Your brains, Fezzik’s strength, my steel. And a wheelbarrow and a holocaust cloak.

So, like I said a while back, this is a process. Life doesn’t slow down to give you a chance to get all your projects done, and occasionally lets all the water out of your budget to do them.

windowOne project I’ve been trying to figure out how to do with zero funds is turning this awesome window (snagged on sale for $15 at Community Forklift, which if you’re in the DMV and haven’t been there and you dig this stuff, go immediately because it’s fantastic) into… something. What I would really like to do is weld a long, low frame similar to the end table frame I made and make the window the top of a coffee table, which is a thing we could really use. Our living room currently contains a sofa, two end tables, two small armchairs, a shelf with some tchotchkes on it, and some piles of random… stuff. It’s like we got 80% of the way towards unpacking and setting up in here, and then just never got round to finishing it off.

On the other hand, the financial situation in our house has gotten unexpectedly precarious. At this point, it’s sort of up in the air whether we’ll be able to stay in this apartment, so I’m not really sure whether to keep nesting or, you know, start packing. And I definitely don’t have the money to get studio time at the Art League, or rent a rig. (Obviously I need to take up some cheaper hobbies.) So I’ve been casting about for temporary alternatives that would be as close to “free” as possible and wouldn’t be completely hideous. Maybe this will motivate me to learn how to nail two pieces of wood together. Money is really stupid and annoying, you guys, at least when you don’t have any.

They yell! Like cranky humans! And they prance!

There are trends in home decor around certain animals, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Owls have been hot for a few years. Foxes and deer are pretty omnipresent as well. And sloths are making a definite play for inescapability. So what’s the next big thing?

I’m voting for goats. Goats are great! They’re clever and sure-footed and sound like really grumpy old people.

You know what’s never going to be trendy? The star-nosed mole. Just putting that out there.

Spaces, like species, evolve slowly

My desk has been disappointing for a while. This doesn’t have to be the case.

It doesn’t fit in my room, but roomie TC and I have no need for a dining room, so we turned that space into an office/guest room. So it currently houses my desk and her desk and the extra bed. And very little else except clutter, at present.

So I decided to try to do something to bring beauty and character to the space because it looked like this:

Desk covered in crapJust depressing to look at, isn’t it? It made me feel powerless in the face of inertia. I get enough of that in the rest of my life: my apartment will not yield to entropy. So the first step was just to get all the crap off it:

clean desk

Then I decided that Marvin could live there, as a weird little inspirational sprite:

desk with Marvin

Now… what? Now the creative part has to happen. And it has to happen for cheap.

One thing I have in my possession already is a roll of black contact paper. Which means I can create a removable vinyl sticker, so long as it’s not bigger than two feet in one dimension. So I’m considering, since I can’t afford another pharmacy lamp (having blown my budget on my bedroom), I could create a silhouette of one. That’s a thing the cool kids are doing now.

But I also need to bring my signature aesthetic to this space. Given that the desk is modern and white, and the wall is “neutrals-mean-universally-appealing-to-realtors” beige, and the room has a gigantic (and lovely, don’t get me wrong) modern high-rise window across one entire wall, flooding the room with sunlight, there are some challenges to doing the thing I do.

I need to consider my assets: a big bin full of fabric, albeit not more than about three yards of anything. Enough to make at least a little bit of curtain, maybe? And maybe do some low-rent upholstery (I have a staple gun, nothing can stop me now) on the desk. I can also probably spring for some more contact paper, so I could put a pretty metallic, like a steely silver, on the little white metal IKEA drawers. And possibly the desk legs? Oh, I could also paint the chair, give it a little flavor.

Oh, here’s a weird thought for the good folks of IKEA Hackers — would it be possible to just replace the legs altogether? like with pieces of wood? So long as they have that one screw in the base, I wouldn’t think there’d be anything else special about the IKEA table legs. Hmm. A trip to the salvage yard and/or hardware store may be in my near future.

Black Masks and Unheard Whispers

Image credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Image credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times. Retrieved from, the online portfolio of incredible set decorator Alexandra Schaller.

When talking about it with the uninitiated, I call it going to Sleep No More. When I speak of it to those who understand, it is staying at the McKittrick, a name said in hushed and giddy reverence.

One of my ambitions in life is to be a Black Mask, one of the non-performing staff who serve as silent sentinels, keeping order among the guests, drawing boundaries when boundaries need to be drawn, and providing a safety net for those who might be overcome. Although it’s probably a terrible idea:  it would be heartbreaking if it destroyed the magic for me, seeing where all the trapdoors and secret doorways are. But I feel drawn to that role. I feel like I want to… protect it? The place, the people, the whole experience. The love I feel for it is real and hot and almost disturbingly intense.

There’s a legion of devoted fans who spend small fortunes going every weekend, but since I live in the Washington D.C. metro area and the McKittrick is in New York, I sadly cannot join them. And maybe, if I were a Black Mask, or one of the regulars (is there a word for those? Sleepers? frequent guests? Maximillian’s children?), the intense, almost religious devotion that I feel for the McKittrick would fade. But all three times I went there, it was a profoundly spiritual experience.

For good or ill. My third visit was not long after my relationship ended, while I was alone in the city, flotsam looking for a current, and already neck-deep in despair. This is not the mindset in which to go to the McKittrick. The intense emotions associated with the place, the waves of memory and regret woven into the fabric… it was more than I could bear. I saw Hecate, who is dear to me, perform “Is That All There Is To a Fire?” and it was like dying, trapped behind a mask, quiet in the dark. I got into a taxi by myself afterwards and sobbed. I must make a return visit, with kindred hearts this time, just so that my last memory of my dear McKittrick is not so wracked with pain.
sleep no more set

Image credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times. Retrieved from

My second visit was transcendent. I was visiting the shadow Manderley Bar, having not seen it except during the witches’ rave. I happened to be the only person in the room when Hecate entered. Initially I kept a respectful distance, but when I looked straight at her, she was looking straight back at me. The moment is thrilling — the fiction is looking back at you, the screen has disappeared and they can see you as you see them. She held out a hand to me, and after a moment of uncertainty, I took it. She led me to a doorway and brought me into the dark, took my mask and eliminated the last boundary of safety between me and the unreal. It was like looking into the face of god. I won’t tell you what passed between us, as some mysteries are too personal to share.

The first visit, before Halloween last year, was serendipitous. Not being a New Yorker or especially culturally aware, I first heard of Sleep No More in reference to Then She Fell (also then unknown to me) — specifically in an advertisement of some sort for trendy New York theater. My life would look quite different now, if I hadn’t gotten that random piece of email spam. I was determined to make Halloween count last year; it is traditionally my favorite holiday but I had been unable to celebrate properly for the last several years. I wanted to have extraordinary experiences that fall, and this was just what I was looking for. The drastically sold-out Then She Fell was not an option, but Sleep No More tickets, though pricey for rubes like us, seemed like the perfect choice, like a haunted house for grown-ups. I was obviously unprepared.

It was when I stood in front of Lord MacDuff, cradling the body of dead Lady MacDuff in his arms, and he met my eyes and stepped towards me, and touched his forehead to mine and whispered in my ear, that I realized I was in over my head. I still do not know what he said — and if anyone out there in the darkness has had this experience, please tell me what you heard. (A vote from my friend JLW was 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”) But I felt hot tears behind my mask as his anguish reached out to me in the darkness. That was a moment that changed the way I experienced my life, the moment when I realized that the mediocre and mundane was never going to be enough.

My walls are naked because money

So I am basically broke now. I’ve got my eye on several possible wallpapers, none of which I can currently afford. I do have a plan, however. Not for getting more money, that’s clearly impossible. For hanging wallpaper without getting any wallpaper paste involved. And without buying removable wallpaper, which is pricey as fuck.

I could paint, of course. God, I’m lazy. I wasn’t always so averse to the idea of exerting myself to do the interior decorating, but I’m still a little traumatized by the massive amount of painting involved in getting my condo ready to sell last year. It’s not the painting that bothers me: it’s the getting ready to paint that bothers me. Tarp everywhere, somehow paint still gets on everything, and I hate putting up painter’s tape with a fierce passion.

red on red damaskNaturally, my plan starts with putting up painter’s tape. A friend who knows a set designer shared a brilliant idea with me: put up painter’s tape, then put up heavy-duty double-sided tape, and attach the paper to that.

Yes, with the taping, I can see how this would not necessarily be an improvement over painting. You only have to do it once, at least. The multiple coats in painting always just bum me out.

But also, wallpaper is just so pretty. My dream wallpaper is a red-on-red textured damask. I’d also go for brown-on-brown textured damask, but the red would be ideal. There’s a bar in Arlington with one table that’s in a little cubbyhole (I love cubbyholes) with red-on-red textured damask wallpaper. I just want to rub my face on it. The bar patrons — and owners — and pretty much all sane people in the vicinity would probably object. But it would look divine in my lighting. Oh, with candle sconces, can’t you see it? I’m a little short of breath right now.

Of course, there is no great mystery about where this design aesthetic comes from, for me. I’m sure its roots are complicated, and would be interesting to trace down the line a bit, but for me, this is just my attempt to crawl inside the tortured womb that is Sleep No More.

sleep no more dining room photo

Photo retrieved from

Faux show

So, fur. I love it. I mean, not fur that’s been harvested from animals bred specifically for the purpose and which we don’t use in any other way — which is to say, most of the real fur you can buy. That fur is uncool. And faux is totally cool with me.*

The thing I love about fur, faux or otherwise, is that it’s an immediate one-up mushroom for texture, comfort, morbidity — that little touch of death, even if it’s synthetic — all in one little piece.

I’m especially devoted to white fur, which was why I once bought several yards of white faux fur and sewed it on top of a cheap-ass hardware-store rug to make a low-rent version of a white fur rug. The look of white fur on my walnut floor was something I was actively fantasizing about. (Walnut laminate, of course. What? I lived in a low-income suburb and was always broke. Whaddya want.)

this is my cat

This is a picture of my cat. She is at this moment considering the virtues of barfing on my white fur throw.

That $30 experiment taught me a valuable lesson, which is DON’T PUT THAT SHIT ON YOUR FLOOR. Oh, it looks gorge, so long as no one ever walks on it, or near it, or in fact enters the room at all. The second someone wearing shoes — or in the case of your dirtier friends, and I do have those, even just socks — so much as looks at that white faux fur rug, it will latch on to every particle of leaf, grit, dust, pollen, hair, or general schmutz in the room and snarl every bit irretrievably in that nice white fur. And we won’t even talk about what happens when your cat has a hairball — because the second she feels a twinge of indigestion, she will make a beeline for the softest surface in the house. What I’m saying is, life is too short to be hand-scrubbing cat vomit out of white faux fur.

So put that lovely thing over the back of an armchair, or the top of a cabinet, or wherever your particular feline doesn’t tend to like to express gastric distress.

And while you’re at it, don’t spend any substantial amount of money on anything white, ever.

*Faux fur always makes me think of David Bromstead. On one episode of his show, he explained that they were using a fur throw, “But it’s faux. Fo’ sho’!” He’s so adorable and that just tickled the fuck out of me.

DIY Project: Copper Pipe Sconce

Copper Pipe Wall Sconce

Credit to clairezinnecker at Camille Styles

I love this project — I’ve been thinking about something similar ever since I was in Brooklyn and saw pipe-based lighting fixtures everywhere. Don’t let a boutique in Williamsburg charge you an arm and a leg for this, just follow Claire’s awesome tutorial. I might tweak it a bit for a table lamp and try it myself.

Take a look at the tutorial at Camille Styles.