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Settled

Design and other ephemera

There are a generous handful of things in this world that make me swoon. High ceilings. Scottish accents. Wainscoting. Men with excellent facial hair in flannel shirts. I am but putty in the presence of these influences. This week, I added another item to this list when I came across a post on Apartment Therapy about organizing books by color. Later that day, alone at home and suddenly itching to enact some quick home improvements, I of course decided to organize my own 100+ book collection by color. Three days later, a pile of books continues to fester on the floor, cluttering my path whenever I am presented with the need to walk across the room. Turns out the reality of such a project is a bit more complicated than the abstract concept. While I write this from work, a small part of me is dreading the prospect of returning home tonight to be confronted with the unresolved details of this unfortunate endeavor. But nothing impedes my ability to relax on the sofa at the end of an emotionally punishing week like a messy apartment. While most normal people, people not driven to bizarre projects based on quirky aesthetic biases, would probably do the smart thing and just arrange their literature by genre or author, I know in my heart that I will not rest until I have exhausted every possible means of successfully completing this endeavor. Some people control their lives by their food intake or by being really bossy. I insist on living beautifully. So, tonight I will focus on overcoming the challenges impeding this project. I will find a way to compensate for the fact that I seem to own over a dozen blue books, but only a handful of green ones. And no, I will not go out and buy more green books, as tempting of a fix as that might be. And when it is over, I will post a photo for all three of you loyal readers to appreciate. You will swoon along with me.

In the comments section, tell me how you organize your books. Or mock the frivolity of my current vision.

While I tend to think that the term “pretentious douchebag” is completely over-used in our day and age, there are times when it simply is the best means of conveying disgust for the practices of certain persons. Certain persons for instance, who use the term “curate” to describe the process of selection within a particular aesthetic. For instance, instead of saying that one had carefully chosen the objects in their magnifying glass collection that enables them to better gaze at their navels, one might instead claim that such pieces were curated. I, in turn, might roll my eyes.

I presume that these are the same people who use the word “text” when talking about movies and books.

The NYT recently shed light on this phenomenon, and I can only hope that the fact that they did means this trend is just about dead, which is what it typically means when the Times reports on a cultural development.

In the meantime, the best solution to this annoyingness  may be to deliberately overuse the term “curate” as to drain it of all meaning and impact. So until further notice, the process of grocery shopping will be known as “curating the selection of edibles in my refrigerator and cupboards.” Getting dressed in the morning will now be known as “curating my vestment.” Deciding which dude I should have dinner with on Friday will be known as “curating my collection of potential suitors.”

‘Cuz I’m nothing if not lofty.

While small-space living has its joys, there are some obvious pitfalls. In addition to the fact that one’s living room is often in one’s bedroom, one must also accept that space limitations will hinder one’s ability to amass more possessions. If you’re both a pack rat and a lover of well-designed objects (like me), this reality can be a sad one to accept.

So with that in mind, I am pleased to announce a new, semi-regular feature here at Settled.

“That’s Tight” will highlight objects that fall across my path that I would buy for myself if only I had the space. Who knows, perhaps one of you will take a similar liking to one of my discoveries and buy it for yourself. If that happens, you’ll have to then invite me over so I can visit it.

For my inaugural installment of “That’s Tight,” I bring to you this trunk from Miss Pixies. 100_7564_00I’m a sucker for typography and bold, graphic-looking design. This objects fulfills both, while inspiring the viewer to want to know more about Miss McCleeneder and whatever it was she had going on in Hartford, Conn. While trunks of course have myriad uses, this one in particular would be great for a sewer to store fabrics awaiting use in future projects. I could also see it as a toy chest for a kid with an especially rocking sense of style.

Hand Stenciled Trunk
Available at Miss Pixie’s
1624 14th Street, NW
Washington, D.C.
(202) 232.8171

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Not all of us are self-starters. Sometimes, what we need to grow our own brilliance is the genius of others. This isn’t something to feel bad about. As Oscar Wilde once said “Talent borrows, genius steals.” I believe Hegel might have had something to say on the matter as well.

Today hasn’t been half terrible on the creativity-front, and I feel that I owe this state of affairs to the following inspirations:

1.) Christopher Niemann’s Abstract City blog on NYT.com. This particular installment of Abstract City encompasses several key elements that I appreciate in humor: the tongue in cheek, the false boastfulness and the use of deceptively simple art. Enjoy.

2.) The Wilco channel on Pandora.com. I admit that I am a bit late to the Wilco game. I blame this on the fact that I chose Yankee Foxtrot Hotel as my introductory album. I should have selected one that was a little more accessible.

3.) The frisbee-in-the-park bit on last night’s episode of Better Off Ted. While last week I was thinking that the show’s formula, wherin every week Veridian Dynamics reveals its heartless incompetence, and the main characters fulfill their various duties towards damage control, is a bit predictable, last night’s episode where Veronica attempts to mend her relationship with her father restored some of the show’s original magic. The frisbee scene in particular was perfect in its brevity and absurdity.

What’s inspiring you today?

A friend’s recent Facebook status update bemoaning the challenges of finding a decent, affordable rental in Washington, D.C. just reminded me of my own apartment search last year and how it came to consume my life. While this may sound unappealing to many, I actually sort of loved it. As happy as I was to finally find a place (after a leisurely 4 month search), I kind of missed the experience once it was over. Sure, some of you may regard the hunt to find an apartment that costs less than $1200 a month in a safe, urban area a fool’s mission. I preferred to regard it as a character-building challenge. Given the depth of my search and the fact that it was all I could talk about for several months, I feel uniquely qualified to share a few pieces of wisdom on the matter. The following is the first in a multi-part series on landing your dream (or at least acceptable acceptable) apartment in our fair city.

1.) Allot as much time as you possibly can to your rental search. While I realize that circumstances differ among individuals, your search will be much less traumatic if you can pace yourself and take breaks as needed. Think of it like running a marathon for the first time: While it helps to have a time-line, it’s important not to over-exert yourself, and you’ll feel way better in the end if you don’t sprint when you can instead jog. Or something. I actually hate running so  this may not be  the best analogy.

2.) Run an honest assessment of your budget in order to determine what you can afford. Common wisdom on the matter defines “affordable rent” as no more than 1/3 of your monthly income, but obviously this will be different with everyone. It will also help to map out the rest of your financial expenditures to determine what you spend money on and what can be sacrificed in the name of an apartment upgrade if that is indeed your goal. Perhaps you will decide that you don’t need to spend $100 a month on supplies for your ham radio hobby if that same amount means the difference between a studio and a one bedroom apartment.

3.) Enter the “spec” phase. In this part of the hunting process you are just looking. Check out the usual suspects such as Craig’s List; the Washington City Paper; rent.com and apartments.com to get a lay of the land. This will give you an idea of what rental prices are like where and how many square feet and amenities you’re likely to squeeze out of your lease agreement.

One advantage of DC is that it’s an extremely plugged-in city, and there is a LOT renting and living-related information online. Check out Yahoo Groups to see if you can join neighborhood list-serves and start reading neighborhood-related blogs. While you might not find an actual apartment through this, you will learn a lot about individual neighborhoods.

Speaking of which, another important aspect of the spec phase is exploring potential neighborhoods in the flesh. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Before you entertain the possibility of a specific apartment, visit prospective neighborhoods ahead of time without the prospect of one particular rental hanging over your head. Walk around to get a feel for the area, what it has to offer in terms of transportation and amenities and whether or not you feel safe. Don’t feel bad if you don’t. Some neighborhoods aren’t for everyone. For instance, while I have heard all sorts of wonderful things about Petworth, my spec exploration there taught me that I’d feel safer spending a little more money to live in a less “transitional” area. To each their own. During this phase you may also see “for rent” signs outside of buildings–another good way of finding a place, as many buildings don’t even bother advertising online. Be armed with your cell phone at all times and don’t be shy about calling. That’s what the sign is there for, after all.

Also consider what you can bear in terms of a commute. If you take public transportation to work, you should use WMATA’s Metro Trip Planner to map your route using Metro and Metrobus.

Finally, if you’re worried about crime, take a look at the DC Metropolitan Police Department’s Crime Database to learn more about neighborhood incidences of robberies, stabbings, shootings and other forms of heniousness.

I think that’s enough for today. Check out the links below for additional resources and come visit me again as I delve further into the madness of the DC rental market. Questions? Shoot ’em my way in  the comments section.

A Smattering of Neighborhood-Related Blogs

14th & You
And Now, Anacostia
In Shaw
Frozen Tropics
Prince of Petworth

Several posts back, I mentioned that I was on a quest for decals to spruce up my walls. After writing off most of the ones at Blik, I decided to conduct an innocent Google search, which resulted in the discovery Samantha Haan Frame Wall Decals that about a million companies Samantha Haan Brocadeseem to design and manufacture wall decals. Overwhelmed, I did what I always do when overburdened by choices and weighed down by my own indecisiveness: I whined to my mother. A seasoned interior design obsessive in her own right, she confessed that her own search for decals had met a similar fate and the two of us were left to bemoan the market’s over-saturation of wall decals–many of which, I would like to add, are really pretty ugly.

My quest to perfect my living space is a never-ending battle against my own ability to make firm choices in areas relating to paint color, art selection and hanging and room layout. I have long been afflicted with this restlessness, and have come to believe that whatever plans I do eventual conjure will need to be defined by their adaptability more than anything else.

I had just about given up on the whole wall decal issue when I stumbled across Samantha Haan’s collection at Loxi. Unlike many others I have seen, her motifs manage to be elegant and whimsical without looking clunky or too cartoonish. While I cannot decide between the brocade set and the portraits set, I do feel a little less overwhelmed. I am also extremely grateful  to the site for approximating  how much room a set of decals might take up once applied to a wall, unlike Blik, which gives you a bunch of random measurements and expects you to figure it out on your own.

My senior year in college I lived in a group house legendary (or perhaps notorious would be a better word) for it’s legacy of fostering our campus’s punk community. Our basement served as the practice space for a number of bands and it wasn’t uncommon for us to use the excuse of needing money for the phone bill as a reason to host a few acts if we knew we could charge two bucks a head for a line-up of bands and a couple kegs of Nattie Bo. In fact, my fondest memory of my 21st birthday festivities is that of Bippy serenading me in a punk version of Happy Birthday (the only time I have not minded that song, actually).

Towards the end of the year, our landlord informed us that we would not be getting our security deposits back. This no doubt had something to do with the wear and tear of regularly hosting 200 rowdy college students, but also because he was famous for being a cheap bastard who couldn’t even be bothered to make routine maintenance calls. Being the angry, rebellious bourgeois college kids that we were, we decided to protest this development by covering the walls in our living room with graffiti. Indeed, scrawling childish complaints and random pieces of gossip became a favored past time over the last month of our college careers. Having grown up in a beautifully and tastefully decorated environment, the practice felt amazingly liberating.

This project here by Kellie of Scraplog (via Design Sponge) reminds me a bit of the Ministry House graffiti project, only in a way more beautiful and less destructive way.

Kudos to Kellie for not only seeing the possibilities hidden in a metalic magic marker, but in also having the balls to test drive her vision. So often, creative people sit around wondering “how that would look” (or maybe that’s just me) but it takes a good dose of courage and initiative to actually carry out such visions.

(Kellie’s impulsiveness here also reminds me a bit of all those times I’ve grabbed a box of hair dye in a fit of boredom and two hours later–ta tah: purple hair! Only not really, because this actually looks good)

While I am a total wimp when it comes to painting, I am having grand visions of a similar project in my apartment. I see purple walls and silver fish scale patterns.

I also see a very angry rental company whose idea of allowing residents to paint their apartments probably does not extend to dark colors and metallic graffiti.

Perhaps somewhere there’s a happy compromise. I will certainly keep you posted.

Note: While I know that this post would be greatly improved by images, my computer and WordPress are at odds over how that goal might be accomplished. Bear with me as I learn simple blogging software.