Thursday, November 29, 2012


Complaints that San Diego isn't innovating are now completely unfounded, so it looks like we will have to find other things to complain about (78 degrees again?!  Perfect weather is so boring, so non-life threatening, so lacking the excitement of destructive super storms!)

Exhibit A:  Dwell held a modern home tour weekend here recently.  
Exhibit B:  North Park was just named the 13th hippest city in the country (by Forbes magazine using complicated food truck per capita ratios and a dictionary definition of "hip", but still...)

We are now on the map as more than "that place between Los Angeles and Mexico where you once stopped for fish tacos".  Yay, San Diego!

Three things you should know about really modern folks:  They can afford bigger windows than you, they have generally mind-blowing views of the ocean, and they don't particularly want strangers using their bathrooms.  O.K.  Fair enough.  

Here is a super-secret modern location.


This deconstructed light fixture blows your mind.


Chances are, if your roof looks like this it's completely by accident and you should look into your moisture problem immediately. 


I know it's wrong to do this to people, but if this is wrong I don't want to be right.  She's an angel (you know her as House of Habit).


If you don't plant this grass at your modern pad, it's like you know nothing about modernism.  So don't look like a dummy.  Just plant it. 


I think this was art and you couldn't really sit on them.  Sadly there's not a lot of art you can sit on.


These guys were taking photos for their profiles.  "Me and my buddies at the weekend house.  I'd love to enjoy it with you.  Call now!  Full head of hair!"


This place was the greatest because, to me, "modern" doesn't just come from one decade. 


Dusty of Rael Wood launches his Dwell modeling career.

No.  It's a wide-angle lens problem.  Not a new design.

Bass Magazine pin-ups are salacious.

Thanks to Dwell for hosting the Chambray Gang, a loose collaborative of blogging creatives who show up to events dressed alike.  We're also available for Bar Mitzvahs and basically any event with finger foods and goodie bags. 

A special, hot wing sauce-covered thanks to Julia at The Post Social and San Diego Songbird for making the Chambray Gang possible, and to Morgan for legitimizing our status as members of the press!

Monday, August 27, 2012


Every season I seem to pick an anthem song.  Something that reflects the weather, the feeling, and the mood of the months.

Two summers ago it was Miike Snow's "Animal," and now every time I hear that rad opening riff, I am instantly back in my car packed with boys and surfboards, cruising La Jolla Shores.

Late last night I heard this song for the first time.  It was a "sit in the car, turn off the lights, close your eyes" kind of song.  And I knew it would be my autumn anthem.  I hope you like it.

Ben Howard "Old Pine"

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I'm working on a little design project for my sister in law.  For some reason in real life and on this blog I'm always very careful not to portray myself as a designer.  It seems uppity?  Presumptuous?  I actually studied Interior Design/Art History in college for several semesters before switching over to what I felt was a more "cerebral" field.

But you know what?  I always come back to design.  I love it.  I do it for fun.  I would do it for free.  I AM doing it for free.  And I would probably even do it for you FOR FREE right now, just for the joy of seeing a room transformed.  It's kind of a rush.  Email me if you'd like at

So this little project I'm working on is basically a zero-budget makeover, which is pretty much my forté. Paint, an $80 dresser from Craigslist, some vintage thrifted accessories, and these DIY dip dyed, faintly ombré drapes:

They are shown here in my dining room,  not their final destination.  My SIL is young, had requested a beachy vibe, and the room needed a lot of brightening up, so I decided on a totally-out-of-character shade of coral-pink.  And you know what?  I'm super into it now.

The dye color was actually "tulip red."  In my first attempt at dip-dyeing, I found that the dye color needs to be much darker than the color you want to end up with.  So although this had a dark red-fuschia-orange tone in the dye bath, once rinsed the color was more subtle and painterly.

Here you can see how intense the color was before I rinsed and dried the panels.

And if you missed it, here is my first attempt at dip dyeing.  Get the tutorial here!

{After I had worked out how to enlarge photos from Instagram, they went and changed the format.  Maybe to prevent publishing?  I don't know.  I'm working on it and will get these enlarged soon!}

Thursday, August 9, 2012


This past week as we shopped for a Navajo bracelet, my husband explained to me that turquoise is usually filled with stabilizer.  Of course my first thought was that I wanted an original, unadulterated stone.  Cracks and flaws and all.
But I have to accept the true nature of turquoise; that it's beautiful but prone to cracking.  Without stabilizer, maybe it would crumble and be lost.  My mom had some like that.  It disintegrated into beautiful dust, so fine and blue.

Family, if you are lucky enough to have it (and if you're not, then friends are a good substitute), is the spackle that holds the crack-and-crumble prone institution of marriage together.  The filler, the binder. The stone itself is beautiful.  Precious.  But fragile.  And where the cracks form, the binder fills and smooths over and makes whole again.  Maybe not perfect.  Not original.  But sturdier.
It's important not to mistake the binder for the stone, though.  Glue is no substitute for precious stone.

This is what I was thinking as, one day this week, members of both our families converged in Virginia City.  In the blistering, funky Western streets of a ghost town in the mining hills of Nevada we all merged into a giant, amoebic, wild family.  You bought the ice cream of whoever was in line with you. Shepherded with two arms a gaggle of strollers and boys, accidentally pulling in peripheral children who seemed disappointed when plucked out of our happy mob by their lone parent.  Nephews of one family and second cousins of another were just cousins. joined by being of the same height and a strange and strong, instantly recognizable thread of family belonging. A bloodless cord.

Like cells, pieces broke off, joined members across the street, and then rejoined having grown in size; having gained an ice cream cone or a bow and arrow play set.
I set the toddler of my cousin on the back of my tree-like oldest son and he accepted the burden naturally, gracefully. Maybe even thankfully.

Later she ran ahead to walk with me and take my hand, saying, "I just want to be with you." At first I wasn't sure I had heard right.

When my oldest graduated from middle school, this enthusiastic mob showed up.  The older girl-cousins had glittery hand-made signs.  Great grandmas whispered conspiratorially.  The little cousins were held up on shoulders to see.  And when his name was called, our cheers were deafening and prolonged.

My son said later that his friends had asked, wasn't that embarrassing?
What did you say, I wanted to know.
I said that's not embarrassing, that's my family, he told me.

I went to see the foreign film I Am Love a while back.  As we left, a woman who was writing a book approached theatre-goers and asked them, what is love?

When she asked me, I answered immediately, "Showing up."

Showing up, and maybe screaming with all your heart.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It Used to be Easy to be Cool

until the internet ruined it.

A golden-haired girl and I, we have a little joke about blogging.  We were riffing on the idea that if you were young and lovely, recently employed at a well-known magazine, lived in New York and owned an Apple computer in 2002, creating a popular blog was ridiculously straightforward.

We made up a hypothetical blog post from this quaint era, and it goes something like this:

"Food-have you heard of it? I discovered it in Brooklyn this weekend!  Do you think you would try food?  Discuss!"

Fast-forward to today and every blogger is an HTML-writing, photoshopping, link embedding, monetizing, branding, logo-designing, networking, non-gluten-eating, nasty green drink-making, tomato-growing, live edge coffee table-owning mo-chine.  Even the newest and most obscure of blogs makes the online presence of major corporations look prehistoric.

To prove how easy blogging used to be, I just came up with six vintage-style blog posts in six seconds!  It was that easy.

2004- "Amy Butler fabric-I want to buy some and make pillows!  Which Amy Butler fabric do you like best?"

2005- "Design Sponge-I discovered it yesterday!  Have you heard of it?  Copy and paste this URL until I Google instructions for creating live links!"

2006- "Bunting-You can hang it over your bed OR your sofa!  Do you have bunting?  You don't?  Why not?"

2007- "I saw a girl on a bike with braids in Brooklyn this weekend!"

2008- "I went to the best wedding this weekend!  The amazing bride and groom used giant balloons and mustaches on a stick in their photos!"

2009- "I discovered that you can drink out of Mason jars!  Would you drink out of a Mason jar?  Here is a link to the instruction on how to drink from a Mason jar!"

I bet you can think of many more!  But now I'm tired, because creating a modern blogpost takes so much energy.  Some day our robotic body-doubles will do it for us, or maybe we will outsource it to India.  The future of blogging is anyone's guess.  I just don't know what I'm going to do with all this unused bunting...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The future of blogging, footwear, Ermie, and a lamp DIY

I highly recommend having paper on your nightstand.  Personally, I have an IKEA shopping list/showroom map with a lot of Swedish-chef product names written on it,  and a broken pencil.  It's what the famous authors are doing.  Anyhow, it's necessary to write down those barely-lucid thoughts that occur just as your mind is losing its grip on reality and sliding into dreamtimes.  Because ideas that are anchored to reality are pretty much useless.

This is how I came upon my brilliant idea of a blogger-to-blogger, design-oriented vacation/home exchange!  And now look!  I'm rich and famous!  If only I could design a website and do the PR work while slipping into my nightly cheese-and-Seinfeld-rerun coma.  *SIGH*

So anyhow, I was having some free association time in bed the other night.  Been thinking a lot lately about blogging and social media.  How fast things move and change.  How challenging it can be to know in which media format to invest one's energy.  How plugged in one has to be, but also disciplined and mindful about knowing when to shut it down; when to forge "real world" partnerships and networks.

It's no secret that I desperately heart Instagram.  I'm quite prolific there, friends.  My handle is modernhaus.

So my thought was this:

Instagram is the cool friend who knows the chef at the hot new restaurant.  Blogger is the friend that knows the hostess at the Olive Garden.

This is not, by any means, in reference to YOUR blogs, guys.  In the light of day I think my brain just meant to say that Instagram seems more dynamic, immediate, energetic, experimental, and fresh.

What do you think?  Are your social media habits changing?  Are you more or less interested in blogs than you were a year ago?

Last week I attended a Nutella binge/epic business discussion on the subject with Jon, Morgan, and Laure.  Consensus seemed to be that managing social media is a little like holding on to the tail of a tiger, except for Jon who controls the internet with his mind.

Unrelated, but possibly related because I saw these via social media, are Freda Salvador shoes.

Sexy-orthopedic-handmade.  Freda Salvador, you can use that on your website if you like!

I want the ones on the left, to go with my imaginary Ermie dress.

And finally, the creative bender continues.  I know.  My days are filled with paint fumes, blisters, and sunburns.  I wake up covered in bruises and miscellaneous paint colors and I do it all over again!

Yesterday's victims were a couple of antique lamps:

And then anything I could get my hands on.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TUTORIAL: Indigo Ombre Dip-Dye Fabric and Curtains

I've been on such a creative bender lately.  It all started with the chairs, and once I started tackling projects I just couldn't stop.

There's nothing else like the satisfaction of making stuff with your own hands, especially if the results are good (but even when they're not, the process is liberating and instructive!)

I've had stacks of natural linen drapes from the thrift store laying around forever, and wanted to try an indigo dip-dye on them.  This is the perfect summertime DIY since it really should be done outdoors, and the painterly effect of dip-dyeing seems so fresh and hot weather-appropriate!

I started with a pair of clean, thickly-textured linen drapes (use natural fibers only!)  I ignored the directions when they said to start with wet fabric...since I wasn't dyeing the whole piece, I wanted the top dry so it wouldn't "pull" the dye up farther than I wanted it.

I measured about a third of the way from the bottom of the drapes and marked it with paper clips so I knew where to stop "dipping" each piece.

Outside I mixed my dye in a large Rubbermaid tub set next to a stone wall so I could hang the dry, un-dyed part over the wall and let the ends hang into the dye.  I used a "denim blue" powder dye from the craft store and followed the directions for dilution and salt, etc.  Nothing special, and I'm sure I could have gotten more intense or better/faster results by searching out a professional fabric dye.  

I let the ends soak for about an hour and then lowered the drapes in another six inches or so and let that soak for 15-20 minutes more to make a lighter, ombre-esque strip.  I checked the color and it was much too light.  The lighter strip especially was nearly pastel, so I lowered it in again and soaked the whole thing for another hour (light and dark strips together).

Remember as you're checking the progress of the color that it looks much darker wet and the colors will also fade after you rinse the dye out, so wait until it looks much darker than you want in the tub before you pull it out.

At a certain point, the fabric was as saturated as it would get and didn't seem to be darkening more, so don't worry about over dyeing.  I would have liked more intensity, but starting with a white base and using "over-the-counter" powder dye probably limited the depth of color I could achieve.

I wrung out the ends and then laid the drapes out on the grass and used a spray nozzle to rinse them.  Then I hung them over the fence and waited for them to dry.

These are early-morning shots after I impatiently brought the drapes inside and threw them over a curtain rod in the dining room to see how they looked.  I really, really love the ethereal, watercolor effect of the lighter upper layers.

But the moody, darker indigo of the lower end really speaks to me too.  

Pretty much nothing is safe from a potential dye-bath now!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Trending: Vintage Navajo Rugs and Mid Century Furniture

The last few weeks I gave myself permission to not just "buy and sell" but to spend some time creating original pieces.  I can't tell you what a difference it's made in my attitude towards my business!  It's so hard to just have a bunch of iconic pieces and no way to express myself!  Who lives like that??  It's criminal.

I've always had an overwhelming need to MAKE things (ask my mom about my infamous butter sculptures!), and now that I've given myself permission again, I CAN'T STOP!  Hide the butter, mom!

You might have noticed and been amazed by the turn-of-the-century Thonet and Hudson's Bay blanket chairs from my last post:

I used the same fabric on an early 1900s Bell telephone operator's chair:

I love that the base is so Victorian, but it also has a certain industrial appeal.  Plus every time I look at it, I imagine a lady named Pearl punching a bunch of old-timey buttons and connecting you to the milk man or the horse taxi.

But this transformation is the one I'm most excited about:

Before you have an aneurysm over my desecration of a Mid Century chair and a vintage Navajo rug, believe me that they weren't that great on their own.  I said they weren't, and I saw them with my own two well-trained eyes.  So trust.

The chair was avocado green vinyl (you know, the color of your grandma's refrigerator in the 70s?)  The rug...well, o.k., the rug was really pretty.  But the ends were unravelling and it was oddly shaped and as great as it was, it wasn't valuable in the least.  Go on Ebay and can get 'em cheap.

And, I was really careful not to cut the rug (pun!) until I had stapled it into place and was absolutely sure it would look amazing.

I think you can see this was a case of the sum being better than the parts.

I wanted to make sure the bird symbols with the emerald green eyes made it onto the piece!

I still have the back to finish today, and then I'll work on polishing up the walnut frame.

I can't stop looking at it!  Neither can you!!

Guys, if you followed me on Instagram you would be getting the blow-by-blow of all my furniture and thrift finds, projects, new shop listings, as well as gratuitous photos of the gross food I eat!

You can also use the Twitter button up there on the right, since I upload most of my Instagrams to Twitter.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Chairs Gone Wild, when I make butterfly chair covers out of old Army blankets!

Most of these projects are intended for the shop, so check in if you're interested, or email me directly at !


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