TINAH ALL UP IN YOUR TV

 

If you follow This Is Not A House on social media* (often referred to as the acronym TINAH, or the more illustrative interpretation Tina!, by industry insiders) you would know I recently had the honor of being included in a report for Al Jazeera America’s “Real Money With Ali Velshi” on the burgeoning trend in housing development called micro-housing; an effort to combat high property costs by offering smaller, more manageable and less expensive apartments ranging from 250 to 350sf for middle to low-income individuals. (So, like, all of us.) Often times these developments integrate the use of common areas, such as kitchens, between the units to maximize each apartment’s living space and as such the movement has garnered the less-than-glamorous qualifier “dorm-style housing”.

Now, at 295sf, I’ve made no bones about my apartment being small. You know this because you read this site and because I love you and I am not a liar. So while my place may be smaller than most but bigger than some I’m not the authority on dorm-style living, which, in my not-so-humble opinion, would be a misnomer if we’re talking about my PALATIAL stabbin’ cabin, OK? Furthermore, on the list of things I am not, certified to speak on the divisive issue of micro-housing would be right up there at the top. Just below Able To Control His Sweats and Night Farting. Those things I have absolutely no right to talk about. At all. Seriously.

This is all to say that my inclusion in Real Money’s package does not mean I consider myself to be a voice of reason about anything other than designing for a small space. (Or How To Look Uneasy At The Camera While Holding Your Arms Outstretched. As you can see from the video above I do that well, my friends.) What Al Jazeera needed, among the dense and valuable socioeconomic dialogue about micro-housing, was just a breath, the journalistic equivalent of a Kardashian–pretty and hollow. Some eye candy for the viewers. That was me, plain and simple, and I was happy to take that on.

This is how the pitch went when I received a call from the segment producer:

Al Jazeera America: Hello, is this Evan?

Me: This is he. And who may I ask has the pleasure of speaking to him?

AJA: Um, this is Al Jazeera Am–

Me: YES!

AJA: Excuse me?

Me: Yes.

AJA: You don’t even know why I’m calling.

Me: You work for a television station, yes?

AJA: Yes.

Me: Then yes.

[Pause]

AJA: Uh, ok, so we’re doing a segment on micro-housing–a really polarizing issue right now–and I understand you live in a small-ish apartment that you’ve designed yourself and I’m wondering if you’d like to talk about designing for a small space.

Me: I’d love to be the moral compass of your timely and controversial piece.

AJA: Uh, no, no we really just–

Me: Your port in the storm!

AJA: Actually I’d just like to film you texting from your bedside and be done with it.

Me: I can cry on command.

AJA: Thank you but–

Me: Will this get me my SAG card?

AJA: No.

Me: I’m not Equity but I’ll need you to make me Equity.

AJA: So, like, how’s Tuesday?

Me: Hey, hard-hitting news producer! HEY. You and I both know you need some man bacon in this segment.

AJA: I think you have the wrong idea.

Me: SHH-SH-SH! Don’t speak. Just listen. I get it. I understand the power a little T&A has over an audience. I am willing–NAY–offering to give you all you need and more…

AJA: Well, great, thank you.

Me: ..for a price.

AJA: We can’t pay you.

Me: I never work for free.

AJA: We’re a news show. We don’t do that kind of thing.

Me: Fine. Will there be craft service?

AJA: No.

Me: Do I get to keep the clothes?

AJA: You have to wear your own.

Me: So what’s in it for me?

AJA: Some blotting papers.

Me: I. AM. IN. Tell your camera monkeys to only film me from my left side!

[Phone clicks]

Me: ‘Ello?

[Dial tone]

Anyway, that’s how it all went down. The day when a credible news source soiled their good name by giving a little air time to some idiot with a blog has come. Check Hell because it hath frozen over. Enjoy!

*This Is Not A House is now on all social media platforms! Give it a follow! Currently things are a little sparse because I just got my mind grapes together and made all the accounts, but I promise in time they will be robust and well worth the effort to read. Also, wouldn’t it be cool to start communicating in real time instead of me writing a blog entry once a month? Now you can tell me instantaneously how obnoxious you find me! Try it. It will make you feel much better, I promise!

DRESSER UPDATE OR HOW TO RACHAEL LEIGH COOK YOUR FURNITURE

As I mentioned in my previous post my DIY libido has been a little low lately. I look around my apartment and I see a lot of things I want to tackle–bathroom renovation, patio facelift, custom planters, new hallway fixture, new fence, new kitchen cabinets, new doors, NEW EVERYTHING. When you’re a renter like me some of this stuff is realistic and maybe some of it’s not, but all of it is most definitely overwhelming when you can’t to take a step back and break it up into manageable bits. I Want It All Done And I Want It All Done Now is the common M.O. of someone who struggles with patience and rationality and their undeniable lovechild, prioritization. A sane, productive person would look at a mountainous pile of To Do’s and set small achievable goals. Then they’d begin chipping away at it, brick by brick, project by project, until the task is completed, always keeping in mind that the whole is only as great and the sum of its parts. But what do you, the restless, self-doubting, self-sabotaging person, end up doing? Buckle under the enormous pressure to finish everything by planting yourself in bed, hoping to drink red wine and watch Bob’s Burgers but really playing Candy Crush, staining your sheets red and hating yourself for not giving your full attention to Bob’s Burgers.

Of these two types of people, Type A and Type Human Landfill, I will forever be the latter. It’s my birthright. That kind of destructive behavior is never going away.

Here’s an example of the dialogue I have with myself every evening, upon walking in the door from work: 

Smart Evan: Hm, my place looks pretty damn good. Go me! [Grunting] 

Dumb Evan: What are you doing? 

Resourceful Evan: Trying to get this dresser I found on the street through the door! Can you get the other side, Daddy-o? 

Unimaginative Evan: No. 

Sane Evan: [sweating] Whew! That was heavy! I can’t wait to start sanding this down. It’s going to look great over there in the corner.

Stupid Evan: Mother of God.

Rational Evan: What’s that?

Destructive Evan: [stepping into the hallway] I said, there’s a half-painted flower pot over there that should be a fully-painted flower pot.

Rational: Oh, you! I see that but I’m not in a rush, mister man! I’m letting it dry completely before applying a second coat, otherwise it may streak or chip. Duh!

Destructive: I see. And that pile of salvaged wood out by the patio? That must be waiting for a second coat, too?

Rational: No, you silly-ba-nilly! The wood is there for when I start building the fence. But before I can do that I need to get these pots done. And then after the fence I’m going to do this dresser. You are too funny!

Destructive: Ooooh, ok ok ok. Got it got it gooot iiit. Because, like, I didn’t know if you were actually trying to accomplish something or just auditioning for the next season of Hoarders.

Rational: No way, Jose! What’s Hoarders?

Destructive: Yea! You know it’s that show where people can’t stop saving things and it piles up and up and up and eventually they bury themselves alive in their own, like, mausoleum of junk and broken dreams?

Rational: Um….huh?

Destructive: No no no, it’s not a big thing I’m just saying, like, if you need someone to film your submission tape I’m more than happy to do it. We just need a few more paint cans and secondhand wicker dining chairs and you’ll be golden.

Rational: I’m sensing some sarcasm.

Destructive. What? PFFF! Fat chance, Lance! No sarcasm here.

Rational: Ok…

Destructive: I mean, ok, there was a tinsy bit of sarcasm.

Rational: I knew it–

Destructive: –you don’t need any more paint cans or secondhand wicker dining chairs. You have enough already.

Rational: It’s not that bad.

Destructive: Hey, who am I to judge, right? Today I had guacamole and chips for breakfast. Lemme just ask you this: are you really going to get this all done?

Rational: Well, that’s the plan…

Destructive: Because I’m ALL FOR you getting it done, don’t get me wrong…

Rational: …but…

Destructive: …BUUUUUUUT it just seems like, you know, all I see is an apartment full of half finished projects and projects that haven’t even been started and projects that even if you wanted to start you wouldn’t have the room to start because the half finished ones are taking up all the available space.

Rational: I….I can see that, sure.

Destructive: And, you know, I’m just looking out for YOU.

Rational: I…appreciate that.

Destructive: Because, hey, lemme tell you right now buddy it’s not normal to have a shipping palette in your bathroom.

Rational: I AM PLANNING ON BREAKING IT DOWN AND MAKING IT INTO A WALL TREATMENT!!!$%#@

[Pause]

Destructive: Whoa.

Rational: I’m sorry. I’m so stressed. I want to die all of the deaths.

Destructive: Shhhhh. Shh-shh-shhhhh. There there. You don’t need to be stressed.

Rational: I don’t?

Destructive: No. Just sit down. Relax. Drop your bag and lay down on the bed. [Goes into the kitchen]

Rational: Ok.

Destructive: Red or white?

Rational: What?

Destructive: Do you want a glass of wine? To unwind?

Rational: Oh. Sure. Yes, that does sound nice. Red, please.

Destructive: Great. [Returns to the bed] Here you go. Poor baby. You’re so exhausted.

Rational: I really am.

Destructive: Would you like me to turn on the TV, see what’s on?

Rational: That’s perfect.

Destructive: Netflix?

Rational: Mmm, yes.

Destructive: Bob’s Burgers is streaming. Sound good?

Irrational: You’re the best.

And so it’s been going, every night for the past few months. Rational Evan eventually caves and willingly, cooly and numbly falls into the warm, cozy embrace of Destructive Evan’s clutches, or what is commonly referred to in my home as The Cabernet Haze.

It was after this last stretch of The Haze that I realized my creativity boner would need a little Viagra if I was ever going to get back on track and stockpiling old futon frames in the corner of my living room again. What I needed was the movie equivalent of a nerdy girl makeover–low effort, high impact–like when Molly Ringwald pulls back Ally Sheedy’s hair to reveal she has a jaw or when a girl discovers contacts and snags Freddie Prinze Jr. [SIDE NOTE: Try getting that Six Pence None The Richer song out of your head now. I dare you.]

I sat in my bed for a long while, looking around my apartment with a discerning eye, before it jumped out at me as if to say, “HELLO, MORON,” like a stripped sweater in a Where’s Waldo book:

Say what you will about IKEA but this Hemnes dresser has been a stalwart–A STALWART, I TELL YOU. To be unabashedly hyperbolic, it is, without a doubt, the William Wallace of my apartment because for three hundred bucks and half a dozen meatballs no other piece of furniture in this shack is as much of a warrior, OK? (Sorry, Design Within Reach. I’m still available for sponsorship. This post can and will be deleted without hesitation.) But, despite it’s redurlability–that’s durability and reliability (you’re welcome)–I think we can all agree its monochromaticity is a little bit like a wet fart, no? A big brown mess that just kinda runs all over the floor.

Cue Home Depot:

No, this is not the back of an issue of Highlights; the knobs are a different color! What a novel idea, right? I AM A DESIGN GURU.

But seriously–honestly–look at those brass beauties and what a difference they make. Then look in the mirror and tell yourself a well-deserved I Could’ve Done That because you can and you should and it’s ridiculous that for *$20 you can justify having a blog about home design.

Anyway, that’s the show, kids. I hope the heavy fireworks delivered. Knobs. Unscrewing old ones and screwing on new ones. Who would’ve guessed? It may not seem like a lot (and it’s not) but it was what I needed to put that spring back in my step.

*If you can claim you found the knobs were mislabeled the whole abysmally unskilful project can come in under ten bucks, but the money you save you will pay for with your pride. This comes from a trusted source. My pride is worth ten whole dollars.

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