30 September 2008

our kind of decoratin' (in tune with the times)

so we were recently taking a second look through the latest issue of "o at home" (a mag we've come to quite enjoy), and as usual with a decorating magazine, we missed a bunch o' stuff in our hurry to take in everything, the first time around- stuff like this feature on bart swindall's tiny chicago apartment- on first glance, we thought the apartment was a handsomely done take on classic english antique-filled style, but on second reading, the word "styrofoam" jumped off the page at us, and we knew we'd have to take a closer look- antiques sure ain't made of styrofoam!
photo by roland bello/o at home magazine. article text by beth ann fennelly. styling by shelly coon.

the inset caption on the above photo, declares that "swindall repurposed styrofoam packing blocks and slide carousel boxes (painted black) to serve as pedestals for his lamps"- love that! plain ol' styrofoam, not even faux finished or nuthin'- but it looks fabulously luxe, doesn't it? m21 goes nuts for this kind of stuff!

the text further states that the lamps atop the pedestals were thrift shop finds, that swindall spray-painted black and gold (maison21 suspects that the shades are original to the lamps, and painted as well, though perhaps with a brush- they look pretty even). this is very similar to advice m21 recently gave his young client from our 9/22 post: we recommended they splurge $700 on a custom 6 1/2 foot long white lacquer parson's table, but then save some money elsewhere, like by buying a cheap old ornate lamp from a thrift store to sit atop the splurge, and then updating the look of the cheapo lamp by DIY spray-painting it a glossy black (shade and all)- kind of like we did with this $8.00 thrift store lamp awhile back:
the article goes on to explain how swindall scavenged the convex mirror in the photo for free from a trade show exhibit, and we easily found a similar 36" industrial mirror online for only $149.98 (betcha you could find it cheaper, too). and if our cheap n' chic eye isn't mistaken, that convex mirror is layered over what appear to be 4 standard behind-the-door long mirrors from home depot (or similar), simply hung side by side, with their frames painted the same color as the molding that swindall added as an architectural frame-like surround. with some beautiful silver-plate inherited from his grandmother, and some branches he probably snagged from a neighbor's yard, we think the only thing in the photo that the talented historian-turned-decorator may have actually spent any money on, is the biedermeier-style chest anchoring the chic tableaux (and even that could have been sourced on the cheap at an antique mall or flea market). but here's the magic... swindall put all this inexpensive and/or free stuff together, and voila- it looks like everything cost a million bucks!

swindall, like m21, obviously has a love for the chic object, no matter where it's found- whether in a bonafide antiques gallery, or dragged home from a pile by the side of the road. remember this photo from a long ago maison21 post? the pickled wood urn lamp was plucked straight out of a garbage can and placed directly a chest in the entry of the m21 atelier within 10 minutes of discovery- delightful curbside patina and all!
the great thing is that anyone can try out this kind of decoratin'- completely risk-free! unlike the stock market- yikes! if you are scared your home will end up looking too junk yard-y, when filled with a plethora of scavenged goods, then simply start slow and extend your budget by mixing a single cheap n' chic find (or two), paired with something of real value- like a thrift shop settee on a fabulously luxurious carpet (in the spirit of this image from the rug company, via alkemie):
so just because the stock market is falling, it doesn't mean your decor has to bring you down too! turn a little trash into a treasure, or mix a little down-low with your luxe, and stretch that decorating dollar in new ways. remember- if you can't quite figure out how to do it on your own, oprah and maison21 are always here to help... ***

*** oprah in no way endorses, or even acknowledges the existence of a mere mortal like maison21. what we really mean is this: there are lots more budget tips in the latest issue of "o at home" magazine, and m21 promises to post more of his own cheap and chic tricks, every now and then, as well).

we leave you with one last image of mr. swindall's fabulous apartment from "o at home"- this incredible antique table dipped in plaster is a trick we are dying to try! DIY john dickinson! love it!
again, photo by roland bello/o at home magazine. article text by beth ann fennelly. styling by shelly coon.


Haute Decor said...

Fantastic post M21!. I simply must have that dripping plaster table! I will pay closer attention to O next time.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog... you have a great sense of style and humor!

maison21 said...

haute- isn't that table BRILLIANT? i really want to give it a go...

sonya- thank you for your kind words! we're blushing!

Ivy Lane said...

Love this post! GREAT ideas.. check out the new Elle Decor..Cynthia Rowley used plain old white bath caulk to make "carved" patterns on her daughters' bunk beds..GENIOUS! and it looks FABULOUS!

M21, I love your blog! and your humor! always a smile in every post!

Brilliant Asylum said...

It is amazing what paint and/or a new shade will do for a lamp. Nice cheap and chic eye you have.

maison21 said...

thanks for the kind words, ivy- and for pointing out the caulking on cynthia rowley's kid's beds- very clever, and you guessed it- i missed it the first time around!

asylum, my favorite decorating tool is black and white lacquer spray paint- there isn't hardly an object they can't transform!

good point on shades too- i recommend always replacing a store bought lamp with a different shade than the one it came with- just gives a mass market item a little personalization.

magnaverde said...

And, M21, thank you for your kind words about my apartment. Actually, I'm pretty much a left-brained person, and the fact that this is the smallest place I've ever lived is, in fact, the very reason for most of the things I did around here.

Those slide boxes under the Styrofoam blocks are not there to raise the level of the lamps but because there was literally nowhere else around here to put them. They contain an impossibly gorgeous Kodachrome history of my family's vacations circa 1958, so I couldn't toss them, but I also couldn't live with the boxes' yellow-&-black graphics, so I painted them black--I'm with you on the spray lacquer--and stacked them on top of some black-painted Target file cabinets which, in turn, are full of reference pictures torn from old House & Gardens. At my place, there's a good, practical reason for everything I do.

But black lamps on top of black boxes on top of black file cabinets started looking a little heavy, hence the Styrofoam blocks. They add a little more height, yes, but mostly they're there for the white accent. And, sure, I could have done the faux-finish thing, but why? I like the hiding-in-plain-sight thing: WYSIWYG. I also like the high-&-low thing, hence my shower curtain ring chandelier hanging four feet from a strigilated marble urn from ancient Rome.

OK, I said there was a good, no-nonsense reason for everything in my apartment. That's not true. My plaster table was the product of the chance collision in my brain of several unrelated things over the course of a few hours while I lay sick in bad with the flu last winter: a dissatisfaction with an area of my living room that read like a black hole, a photo of an 18th Century French grotto in an old issue of The World of Interiors & a memory of the surreal sets of the 1946 Beauty & the Beast. Mix that stuff up with a double dose of Nyquil & this is what you get. I think Coleridge was onto something.

Anyway, as soon as I got well, I got to work, and my dripping table was the result. My pals knew that I'd been sick & suspected that Nyquil was involved. Natalie Warady, the Style Editor of O at Home, didn't know about that, but she took one look at it & said "OK, this will be EVERYWHERE next year!" And, considering the impact of yesterday's news on people's decorating budgets, she may be right.

Either way, thanks for the thoughtful write-up. Bart Swindall.

Style Court said...

I loved Swindall's creativity. Great post.

The Peak of Chic said...

I died over Bart's apartment. I'm so inspired by his creativity! (And yours too!)

katiedid said...

I was DEEEElighted by that article in O also! Styrofoam! Ha! LOVE it. And I showed that table to my daughters and now they want to try it. (I am planning a Halloween post with that photo in it!) Great post! I am all about free or nest to free.

maison21 said...


i'm glad you enjoyed my little tribute to your apartment- i certainly enjoyed your creative solutions to small space living!

and let me tell you, if your apartment is an example of left-brained thinking, and a triumph of function over form, then i'm scared for all of us if you actually try to be creative! you'll take over the world! ;-)

oprah's style editor is right- we'll be seeing plaster dipped furniture everywhere because you! that my friend, is true, inspired genius!

thanks for visiting,


maison21 said...

style, peak and katie-

bart's creatively certainly was a breath of fresh air, wasn't it? i hope the editors of the shelter magazines pick up on the excitement over features like this- originality and thrifty reuse seem especially inspiring in our uncertain economic times!

Haute Decor said...

M21. Just dropping a line to let you know how inspiring your posts are. check it out!

maison21 said...

haute, thanks for the mention in your very first blog post! i'm honored!

Easy and Elegant Life said...

OK, how cool is that? This is where you see a practiced eye really pay off. And why there will always be a need for professionals. An inspiring post. And please keep up the m21 public service decorating tips. They are much needed.

My Notting Hill said...

Great post! Especially considering the continuing economic turndown. Love what you did with that black lamp.