Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shopper's Tip: Check In and Check It Out.

Quick Shopper's Tip (because things are beyond busy these days): The Hotel Furniture Sale.

No, I'm not saying you should go down to the local Holiday Inn Express or the Bates Motel and see if they'll sell you their old mattress and vinyl covered arm chairs (especially not after those Dateline specials with the black lights in the motel rooms.)

However, many of us live in towns and cities with nice resorts, inns, hotels, or towns and cities adjacent to such amenities. If you keep an open ear and and an open mind, a lot of times, these stately establishments will, just like your home, go under renovation and want to revamp their style, liquidating all of their current furniture and decor. They will sell the goods at a ridiculously low price, just to get it out the door. I purchased a set of these high back, gold brocade, upholstered chairs from The Hotel Roanoke ( for $15.00 a piece. They are currently in my office at work (hence the crappy/shoddy photos...I don't keep a camera in the office, so I had to use the phone.) There wasn't a scratch, spill, stain, or thread out of place on them. The best part is a lot of this furniture is made to be durable and spill proof, to accommodate the heaviest of heavyset guests to unstable Mable with her sloshing of the Sunday Brunch Bloody Mary.

A lot of times, the local news will announce such sales as well as the local newspapers. Major Hotels will unload everything from chairs, to lamps, drapes, artwork, mirrors, nightstands, armoires, and even headboards. At the Hotel Roanoke sale, the headboards were the coveted item with the the infamous "HR" wood monogram and crest at the top. (This hotel has been around for a long time, for locals, it's a piece of history). My parents live down the road from The Homestead Resort and I know they do a similar sale from time to time. These sales are especially great for those of you with a more formal approach to interior design and decorating, as a lot of grand old hotels have started ditching some of the antiques and formal pieces for an edgier, more modern approach of clean, classic, comfort. It's also a great chance to own a little piece of personal history if the hotel or resort means something to you (i.e. you got dressed there before your wedding, you went to an annual benefit there growing up, you made some babies there (come on, you know you were thinking it.)

Be willing to get up early, be willing to elbow some girl in the throat to get the chair you want (just kidding...kinda), and maybe wait in line at a warehouse (you typically won't be going to the actual hotel, or at least not carrying stuff out of the lobby). So, check the papers, check-in, and check it out. You're in for quite a steal and deal. Bon Chance.



Monday, October 26, 2009

It Isn't, But It Is: Beyond the Basics.

So, I was on the hunt for a new end table to go between the sofa and love seat in the living room. (Please note, in the bungalow, the living room is also the TV room. There is no formal living room full of antiques, ginger jars, and Faberge eggs that we only look at from behind the velvet ropes.). Some people hunt Pheasant and Ortolan, I hunt for furniture.

I had grown tired of the end table I had, not because anything was wrong with it, but I just wanted something different. You know how it is. I looked in furniture stores, consignment shops, estate sales, and my parents' basement. I looked at traditional, mission, glass, wood, etc. Finally, while browsing in "Ike's Underground," a vintage store on Charlottesville's historic Downtown Mall, I came across a large Department of Civil Defense water barrel from the early 1960's. The barrel was popular in the 60's to store water in fallout shelters. I thought it was cool when I saw it, and didn't give it much thought. However, then it hit me. End table. Ok, so I may lose some of you on this one (especially those of you with really formal homes), but I love to mix in vintage pieces, repurpose items, and incorporate a mix of hard and soft lines/elements. I loved the gun metal/dark olive color, the pop of writing on the front (mine is white writing, unlike the yellow of the picture), it was the perfect height, only $20.00, and if nothing else, it will be a conversation piece. I also love having pieces from the 50's and 60's mixed into my modern decor, because the bungalow dates back and has a very 50's/60's feel.

*Quick side note, my friends from college should get a kick out of this post, because I made an end table out of a beer keg in college. I applied our Alma mater's decal on the front, and fashioned a top from a a round piece of plywood, covered in stick on silver flashing tape (used to cover a car bumper.) See, even back then I was up to the same old tricks. I was just trying to be an interior designer while pretending to be straight. You try being the only boy in the dorm with curtains and a duvet cover.

I placed a large coffee table book on top to create a more substantial surface to place a lamp. However, you could easily add one of those round pieces of glass they sell in every major multi-purpose chain store (you know, the glass that goes on top of the "Screw in the three legs, round, raw particle board tables they sell that you put a table cloth on to cover). I think this could be not only great for a bachelor pad, but for a modern loft or industrial space. It's sure to spark conversation at your next cocktail party, and it can't hurt to have a little history in your home. Also, for that price, it sure beats buying a fiber board table from a chain store that you have to put together and hope nobody scratches or leaves a drink on. This doesn't mean you have to buy a civil defense water barrel from the 60's. It means design, once again, doesn't have to be so damn literal. Look at items in a different way. An old ladder can be wall art, a door can be a table, and you get to make all the rules.

So, next time, think beyond the basics, and think creatively. It may not be what you were looking for, but then again, it might end up being just exactly what you wanted.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

Freak Chic: A Ghost of a Post.

With Halloween creeping up quickly around the corner, I wanted to take a hot second to share a quick, easy, and beyond cheap Halloween-decorating tip: The Lamp Post Ghost.

While I can't take credit and say I came up with this concept in bed one night (although, I do dream of such design-related things), it's just too quick, easy, and beyond cheap not to share.

To make your lamp post into an instant Halloween ghost, drape the lamp post in any white fabric that you feel comfortable leaving outside. I used an old table cloth that has a stain on the back, but you could certainly use an old white bed sheet, buy some yards of inexpensive muslin or other white fabric. Once you have the fabric draped how you want it, secure it and define the head around the lantern with some string/twine (the string keeps the fabric from blowing off in wind).

To make a face (make any face you want, I went for a traditional ghost), cut out circles or shapes out of black trash bag (this will hold up in potential, unpredictable fall weather vs. using craft paper, or black construction paper). If you have black house paint and fee comfortable painting a face on, knock yourself out. Just don't use a craft or acrylic paint that's going to run in potential rain. Secure the cut out shapes in place using straight pins or small safety pins. Turn it on, and wait for dark. So Simple. Very Freak Chic and Halloween-a-Go-Go. Don't have a lamp post? I'm sorry, I know this must be hard for you. However, you could always try a smaller version using a porch light. Just don't put the fabric on an exposed lightbulb.

So, in five minutes, you have a fun, funky Lamp Post Ghost that is sure to delight you, your neighbors, and light the night for your local, little ghouls and goblins on Halloween.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"We've Got Spirits, Yes We Do! We've got Spirits, How 'Bout You?" A Tasteful Tailgate.

For many of us, 'Tis the season for football. And for those of us who are experiencing what we wouldn't call the glory days or our Alma Mater or our chosen institution/team, 'tis the season for quality tailgating.

In all seriousness, you'll never hear me say that. (disclaimer: UVA isn't having the best season of all time.) There are folks out there that say they only go to football games for the tailgating, or that here, no one is going to actually watch the football game. Personally, I think if that's the case, find another team, find another temple to worship at, and get a new hobby. Maybe it's the fact that I work with college students, I always remember that they're students and they're out there trying their hardest, or maybe it's the fact that I've been going to football games ever since my Mom and Dad could tote me around like a pocket-sized orange and blue accessory. You learn to stand by your team, through good seasons and bad seasons.

Anywho, I'm going to hop off of my coach soapbox before I lose you. While we can't control what happens on the field, we can control what happens off the field with a tasteful tailgate. If you don't attend football games, but you follow a a college of NFL team at home, apply this to your spread in front of the old flat screen.

I've been fortunate over the years to attend many tailgates with friends and family, as well as plan some, and I figured I would share some of my favorite tips with you on this fine evening. When I say a tasteful tailgate, I'm not talking silver candelabra, and silver chaffing dishes. If that's what you were hoping for, well than pardon me Chrystal Carrington while I go play the grand piano. Just remember, you're standing in a parking lot with silver candelabra on a folding card table. Does it equate?

Ok. So my favorite tips and tailgating treats:

1. Don't be so damn literal: One of my favorite things to do is to take the school colors/team colors and find objects/serving pieces in those colors. However, I don't like to buy things that are necessarily school specific. For example, UVA's colors are orange and navy blue. Instead of going to the UVA bookstore or the gas station and buying the orange plastic table cloth that has Virginia Cavaliers, giant V's and footballs all over it, I opt for a navy and white patterned table cloth I purchased at a discount home goods store. It's attractive, durable, washable, and reusable. It sets a nice backdrop to add orange pieces to the spread. When you do this, you avoid having your table look like a child's birthday party table (you know, the Strawberry Shortcake table cloth, the Strawberry Shortcake napkins, plates, blow whistles, cups, cake, etc.) Remember, don't be so literal, you can show your support without literally saying it. Think of it like wearing a blue and orange tatersal shirt verses an actual UVA tshirt. I like it.

2. The 10 Minute Centerpiece: I'm sorry, call me crazy, call me persnickety, but I think all tables need a good centerpiece, and that includes your tailgating table. I always laugh because whenever my friends and I divvy up what we're bringing to our next tailgate, I always say I have the centerpiece on my list. My friend (and "wife") Alexis always responds "Friends, you can now rest at ease and sleep at night, Ed has the centerpiece under control, I know you've all been really worried and thinking, gosh I hope we have a centerpiece for Saturday's game." Sarcasm dually noted, ignored, and forgotten. ;) Anywho, the 10 minute centerpiece. It's Fall, so rock it fall. Buy one Mum. Wrap the plastic pot of the mum in your favorite wrapping paper, construction paper, scrapbooking paper, or whatever you have in the house. If you have something in your school colors, even better. Using your standard computer software, print images of footballs, football players, cheerleaders, phrases, "Go, Fight, Win" etc. and cut them out. Using scotch tape, attach the clip art images to your standard bamboo skewers (used for shish kabobs). If you want the backside to be appealing, trace the shapes onto another piece of paper, cut it out, and tape it on the other side of the skewer (sandwiching the skewer between the two pieces of paper.) You've instantly created your own, super cheap version of those plastic decorative messages florists stick in floral arrangements (you know the plastic stick with the plastic words that say "Welcome Baby," "Happy Birthday," "Sorry I got your pregnant and didn't call." Wait, what?

So, take your skewers, stick them in the mum in a nice arrangement, and wam, bam, instant centerpiece for your tailgating table. Time for the next tailgate and your mum is looking a little worn out? No worries, captain. Get a pumpkin at the market and stick the reusable skewers into the pumpkin. If you're feeling extra Martha that day, using some craft paint or leftover house paint, paint an inspirational phrase for your team on the pumpkin. Once again, instant centerpiece. Super cheap, super easy, and your guests will love it.

3. Tailgating is Not Work: Plain and simple, I don't grill at a tailgate. I'm there to enjoy time with my good friends and family, I'm not there to cook, and I'm not there to work. I'd rather do a little work before hand and enjoy the day, than set up a grill and fire away. Sure, you're going to have some "hot off the grill" goodness, but it's not my style. I also encourage you to think about what you're serving. If you can, opt for chicken fingers/strips over friend chicken. A lot of folks will be standing up and walking around, and let's face it, it's hard to look attractive and tear into a chicken breast full of bones. I mean, that's hard enough to do sitting down. If possible, stick to wholesome, filling finger foods. The best part? If you have a little time the night before, or even the morning of, you can make your own snacks, make them healthier, make them for less money, and your guests are going to scarf them down. Here are two of my standby favorites:

Oven Baked Chicken Fingers: (The amount depends on how much you want to make)
Take your standard boneless, skinless, raw chicken tenders from the market,
Salt and pepper the naked tenders
Dip the naked tenders in a quick egg wash (2-3 beaten eggs with some water or milk)
Then dredge the tenders in Panko (Japanese Bread crumbs--add your choice of seasonings to the bread crumbs and mix around--garlic powder, Soul Food Seasoning, paprika, onion salt, etc).
Lay the breaded tenders on a greased cookie sheet, spray the tops of the tenders with cooking oil so they'll brown, bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the tenders are golden brown. Serve with low-fat honey mustard salad dressing for dipping, barbecue sauce, or your favorite condiments.
(They're really good hot and cold, and they're so much better for you than if you buy fried chicken or go through the drive through).

Mini Pigs-n-a-Blanket (in lieu of grilling hot dogs)
These are so easy, breezy, lemon squeezy it should be illegal. And please do me a favor: make these and don't buy the ones that are already done or the ones that come in bulk at Sams club for wedding receptions. People always eat these and they can taste the difference. People are like, wow you made these? Can I have the recipe? Well, if you can even call this a recipe:
Buy 2 packages of Hillshire Farms "Lil Smokies" or if you like cheese in your dogs, "Lil Cheddar Smokies"
Buy 2 cans of Grands or grocery store brand "Flaky Layers" biscuits. (If you really want to step it up, buy a can of the whole wheat biscuits--hooray for health.)
Take each biscuit, pull apart the flaky layers, and then cut each layer into strips using kitchen scissors.
Assemble a pile of little pigs, little dough strips, and start your assembly line. Roll each pig in a cut layer of biscuit dough and then lay it on a greased cookie sheet with the seam side down. Bake in the oven at 350 until the biscuit dough is golden brown. Once again, serve with honey mustard, BBQ sauce, ketchup, or your favorite condiment. Great both warm and cold.

So, if you have the time to save the dime, do it yourself and skip the drive through and frozen food aisle for the next tailgate.

3. Make a packing list: This sounds a little excessive, it's a tailgate, not a trip to France. However, think about it. Once you get there, it's a one shot deal. There's no running out to get a corkscrew. So, make a packing list for the day. It's a great way to divvy up things amongst your friends and do a quick check before you load up the car for the day. Here is a good go-to list for many of our past tailgates:

1. Folding Card Tables and folding bag chairs
2. Table Cloth
3. Centerpiece (see, I told you it's important)
4. Paper plates
5. Solo Cups
6. Cocktail Napkins/Dinner napkins
7. Bottle Opener
8. Corkscrew
9. Shot Glass or Jigger
10. Cooler
11. Ice
12. Ice Bucket to hold ice for mixed drinks
13. Beer (seasonal preference)
14. Bourbon (Maker's Mark or Knob Creek, please.)
15. Vodka/Gin
16. Mixers: Cranberry, Ginger Ale, Soda, Diet Soda, Sparkling Water, Water (not really a mixer, but you always want to have plenty of water on hand, regardless of the weather/season) Tonic Water, and Club Soda
17. Straws or plastic swizzle sticks for mixed drinks
18. Trash Bag and second bag for recycling (in case your plot isn't near a trashcan
19. Wine, if you have wine drinkers
20. 2 Entree dishes (i.e. country ham biscuits, chicken/pigs, etc)
21. Chips, Dips, Chains, Whips (pita chips, hummus, corn salsa, tortilla chips, etc.)
22. Salads (pasta, etc.)
23. Dry roasted Peanuts--a great option for munchies
24. Dessert--brownies or cookies will typically suffice, unless you're dying to make a "Go Hoos" Cake.
25. Fruit and Veggies--because some people are still trying to meet a man.
(See, there's a lot to forget--making a packing list is not that crazy for a tailgate. Of course some of these things will change depending on the time of season. You might not be as concerned with a cold drink in late November, but you know what to swap out.)

The final ingredient on your list is to bring good friends and family to enjoy both the spread and the game with. That's what it's all about after all.

So, whether it be outside the stadium or inside your family room, consider these tips when you plan your next tasteful tailgate. Keep it Simple and Keep it Classy. Grab a drink, grab your friends, and grab your seat and enjoy some football, y'all.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No Man's An Island.

So, you all have seen photos of my kitchen. The Galactica walls, the open shelving, etc. etc. However, one of my favorite cost-saving, functional design tips is in the heart of that kitchen: The Kitchen "Island."

When I moved into the bungalow downtown, I fell in love with the eat-in kitchen. The only thing I could find wrong was the large amount of space in the center of the kitchen, an area just begging for a kitchen island. Without an island there, I had the perfect space for a kitchen dance party. Don't get me wrong, spontaneous kitchen dance party is one of my all-time favorite things. My friend Christy and I do the Carolina Shag to the Fifth Dimension's "Marry Me Bill." It brings down the house every time. Needless to say, I put away my tap shoes and went in search of a kitchen island.

I wanted something different, something clean, something easy to maintain, something functional, and something that wasn't going to break the bank. Once again, like I always say, what's the fun in sinking so much money into your home that you can't afford to have any friends over? I found my long laundry list in the stainless steel prep table. First off, I'm a Top Chef fanatic and wannabe. I need to start learning how to make things into a foam and start turning out dishes that involve an "emulsion of fennel bulb, blood orange puree, and a reduction of caramelized fig, with a marscapone demi-glace." Sure, sounds good. The stainless steel prep table is what you see running down the middle and sides of every restaurant kitchen, and hell, every high school cafeteria, and there's good reason for it. Not only do I love the clean, simple, modern look of the stainless steel, but it's sturdy, it's super easy to clean (you literally wipe it down, and then give it a spray with a can of stainless steel cleaner, available in any grocery store, typically to clean stainless steel fridges), and being that it's stainless steel and meant for an industrial kitchen, I can literally take a hot dish from the oven and sit it on the surface. If the surface is clean, you can cut your ingredients right on top, and trust me, the more it gets scratched up, the better it looks (and it's going to get scratched's always a matter of getting past the first scratch.) When I first got the stainless island, it was perfect. My ex-boyfriend at the time came in and threw his keys on it 10 minutes after I pulled the protective plastic off of it, making one singular scratch. You would have thought he poured bleach on my rose garden, I was so mad (that's not why we broke up, I promise I'm not that difficult to live with). Anywho, you get past that first scratch, remember that's why you went industrial in the first place, and you rock it out like any good Chef or Sous Chef. The bottom shelf is galvanized steel and the perfect place to store extra goods like small appliances, wine, cookbooks, etc.

I was able to order my table from Charlottesville Restaurant Supply Company, a local distributor that has since moved to only online sales ( If you visit their website, the little cartoon french fry guy says to even call them for the best deals on stainless steel prep tables. Good to know. (Don't worry if your town doesn't have a Restaurant Supply Company or distributor, most places will have to order your table regardless. Try online vendors like However, I was able to get my stainless steel prep table (giving me an additional 4 ft long x 2.5 wide feet of counter space) for $200.00 including shipping. While 200 smackeroos isn't couch change, think of what you'd pay to have a real island installed? Ok. The best part? You can get these tables in various sizes, ranging from small 2ft. x 2ft. square tables to ones that could literally run the length of a restaurant. It's perfect, because it's being used for it's exact purpose. If it can withstand the prep line in a gourmet kitchen, I'm sure it can withstand my small kitchen calamities. It's a great option for any renter, or just anyone who wants something a little different. When you move out, you can take it with you, or leave it with the house. Or, if you don't think it's going to work in your next kitchen, use it as a work table in the garage or basement. If you have kids, they'll have a blast playing on it with magnets (and if you don't have kids, you can still play with magnets, or leave yourself a note/grocery list.) Maybe you aren't ready to put in the permanent island, but you crave the counter space, and also don't want to buy the butcher block rolling cart from the chain store. Consider this cost-saving, functional design tip.

Remember, no man's an island, but a prep table can be.


Image Lifted from

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Reason AND a Season to Celebrate.

No, I'm not talking about Christmas. Although, it will be here soon. Hell, it's already Christmas in a lot of stores already (which I don't understand, in my parents' business, we just make sure the place is ready to go for the holidays on the day after Thanksgiving.) But seriously, while I'm not talking about Christmas, this entry is semi-inspired by my Dad's take on the Holidays. He always encourages us and reminds us to not put all of our stock in Christmas day. After all, it's one day. It comes and goes so quickly, and no matter how much you pack in one day, you can't stop the train...or in this case, the Polar Express? Anywho, he always encourages us to think of Christmas as a season and not a one shot deal. We stretch it out, have several small gatherings with family, friends, neighbors, attend a lot of events, concerts, leave the trees up until New Years, etc.

Anywho, that's the whole point. I don't think we celebrate enough, or at least not in the right way. We put all of our eggs in a few small baskets, and hope for the perfect day, or holiday. Where am I going with this? Ok, so over the past week, I was really inspired by two different events, a small dinner party, and a large party with friends. The best part? Both events just screamed fall in Virginia. I love fall here. I love the changing of the leaves, the little nip in the air, the smell of fire (like a camp fire or chestnuts roasting on a, not a house fire), the sound of a marching band practicing when you walk home, snuggling up (once again, Husband...where are you?), the sound of crunching leaves beneath your feet, and knowing you have a fun holiday season ahead of you. Sure we celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving, but why not celebrate Fall?

At the small dinner party, 2 couples, myself, and my date (my "wife", she's the best, really. Not only is she a fun, intelligent, attractive, and successful young woman, she totally understands and accepts the fact that her "husband" is attracted to men and will most likely, one day, leave her for a man) ate appetizers by a cozy fire, drank "Stone Fences" (4.0 oz. Maker's Mark Bourbon, or any bourbon and 2 oz. fresh apple cider), feasted on a delicious meal with seasonal ingredients like butternut squash, and just had the best damn conversation you could ask for. On Saturday, my friends Jill and Christie hosted their annual Celebration of All Things Fall. They live on a beautiful farm outside of Charlottesville, and it's the kind of place that begs for a gathering like this. There were hay rides, a pumpkin carving contest, cider and adult beverages, a small band and dancing in the barn, a fire, dogs, delicious food, children, you name it. It was a little chilly, but bundling up is always fun, and there was no rain thanks to Old Mother Nature. We were also celebrating Christie and Jill's recent Nantucket nuptials, which is just the best thing ever.

Needless to say, I've left this past week and weekend inspired to celebrate fall. There's no need to put all your stock, or stock pot on Thanksgiving and Halloween. That's one stressful meal and one night of tricks and treats. You're probably thinking, I don't live on a perfect farm in Virginia that screams fall bash, and it would look really silly to host a hayride on our busy, city street. No biggie. Do it on your level, with your space, and with your style. If you live in an urban environment and you don't have the outdoor space, rock the fall dinner party. Cook with warm, seasonal ingredients, serve some stone fences, and finish off the meal with a nice apple crisp, or something that evokes those senses and tastes of fall. In other words, leave the mojitos and citrus salad for another day and another dinner party. I'm pretty anti-Sandra Lee and seasonal decorating (outside of holidays) but break out the fall colors for your table. Some nice beeswax candles, use your thanksgiving linens if you have them, or venture outside and find your decor. Gather a few acorns, some twigs, and a nice spray of changing leaves. Add one glass vase or hurricane, and BAM, we have instant center piece.

Image lifted from

If you have a backyard and some outdoor space to throw a fall party, then rock it out on a small scale. This is a really affordable gathering. It's fall, the decor is taken care of. It's all about the air, and the leaves, and the trees, and the feeling. Get a few pumpkins and a few mums and you're in business. If you're going into the evening, bust out some Christmas lights early. Have guests bring pumpkins to carve in the contest, get some cider (with a hard option for the big kids), some apple juice boxes for the wee ones, some pumpkin ales, and set the time for late afternoon, making the event kid friendly for those with kids, and let it carry on into the evening for those who may want a few extra brews and think that it's a marvelous night for a Moondance. Start a small fire pit when the sun goes down, and you're in big business. You may have a friend who's willing to play the guitar, or just rock a nice playlist with some bluegrass, some classic rock (for example, the aforementioned Van Morrison ala Moondance, some Dave Matthews, etc.) If you're crossing over dinner time, feed your guests. If you fancy yourself a grill master, grill up some chicken, roast some potatoes, some green beans, and you're done. Or, grill the chicken and ask your guests to bring their favorite seasonal dish. Roast some pumpkin seeds for a snack if you're feeling adventurous. Or, be like Jill and Christie, and order from a local Barbecue restaurant. We're not talking a lavish catering deal here, we're talking order some pulled pork, some coleslaw, your favorite side dish, get some hamburger buns and some plastic cutlery, and you're in business. Either way, it's going to be pretty damn fabulous.
So, don't wait for the holidays, celebrate the season. Grab a Stone Fence, grab a pumpkin, grab your friends, and take it as an opportunity to be thankful for all the wonderful things and people in your life. So, for all my friends out there, make an ordinary day, extraordinary, and celebrate Fall.

For my friends who found love and were gracious enough to share their joy with us last weekend, congratulations and thanks for the inspiration. Here's to love, laughter, and Happily Ever After. (and here's to Fall, y'all.)


My friend Karie, and I at the Fall Party. (Just in case we haven't met in person, and you're curious who I am.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Picture This: A Beautiful Life

Aaaaaannnnd we’re back in business. It was a very fun weekend: had a smashing time with friends tailgating and enjoying all things Homecoming, our beloved football team actually won 47 to 7 (I don’t think we’ve sung the Good Ol’ Song that much all season), and I spent a glorious, crisp fall Sunday with four of my favorite gents at a local winery/vineyard, followed by picking out the perfect 29 pound pumpkin and apple cider donuts at the Annual Carter’s Mountain Orchard Apple Festival (I know I shouldn’t be eating donuts as a single man trying to land a husband, but they’re so, so good. Don’t judge.) It’s always weekends and times like these that remind me how truly blessed I am, not only blessed to get to live in a nice home, but blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people. Ok, get out your Hunter Wellington rain boots; it’s starting to get really deep in here.

Anywho, let’s talk pictures. I’ve always been a picture person. I was actually just thinking about the dowry of printed Kodak doubles and negatives I probably have between my house and my parents’ house. Personal photographs are a great way to personalize your home, surround yourself by people, places, and memories you love, and the best part? Photographs are so much cheaper than art (well, fine art.) While it’s great to have a lot of photos, the question becomes how to display them. We’ve all seen the buffet or the grand piano that’s covered in so many family photos, they’re sitting so close together in front of each other, and you can’t even see the photos, except for the front row. The solution? Creating a home gallery.

There are so many different ways to create a home gallery of varying sizes, shapes, frames, feelings, etc. However, I figured I would at least show you how I do mine. Over time, I’ve taken some of my favorite photographs from childhood, travels, places, and just things that are going to conjure up warm memories. Sing it with me, "Memorieeees, like the corner's of my mind..."

For example, my parents have this great brick sidewalk in their backyard, that over time, my Dad swapped out some of the regular bricks for bricks from when they tore down the historic city hall in our hometown and bricks from when they tore down the elementary school that I, my siblings, and my mother all attended, to build a new one. I took a picture a few falls ago of my bare feet walking down the path, and while it looks like maybe I was trying to be Dr. Artsy or Beck Home-Ecky, the photo is a literal walk down memory lane for me. Anywho, I digress. I’ve hung photos in series in different rooms throughout the house, but to create a consistent feeling of flow, I converted the photos to high contrast black and white (can be done with any photo editing software, even the cheap software that came with your laptop or camera), and I use the same very simple gallery frames. They’re available at most craft/framing stores, they’re front loaded (glass pops out the front), they already come with the mats in fun shapes and sizes, and they’re crazy cheap.

Once I’ve declared my gallery space, I typically lay the framed photos on the floor, on a tabletop, or on a bed in the desired pattern. Remembering to hang photos at eye level (however, being a 6ft. 4 man, I tend to go a little lower so it doesn’t look like my whole house was designed for Yao Ming) I typically start with one photo, working from either the left or the center and working out. Once you commit to the first photo, it’s much easier to hang the others. Let’s face it, people don’t like to do this kind of stuff because they think it’s impossible to get everything spaced evenly and level, especially in a collage formation. Here’s the best tip I can offer you.

1. Starting with your first photo (or any piece you’re going to hang), be sure you have a lead pencil, a ruler or tape measurer) and your hammer and nails/picture hangers.
Place the framed photo against the wall in the desired location and draw a very light pencil line evenly across the top of the frame (using the frame as your straight edge on the wall).

2. Lay the photo down with the backside up. Using your tape measurer, measure the distance from the top of the frame edge down to the top of the nail hole/picture hanger on the back of the frame. If it’s a picture wire, pull the wire very taught with your finger in an upward motion toward the top edge of the frame (basically act like your finger is a nail) and then measure the distance between the center of the taught wire and the top edge of the frame. Still with me? Awesome.

3. Now go to the wall and measure the same distance from the center of your pencil line down (toward the floor)(most of the time it’s going to be 1-2-3 inches.) Make your nail dot at the bottom of the measured distance. So basically, if you look at the wall, you should have a faint pencil line and a dot drawn a few inches (or whatever the appropriate distance is) below it.

4. Hammer your nail in on the dot and hang your photo. It’s really important to remember though, if you’re using a picture hanger and not just a plain nail, you don’t want to nail on the dot you drew. You want the bottom of the picture hanger (the bottom of the J) resting on the dot you drew. If you nail the top part on the dot, your picture (which really hangs on the lower J part of the picture hanger) will hang lower than you thought.

Seriously, follow these steps and you’re going to be surprised how easy this is and how perfectly your photos line up each time. You will certainly have fewer of those “whoops” holes that are hiding behind many of our photos.

I’ve used the gallery idea to create a sort of headboard over a guest bed, to line walls and hallways, and I love to see guests actually walking up and down the walls like they’re in a real gallery. I like the cohesiveness of having the same frames in different rooms, creating the idea of a continual collection. If you aren’t feeling the idea of having family photos/childhood photos around but you still want the same look, go talk a walk around your town/neighborhood and shoot some architectural elements. Find places that are significant to you and your significant other (or just you). If the simple frames don’t match your d├ęcor or your home, do mix and match, find vintage frames from consignment shops, and create a more eclectic look. Even better, find a bunch of vintage/old frames in cool/funky shapes and sizes, and paint them all high gloss black or white, creating cohesion with a fun, modern twist. You are your own curator.

And most importantly remember, you’re life is really beautiful. You shouldn’t have to buy pictures of somebody else’s.


Friday, October 9, 2009

HOO Says You Can't Go Home?

Happy Homecoming HOOs!

It's a beautiful fall day here in Charlottesville and the Commonwealth as UVA Alums of all ages return to Grounds for a weekend of football, tailgating, trips to favorite restaurants and watering holes, cocktails on the Corner, and some serious reminiscing. If you've seen our football record, you'll understand the emphasis on tailgating and cocktails.

In the collegiate spirit, I wanted to share another of my favorite finds. Asgard Press ( does this amazing line of vintage football game program calendars. They've done calendars for a wide variety of schools, ranging from Alabama to Washington State. Not only are these images a phenomenal reproduction, and the best part is they come perforated and ready to tear out and be framed as perfect, standard 11 x 14 Prints. I did some prints from the 2009 calendar for my office at UVA, and am already loving the 2010 calendar that's about to come out.

So, even if you aren't a football enthusiast, or your Alma mater isn't listed, you can still think about this tip for your next art project. In the case of the UVA calendar, for $18.95, you get 12 frameable pieces of art (they're high quality, great weight to the pages), throw in some vintage frames from a yard sale or some cheap, simple black frames (typically made to fit an 11 x 14 certificate or award) from a craft store and you've got a great installation for your hallway, family room, office, etc. Love sailboats? Pick up a sailboat calendar. Love old movies? I've seen some great calendars with vintage movie posters ("Singin' in the Rain, Wizard of Oz, etc.)

If you can stand the wait, the best time to make this move is to wait toward the end of the calendar year. I mean, who's going to want a 2009 calendar in December 2009? You are, and you're going to get it for next to nothing. Where else are you going to get a series of 12 prints for under 20 smackeroos?

Until next time friends, be well, have a fantastic weekend, and Happy Homecoming HOOs!

WAHOOWA and Cheers,

P.S. For all Charlottesville followers and those nearby, if you're free tomorrow morning, swing by the UVA South Lawn from 9AM-1PM for the Annual Pancakes For Parkinson's. Pancakes is an annual breakfast hosted by UVA students to raise money and awarness for The Michael J. Fox Foundation and those individuals and families suffereing from Parkinson's Disease. It's one of my all-time favorite UVA events (I got to be Michael J. Fox circa Back to the Future one year in graduate school, Yeah Marty McFly!). The event is free, but donations are greatly appreciated. Tavern Pancakes and juice, served up with a smile from UVA students in the heart of Mr. Jefferson's Academical really doesn't get much better.

All Images lifted from

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Writing's On The Wall.

Sometimes it's fun to convey a message, but sometimes it's fun to just flat out say it. I recently hung up a large film poster I won at auction by my favorite photographer, Bruce Weber in one of the bedrooms of my house. You're probably thinking, Good Bachelor, way to hang a giant sailor in the bedroom. And while there's a sexy element to the piece, I chose it because I love the film, his work, and it's a collector's item. I also love the pop of red not only on the poster, but in the whole room, which is draped in soft greys. The walls of the room are also a marriage of my own black and white photography and his. The words are the first thing I notice when I look at the print, and while the message is not "I love to eat Chop Suey," it got me thinking about the fun use of statements in our homes.

My first disclaimer is that I'm really not a big fan of the wooden signs in a lot of major chain stores that say things like "All Because Two People Fell in Love," "Faith, Family, and Friends," "Live, Laugh, and Love," "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle," "If Mama Aint Happy, Aint Nobody Happy," etc. You get the picture. It's not that they're not cute, they're just becoming very common and you could totally make your own with a little acrylic paint and a piece of scrap wood from the shed. Maybe I'm just bitter, because I can't hang a sign over my bed that says "Always Kiss Me Goodnight" when I'm more likely to call my Mom and Dad before bed, and blow a kiss goodnight to Mr. Chop Suey over the night stand. Just kidding. Kinda.

However, there are so many great pieces out there that literally make a statement for you, yet are still really aesthetically pleasing and design smart. I think it's really fun to incorporate a message piece into a gallery wall of family photos, different pieces, etc. Also look for rooms that are appropriate to the messages being sent. Clearly you aren't going to hang the word "Eat" over the toilet in the guest bathroom, but think about your placement in relation to the overall picture and concept for the space. Here are a few fun examples:

I love both of these prints available at Reform House ( You can find the Keep Calm (copy of the infamous WWII Propaganda) through a lot of poster companies in a lot of different colors from red, to blue, to metallic gold. It could be a great message in a bedroom. I love the idea of incorporating the Perfect Together print, once again in a bedroom or in a gallery wall installation of wedding or family photos, providing a pop of color amongst all black and whites or just to provide a fun, focal point. Both images lifted from

If you like things a little funkier and it matched your decor, I really enjoy this guy. Not only does it conjure up thoughts of the old Nat King Cole classic..."the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they're only made of clay. Our Love Is Here to Stay." Come on, you can't make that stuff up. So good. Once again, nice in a bedroom, in a gallery wall of family photos, etc. Image lifted from

I love the rustic gather sign from Sundance ( It's made out of metal and has a great texture. If red isn't your color, you could easily paint it a different color with some Rustoleum spray paint (I bought the "Eat" sign from the same company and just painted it white. See my "Bitchin' Kitchen" entry.) This could be great in a kitchen, with a nice farmhouse table, or on a back patio hanging on a brick wall. Anywhere friends and family will, you guessed it, Gather. Image lifted from

I think these Nikki McClure prints could be pretty fabulous and a fun alternative in a nursery or a child's bedroom. Not only are the images outstanding, but the choice of words and theme create a really dreamy feeling. I got them from Reform School online (make sure you type in reformschoolrules dot com and not just reformschool. Apparently, reformschool dot com is pretty graphic pornography. Learned that one the hard way, and I'm pretty sure they aren't selling anything you want to hang in your foyer. Regardless, the best part is I'm 99% sure you can get these prints from "O' Suzanna" on 4th Street NE in Downtown Cville. Yeah shopping local! If you do have to get them online, they're only $9.50 a piece.

All four images lifted from

These pieces show a variety of styles that could fit a lot of different spaces and design styles depending on how/where they're used. Just remember, sometimes it doesn't hurt to just say what's on your mind.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pick a Pillow, Any Pillow.

Wow, two posts in one night? Call me Butter, 'cause I'm on a Roll. No, call your cute, intelligent, and funny, gay friend/brother/cousin/neighbor/colleague and tell him to read my blog so we can fall in love, get married, and fulfill my dream of two men, a renovated row house, some Danish, mid century, modern furniture, and a baby that looks nothing like either of us. Once that all happens, I won't have as much time to blog.

Until then, a quick update separate from tonight's "Functional Can Be Beautiful" post. I'm loving the idea of a pillow on the painted captain's chairs I painted 3 entries ago. Take a look at these 2 Target finds (the tufted, rectangular pillow was on clearance for $7.00). The other pillow is reversible, with the other side being robins egg blue with the chocolate brown stitching. Either way, I think the addition of the pillow further changes the feel of the chair and almost removes the thought of them ever being anything other than what they are now. What do you think?