Thursday, February 16, 2012

Apartment Life and My Industrial Revelation

A few months ago, my boyfriend Casey and I moved into a new apartment. Like, a real apartment. I'm no stranger to apartment living and I have loved each and every one of my past humble rented abodes in their own special way. There was the one bedroom in California that I shared with my dear Heather. In separate I Love Lucy style twin beds, at night we talked across the small bedroom like girls at a sleepover, the hum of the 101 outside of our window. Then there was the 3rd floor of a Victorian brownstone that I shared with girl friends in Jersey City. This old apartment had a definite "Miss Havisham" charm with it's cracked plaster walls, ornate fireplace mantles and stained glass skylight. But, the skylight leaked in the rain as well as the bathtub during certain showers. Oh yes, and this was apartment was next to an abandoned church, an empty lot littered with busted tires and needles, and a bodega that one summer was actually missing an entire wall (for serious, really missing a wall).

Then there was my last apartment, a "garden level" one bedroom next to an awesome but very rowdy gay bar that had nothing "garden" about it unless you're talking about the ants and spiders that also called it home. But this new apartment is different. It's charming but also functional. There's old but pretty parquet floors, tall ceilings and windows, two white architectural columns in the bedroom, a claw foot tub that doesn't leak and subway tiles in the bathroom. There are actual closets to almost completely disguise my "collecting" habits and to stack towels and blankets (something even the nicest urban apartments don't always have). Oh  yea, and it's across from a park that is complete with a gazebo, twinkle lights at night and a dog park (and the occasional hobo or two, but who's counting?). It's not perfect but it's damn sure perfect enough for me.

OK, enough reminiscing. Time to get to where I'm going with this.The sun-lit kitchen, the biggest room, is my favorite part of the place. For the first time in my apartment life, there is actually room for a full-sized kitchen table. And while we had fun sliding around in our socks for a few weeks, my obsession to the find the perfect (and most affordable) table and chairs for the space was definitely one of those adulthood defining moments. Being my frugal, old-fashioned Craigslist loving self, I perused the good ol' CL loyally for a few weeks. Anything tastefully vintage and fairly priced that I came across, I showed Casey for feedback. Who was I kidding? He wasn't going to agree to the mid-century set with torn avocado green vinyl seats that I said I would "totally recover" (I meant well, but I didn't believe me either). He wasn't going to agree to the dirt cheap 1940s dark formal dining set that was being sold after the owner's death and had to be picked up ASAP. I had to agree but for different reasons. It was lovely enough but would look like an awkward socialite in our new pleasantly shabby kitchen.

That's when I got desperate and things got a bit strange: I started browsing the internet for..NEW FURNITURE (gasp). The mere idea of it was a little disturbing to me (and made me think of this). I've always been passionately loyal to the vintage, used, thrifted, and just plain free. Some people go to church to feel better, I go to the Salvation Army. You get my point. Old things have always suited my tastes, my pocketbook, and with so many good old pieces out there, who really needs a flimsy $20 Ikea office chair or boring $2,000 couch from the Pottery Barn? Not me. Looking for ideas online, I must say for the most part my opinion was solidified. That is, until I came across a little something called Pinterest and it's pinnings of industrial chic decor (yea, I just typed "chic". I cringed too). It was love at first sight, especially large, rustic wooden and metal tables and chairs. I pictured them lining the walls of cafes in Montmarte, Marie Curie experimenting at one in her laboratory, mothers in flour dusted aprons kneading dough on them. I pictured one in our kitchen.

The inspiration. Top left and right: Thomas Alva Edison in his workshop
Top middle: Factory of women workers during the Industrial Revolution
Bottom: A pathological lab at a London asylum

With baited breath (dramatic, yes it was) I showed Casey the photos. Since he was footing half the bill of what we decided on, this was a make or break moment. He liked it! He really liked it. It was a style that fit into my admittedly fetishistic interest for history and all that is old but was just unexpected and interesting enough for Casey to actually like it too. A miracle!  And while I'm still partial to my vintage, floral spattered gothic Martha Stewart style that decorates the rest of the apartment, this was the perfect middle ground  - a symbol of our life together in this apartment and surely worth losing my new furniture virginity to, right? My obsession to find a set that we could afford was cemented. Not an easy task I tell you! I soon found this look seemed to be reserved for people with deep pockets (not us). And while I lustfully poured over Restoration Hardware, Horchow, Hudson Goods, Apartment therapy, and Factory 20 like it was furniture porn, a true gem in reach had yet to be found.

 The look at Horchow. Amazing right? Oh yea, it's only $4,398.

Eventually, I found a great set on Word Market's website. Casey was on board too. World Market is a chain of affordable stores that carry furniture, wine, food novelties and general kitchen and home tchotchkes (I regret them not being in the Northeast, but what can ya do?). The Jackson dining set was exactly what I was looking for and the fact that it shared a name with one of my favorite Johnny and June songs didn't hurt either. The price wasn't so bad compared to the unholy prices I was seeing on the internet and I couldn't get it out of my head. So, I signed up for their email list. This is something I recommend doing any time you are considering a purchase from somewhere new. While, you might wait a few days or a few weeks for a sale, it is usually worth it. Of course, there is the risk of it going out of stock, but who cares, live dangerously, right? When a free shipping offer and a 20% off promo code hit my inbox and aligned with a sale on the set, I knew it was time to make the move. Even with the triple discount and both chipping in for it (came to about $550 for the table plus 4 chairs), I will admit that it still  felt like an unfamiliar and mildly unforgivable splurge. However, once it was in our kitchen, I knew it was the right choice. It's elegant and study and somehow just makes the kitchen feel like home. This was solidified only a few days after we got it when we had an impromptu pasta and wine dinner on a random Sunday night and at least 6 of our friends piled around it comfortably. This was the right table. It was at home. Our home. And while I know that I will always be a used furniture girl, buying these table and chairs with Casey has been one of my favorite purchases of all time and one I will never regret. 

 Here is our kitchen with the Jackson Dining Set:



Some more industrial-riffic looks for less:

Left: Restoration Hardware, $585 Right: Home Decorators, $199
Whether used a side table or as a rolling bar for your gin and bitters, this simple design goes a long way.

Left: Restoration Hardware, $2,395 Right: Plasticland, $65
I know these charming birdcage lights are not created equal. However, I do think the latter can give the same whimsical, romantic look for eh, $2,330 less. And if that doesn't do it for you, wouldn't a project of making your own version of Restoration Hardware's with an inexpensive chandelier and a flea market birdcage be beyond awesome?

Left: Sundance, $275 Right: Overstock, $204.99 for 4 chairs
The Tolix chair,  a popular chair designed in France in 1934, was one of the firsts items of this look to catch my eye (some neato history here). And while the Overstock knock-off is pretty different, with a little styling it could give the same look and for a  fraction of the price (about $50 per chair to be exact). For a bit more, go for the more authentic looking World Market version that I decided on. They are sturdy, surprisingly super comfortable and have that perfectly weathered look.

Left: zoeveedesigns on Etsy, $499 Right: DesignSponge DIY
Mason jar light fixtures can borderline on Cracker Barrel cheesy but I personally love them. If you are brave, take a stab at the above DIY and up the ante by using some bad ass edison bulbs - my favorite!

 Left: Restoration Hardware, $335 Right: US MarkerBoard, $34.39
The older I get, the more into chairs I get. I don't know what this means but it can't be good. Whatever the case, $34 for this swap is too good to pass up. The best part? It's created for school science labs so you know it's going to last no matter how much you bang it up (which I totally recommend doing by the way). Slide a few of these bad boys up to a ledge, and you are ready for some serious bar action. I'm also loving this sublime stool and it's decent swap for half the price here.

A  few more fabulous ways to get the look (and for $25 or less!):

1 comment:

  1. I love it, I hope you feel my high fives and adulation from the other side of the country!