The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

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TSWIL On Cup Of Jo

Careers and Working, Home and Design, New York City, Books & Words, BooksAlexandra king4 Comments
Alexandra King-Lyles and Isaac Lyles

Delighted to share with you that the wonderful blog Cup of Jo, has featured our apartment today. Head on over to see me and Isaac being awk on camera and hear me waffle on about handymen, my love of black cats and why there's a painting of a penis above our dining table.

So many thanks to Cup of Jo and especially my wonderful new friend Caroline Donofrio for interviewing me. And oh hey Cup of Jo readers!  It's so lovely to meet you.

Clutter Bomb Joy Sparkers

Home and DesignAlexandra king2 Comments


FYI I wrote the title of this post and immediately regretted that I wasn't the bassist in an all-girl punk band of the same name, but I digress.

 By now you've all heard about the million trillion zillion selling book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Japanese "Tidying Expert" Marie Kondo, a diminutive but powerful boss lady who coined the concept of "konmari". Konmari, as you bloody well know because we've all read the bloody book, centers on the essential premise that whatever one has in one's home, be it a pair of jeans, your mum's old china cups or a "portrait" of you painted by your friend's five year-old, it should "spark joy" or be discarded- consigned, perhaps, to a new life with an as of yet un-konmari'd friend or simply recycled again and again into the oblivion of perfect uncluttered air. 


It won't come as a surprise that I'm naturally pretty konmari at heart, a decade and a half of doing up cramped urban apartments having taught me a thing or five about the importance of editing and placement (the perfect synergy of which I believe strongly to have the equivalent effect upon one's head and heart). I get realllll bossy when I help my friends move house, my eagle eyes honing in on too-big coats with tags on and fuzzy still-sellotaped polaroids from long-ago student bedrooms (I'm actually expressly recruited as the decluttering bad cop by many of my darling girlfriends). I obsessively pin perfectly white empty rooms on Pinterest. That show Hoarders? I can't even, as the kids say. But here's the clincher-though I detest stuff I can't help but occasionally still like things. Even when they're silly or pointless or purely decorative. Not often, mind. Very selectively. But still, I do. Wonderful wonderful things. Cover your ears Kondo.


Anyway, below are five things I'm coveting. Each one utterly useless of course, but nonetheless sparking my joy like the 4th of July fireworks.

1) Palo Santo Hand Holder by Unearthed, $75

palo santo hand holder

 

2) Ceramic stoneware pod bowls, by Meuss, $88

pod bowls

 

3) What Good Shall I Do This Day? enamel sign by Best Made Co, $28

4) Aromatherapy Diffuser, $27.99,  Amazon

diffuser.jpg

5) Carved Horizon Planters, $25, West Elm

planters







One Year: Our Home, Before and After

Home and DesignAlexandra king4 Comments
Alexandra King-Lyles, TSWIL

As promised, one year in, a "before and after" tour of our apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Guys, there is still MUCH to do (I'm desperate to replace our crappy old dining table, for instance) but with a little love and elbow grease, I am able to concede that we've definitely turned things around in that time. We were lucky in that we moved from a similarly sized one bedroom apartment in Chinatown and so all of our furniture fitted pretty seamlessly, but in total, over time, we've probably spent about $1500 on sprucing up the place- mainly on paint, wood, soil, planters and pots for the garden and a couple of light fixtures. You'll also see that literally 90 per cent of our furniture has been purchased second hand, on Ebay or Craigslist, usually.  I hope this post proves that a small budget can go a long way (especially with the TSWIL three-step plan of white walls, books and plants) if you're smart about it. Scroll down, if you'd like, to see some before and after shots.

 

LIVING ROOM: BEFORE

For the exact same view in its current state, a shot  here

For the exact same view in its current state, a shot here

LIVING ROOM: AFTER

Rug  and  Pendant Lamp  by West Elm. Armchair by Ikea. Franco Albini Ottoman, vintage, similar  here . The green bird painting was a wedding present from artist  Tom Thayer .

Rug and Pendant Lamp by West Elm. Armchair by Ikea. Franco Albini Ottoman, vintage, similar here. The green bird painting was a wedding present from artist Tom Thayer.

The yellow chair and gold floor lamp are both cheap vintage finds from Ebay and Craigslist. Isaac made the simple shelves using wood cut at Home Depot and painting them white. 

The yellow chair and gold floor lamp are both cheap vintage finds from Ebay and Craigslist. Isaac made the simple shelves using wood cut at Home Depot and painting them white. 

The portrait was a gift from my sweet friend, the artist  Caris Reid . The frame (a temporary solution while we save up for a proper, costly custom frame) is from fab Brooklyn store  Art & Artish . The Icelandic Sheepskin throw is from  Cuero International . The mid-century wicker bucket chair is an Ebay find, similar  here

The portrait was a gift from my sweet friend, the artist Caris Reid. The frame (a temporary solution while we save up for a proper, costly custom frame) is from fab Brooklyn store Art & Artish. The Icelandic Sheepskin throw is from Cuero International. The mid-century wicker bucket chair is an Ebay find, similar here

The living room, and indeed most of the apartment, was painted what I refer to, disdainfully, as "renters cream", a particularly odious shade of off-white that seems to be favored among landlords for some unknown reason. Do not get me started on off-white. Despite how much sun the south-facing windows got, the yellow-tinted, dull paint gave the room a damp, mucky look. The apartment's lack of storage (only two small cramped closets in the entire space- double merde) showed. First things first, we took a weekend to paint the walls (and everything else in the apartment) pure gallery-crisp white. I also painted the dividing doors a dark blue/black to add visual interest and keep things from looking too same-y. We ripped out the old-fashioned and ugly ceiling plate lights and installed a simple bentwood pendant from West Elm in the living room (changing the light fixtures is one of the simplest, cheapest and most impactful rental hacks one can do). We mounted our TV on the wall to avoid any unnecessary bulky stands and built (well, my handy husband did) simple alcove shelves for our giant amounts of books and any particularly sentimental knick-knacks. The room also quickly became a happy home for my beloved plant jungle, who lapped up all that light. We dotted around smaller arm chairs and our dependable slim-line sofa (made by Design within Reach but found on Craigslist for $200) for a seating format that felt organic to conversation. 

KITCHEN: BEFORE

kitchen before

KITCHEN: AFTER

Kitchen, TSWIL at home, Brooklyn apartment

The kitchen's lack of storage really showed before, and is still something we battle, as do so many of us tiny apartment dwellers, huh?. Thankfully the (illegal in our building) washing machine was removed before we moved in, and Isaac (whatta man) built a simple fold out wooden counter in its place. Other than that, nothing much changed, other than a minor white paint job. I relied on my finely-honed chucking away skills to reduce any excess kitchen clutter and I like the way my beloved orange Le Creuset pots bring a pop of colour to the room. Though I initially resisted putting anything on the fridge I relented after learning this fun fact (I printed the photos using this great company). The framed Rod Stewart record is an example of the super sentimental items that slip through my normally fierce clutter-ometer (not a word, don't care). I found him in a skip in Kentish Town when I was 19, taped him to my student kitchen wall and since then he's been the informal saint of my cooking efforts. I should really chuck him away but he just makes me laugh, and I'm convinced by this point that he makes my food taste better.

DINING ROOM: BEFORE

middle room

DINING ROOM: AFTER

Vintage Kurdish Rug from  this  fabulous LA-based Ebay shop,  Eames Eiffel chairs  from Design Within Reach, Table (which I loathe but it does the job for now) by  Ikea .  Table runner  and  Globe Pendant LIght  from West Elm

Vintage Kurdish Rug from this fabulous LA-based Ebay shop, Eames Eiffel chairs from Design Within Reach, Table (which I loathe but it does the job for now) by IkeaTable runner and Globe Pendant LIght from West Elm

The painting is by  Despina Stokou . On the bureau you can see another work by  Tom Thayer . And my wedding shoes! (too pretty to stay in the box)

The painting is by Despina Stokou. On the bureau you can see another work by Tom Thayer. And my wedding shoes! (too pretty to stay in the box)

Bertoia Diamond  wire chair , vintage. Similar  here . On the right you can just see a painting by  Dan Ivic

Bertoia Diamond wire chair, vintage. Similar here. On the right you can just see a painting by Dan Ivic

When we moved in, the dining room was painted, inexplicably, a dull poopy brown. Middle rooms are so often tricky, particularly ones without windows, and this was such a non-room, with its desk/table combo and general bareness. Given our propensity for hosting impromptu dinner parties, and our love of having friends over generally, we decided from the get go that we wanted this space solely as a dining area. Firstly we painted over that brown and then set to work building the giant floor to ceiling book cases that we always need, just using inexpensive wood and brackets from the DIY store. I love the way that the shelves provide a beautiful focal point and entry way into the bedroom. Also, full disclosure, as I mentioned earlier, if there's one thing I utterly loathe in our apartment and am desperate to change it's our awful scratched up dining table (an old cheapy from Ikea). We're saving up for a truly lovely one, but for now I've shoved a table runner over the top of it an effort to try and hide its many sins.

BEDROOM: BEFORE

BEDROOM: AFTER

Cushions  and  bedside lamps  by Ikea. Long Horn skull by  Jernigan's Taxidermy

Cushions and bedside lamps by Ikea. Long Horn skull by Jernigan's Taxidermy

Leather armchair, vintage, found on the street. Moroccan Tassle blanket was a gift, similar  here . Painting by  Adrienne Rubenstein

Leather armchair, vintage, found on the street. Moroccan Tassle blanket was a gift, similar here. Painting by Adrienne Rubenstein

As is my want, I kept the bedroom extremely simple. It's such a beautiful room, structurally, with a giant ceiling and those fabulous Victorian decals. With the help of a giant ladder we painted and scrubbed the room white and shiny. Thankfully my existing giant white wardrobe also seamlessly fitted into the room, covering up an old disused door and providing much needed storage. The previous tenants had placed the bed sideways, but we chose to put it, somewhat throne-like, directly in the middle of the room. We then repurposed a pair of velvet grey black-out curtains that had been on the windows to create a rail over the door way, so that the room could be completely sectioned off for privacy. In the corner of the room I added an old brown leather chair that I got for free from a neighbour (ummm,  from outside Steve Buscemi's house, actually, he lives three doors down) and hung some ever dependable and snaky pothos plants in simple linen hangers. I love waking up and seeing that fresh green against white view.

APT THROUGH VIEW: BEFORE

APT THROUGH VIEW: AFTER

Mid century bureau from  Virtual Vintage , Bertoia wire chairs, just in view,  this model,  but found for $100 each on Craigslist. Pineapple sculpture by  Violet Dennison . 

Mid century bureau from Virtual Vintage, Bertoia wire chairs, just in view, this model, but found for $100 each on Craigslist. Pineapple sculpture by Violet Dennison

Our apartment is what's known in the US as a "railroad" which for a long time I misunderstood as being an apartment close to a train track (!!) but is in fact just a cute term for a place that is a series of walk through, inter connected rooms. Railroads are highly conducive to those that like open plan living, but all of them come, typically, with a tricky middle room, that often has less or no windows, and which can be seen the entire time from any part of the living space. That through-view becomes important to get right. I found this super inexpensive, red-toned rug and put it in our centre room. The  pop of colour somehow makes the middle room a cosy centre point in the space.

TERRACE: BEFORE

Garden before

TERRACE: AFTER

garden brooklyn alexandra king-lyles

And there it is, the famed you-have-to-climb-out-a-window-but-it's-an-outdoor-space-ok? terrace. This isn't the best photo in the world as sadly this photo shoot occurred on a rather grey fall day, but over last Spring and Summer I planted a container garden of dependable blooms- lavender, rosemary, geraniums, peris and ivy. Also, a shout-out that beautiful hyacinth tree in the top left, which we're currently wintering in our bedroom until warmer weather comes around again.

lois and maxine king-lyles

That's all folks. Also, a final shout out to the world's greatest and sweetest interior accessories, our black kitty duo, Lois and Maxine.

All "After" photos by Katja Hentschel

A Tree Grew in Chinatown

Home and DesignAlexandra kingComment
Chinatown, Autumn, 2013

Chinatown, Autumn, 2013

One year go this past weekend, Isaac and I packed up our downtown apartment and headed due south, kitchen pans rattling in the U-Haul, across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. Four months earlier I'd taken the same drive, wearing a white silk dress and roses in my hair, to marry my husband across the water. The move, in many ways, felt similarly momentous.

Though we loved our Chinatown neighborhood (we would open a business right across the street from our old apartment, just eight months later, though we didn't know it then) our place was decrepit. A rent-stabilized one bedroom in an old 18th century building on Chrystie Street, it had been Isaac's bachelor pad of five years before I came on the scene. We faux-affectionately named it "The Tenement Museum", in honour of the tourist attraction a few blocks away that gives (very good, you must go) tours of a restored tenement house. But why go there when you could see the real thing, we said. In our building, the front door stayed open all night. Restaurant workers crouched in the hallway, chain smoking on upturned tomato cans. Doors would fling open at all hours, occasionally revealing corridors of neatly lined up shoes and rickety looking bunk beds for day and night-shift sleepers. Many residents stationed themselves, permanently, on the stairs, cooking thick-scented food on (!) open flames. The apartment's only windows looked out onto a filthy courtyard containing the following- a discarded bucket, a full metric tonne of pigeon shit and a large, stained clawfoot bathtub, which, anchored jauntily on a glassy outcrop, was somehow, miraculously, entirely in tact despite almost certainly having been dropped out of a window from a very great height. Stairwells, corridors and walls were coated in layers of cooking smoke and ancient unstoppable dirt. The building's pigeon infestation was so extreme, and the amount of nests so noisy and prodigal, that Isaac took to positioning himself by our living room window with a giant super soaker, squirting hapless birds with a mixture of water and Siriacha sauce. At night, before the horny pigeon couples launched into their 4am aubade atop our air conditioner, we were woken by the sounds of local bars pumping up their sound systems and buckets of dish water being chucked out of windows.

But despite it all, I so loved many aspects of living there. Being casually handed fat little cooing babies to carry up the stairs while their power-house Mamas lugged up bags of groceries, the hilarious and touching aerobics class for Chinese old ladies that took place in the park opposite the building, the fruit and veg stall on the corner always stocked with ripe avocados and giant 30 cent bunches of cilantro. Yellow canaries in cages that whistled me on my way to work. My many sweet neighbours, who I spoke to solely in big smiles and thumbs up/down motions. Chinatown, and its community, is truly special. But the apartment was a nightmare. I did my best of course, but nothing, not even my dependable three-step program of white paint, green plants and shelves of books could fully mask its low-lit shabbiness. In September 2014, after a month of sleepless nights, a discovery that some new residents had taken to sleeping on the roof and a summer roach infestation of truly Indiana Jones-movie-level proportions, enough was enough. I burst into tears and told Isaac we had to move. Right. This. Minute. And, miraculously, because finding any apartment within the five boroughs of New York City always feels so, our friends who had recently moved into a beautiful brownstone in the historic neighborhood of Park Slope, told us that the first floor apartment was suddenly available to rent. Are you interested?" they said. Fast forward to me, jumping on the F train and running to the Rite Aid ATM on 7th Avenue to grab that holding deposit faster than you can say "we need an exterminator IMMEDIATELY" in Cantonese, which trust me, is surprisingly easy to locate via Google but astonishingly difficult to execute.

The Brooklyn apartment was by no means in a good way when I first saw it, one cold November day. It had virtually no storage. A rail road layout. A weird old door to the hallway in the bedroom. And the previous residents hadn't loved on it that much, to say the least, decor wise. But it had good bones. South facing windows. High ceilings. Decent water pressure. And, the absolute clincher, an outdoor space, which admittedly one had to climb through a window to get to, but goddammit you could fit a table and chairs on that thing.

A couple of months back, my apartment was photographed and I was interviewed by the charming girls of Blonde magazine about my approach to design (you can see the photos and the full interview here- heads up, it's in German). I found myself saying out loud something I suddenly realized- that living in a series of shitty apartments is pretty much the best training you can have in terms of understanding how to create a beautiful home. I'm so thankful, in retrospect, for the shitty apartments, all of them- the damp drafty flat on Camden Road, the crumbling purple mews house in Chalk Farm, even the bloody Tenement Museum. They taught me the essential lesson that it's possible to patch things up with a little love and ingenuity. But most importantly, despite their faults, all of them were and in some ways still are, home.

When you move to a new flat or apartment or house, you don't just take on the previous resident's lackadaisical approach to cleaning behind the oven, or their rampant mouse problem, or their not yet forwarded magazine subscriptions or wedding invitations from long-forgotten aunts- you also dwell arm in arm with the energy left behind. The breakups and dinner parties and wild nights in after wild nights out. All homes you live in live on in you. And you in them. When I left our Chinatown apartment for the last time, I did so in the way I have left all the places I have ever lived in. I ran my hands along the newly naked walls, scarred by the picture frames we had hung, scuffed by our shoes, and I whispered, ever so softly, "thank you".





A Love Corner

Home and Design, Love and MarriageAlexandra kingComment
Photo by Katja Hentschel

Photo by Katja Hentschel

A few months back I was at the beautiful Williamsburg apartment of my friend Caris, interviewing her, over tea, for her The Street Where You Live feature. You can see the photos and interview from the shoot here, if you haven't already. But there was something that didn't make it into the piece. In the course of photographing and talking about all the stylish and thoughtful details that made up C's home, walking through her kitchen, I was struck by the way she had hung a sweet photo booth strip of her and husband over the lip of a canister of wooden spoons. It thought it was such a cute and unexpected detail. When I asked her about it, she explained it was more than just styling- she'd put the photo there, she said, because it was the apartment's "love corner".

Yes, according to feng shui, the Chinese principle that argues that certain organization principles can benefit one's life, the South West corner of your home contains mega-watt levels of love energy. Though this, without doubt, sounds a little hippy hippy shake, bear with me. The basics of feng shui principles (in short- light, de cluttered environments, spaces that harmonize) have always been ones I'm drawn to, for practical reasons, and are certainly good guidelines for the small apartment dweller. Fast forward to me, Iphone compass in hand, Park Slope's useless answer to Captain bloody Cook, ascertaining that my love corner was in fact (conveniently) where my fridge was. Quelle surprise, said no one- nom nom nom. Though I had vowed when Isaac and I first moved in, to leave the fridge, a common attractor of clutter, white and clean and magnet free, I instantly felt the need to gild my love corner appropriately, as in the photo above. And I must say, it makes me feel happy everytime I see it.


So go find your love corner, darling readers, and deck it out appropriately (and send me pics!). For some basics about feng shui principles, this article breaks it down a little.
 

Follow TSWIL On Pinterest!

Home and DesignAlexandra kingComment
Vogue Street Style

Happy Tuesday, kittens! Hey, wanted to say you should follow me on Pinterest because I'm constantly updating it and would love to be able to share and communicate more with my readers there. Yeah, that's you.

What are you looking for? Here are a few of my favourites. Cool Threads? Follow Fix Up Look Sharp. My country home fantasies? Follow Bolt Hole Sexy-weird shit? Follow Fecund. Major Home inspo? (with lots of those white bedrooms that you know I'm partial to) Follow  Dwell. The board I made for my wedding? Follow Ball And Chain.

We who pin together, stay together. See you there!


White Bedroom Love

Home and Design, New York CityAlexandra kingComment
Alexandra King-Lyles The Street Where I Live

It's been nearly a year since Isaac and I moved to our teeny but beloved apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I'll be posting an anniversary post-of-sorts soon with a home tour and some before and after photos, but here's a little sneek peek into our bedroom, and a soap box upon which I shall stand and implore you to embrace the importance of simple white sleeping quarters. Yeah, just that. White sheets. White walls. Minimal white decor. Zero clutter. No screens. Fresh, clean, serene. Reflecting the day's warm and cool light in an ever-changing aubade to the seasons. A blank canvas to dream on.

The Street Where I Live Alexandra King

The painting here, an abstract portrait of Rimbaud, was a wedding present from the incredible artist Keith Mayerson. The cross-print cushions and bedside lamps are both Ikea. Aren't those bedside lamps are the best? I lusted after many a 400 dollar a piece find until chancing upon these guys. Cheap and chic in all the right ways! I bought the Long Horn skull, whom we affectionately nicknamed "Tina" as a silly present for my Texan husband a couple of years ago. I know it may seem kindof weird to sleep with a skull above our heads, but I love her and find her a strangely comforting and protective presence, not to mention the fact that she's a great visual centre piece at the end of our open plan apartment.

The Street Where I Live Alexandra King
Alexandra King-Lyles The Street Where I Live

The painting here is by amazing artist and our good friend Adrianne Rubenstein. Funny story- this leather chair belonged to Steve Buscemi. No, seriously, it did! He lives three doors down! He put it outside on the street for free (this is a super Park Slope culture thing, thanks to the well-documented hippy dippy vibe of its residents- the streets can be absolute treasure troves for keen-eyed furniture hunters) and Isaac and I happened to walk past. Though I'm as paranoid about bedbugs as the next Brooklyner, I figured this leather studded beauty, not to mention its just as rad owner, was worth it. The hanging greens are ever dependable pothos plants. I love watching them snake their way across the clean walls.

The Street Where I Live Alexandra King
The Street Where I Live Alexandra King

Our "bedside tables" are simply the window sills. I only allow the absolute essentials on there, and for me that means, at any one time, a stack of books (the only clutter I find tolerable/aesthetically pleasing) and three little pots. The little basket contains a whole bunch of those deeply unappealing orange coloured ear plugs for nights when the only alternative to them is to smother my snoring husband to death with my pillow, something I sense I'd deeply regret the next morning. The other two are art deco make up canisters I found for cheap on Etsy. One contains Aquaphor (my lips can get dry when I'm sleeping) and the other holds my daily vitamins and meds that I take at night.

And finally, I've always got time for the greatest interiors accessory one can own, and yes, we all know that that is a black cat.

The Street Where I Live Alexandra King

Do you share my love of a clean white bedroom? See more of my picks/inspo on Pinterest.