Author Archives: Malcolm

Arranging Furniture in an Oddly-Shaped Space

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This is a long post about living room furniture placement. If you’re into reading about that sort of thing, grab a pop-tart and hunker down for an in-depth look into the weird way my mind works. If you’re not into that sort of thing, grab a pop-tart and scroll down for some diagrams that might be more interesting for you.

When I first looked at my condo, one of the biggest question marks that arose was how I would arrange my furniture, television, and other belongings around the living room. It’s not quite any one shape: it’s one part square, one part rectangle (although I guess all rectangles are part square?), and one part triangle–mostly due to the fireplace sitting on a diagonal wall. And believe-you-me, I haven’t really had the furniture arranged any one way for more than a few weeks at a time for the entire year that I’ve lived here.

First off, there isn’t an entirely intuitive wall to put the television on that would be parallel to any logical sofa placement. I thought for a HOT SECOND about not putting the TV in the living room at all, and instead putting it in the second bedroom, but I quickly realized that that wouldn’t lend itself well to my lifestyle (and by “lifestyle” I mean “Netflix binge-watching habits”). With that in mind, the first location where I imagined the TV was above the fireplace, because that would make the most sense in terms of TV-to-sofa line of sight. The more I thought about it, though, the less I liked the idea. The TV would be too high for comfortable viewing, and sometimes I feel that TVs above fireplaces are a bit of a clunky eyesore (and after spending the resources to reface my fireplace, I certainly didn’t want to detract from any of it’s glory). I also knew that I wanted to hide the television cords behind a wall, and that didn’t really seem possible with the fireplace directly behind it.

The next wall to seem to make the most sense was the wall parallel to the bay of windows in the sunroom. I liked this idea the most because 1) it gave me the opportunity to hide the cords behind the wall, 2) because I would be able to see the TV from the kitchen, and 3) because I could envision some sort of gallery wall surrounding the mounted TV. Sold.

With that decision made, I needed to decide how I would arrange the seating area in relation to the TV. So, like a crazy person, I’ve sketched up a few diagrams to help me make up my mind.

Regardless of the layout, I knew that my new sectional would be staying on the wall perpendicular to the television. Admittedly not the most ideal placement in terms of cozy TV viewing, but after testing the layout for a couple months (before permanently installing the TV onto the wall), I realized that it didn’t really bother me at all, and made for the best flow around the space.

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This is how I initially envisioned arranging the furniture because it really defines the “living” space of my open floor plan. I’m wondering, though, if it cuts off the space a little too much? The problem with the “living” space of the condo is that it is pretty small when you think about it, so trying to fit in three seating components becomes a bit cumbersome.

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This layout feels the most symmetrical and traditional, but it doesn’t leave a lot of space for walking around the space. It feels a bit congested, but I do like how the armchairs frame the fireplace (Note: the chaise on the sectional  can be switched to either side).

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This is how the room is laid out currently. I like it, buttttt. I don’t know. I think I wish that there was more space for more seating. But, let’s be honest, I’m not really throwing parties on the reg. Is this the winner?

I’ve also toyed around with the prospect of using a round coffee table instead of my beloved rectangular one, to allow for more space between seating elements. I actually went as far as creating a simple, DIY, round table, but for some reason it just didn’t feel right. Peep the photo:File_000 (9)

It might just be that the color is a little too light, but I haven’t gotten around to restaining it a darker color.

Any thoughts?! I could use some opinions!

More Spaces: Humphrey Munson

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I’m currently on the final stretch of my kitchen renovation (woo!). Throughout the design and renovation process, I have been inspired by a number of British kitchen design studios. There is something timeless about kitchen design across the pond that I think we’re missing here in America–something about the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary, the comfort in simplicity, and the muted palettes. I have been particularly inspired by Humphrey Munson, a bespoke kitchen design firm based in the UK.

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If my kitchen turns out half as stunning as any of these, I think I did something right.

Photos via Humphrey Munson.

I Bought a Condo?

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Hi strangers!

Almost a year ago, and after many years of thought and planning before that, I decided to take the plunge and start looking for a home to buy. The possibility of being a homeowner is something that has excited me since I was a kid, so of course, I was completely thrilled to finally be able to get the process rolling. Since I wasn’t afraid of renovations, I tended to look at places that needed a bit of work. The big problem, though, was that I had a hard time reconciling finding a place that needed some work, that was in good enough condition to live in during what was sure to be a LONG renovation process, and that happened to be located in a desirable area relatively close to work and family. And a place that fit within my limited budget… in Northern Virginia. Big dreams.

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BUT! After lots of home tours and more than a few upsets, I finally found my place. It’s a 1,000 square foot two bedroom, two bathroom condo in Fairfax, Virginia. It was built in the late 1980s, and not much about the condo has really changed since then. Original kitchen, original bathrooms, original fixtures (luckily it has a new refrigerator, microwave, and oven, though). It’s completely livable as-is, but I’ll definitely be changing mostly everything about the space over the coming years.

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I can’t begin to describe how giddy all of this makes me. I have a tendency to focus intensely on random things for short amounts of time, so it’ll be a nice to focus that energy into the long-term project of renovating this condo. I’m going to do as many renovations as I can on my own, within reason, so I’ll be learning a lot along the way as well.

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The to-do list is here…quite long. I’ve actually been living here for a few months now, so the list is significantly shorter than it used to be, but there is still a lot to do! I’ll be chronicling my renovations/struggles/victories here as they come, and talking a little about what I’ve already done up to this point.

More Spaces: Orcondo

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I’ve been following Orlando Soria since watching him craft up cool DIY projects with Emily Henderson (who is also an inspiration) on her HGTV show some years ago. I was ecstatic when he announced that he would be moving to and renovating a condo in Silver Lake (that he graciously named “Orcondo”), and I was even more ecstatic (read: envious) to watch the space blossom into an extremely well-designed home.

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Follow along with Orlando on his blog and Instagram (which is a treat to follow), and check out Emily Henderson’s blog where he frequently writes guests posts!

Photos via Hommemaker and Homepolish.

More DIY: Random Target Find

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Target rarely ever disappoints these days. Between Threshold, Nate Berkus, and their mid-century furniture lines, I can’t walk into a store without losing tons of time in the Home department. A few months ago, I was perusing the clearance section when I came across a randomly placed drawer that wasn’t clearly labeled or priced. I dug it, so I brought it to the register, where the cashier wasn’t sure what exactly it was either and basically let me decide what I wanted to pay for it (!). I decided to use it as a floating nightstand (please excuse the blurry iPhone picture):

File_005Well, months later, while perusing Target’s Office department (yes, perusing Target is something I do frequently, you know you do it too), I noticed that these are actually sold as monitor stands! Who woulda thunk it? Not I. Or maybe I’m just oblivious. But it just goes to show you that creativy is more possible when we’re not bound by labels or preconceived ideas of how things should be.

More Products: Clocks From Schoolhouse Electric

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Schoolhouse Electric generally kills it with everything they design (check out their Instagram for some daily inspiration/envy), but I’m especially drawn to their wall clocks. Their simple lines and classic style can fit into just about any aesthetic. My birthday is coming up (well, in three and a half months, but who’s counting) and if anyone out there wants to grab one of these puppies for me as a gift, I’d be FOREVER grateful.

All images via Schoolhouse Electric.

More Spaces: A Swedish State of Mind

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8a1b1c1cb8b11046336246b1b2f37682One mainstay in my daily inspiration regimen is to check out Stadshem, a Swedish real estate company that uses the talents of some spectacular stylists and photographers to design and shoot their spaces. I could seriously leave for Sweden today and cozy up in the corner of any one of these rooms until they kick me out for being a crazed American squatter. Stadshem only shows homes built before 1970, so all of their spaces have an authentic European charm.

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If you want to be inspired to become a lunatic squatter like me, be sure to follow these guys on Instagram and Pinterest. They kill it every single time.

All photos from Stadshem.

How to Hang a Large, Heavy Rug

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I’m pretty lucky to be able to say that I grew up around the world. Along the way, my family picked up some priceless objects that we’ll take with us wherever we go, and it’s pretty amazing to think that my (eventual) kids, their kids, and their kids’ kids, could continue to hold onto the stuff that we’ve garnered over the years.

I think that’s an appropriate amount of gushiness for one post, so moving on.

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My parents bought this rug when we lived in Brazil, and when I moved out of their house after college a few years ago, I persuaded (begged) them to let me take it with me. Being the amazingly generous people that they generally are, they let me drag it up to Arlington. My initial intention was to use it on the floor, you know, as rugs tend to be used, but the more I lived with it the more I wanted to see it up on the wall. In my last apartment, I ended up hanging it behind my bed as a pseudo headboard. I hung it with a curtain rod, which looked admittedly janky because 1) it wasn’t the nicest curtain rod and 2) the rug was entirely too heavy to be supported by the rod without bowing.

When I moved into my current apartment, I decided that I’d figure out a more appropriate way to hang it up that would both properly support it and look decent. I googled options for hanging heavy rugs, like anyone would. Most of what I found involved using carpet tack strips–thin boards of wood with sharp tacks sticking from them, generally used for carpeting–but they didn’t seem sturdy enough to hold up the rug, and I was afraid that all of those tacks would damage it somehow.  I moseyed on over to the Home Depot to loiter about and see what I could put together. I came across some PVC pipe and came up with a solution that is super easy, super quick, and on trend.

Here’s what you’ll need for this DIY:

-A heavy (or light, really) rug that you’d like to hang. Mine is about 15 pounds.
-PVC pipe (as far as I can tell, these are only sold in 10 foot lengths?). I used a 3/4 inch pipe.
-A saw to cut the PVC pipe
-Twine
-Screws
-An electric screwdriver

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1) Cut the PVC pipe to the width of your rug. I cut mine slightly shorter than the width to ensure that it wouldn’t be visible underneath the rug. You might want to clean the pipe with Lysol wipes before touching it to your awesome rug… those hardware stores aren’t necessarily the cleanest places.

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2) Cut 2-3 pieces of twine to about double the length of the pipe. The more pieces you use, the sturdier it’ll be.

3) String the twine through the pipe. It’ll be easiest if you tie a washer or a screw to the end of all 2-3 pieces and drop the weight through the pipe.

4) Place the pipe, with twine threaded through, at the center of the rug, and fold the rug over. 

5) Tie the loose ends of the twine into knots. I used two pieces of twine, so I tied two knots. Make sure to tie the knots as close to the pipe as possible (i.e don’t give the twine any slack) because when you hang it up, it’ll stretch out quite a bit. After tying the knots, pull the twine through so that the knots are on the inside of the pipe, unless you want them on the outside.

6) Hang it up! If your rug is pretty heavy, you’ll want to either drill a screw into a stud, or use a drywall anchor for some extra strength. One screw should do it!

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Unfortunately, my rug was still weighing down the pipe quite a bit in the middle, which caused it to sag a little. I drilled another screw into the wall where I wanted the pipe to rest, and just sat the rug/pipe on top of that screw. Pretty simple.

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This seems like such a long post for such a simple project.

Blank Space

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When I moved into my one-bedroom apartment two years ago (two years ago? sheesh), I liked it so much that I told myself I’d only move for one of two reasons: if I was going to move in with someone (that’s still pretty far off from happening), or if I decided that I needed more space for an office/studio/workspace kind of situation.

I managed to make the most of that apartment to build things, work on freelance design projects, and live in… but after two years, the space started to close in on me. I grew tired of using the little open space available in my living room to work on DIY stuff, and my huge printer ended up taking over my dining room table when I was printing work. Every time I started a project, my entire apartment became a huge mess, because there wasn’t a central place to work. Because I grew tired of the limited space, I started to work on projects less and less, which made me less and less happy. Also, I was kind of generally bored with the apartment and wanted to start off 2015 with a new challenge.

Sooo the time came for a bigger apartment! I looked no further than the same apartment complex in Arlington, because I love the area and the cost of rent is relatively inexpensive (for Arlington, anyway). I opted for a two-bedroom apartment, so the smaller bedroom will turn into a studio space that’ll house any projects that I’m working on. I’m too excited to have more space to work with/in, and more design challenges to work through. Take a sneak peeeeek:

Processed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamThe living/dining room from both sides of the space, and the entryway to the kitchen. I have grand plans for the blank wall on the far side of the room. The front door is on the left side of the first picture.

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The hallway that leads to the two bedrooms and the bathroom.

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And the only picture I got of the smaller bedroom (that will be the studio) before I moved tons of stuff into it. The bigger bedroom basically mirrors this room, it’s just a little bigger.

That’s it for now, but there will be regular updates on the progress of this space! I have a few DIY projects in the works to share, so stay tuned.

Inspired: Bidwell

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Union Market, located in Northeast DC, is an awesome place to be. The large warehouse space is home to dozens of pop-up food retailers that would suit any taste, as well as a few boutique retail stores. The only full-service restaurant in Union Market is Bidwell, and they were kind enough to let me bug them for a morning with tons of questions about their well-designed space and brand.

The first thing that I noticed about Bidwell was the implementation of their logo as signage (on subway tile, to boot). I chatted with the manager about how the logo came about, which led to a pretty interesting story. The designer noticed that a bidwell melon (I didn’t know that bidwell melons were a thing until this story!), cut in half, revealed an interesting shape, that ended up being used as the form of the logo. As a designer, I love getting into these spaces and hearing cool stories about how certain design elements come about. Super inspiring.

The bread and butter (not literally) of Bidwell come from their rooftop garden, where they grow all of their own vegetables for their dishes. Unfortunately, I visited during off-season, so my photos of the rooftop don’t tell an accurate story of how lush the vegetation can get during the spring and summer.