INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO COLON JAMES LIPTON* INTERVIEWS THIS IS NOT A HOUSE SEMI COLON AN UPDATE SLASH JOHN EDWARDS WANTED TOO MUCH MONEY TO COMMUNICATE WITH THIS VOICE FROM THE DEAD PARENTHESES MY APOLOGIES FOR THE ABSENCE

James Lipton: This evening’s guest has not performed with distinction on stage, nor has he created a dazzling array of portraits in film or on television. He has not been nominated for an Academy Award, a Tony, an Olivier or an Emmy–not even a Golden Globe and they try to get rid of those things like Smarties on Halloween. He will never be ranked in People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People issue. In fact, his career has had very little impact on our cultural landscape or our collective conscious, but in light of Bravo’s wildly successful series “Drunk White Women And The Plastic Surgeons Who Tolerate Them” and their equally popular shows “Bitch, Please!”, “Young, Dumb & Full Of Cum” and the viewer-interactive “Guess Which Underwear I Was Wearing But Am Not Now” production on the 20th season of “Inside The Actors Studio” has been delayed until further notice or until I have agreed to address Andy Cohen as “hunty” in development meetings. Needless to say my current hiatus has forced me to turn my journalistic eye from the talented and famous to the unknown hacks of the Internet.

And with that, The Actors Studio at Pace University is proud to welcome Evan Pohl.

[Light applause]

Evan Pohl: [Walking on stage] Thank you! Thank you for having me!! [Bends in a ceremonial bow, palms together in front of chest] Thank you!! Hello, Pace University!! How are you tonight?!?

[Silence]

JL: [James Lipton clears his throat] We begin at the beginning.

EP: [Sits] Great, I’m so excited to start!

JL: Where were you born?

EP: California!

JL: What is your father’s name?

EP: Jeff!

JL: And what was his profession?

EP: He was a teacher. Math and Physical Education.

JL: And your mother’s name?

EP: Claire.

JL: Her occupation?

EP: Dental assistant.

JL: [James Lipton squints his eyes, accusingly] And where have you been?

EP: You mean, tonight? I was backstage! Sitting on a milk crate. I asked your producer for a chair but he said I didn’t deserve one…

JL: And he would be right but, no, I mean recently. You haven’t posted to your blog, This Is Not A House, in 4 months. Where have you been?

EP: Oh. Eesh! [Hooks one finger around his neck and pulls the collar dramatically] This is awkward! I thought you were just gonna ask me about my life and stuff and then I’d get to tell you my favorite curse word. I wasn’t really expecting—

JL: Yes, well, your readers weren’t really expecting you to fall off the side of a cliff but you did and now you’re here so let me ask it again: Where. Have You. Been.

EP: I don’t know. I guess I was a little busy?

JL: Busy.

EP: Sort of?

JL: [James Lipton turns to the audience] Students, Mr. Pohl says he was too busy to update his blog for months on end. [Back to Evan] Yet, as you can see, they, along with followers of this blog, are not too busy to give you their undivided attention. Isn’t that correct?

EP: Well, when you say it like that…

JL: I believe I did, Less Handsome Bob Vila. I believe I did.

EP: [swallows hard] I would really—

JL: Let’s cut straight to the meat of it, shall we?

EP: [uneasy] Ok.

JL: You tack some arrows to a fence and call it a garden. You sand some wood and call it a table. You peel some stickers and call it wallpaper.

EP: Um, I think there’s been a little more to it than that.

JL: No. That wasn’t a question. [James Lipton laughs GREGARIOUSLY] Answer me this, Mr. Pohl: you seem to contribute very little yet expect much more in return. In point of fact your absence from this blog shows an embarrassing lack of rigor in your career, wouldn’t you agree?

EP: Not at all!

JL: I believe it was Thoreau who said, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” What is your truth, Mr. Pohl?

EP: My…truth.

JL: Let me read some reviews: About your blog The Daily Beast wrote, “a glue gun and some Wi-Fi does not a DIYer make!” Ariana Huffington was quoted as saying, “…this is a place where words and ideas go to die,” and Vulture said, “…[This Is Not A House] is the musings of a drunk baby.” What do you have to say to that?

EP: I would say that’s a little rough.

JL: [James Lipton, again, LAUGHS IN A GREGARIOUS MANNER] One notable author even went so far as to say, “Evan Pohl has no formal literary education. He is so unqualified to be a writer he is the Augusten Burroughs of the Internet.”

EP: Who said that?

JL: Augusten Burroughs.

EP: OK ENOUGH! Enough already! I get it, all right? Yes, I was gone for a bit and yes I didn’t update the blog regularly. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t working hard and beating myself up over not posting more often. You see, we had a pretty shitty winter here in New York. It was hard and it was really snow-filled and there is nothing–absolutely nothing–you’d rather do less than hunt for gutter furniture and refinish chairs on your patio when there is a foot of powder outside your window. Then the snow started to melt and work picked up. [Heartfelt now] It was like the spring thaw gave way to the budding seedlings of new opportunities! Suddenly I had other projects on my plate. Before I knew it I had a few clients and I wasn’t just thinking about myself anymore. I was making quantifiable changes in the lives of others! I could see it and I could touch it and I couldn’t deny the fact that the people I was working with liked me. Right then, they liked me! And it gave me…purpose, I suppose. I guess I got a bit addicted to that feeling. As a result, I let a few of my other responsibilities fall by the wayside, and I’m truly sorry for that.

[There is a long pause.]

 

[Longer.]

 

 

[Even longer still.]

 

JL: Cut the shit Sally Field you didn’t update your blog because you came down with a slight case of seasonal affective disorder!

EP: Fine. Maybe.

[James Lipton squints.]

EP: Can we get to the questions from the pretentious French—

JL: —WE END THIS INTERVIEW—[James Lipton calms himself] with the questionnaire, which was employed for 26 glorious years by Bernard Pivot in France. Evan, what is your favorite word?

EP: Dinner.

JL: What is your least favorite word?

EP: Diet.

JL: What turns you on?

EP: When my rent check clears.

JL: What turns you off?

EP: Gym selfies.

JL: What noise or sound do you love?

EP: A dog farting itself awake.

JL: What noise or sound do you hate?

EP: Jackhammers in the morning.

JL: What is your favorite curse word?

EP: Horsefucker.

JL: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

EP: Astronomer.

JL: What profession would you absolutely not like to participate in?

EP: Au pair.

JL: Finally, if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

EP: The buffet is on your right.

*This conversation has been fabricated for your (but mostly my) amusement. Any likeness to James Lipton is purely coincidental. James Lipton did not interview me. If James Lipton did interview me I would announce it by hiring a plane and writing it in the sky, not by posting about it on my dumb website, hoping someone happens to see it. I’m not stupid. No one I went to high school reads this. But everyone I went to high school with reads messages made of clouds. If you happen to be James Lipton and do not find this post funny please take it up with my lawyer. His name is Finn and he is a dog.

MARCH 9 2014

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▶ The Oscars were incredibly snooze-worthy, in my opinion, as everyone who was projected to win did win and if I wanted to watch something with a predetermined outcome I would just tune in for the Russian Parliament’s potato sack race during their annual summer picnic. (As if anyone would dare let Putin be a runner-up.) And speaking of jerks who have no business talking politics (me) Jared Leto name-checked Ukraine during his acceptance speech. Now, I don’t want to speak for the entirety of Crimea but I think we can all agree no one there is looking to Jordan Catalano for confirmation that their dreams can come true. UGH. I think it was the Washington Post who said it best by calling that sort of off-handed remark ‘drive-by’ politics. You know somewhere Jane Fonda was turning over in her oxygen chamber when she read that. On the bright side–the side that does not include a 3 minute bit about ordering pizza or calling Liza a drag queen, Ellen–I did win my Oscar party’s ballot contest with a personal best of 21 out of 24 correct picks. Fair warning: in the future, if you hold an Oscar party and invite me over, you will rue the day when I accurately predict the live action and animated short films because my head may explode from shock and the brain matter will ruin your nice sofa. My other misstep was going with Jennifer Lawrence over Lupita and I don’t need to explain myself on that one. I just liked her better. However, if I had known that after she handed out Best Actor to Matthew McConaughey she’d spend his entire bat shit crazy speech throwing shade (scroll down to #10) I would’ve also voted for JLaw for Best Sound Editing and Best Original Screenplay knowing full well I’d lose those categories too. Anyway, my prize for winning was an American Hustle poster, which I have no idea what to even do with so for now it’s nestled away in my closet. If there are any takers please email me your address. I’ll sign it as if I’m Amy Adams and ship it to you.

▶ During one of the many snow days we’ve had here in the Northeast I succumbed to my boredom and said alright alright alright to True Detective, and I am publicly declaring–very cautiously–that I like it a great deal. It’s good. Decent. Let’s say decent, but I certainly don’t love it. It’s beautiful to watch and the acting is superb but I have no idea what it’s really about, aside from white men of opportunity contemplating there own mortality and objectifying women (how original!). Not that I regret having invested my mind grapes in a marathon binge but, folks, tonight’s the season finale and I’m still just as clueless as I was when I saw the first episode. It’s a comment on…spirituality? Apathy? Child abduction? Woody Harrelson’s receding hairline? Who knows. One thing I’m sure of, on a creep scale of 1 to Paul Dano, McConaughey is at Christopher Walken (which is way creepier) and that’s all I really need to capture my attention, even if that monster refuses to remove his shirt no matter how loudly I scream at the TV.

▶ I mention monsters because it seems I have created one in the form of a 12-pound miniature pinscher named Finn. Let me backtrack. A few months ago my cousin called to tell me she had discovered the benefits of coconut oil. In addition to being a culinary fat buster it is also great for your digestive system, and its antibacterial properties make it great for your skin. She mentioned–my cousin being a small dog owner like me–that coconut oil is stellar for your pooch’s coat, too. That was really the beginning of the end. When I got off the phone with her I called my vet. After his approval I promptly went to the market and each day since have been slopping a teaspoon on Finn’s dry food each morning. Peter Paul & Mary, was she right! Since then Finn’s been slinking around like the apartment like he’s in a Garnier commercial. The unintended side effect, however, is that now I have a canine with a sophisticated palette who won’t eat his food unless there’s healthy dose of tropical goodness mixed in. Seriously. I ran out of the stuff the other morning and tried to sneak it by him but all I ended up with was a resentful puppy and a lot of side eye:

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He just stared up at me with that look–that looks that says, “Don’t even try me.” What dog refuses a bowl of delicious kibble? The dog who won’t stand for anything less than a drizzle of coconut oil, as I now know. If there are any dog owners out there this is the one thing I would not recommend you give to your pet. Unless you’re ready for the power dynamic between you two to change then by all means have at it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Finn: 1, Evan: 0

▶ I have been receiving a lot of heat lately for posting some questionably negative comments about Apple’s new Swedish-inspired line of automobiles, IKEA, and all I will say about that is it’s not totally uncalled for, though I feel like I need to ruminate on this topic a little further to give the blogosphere a clearer picture of where I really stand. I am, after all, a millennial and if I didn’t feel the need to tell strangers about how I’m misunderstood then I would be doing my generation a great disservice.  So, please, Johan and Tuva, hold off on firing those angry emails until I’ve had time to expand on my utterly brilliant/vapid thoughts in a post, will you? I promise I will explain myself but I can’t promise it won’t make you want to punch your computer’s face in its face, as I imagine most TINAH readers are want to do when they subject themselves to the silly things I ramble on about. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. If I am getting too up on myself, however, just send me a picture of a cat dressed as a human–which I HATE–and I will interpret the nonverbal communication to mean my jets are in need of cooling. It will be like our secret code word, OK?

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▶ Last week I was invited to an event by bespoke clothier Alton Lane at their showroom in Flatiron. It was a style presentation aimed at teaching men (ha) how to assemble and pack outfits for their upcoming spring getaways (wedding in the Hamptons! Stag party in Chicago! Sight seeing in Montreal!). They do amazing custom suits and shirts and since I didn’t have the heart to admit I’m not a real adult who wears things that button I RSVP’d with my attendance. Not that there was any other option, really, since I knew there was going to be scotch and BLOCKS OF CHEESE. The evening was co-hosted by Mad Men’s costume designer and thank god I was distracted by their showroom’s exquisite decor–brimming with leather-y goodness and rich texture–otherwise I would’ve cornered her and done my best Megan Draper impression. There are few universal truths in design but it is my belief that a well-worn leather cigar chair is a one of them. Can we check on that? If it’s not already it should be inducted into some kind of Hall of Fame and pront-o, Gina. Who can I talk to about that? Anyway, Alton Lane had some gorgeous ones and throw in half a dozen well-placed cow hide rugs and I was in heaven. The warm feeling the scotch gave me helped, too, but mainly it was that post-industrial, masculine aesthetic that comes from pairing rugged, natural textures and dark woods that was doing it for me.

▶ This morning I stupidly agreed to accompany my friend to a BDSM club disguised as a cardio pilates class. To quote the great philosopher Julia Roberts, “Big mistake. Big. HUGE”. When it comes to working out my routine is that of a man from the 1920s. It’s very simple. I warm up on the stationary bike and then I lift heavy objects over my head until I hear something pop. Sometimes I may go rogue and indulge in a stretch or two but that’s only if I’m feeling adventurous. Fitness fads are just not my bag, man. If I ever felt the need to take an antigravity kickboxing ballet class I’d rather sit on a knife and call it day. But my friend got me at a time when I’m feeling a little vulnerable–I’ve been coping with the brutal winter by eating pasta and swilling red wine most nights–and now that the weather’s changing I can only think about getting my beach body back. So against my better judgement I said yes. Our instructor, Kendrick, was great because he didn’t stand for anything short of total commitment. He really put the ‘sass’ in ‘go fuck yourself, you weakling’, which I admire, but I think I’ve seriously broken my body, you guys. There’s something not right about what’s happened to my muscles which I thought were healthy and strong but there was a lunge set somewhere in there that has me second guessing my own physical prowess. When we finished I left waddling down Park Avenue. It was not a good look.

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▶ Out with the old, in with the new! I’m very excited to report my new desk was completed and delivered last week! I didn’t mention this before because I wasn’t sure when it would all come together but it has been in the works for awhile now. THANK YOU to the good people over at STOR New York who very generously built me this one-of-a-kind beauty. You might remember I had a Stash desk from Blu Dot before, but I was never really comfortable with it. It did the job and looked pretty, sure, but I didn’t follow my own advice and rushed into buying it simply out of necessity. Ugh, be damned, hindsight! What an asshole move that was on my part. Once I got it into my place and lived with it for a few days I knew it wasn’t going to be something that would move with me throughout my life. This is a perfect example of how waiting to consider your options will save you time, money, energy and migraines. Not to mention it decreases your consumer footprint. If I had been smarter about it 18 months ago I wouldn’t have found myself in the position of having TWO desks. Luckily I found a guy on Craigslist who just bought a home in Westchester and whose daughter needed a desk for her new room. That makes me feel better about being a bourgeois capitalist pig, but it still gets under my skin that I fouled up on this one. If the adage is Lead By Example then I must be the David Patterson of DIYers. Let this just serve as a cautionary tale, TINAH readers, and rest assured I’ll continue this pity party elsewhere, like at the bottom of a strong vodka tonic.

The scale is almost double that of the Stash desk so I may have to change things up to make it feel like there’s not a walnut Cadillac parked in my apartment. Sadly, my treasured thrift store brass floor lamp may get the boot. It can’t hold its own against the heft of the new desk, though I already have a good home lined up for it should it lose this particular hunger games. I’m thinking–gulp–a hanging pendant? Maybe a Louis Poulsen PH5? Is that too much? Will it fit within the space or just stick out like sore digit? Am I already halfway into my self-deprecating vodka tonic and not thinking clearly? The answer may be D) All of the above, but whatever I get I guarantee it will be secondhand and beat to hell. After this double desk debacle I can’t even begin to think about buying something new.

But here’s the best part:

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Orange drawers! Boom. So much fun.

GRAND ULTIMATE SPRING CLEANING SUPREME MIX

I might be jumping the gun on this, guys–there’s still snow on the ground in New York and according to an overgrown gerbil with a degree in meteorology winter will not officially be over until March 16th–but the recent departure of my next door neighbor got me thinking about my own upcoming Spring clean. You see, my neighbor and I didn’t see eye to eye. The fact that she never remembered my name or said hello in the hallway was just the tip of the iceberg. That she used to blow dry her dog in our hallway, well, that was the enormous, craggy bottom of the iceberg. Somewhere in between was a whole lot of loud music, weird smells and general unpleasantness and I was more than happy to see her finally get the boot. And her little dog, too, who by the way was not house trained and would drive Finn mental with his constant, irritating barking.

Once she vacated the first thing I did was sneak over to her place. It was a Saturday morning and I had just come back from the gym. I was feeling agile like a ninja, and I figured if I was spotted I could parkour my way down the fire escape and evade capture. I slipped through the unlocked door. I was hunting for something–anything–to validate the feelings of ill-will I had carried around with me for the two years she was my floormate. This is without a doubt immature and regressive behavior, I know, but I never claimed to be a well-adjusted individual of society so eat me.

I have a theory and my theory is this: not all filthy people are horrible but most horrible people are filthy. AND I WAS RIGHT. Inside wasn’t the kind of mess you make while upending and moving your apartment. This was lived-in filth, which is exponentially grosser than just an unswept floor or a spotted mirror. There was toothpaste residue caked around the sink. The stove had a thick layer of grease covering its range. The grout in the shower was pink. Thoroughly shell-shocked I slinked back across the hall to my apartment with a slew of emotions: vindicated, ashamed, embarrassed, sad I didn’t have the opportunity to parkour anything, but ultimately just plain horrified.

The whole ordeal reminded me that my own place would soon need a deep cleaning. It also reminded me I can only clean to some solid tunes and that I’d need a heavy duty playlist to power through all the grime and gunk. Below is my Grand Ultimate Spring Cleaning Supreme Mix. Do with it what you will:

“Lonely Boy” The Black Keys

“Dirty Work” Steely Dan

“Say Goodbye” Beck

“Somebody to Love” Queen

“Live and Let Die” Wings

“Ravenous” Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers

“The Bends” Radiohead

“Silver Springs” Fleetwood Mac

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” The Beatles

“Ho Hey” The Lumineers

“Missed The Boat” Modest Mouse

“Everywhere” Fleetwood Mac

“Sixteen Saltines” Jack White

“There Goes The Neighborhood” Sheryl Crow

“All For Leyna” Billy Joel

“The Weight” The Band

“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” Paul Simon

“Kodachrome” Paul Simon

“The Rising” Bruce Springsteen

“Edge of Seventeen” Stevie Nicks

“Rolling In The Deep” Adele

“***Flawless” Beyoncé

“Three Marlenas” The Wallflowers

“She’s Waiting” Eric Clapton

“Do You Want to Dance?” Bette Midler

“Jolene” Dolly Parton

“Darling Nikki” Prince & The Revolution

“Big Love” Fleetwood Mac

TALKING PROCESS

It’s Sunday morning here in New York and we are preparing for yet another–and hopefully our last!–winter storm. The streets are empty, the sidewalks have been salted and outside my window the city is enjoying that nice, calming hum of a sleepy neighborhood not yet awake. Walked and fed, Finn has retreated back to his bed for his first of many mid-morning naps and I’ve got a huge pot of coffee making eyes at me from the counter. My apartment is quiet except for the drone of the fridge and the soft, flat footsteps of my upstairs neighbor padding down her hallway. But it’s not any Sunday–IT’S OSCAR SUNDAY–and there’s a lot to do before the big show begins. I must finalize my ballot. I need to decide what I’m making for the party (I’m leaning towards Deep Fried Lupita Nyong’O-reos). I have to chill the bubbles. In a few hours E!’s pre-carpet pre-show pre-everything coverage begins and if Kelly Osbourne and Ross Mathews play Guess The Nominee By Their Collar Bone and Which Starlet Will Win Best Supporting Cuticles and I’m not nestled deep into the arms of a champagne haze HEADS WILL ROLL PEOPLE.

So, during this brief window of Jared Leto jab-free time, before the chaos of the day ensues, I want to answer a question I get emailed about a lot–one TINAH reader Emma asked in the comments section of a recent post (thank you, Emma, for allowing me to Henry Higgins you publicly!)–and that is about process, specifically how I tackle designing a space.

** A WORD OF WARNING **

I am hardly an authority about any of this business, dear readers, but I do know what works for me and since I’ve gotten a significant amount of inquiries about it I felt I should share. What you are about to read below should by no means be considered a rule of thumb but rather a loose set of guidelines upon which your own principles can be applied. Take away from this as little or as much as you find useful, but if you come home to your husband hanging a hammock in your living room do not hold me responsible. All I ask is that you proceed with caution, keep your arms and legs inside the tram at all times and bear in mind these are not the musings of a sane man.

THANK YOU

Gather references

Before I start any project, big or small, I will always begin with reference photos. Specifically I would call what I do a ‘mood board’ but then I’d be afraid you’d judge me for being a pretentious jagweed. I think it’s important to see everything I’m considering all in one place. It really helps to edit myself. Like when I entertained covering my bathroom in some Hinson & Co wallpaper after seeing Steven Scarloff’s stunning feature in House Beautiful, the reference board I assembled showed me how clearly I had lost my mind and saved me from making a wrong turn, both aesthetically and financially. The board doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Most of my references are just print outs and pages ripped from magazines–occasionally I will cut swatches for texture and pattern–so don’t be concerned about the assembly. Just get everything in one place. Gather more than you think you’ll need. Look at it with a discerning eye and consider balance. If your references are feeling too cold soften them up and pull in some texture. If they are feeling too dull bring in some pattern. If you’re new to using color lean towards neutral pieces and inject pops of it here and there. Try to stay way from the need to match pieces together. This is the time to play! Keep in mind this is your design so you are the harbinger of your own definition of good taste. I’ll touch on this more later but remember to pick things you really want to wake up to every day, not things that are trendy or what you’ve read are cornerstones of modern design. Pintrest has been amazing in this way because it allows people like us forage the blogosphere and curate a huge amount of material with zero commitment or cost. I would recommend getting an account and start pinning immediately! You’ll be glad you did. And then link me to your account so I can follow you and skim off your genius OKAY THANX BYEEEEE.

Make a budget

This is a HUGE part of the design process a lot of people overlook or feel they simply don’t need, but a budget is not just for professionals and their clients. Once you’ve gathered your references your budget will help you translate your wish list into reality. I don’t do anything without one. Really. Even if it’s as simple as pulling up my bank account and checking the balance (and crying once I see what it is). A budget is the best way to navigate a sea of seemingly infinite design possibilities. That $5,000 credenza you referenced from Hive will either become a reproduction from a wholesaler, a Craiglist find, a thrift store hunt or a piece from IKEA (or the actual credenza from Hive if you’re fancy like that), and if you are honest about your finances the decision will be very easy to make. Be as detailed about it as possible. Start with a budget for the room and then pare it down, piece by piece, if you can. The goal here is to define your purchasing power so the more specific you are the less stress you will incur. No muss, no fuss!

Don’t rush

I’ve curated my references and have a budget. I have a strong idea of where the design is going and from where it will be sourced. Even though I’ve got all this I still make purchases one at a time, starting with the largest pieces first. In my experience designing a space is a mutable process, one that can change with the introduction of each new component, so allow yourself the time to settle into a decision and reevaluate. This is why I start with the heavy hitters first. It’s much easier to return a chair than it is a bed, and if you get a bed that plays much differently with your room than you imagined you will need the time to gather new references, edit your budget and re-source accordingly the things that will surround it. Don’t feel like you need to get it all done in one fell swoop. It may be uncomfortable walking into a room that’s only half-done, but you’ll be much happier in the long run knowing you’ve picked something lasting and that you adore.

Gut Check

This is specific to my process so feel free to skip this step entirely, but I am not Malcolm Gladwell. There are very few times when I ever feel my first instinct is the right one, so it helps for me to question it. If you are like me you can get wrapped up in a moment or a feeling and if you don’t check yourself you run the risk of turning your home into a set from Mad Men. I guess this goes back to my previous suggestion of taking your time, but I want this post to look like it has a lot of useful information and that I’m smart so I’m going to be redundant and hope you think I have more to offer. But I don’t. It’s really just fluff. Check yourself. Or don’t. What do I care?

Tape it out

If you read the blog you know how I’ve never met a roll of painter’s tape I didn’t love. For those of us with brains ruled by our somatic sense taping down the layout and dimensions of your design can help you walk around in the space before you commit your time, money and energy to anything. I know it does for me. Call it a poor man’s feng shui!

Design with the future in mind

When I design I like to keep in mind the staying power of my decisions. The last thing I want to do is buy a bunch of shit I will only grow tired of and want to replace in a year, so I do my best to choose things I know (or think I know) will move with me throughout my life. I sort of explained my feelings on this here, but it is summed up much more clearly by Graham Hill during his Ted Talk, Less Stuff More Happiness. Graham is a genius about the whole idea of life editing. He just crystallizes it so beautifully. When I transpose his philosophy onto my design process I come up with my own version of a Wild Card. Now this may seem like I’m contradicting myself after getting on my soap box about making a budget and sticking to it but this is the step in which it is OK to break the bank and spend a little more. If you find a piece you can’t live without and you know you’ll have forever…BUY IT. I grant you immunity. That one expensive thing is more likely to stay by your side throughout the long haul than that Hemnes dresser from IKEA which you will probably replace two or three times over in the course of decade. So, yea, alright, I guess I am a giant, blowzy hypocrite. And if the dresser from IKEA is the thing that will follow you from place to place then fine–GREAT–but the takeaway here is just don’t buy anything because you need to fill the space. Allow yourself an investment piece.

The Erykah Badu Factor

Here’s the last rule–ugh, rule. Rule sounds terrible. Commandment? NO. Decree? I’m not a politician. Edict? How royal! Let’s go with that–rule edict of my process. I try to remind myself to always keep things a little bit weird. There is nothing less interesting than a room that looks like it’s been ripped straight from page 74 of a Design Within Reach catalog. I get why it happens; amateur designers like ourselves can get self-conscious about our decisions, am I right? It’s very easy to look to a source of authority and say, “Oh, that is good design. That is what I need to replicate,” but that way of thinking will just saddle you with a space devoid of personality. My goal throughout the whole process is to remain cognizant of what can make the space unique, what  can make it just a leeeettle different than anywhere else. Don’t be afraid of the strange–embrace it! In fact, GET ALL UP IN THAT FUNK. I’m not recommending you reupholster an ottoman in Lycra or buy a duvet cover made of human hair but be fearless in the knowledge that there really is no right way in doing any of this.

Go forth and design!

OFFICE LOFT

Dear Diary,

It feels like it’s been ages since you and I sat down and had some quality time together, hasn’t it? I have been slammed the past few weeks but I know that’s a terrible excuse between two friends as intimate as you and me. It’s just, well, you know, occasionally life gets in the way! It’s been difficult to carve out a few minutes and jot down some thoughts lately. I’ve been working a ton, for one, so you don’t have to worry about that. My social calendar has been surprisingly robust and you know that’s something I’ve expressed concern to you about before. Also I started this incredible new–eh, who am I kidding? There are no secrets between us. Season two of House of Cards came out. That’s where I’ve been, OK? I’ve been consumed by Kevin Spacey and his Droopy Dog impression and I know that makes me a horrible person but you’re supposed to be a safe place for me to express myself without fear of judgment or ridicule so LAY OFF. Remember when I was 7 and I told you I secretly wanted to be Donatello every time my brother and I played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but he called it first so I always had to be Raphael? You didn’t judge me then. Or how about when I was in 6th grade and after I saw While You Were Sleeping I confessed that I thought Sandra Bullock and I, if given the chance, could be great friends? I even referred to her as Sandy and still you remained impartial! So, even though I might’ve put Frank Underwood and his political shenanigans before you, I would really appreciate it if you could extend the same courtesies to me now that you gave me back then. And while I’m coming clean I might as well admit to losing a few days this week to pour over Alec Bladwin’s letter about being a white, entitled male. Whew! There. I feel better now that we’ve cleared the air. Now we can move on.

Anyhoodle, Diary, I want to tell you about a project I started. I’m excited, if not slightly terrified. Some nice, well-meaning (or perhaps misguided depending on how this whole thing goes down) people approached me about designing their new office. These people–who shall remain nameless for the time being but who gave me permission to blab about this to the entire Internet–asked me to turn a 1,500 sf loft-style apartment in Midtown into a fully function workplace and like a sack of dead squirrels against a brick wall I threw myself at the chance.

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Pretty great, huh, Diary? But it’s not all shits and giggles; there are more than few challenges. First, the main working space is enormous (by New York standards). At roughly 15′ wide and 25′ long there is a ton of space the fill, and with high ceilings and open layouts loft apartments are really unforgiving when your goal is to make intimate and distinct moments. That’s right, MOMENTS. I can only be pretentious and sassy with you, my dear Diary.

The second challenge is time. Because this is a place of business I don’t have the luxury of faffing about for a week, trying to build a nightstand. I may not know a lot about professional adults but I do know they need places to hold meetings, take conference calls and do whatever else it is they do that allows them to buy $14 salads every day for lunch. I tend to (surprise surprise) be a little particular about things. If I had my druthers (side note: where did that saying even come from? Druthers? DRUTHERS. It makes me think of Sally Stuthers in drag. Not RuPaul drag but, like, Albert Nobbs drag. Yea, chew on that for a bit and try to fall asleep tonight. Oh, druthers!) anyway if I had my druthers I would look for one-of-a-kind pieces, but I’m well aware that if those druthers were indeed in my possession then there would be an office full of people sitting on milk crates for two months.

The third hurdle is cash-o-la, but that’s just the reality of any project, whether it is for yourself or someone else, so I’m not too bothered by that. It just means, as much as it makes me cringe to think about it, I’m going to have to sign up for an IKEA Family Card. Wuff. But on the bright side if I can find a few gems from the Swedish Meatball House and Table Store I will have also helped myself in the time-saving department.

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The only thing I could think to do was chunk things up. I know, I know, Diary, I, too, hate spaces that are chopped and choked and don’t have a flow but I’m hoping that by doing so the larger space will feel more like a collection of smaller, more private spaces rather than just one big room with a bunch of shit in it.

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Take, for instance, the living room (for lack of a better term). I normally hate the back of a couch to face the entrance of a room but here it cordons off the space nicely, as if to tell visitors and employees it is the HBIC. So I’m going with it. By the way, I guess this is as good of time as any to mention how desperately I rely on painter’s tape. I’m very tactile and it’s an enormous help to see the layout and play with it before having to make any real decisions. A godsend, I tell you.

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They’ve got some great artwork and awards so I was hoping for a few walls of shelving and framing–which is a great and cheap way to look like you’re filling the space when really it’s just smoke and mirrors. Smoke & mirrors: that’s kind of my thing. But you already knew about that, Diary. I wrote about how I wanted to be a magician when I was 11 but changed my mind only when I got a paper cut from a deck of cards.

Anydoodle, that was a few weeks ago, well before Frank Underwood took the Oath of Office of the Presidency and I became sidetracked and subsequently neglected you. Here’s where I’m at now, kitten:

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All things considered I’m pleased…so far. There are a few sore thumbs standing out (curtains, anyone, hellooo) but at least it’s a space where people can conduct business and watch cat videos on YouTube without sitting on the floor.

I’ll quickly run through some of the stuff I found because although you’re just a diary I know you enjoy that kind of stuff. The big set pieces–the couch, the conference/dining table–I really went all out for, and by “all out” I mean I actually paid asking price. You know me. You know how I operate. I never pay asking, not even on a haircut, but when you’re rolling the dice with someone else’s time and money you can’t spend your weekend making offers over eBay. The couch is a tufted-back from ABC Home WHICH WAS ON SALE (otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to snag it). The table I sourced from an amazing little spot in Jersey (I mentioned it here) and although it was by far the most expensive piece it sure was worth the price! I dressed it with some Tobias chairs from IKEA (ugh) to play against the rustic texture of the wood:

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But the coffee table. That is what I’m most stoked about, Diary! Last weekend, in between episodes, I willed myself out of bed, onto the train and deep into the recesses of Brooklyn to one of my favorite thrift stores. I didn’t go for anything in particular but I was feeling down about all the IKEA furniture I bought and I knew I had to add a texture other than Capitalism to the whole schematic. Well, my prayers were answered. Sandwiched in between a china cabinet and a rice cooker I found three lucite legs and some gorgeous brass cross-bracing:

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That thing is sex, is it not? All yummy and vintage and unique and FORTY-FIVE DOLLARS SO TAKE THAT, SWEDES, PUT THAT IN YOUR PICKLED HERRING AND SMOKE IT. Added bonus: the glass top was only $100 from Pier 1 (who knew you could buy cheap glass tops of practically any size from Pier 1?) which brought that whole endeavor well under 200 spanks. I dressed it with some books from home so you’d think I’m extra fancy but you and I both know that’s just a monstrous lie.

As for the other stuff, the carpet is a hand-woven kilim from West Elm Daddy got at steep discount. In addition to already being on sale there was a small run along one of the edges, so I plopped the sofa on it and called it a day. The armchairs I just plain got lucky–they belong to one of the employees! I don’t know if you caught it, Diary, but the planter and palm in the corner there used to be mine. I donated it to the project to add a little umph to the room and I think it works quite nicely. (In exchange I got a new planter but more on that at a later time.) The media console is IKEA. I was angling for a beautiful vintage credenza with plans of refinishing but I couldn’t get the seller down in price so I had to let it go, sadly. As much as it kills me to admit it there are times when you need to accept defeat, and those times are usually when some asshole in Queens wants $400 for his mother’s broken, shitty sideboard. The shelving along the eastern wall is IKEA, too. It’s the one thing I don’t totally loathe because the price was right and the impact is big.

Anynoodle, that’s where I’m at. It’s a work in progress and there’s still more to come, but for now I’m content, if not happy, with the progress. I’m never satisfied and I think you understand that about me, Diary, and if you forgot I will point you to the entry I made after eating two 1-lb bags of Twizzlers during Tree of Life. And I’m sorry once again for giving you the Claire Underwood (AKA cold shoulder). I promise I’ll write in you more often and next time without all the House of Cards references.

Hearts and farts,

Evan

FREECYCLED: SCHOOLHOUSE BENCH

There are a lot of things I’m painfully unaware of in the moment. When I order popcorn at a movie theater and leave with a buttered crotch–that’s one. When I’m texting in bed and forget about gravity (ouch!)–that’s another. When I’m caught picking my nose by the person in the cab right next to mine–WHICH WE ALL DO BECAUSE WE HAVE MEDICALLY-DIAGNOSED IRRITABLE NOSTRIL CAVITIES AND THAT’S A REAL THING–well, sure, that’s probably another good example of how I’m not always aware of my surroundings. The exception is when I’m on the street. That’s a different story. On the street there is garbage and garbage makes me happy and garbage keeps me focused. If you don’t know by now how much I love garbage and the potential I see in it then you must just be here for the silly dog pictures.

It was one of my first winters in Manhattan when I went to meet some friends for a CWC (classy woman’s cocktail). The night before it snowed almost a foot and the city was enveloped by a thick, white blanket of powder, like a layer of butter cream frosting over a sheet cake. One margarita became nine and what was intended to be a night cap turned into a sloppy stumble home at 3 AM through the dark streets of West Harlem, which should tell you something about what a fearless terror I was at 22 years old. Speaking of, I would like to take this opportunity to formerly apologize to all of the five boroughs of New York City for the emotional and physical distress caused by 22 year old Evan. He roamed the streets at night, inebriated, sifting through your garbage. He aspired to be Cry Me A River Timberlake but could only pull off Like I Love You Timberlake. He said things like “chill” and “that’s bananas”. He didn’t have much regard for his personal safety and when he rode the subway he always had a scowl on his face. He acknowledges that after three pitchers of tequila he really should’ve just taken a cab and called it a night but instead he did cartwheels up and down 137th Street, listening to She Wolf on his iPod, and he’s real sorry about that.

Drunk, damp and cold I barreled ass over tea kettle down the street, exercising the limits of my healthy buzz, when out of the corner of eye I caught a bright yellow table leg poking up from the snow, buried beneath a black Hefty bag and stack of AM New Yorks. What I dug out from that mountain of trash would eventually follow me from place to place (to place to place to place) for the next 8 years:

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Battered and bruised but brilliant (alliteration!)

Even through my double vision I could tell this thing had good bones. It was beat to hell but it weighed a damn ton. The top was bespeckled with all kinds of things: paint, plaster, stain, polyurethane. One of the legs was missing a huge chunk from it, but the cross braces were in good shape so structurally it was sound, which I tested by laying on it in the middle of the sidewalk (22 year old Evan’s idea). I found it 3 blocks from my apartment–I’m not sure how I was able to haul it back home–and my arms had given out by the time I made it to my front door. I woke up the next morning and marveled at my accomplishment, yet still slightly unsure of how this bench got to be in my room. Go figure. Most people have a drunken night and wake up with a strange person in their bed. I have a drunken night and end up with strange furniture. I’m proud to say that since this time I’m a little more socially acclimated–but only slightly.

Because the circumstances surrounding the bench were so unique it moved with me to each subsequent apartment. When I moved into my studio and got some outdoor space I made a pact to finally give it the facelift it deserved. Sanding can be a difficult business to tackle indoors. You can do it, for sure, but the prep work and clean up is drag. I’ll have to write a post on that later because it can be done. Whether or not anyone actually wants to do it (or read it) is another matter entirely.

Initially my plan was to go very simple and elegant with it; strip it entirely, use a delicate maple stain to highlight the wood grain, upholster the top with black leather and brass nailheads. It was a good plan, it was, but things kind of went south when I ran a sheet of coarse sandpaper over the top and found out how deep the different layers of paint and stain actually went:

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That right there took Daddy roughly 90 minutes of hard, finger-paralyzing labor. Ugh.

So I changed my plans. I think it’s great to go into a situation with your guns blazing but leave yourself some room to edit and scale back. Be practical and don’t get down on yourself for cutting corners if needed. The original design for the bench would’ve been stunning if it was executed but it also would’ve taken 10+ hours, and if you’re a weekend warrior like me that’s several weeks of work. Nah-uh. No thank you, sir. Next!

As a compromise I decided I would sand down the entire the top. The struggle was real on that poor bench’s face and it needed some love, no doubt about it. I couldn’t cut a corner there. However the legs and braces were in good shape, so to save myself some time I would lightly sand down any rough patches, prime and repaint in a darker color, most likely black, to cover any blemishes I couldn’t remove with the paper. The leather idea I threw out because who am I Finn Juhl? GET REAL, EVAN, YOU CAN’T UPHOLSTER.

Here’s what it looked like after the first coat of stain. I went with Minwax Dark Walnut instead of maple since I knew I would be painting the base a deep black and needed a wood tone to compliment:

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I had to make several passes before I was satisfied with the color. Also some woods are far more porous than others so if your stain doesn’t take right away just persist! You’re not doing anything wrong. For this project I went with five coats in total. By coat three I had achieved the dark walnut look but I wanted a deeper tone so I kept slapping that shit on. With a foam brush. Have a mentioned that before? TEAM FOAM BRUSH. I hate bristle brushes. They need to go somewhere far away–like hopefully where Woody Allen’s films from 1987 to the present will go–and never ever come back. I also use a rag when I stain, too, to wipe down any excess, so don’t forget to bring one of your old camp t-shirts with you. It helps ensure I can be as sloppy as possibly when applying the stain and I don’t have to worry about streaking or pooling.

For the base I went interior semi-gloss from Behr, but only because I had some extra lying around. This is hardly an endorsement for Behr. Unless one of the good people at Behr is reading this. In that case you can make the check out to CASH. Please email me for my address and thank you in advance!

Here is where I ended up:

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For a garbage bench salvaged from the bowels of uptown Manhattan I think it has been done justice. Sadly I had to part with it just before the Apartment Therapy shoot but I was able to find a friend who could take care of it for me until I get a little more room. All in all this project cost a whopping $9, which was the cost of one of the ‘ritas that sent me off into the night when I first discovered it all those years ago.

Now, for the people who are here only for the silly dog pictures, thank you for putting up with all of this nonsense. Your reward is a Finn in a shearling:

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FEBRUARY 9 2014

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▶ I’m going to make a HUGE generalization. If you wanted anything more from the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics than what Putin served then I will venture to guess you are likely to also be one of those people who abandons your shopping cart in the middle of the canned foods aisle to get ice cream from the freezer section two aisles over. That is to say, there was nothing–NOTHING–more you needed from that glorious festival of garbage and if there was then you must enjoy swinging a bag of kittens against a wall. What I witnessed–what my see rocks partook in–was the celestial intersection of all the elements any successful internationally televised event must aspire to have: 1) a Julie Taymor-inspired aerial action sequence  2) a movement piece interpreting the political bloodshed of Josef Stalin 3) a presumably tired and sweaty Lady Gaga managing to escort every athlete through the Parade of Nations 4) drunk cherubs in puffer vests and 5) those inflatable tube men outside of car lots (and that, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas!) No but really didn’t this just make your night? It sure did mine. I can’t help but become hopelessly enraptured by the Olympics–even the Winter Olympics–despite the nagging voice in the back of my noodle which astutely points out that success in these games is predominantly measured not by athletic prowess as much as it is by wealth or proximity to it. Like, yes, I’m sure bobsledding is physically grueling and requires a great amount of discipline but your sled is sponsored by BMW so if you have an issue with that, Lolo Jones, please take it up with (1st) the kids of PS 24 in the Bronx and then (2nd) my lawyer, Finn, who is a dog. Anyway, this weekend was momentous for me in that it marked the beginning of the next two weeks in which I will spend each evening avoiding human contact so I can watch Shawn White and his impossibly high cheekbones win some medals.

▶ Speaking of Sochi this week NBC’s big tree of man, Willie Geist, informed me and the rest of the country that Russia has crab-flavored potato chips and to that I say: Congratulations, America! We’ve managed to mangle and pervert a lot of things in our time but we haven’t dipped our toe into the shellfish-flavored snack food water and that is nothing to sneeze at. Little victories.

photo 1▶ I came across the most nifty and Duh-Why-Didn’t-I-Think-Of-That solution for pot lids on Apartment Therapy and so far it’s worked beautifully. The lids have stayed on their hooks, I am not fumbling on my knees, straining my shoulder and mashing my face against the cabinet, reaching for them anymore and Finn–surprise!–saw me take out a camera and ran in to photobomb the shot. What this photo does not show are the texts I sent my mom, cousin, best friend, neighbor, old college roommate and high school swim coach proclaiming my (stolen) ingenuity or how, after doing so, I had to take a timeout to examine what my life has become and why I’m this excited over cupboard organization.photo 2▶ Have I whined enough about the weather here in New York yet, you guys? Probably. Do I care? Nope. Here’s a picture of how heavy and gorgeous and wonderful the snow made the city last week. Everything was blanketed and soft and, even though it was bitterly cold and balmy, looking up to see these white tentacles everywhere was pretty great, so don’t say I never stop to make some lemonade now and again. I have it within me!

▶ I have been thinking about adding a pair of Tapio Wirkkala candlesticks to the sideboard next to my front door but I’m not willing to pay the price. Searching online I found most of the candlesticks claiming to be Tapio Wirkkala originals are actually knock-offs, and in this instance that’s a good thing. A knock-off is actually what I’m looking for because I want to sand them down, maybe do something funky with the color, and I’d have a hard time justifying that to my conscience (and my wallet) if they were actually vintage TWs. That being said, it has been HELL trying to explain to sellers that what they have is, in fact, not an original nor is it worth what they are asking. When did this start, this whole overselling and under-delivering thing that has apparently run rampant among online sellers? For me, when I put something online to sell, I feel like I have to incentivize the damn thing just to get it to move, like I’m the fucking Ron Popeil of eBay. Well, I don’t like it and I won’t stand for it! Your shit smells like shit and not like roses so get over yourself, middle-aged woman in Central Florida, and sell me your overpriced replica candlesticks so you can have an extra $20 in your pocket and I can have more pretentious objects to put in my home, OK?

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▶ Full disclosure, I’ve had a lot on my mind recently in regards to my energy and where and with whom I’m choosing focus it versus where and with whom I know I should really be focusing it –you know, terribly self-absorbed and millennial thoughts that I will NOT bore you with further–and as a result I’ve opted to spend a little more time alone for the moment, which is how I found myself in front of a my television at 9:30pm on a Saturday evening weighing the the pros and cons of Wesley Warren Jr and his gargantuan crotch melon over another episode of Real Housewives on Demand. I’m ashamed to say I went with Wesley and his enormous nut, you guys. Here’s the thing: THAT GUY WAS LOVING HIS BIG BALL. I mean, that might be terrible and judgey to put out there but he sure seemed like he didn’t want to get that thing lopped off any time soon. Instead Ol’ Wesley there seemed to truly and genuinely enjoy what the ball gave him socially; the opportunity to interact with anyone with a sympathetic ear. The best was when he met a doctor–finally he met a doctor after 40 minutes of writhing around on the floor, calling his senator’s office and crying to his secretary (why? who knows) and launching a kickstarter campaign to help him pay for the surgery (but really it was for his rent)–who could help him but all Wesley wanted to talk about was how he hadn’t seen his penis in six years and how he didn’t realize the penis was even gone and where the doctor thought that penis went and, oh God, Doc, will you be able to dig that penis out, and the doctor was obviously uncomfortable since minutes earlier he had told him they just needed to remove the growth and he and his penis would be fine. Also Wesley wanted to auction his severed testicle off online and the look that befell the doctor’s face was worth everything I had endured thus far. So, in conclusion, uh, yea, I need to take a cold, hard look at my life and get things in order, you could say, if this is how I’m voluntarily choosing to spend my weekend evenings, hanging pot lids and watching testicular surgeries. I acknowledge that.