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When I made my life list a few years ago, I included the item "Live in a house with a room dedicated to my closet." It's hard for me to keep my things organized in a little closet, where they get hidden behind other items or tossed on the floor and forgotten about, so I loved the idea of being able to see all of my clothes, shoes, accessories, and jewelry all at once. I realize that this is quite a goal in any space, especially when there are people, you know, living in a house and using the the rooms for things like sleeping. But my recent move to DC has made so many things possible, including this weird dream of mine. The house we are living in happens to have an office that was only being used infrequently; I have a lot of clothes; and we are sorely lacking in adequate closet space, so I was basically given permission to turn the office into my very own closet. Victory!

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Jenna Lyons is inspirational to me on several different levels, and it was the original photo of her closet room that inspired me to add this particular item to my life list. Unfortunately, I do not own as many shoes as Jenna does, nor do I live in a fabulous Brooklyn townhouse, so I decided to combine the closet and another super-inspirational photo -- Jenna's office at J. Crew. That's right: a closet + office. A cloffice, if you will.

I had all the clothes, obviously, and we bought a clothing rack, hung some shelves + hooks for shoes, bags, and scarves, and repurposed a big restaurant work table as a desk, but the desk chair was, shall we say, lacking in style. What I am telling you is that it was ugly as sin. Purchased for $5 at a garage sale, someone had "helpfully" spray-painted the perfectly good, very cute industrial-type wood and metal chair black -- poorly -- and then applied a red faux finish. I mean to tell you.

Of course, that could not stand. And, of course, I decided that the chair needed to be properly stripped, sanded, and repainted. Right now. In the dead of night. Enter Energizer and their amazing line of portable lights.

The Girl With The Spray Paint Problem.

That right there is the 3 in 1 Light, which is perfect for up-close spray paint situations. 

I set the Folding Lantern on the ground for illuminating the bottom of the chair while I painted it. Also, my grass is now black. 

I love the 3 in 1 light's little legs, so it can stand up by itself.

A good sanding and a few coats of clear lacquer on the seat, et voila!

Here is the office room before. Please note that most of these items are mine -- the room obviously didn't look like this before I hauled in all of my junk. By junk, I mean three lawn and leaf bags full of wardrobe.

And now, it looks like this:

When I finished putting the cloffice together, I realized I didn't have enough light sources for nighttime. Bonus: The Pop Up Lantern is perfect for lighting up the inside of a cheapo paper lantern. EXTRA BONUS: it has a dimmer!

Hello, beautiful.

Brought to you by Energizer®. Click here to learn more about Energizer® Portable Lights with Light Fusion Technology.


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Hey, remember this? It is the master bathroom that we remodeled last year. Here is a photo of the sink area from the original shoot:

My beloved mentor and pal Lori Andrews, whom you may know as The 10 Cent Designer, emailed me shortly after that post went up to remind me that I needed something behind the sink to protect the wallpaper from water damage. She suggested a piece of Plexiglas fastened with an industrial-type screw at each corner.

Who among us would disregard 10 Cent's wishes? Not this girl. I used Lexan instead of Plexiglas since, according to the nice man who cut it for me, it wouldn't crack as easily. And, I mean, it only took me a year to get to it, but it turned out perfectly. See?

I had a piece cut as wide as the sink and six inches high, then had holes drilled an inch inside each corner, and secured the Lexan with hex screws that I sprayed black. The whole thing ended up costing around $20. My construction guru and all-around person Erik helped me with the installation. Some of the paint flaked off of the screws due to the drill, but I kind of like it like that.

Et voila! A quick fix, and protected wallpaper. This would probably also work in a kitchen, or anywhere one needs water resistance. The end.

 

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A few weeks ago we had a series of crazy thunderstorms in Monroe, one of which broke an entire ligustrum (I think? Correct me if I'm wrong) in half. I am currently in the midst of the non-stop spring cleaning/decorating/styling binge that happens to me and my house every year. This venture includes trolling my yard -- in a robe and slip flops, shut up -- for suitable vegetation to bring into the house. I don't really care what it is as long as it is big. So above, you see parts of the destroyed shrub, along with some of my beloved lantana, and the Carolina jessamine that threatens to take over my yard on a yearly basis. I would like, here, to give thanks for the product known as Oasis, for allowing me to basically cut everything up and shove the branches haphazardly into this concrete urn.

It's been long established that Maggie's favorite decorating style is what she describes as celebratory decay. I love the idea of that: something lovely and old, just waiting to be found and reclaimed, its very antiquity informing its beauty. My decorating style, which I'm not sure I've shared before, is what I like to call rich old grandmother: a ridiculous mix of old, new, high, low, modern, antique, masculine, feminine, a little bit Southern, and just the right amount of batty. So this beat-down old bush is giving me some celebratory rich old grandmother decay feelings. 

This week, I'm at the beach on the east coast. I have never been to the beach on the east coast, having been raised visiting the Emerald Coast of Florida, also known as the Redneck Riviera. Anyway, the first night here I came across this enormous horseshoe crab, a creature I'd never seen before. It's basically an old-timey helmet with a tail. It was really dead and smelled like it, so of course I picked it up and took it back to the beach house with me.

Per the instructions I found on the internet, I soaked the crab -- henceforth to be known as Horace H. Horcrab, PhD Horticulture, Horvard University -- in alcohol for 48 hours. Then I cut out Horace's, um, soft parts with kitchen scissors. Please do not tell the owners of this beach house. Horace then took a long soak in a tub full of bleach, and is now resting peacefully in the sun, drying to a golden crisp. Later, I will spray Horace down with a few coats of lacquer and use him as decoration. 

Horace has been my project all week, and is making me happier than an old dead crab should make someone. And that, my friends, is some celebratory decay. BOOM. 

 Horace.

I can't believe I forgot to tell y'all about this. The new issue of UPPERCASE MAGAZINE features the lovely and talented Victoria Smith in her San Francisco home, and I was thrilled to be asked to write the story! So I did: I visited Victoria at home one night, and over a delicious meal and plenty of wine (and Maggie Mason cutting up and distracting us with her antics), I taped a little interview. Anyway, the story is all about Victoria's house and what home means to her, and she has some really smart and insightful opinions on the matter.

Go get you one! You can find UPPERCASE through the store locator on their website, or better yet, order a subscription. Yay!

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I thought it might be fun to go behind the scenes of our bathroom shoot last week, so y'all could see a few things that go into styling a room.

A question I am asked often is, "Does your house look like that all the time?" And the answer is, "No." NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. Now, I admit that I try to keep my house looking like a magazine is coming at all times, but that does not mean I succeed. Everything is usually picked up and clean and magazines are arranged just so and there are plants and flowers and branches everywhere. But I certainly don't show you the times when the magazines have coffee stains from being used as coasters, everything is covered in dust, and all of the branches are dead and the vases make me gag from their rot-water. Seriously: GAG.

Styling a room for a photo shoot is a hundred times worse, because every single detail has to be perfect. To some of you, this might sound like a nightmare, but it's my favorite thing to do. I LOVE IT. I am sure there is a page in the DSM-IV concerning this problem.

So, the bathroom styling preparations: 

All the towels, rugs, and washcloths went into the laundry. And then I ironed the towels and washcloths on my dining room table. In the dark. (We don't get light in our dining room until the afternoon and I refuse to turn on lamps because of stubbornness.) My iron is a Rowenta, and I'm pretty sure we are in love. (CALL ME ROWENTA!)

Freshly washed, ironed, and folded. Well, as much as one can iron a washcloth, which is not very much. The rug will live on the side of the tub until showtime.

After the linens and whatnot were taken care of, I swept the floor and wiped down the walls. I am not sure what I'm doing here, but I'm sure it involves a cleaning supply. Please note three kinds of stripes in this photo: towel, decorator, photographer. We obviously planned that.

Next up, I shopped my own yard for foliage. This poor fern has been through a lot, and Hurricane Isaac helpfully knocked it off its perch and smooshed the entire top half of it. Dumb.

I am not tall, so my usual method for cutting tree branches is: 1) jump, 2) grab lowest branch, 3) hold on like hell, 4) cut.

Testing vases; trimming; arranging.

Time to set everything up. I am 100% sure there is not even water in this vase. And that the reason I'm holding on to that stool for life is because I am balancing my body over the rug so as not to disturb it. Styling! It's weird and complicated, but usually looks really good.

And then I accidentally took a nap in the bathtub.

All photos: Ben Corda

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Here is the part of Bathroom Week where I tell you where everything is from! It's gonna be a long one, so let's get started.

First, the big stuff: the tub is a 66" cast iron double-ended clawfoot tub (with white feet), from vintagetub.com. The sink is the Happy D Pedestal Sink from Duravit. The toilet is the Drake from Toto

I think I didn't tell you about the actual renovation yet, so let me fill you in: we did all of the work ourselves. Here is how scared we were to do all of the work ourselves: our friend Erik, a construction professional, had to come over and swing the first swing of the sledgehammer, so we wouldn't chicken out and abandon the whole thing. Aside from the electric and plumbing work (we're DIY, not DUMB), this bathroom was all us. OK, and Erik. We legally married Erik after this project was over. He is very Norwegian, and we needed a blonde in our crew.

The bathroom walls are now shiplap, same as almost every other wall in the house. I will have you know that I went through tile, then concrete, then expanded metal, then original wallpaper, then sheetrock before I arrived at this magical place of wooden planks. I used a crowbar, brute force, and a case of caulk to finish the project, and now I have good biceps.

As for the picture, well. I took a picture of Madeleine a hundred years ago, when she was not a SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL, and then CanvasPeople made it into a gorgeous canvas (for zero dollars!). Thanks, CanvasPeople! You are awesome.

The curtain rod is from West Elm. The curtains are from a place called Country Curtains, and I'll not hear any kind of scoffing: these babies are 100% hemstitched cotton, great quality, and adorable. Oh, and they are practically FREE.

The towels are from Bath Style.

The mirror is from Pottery Barn.

Many of you have asked where we put our stuff now that there are no more counters. Please see above: Vince and I each have our own baskets inside one of the two original cabinets (both left intact). There's also a basket for miscellaneous items like cotton balls and toothbrush chargers. My hair dryer and curling iron live in a basket behind the tub near where I plug them in. Our towels are on the shelf above the baskets, and cleaning supplies/medications/first aid are on the shelf above that. Beach towels and things we don't use often are in the cabinet above this cabinet. (They go all the way to the ceiling.)

All baskets from Walmart.

 The cute sconces over the sink are from West Elm, and are tres affordable at $49 per. The mirror is borrowed from my friend Nichole. The wallpaper is Nina Campbell "Perroquet," available to the trade.

The floor is center-match heart pine, laid on the diagonal, and stained with a custom combination of Minwax: 1 part Provincial + 2 parts Dark Walnut. Props to Kyle "Baby" Snellenberger for his assistance in this matter.

Shelf info: I found a piece of wood by the railroad tracks near downtown Monroe. Some nice men put it into my car. I cut, stained, and polyurethaned part of it, and Vince Chao floated it on the wall with a lot of dowels and some magic. I recently decided I need some smaller shelves near the sink to hold more things, so that is our next project.

The bath faucet is Cheviot, and for those of you who are worried that there is no shower or shower curtain, I must confess something: Like a lady from the past, I DO NOT TAKE SHOWERS. It's true, AB Chao takes only baths. The faucet does have a hand shower, and our other bathroom has more shower than you could ever want. We also have a pretty awesome outdoor shower, so I'm confident we're covered on the shower front.

The sink faucet is Moen.

The shelf over the bathtub is another piece of found wood that I sanded, stained, polyurethaned, and applied felt strips to the bottom of. (Sorry about that sentence.)

I do not like toilet paper holders. We keep our toilet paper in a giant copper pot, which I accidentally stole from my mother.

A yellow Tolix stool holds a vase with branches and a tray with important jewelry.

I cannot imagine what else you could ask, but if you have a question, put it in the comments!

 

All photos: AB Chao, except second photo (of curtains): Ben Corda

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Remember this? It's the original mockup I made for the bathroom, nearly a year ago. I remember saying that if I splurged on one item, it would be a Niche Modern pendant light. The universe must have heard, because -- incredibly -- the very nice people at Niche Modern decided to donate one to my cause. I KNOW, RIGHT?!

The light I chose is the Solitaire Pendant in "Effervescent." I really thought I was going to go with a color until the very last minute, but I'm so glad I went with this one. I love that it's clear and you can see the Edison bulb so well. I also love the bubbles trapped in the glass globe part of the light, because it reminds me of champagne, and champagne is something I like to drink in the bathtub. The circle of life!

 I clean it every day with a duster made of unicorn lashes.

The light is hung directly over the bathtub so that I can admire its beauty while IN said bathtub, which I am sure is breaking a lot of laws. Please nobody report me to the electricity police. Here's a photo I took of the view from the tub:

And here's how you get that shot:

In closing, I am so happy to have this pendant light, and I think it completes the bathroom (but not in a creepy Jerry Maguire way.) Thank you so much, Niche Modern! I love it.

All photos by Ben Corda except where specified.

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