictated by my tolerance for boredom and raw, bloody fingers.

For Bad Blue, it’s been a gruesome scene. Flayed, partially eviscerated, and having suffered a double amputation, Bad Blue now lies upended in my basement. This is just sounding worse and worse.

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The chair as acquired.

About a month ago, I spotted this sad sack of a wingback chair set out by the side of the road. I bloodied my hands trying to fit it into the back of my Prius, but ultimately succeeded, the Prius being a surprisingly commodious vehicle. I deposited Bad Blue in the basement, and intend to re-upholster it. The process appears to entail pulling off the existing upholstery–some sort of rubbery, washed-out blue Naugahyde–and then making replacement patterns from the discarded pieces. It’s supposedly easier than trying to custom sew a slipcover, so I’m going for it. So far, I’ve been pulling out the staples holding the upholstery with a screwdriver and a pair of large hemostats (as a non-practicing veterinarian, this is the only use I have for this surgical instrument aside from extracting hooks from large-mouth bass when fishing.)
I suspect this job will take me months to complete at my current pace. But if I do finish it, I will provide further, detailed instructions on how to do it. This is, I suspect, not the last you will see of Bad Blue, the roadside chair.

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