Living With Authenticity.

Living with authenticity is living in a home which reflects and accepts your true life. Similar to the joy you experience when you are your true self; a home that caters to your life can bring you peace and joy.

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The living room is our movie room, play room, reading room, hang-out room, music room, and dance room.

I often have people (mostly my friends or neighbors) ask me to help them with their homes.  Most of the time, as they hopelessly wrangle their hands in despair at the state of their home, I realize that they are trying to live up to certain ideals of what they think a home should be.  Often when someone tells me that they need to move (often to the suburbs); or they want more space; or they need a bigger yard; or they need a bigger kitchen;  I realize their discontent stems from them living in a way that doesn’t embrace their authentic life.

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Jai’s room is our play room, hang out spot, music room and art room.

Living in an inauthentic home is similar to being around an inauthentic person.  They both make your uncomfortable.  Countless times I’ve had people say they dislike coming home or they feel restless at home. The solution to living in an authentic home is not simple because you have to be introspective .  Most people shy away from this.  With our constant distractions by our phones, computer, TV etc. we seek to escape the present instead of revelling in it.  However, if we can honestly evaluate our homes (and our lives because one does lead to the other) and make our homes work for us the transformation is quite magical.  Most importantly this isn’t expensive and doesn’t require moving, expanding or spending a lot of money.  A minimal budget is often sufficient.

The most common issue I’ve realized is uncomfortable furniture.  Please throw out those overly stuffed sofas, or the too modern sofa with very little space to sit on.  Buy a comfortable, slender couch.  There are so many options!

Living in row homes in Philly there is generally no space for a “play room”.  I hear people with children incessantly lamenting the lack of space for a play room.  I say if you simply can’t designate a room as a “play room” accept it and move on.  We don’t have a designated room as a play room and I really don’t understand the need for a play room.  Children should be welcome into all the rooms in our homes. I think it is a common misperception of parents that children need toys to play.  Children can help cook dinner and play in the kitchen with water, bowls and spoons.  They can draw and paint in the dining room.  They can read in the living the room…the list is endless.  What we need to do is provide them with a home that they can enjoy.  I suggest dining tables that can be wiped down, floors like wood or tile that can be easily cleaned and furniture that isn’t too precious .  I am not suggesting clearing away all beautiful objects or breakable objects.  Children appreciate beauty just as much and most times more than adults. Whenever I buy fresh flowers Kiran and Jai always make a small flower arrangement for their rooms.  They haven’t dropped or broken any of their vases.

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Fresh flowers, plants, and foliage bring nature into our house.

Another common issue I see is unused space.  People often have a guest room that lays empty unless they have guests visiting or formal living rooms they never use.   Meanwhile more and more people seem to be finishing their basements and living entirely in their basements! Basements have become living rooms, play rooms, office rooms, and TV rooms.  Meanwhile the living room or guest room above ground, often filled with great light and beautiful proportions remains under utilized.  I’m biased towards basements:  I don’t like to live in them. They are musty and damp and there is nothing that can be done about it.  Whether they are new construction homes, or updated basements in old row homes you just can’t get around the fact that they are below grade and have very little light.  We can use our guest rooms as office rooms, and living rooms can also be TV rooms  or office rooms.  I like the small separate rooms in row houses because they are cozy and offer privacy.  By keeping the separate rooms we can use each room for various things.

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The bathroom is the kids play-in-the-tub-forever room, spa room and dressing room

Your home, whether it is grand or small, whether you rent or own, is where you spend your private time.  It should envelope you with comfort and joy.  Take the time to assess your home and then start your path to living in your authentic home.  Dispel any rules that are floating around in your head telling you how you should live.  Instead take the time to see and understand what you really need.

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Simplicity.

I love how the word simplicity rolls off the tongue.  It is such an  unassuming word with such a depth of significance.  I’ve found myself moving towards simplicity in decorating and other aspects of my life. Decorating with simplicity doesn’t mean living a spartan life. Simplicity to me means living with what you love.  Creating beauty at home is the ultimate luxury.  Simple cut flowers from our tiny garden, a lit candle, a favorite record playing…these are the things that make me happy.

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Kiran cut and arranged these flowers

I’ve been a collector of stuff for a long time.  I collected photographs, notes, books, furniture and almost anything else that I found sentimental or beautiful.  In the last few years I felt a tug to let go.   I have emptied drawers, closets (we don’t have a lot of closets) and the basement.  I mercilessly threw out or donated anything that I didn’t use, wouldn’t use or wasn’t beautiful.

Everything now has a place.  Our drawers are generally half filled.  Jai + Kiran get Ikea boxes in which to store their paintings/drawings and notes and we label them with a date range.  Really nice art gets framed and goes up on the wall. Similarly, I enlarge photographs that we like, frame them and add them to the wall. I display the photographs and art work in ad hoc arrangements. I especially like hanging things low to the ground so that Kiran+ Jai can enjoy them.

This is a photograph of Jai’s room.  He picked which pictures we hung over his bed.

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Jai’s Room

This is our living room wall.  One day I would like to buy a white wall hung T.V.  For now I try to hide the T.V. in the surrounding pictures.

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Living Room: photographs and paintings

On a recent trip to Greece Kiran + Jai collected  rocks, pebbles and large pieces of bark from olive trees.  Instead of just storing these I made  rock mobiles and hung them around the house.  Displaying treasures allows us to appreciate them everyday.

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making a rock mobile with jute thread

A clutter free home allows us to enjoy our time at home. Before we head out in the morning, however constrained we are for time, I tidy up the living room and dining room.  I fluff the pillows, put stray objects away and clear the dining room of breakfast dishes. This ensures that when I walk in from work I can relax and enjoy my time with kids.  When I put my key in the door I am always filled with joy and anticipation to be home.

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Living Room on a dark rainy day

 

My Obsession: Kilim Rugs

My obsession with kilim rugs began along time ago.  Scott and I were browsing through an outdoor flea market in Monostoraki , in Athens, Greece.  I spotted a bright green hand woven rug with geometric shapes and fell in love.  The seller informed me that it was a kilim rug.  I wanted to fold this beautiful rug into my suitcase and bring it back to Philly.  Unfortunately the rug was too large (and heavy) and needed a good cleaning.  Since we were planning on traveling to Paros the next day and we were travelling light I left this thing of beauty behind.

After this first encounter I would search through many rug stores, flea markets and online sources for something similar but I could never find anything as beautiful or as affordable.  Then one day while I was scouring through vintage rugs on eBay I found a seller in Turkey selling the most beautiful and affordable new and vintage Anatolian kilims.  In my excitement I bought several rugs as they were inexpensive and I could combine the cost of shipping.  I am not generally an impulsive shopper.  I painstakingly measure, re-measure and mull over future purchases before committing.  This time was the exception. Without any forethought I  purchased the rugs.  I patiently waited several weeks for my heavy parcel of rugs to arrive.  The day they arrived the mail person had to carry the parcel into the house because it was that heavy.  Kiran and I madly ripped open the package.  Under the plastic and brown paper wrapping there were four stunningly beautiful kilims perfectly folded.  The colors were breathtaking and  the designs magnificent.  Over the next few years I moved the rugs around the house unsure of where they should go.  Eventually the vintage faded kilim in muted colors went into the back room.

This beauty was an odd shape.  At roughly 4×4 feet I couldn’t find a place for it.  Then one day I decided to try it under our new coffee table in the living room and it looked perfect! If you are into rules then the general rule of  rug placement is that the area rug should fit under all your furniture. However, like most rules regarding decoration this rule can be ignored.  Here this smaller rug works because it adds pops of color and pattern without overwhelming the space.

Here’s a close up of the rug.

Unlike Persian rugs kilims was generally disfavored as an inferior rug. Thankfully because of the little attention these rugs garnered from the rest of the world the kilim weavers maintained their traditional colors, designs and weaving techniques.  The designs mean different things and each region has its own style of weaving.  My most favorite kilims are the Anatolian kilims from Turkey.

In the last few years kilim have gained in popularity and there are numerous sellers on eBay selling these rugs from Turkey and other parts of the world.  However, with popularity comes an increase in price.  These rugs are now entirely out of my price range.  Part of me wants to just fold them up and look at them from afar.  However, what is the point of beautiful things unless you are going to use them and enjoy them every day? Every morning when I come downstairs I am stilled stunned by this beauty and I feel so lucky have this little kilim in my house.

The Bookshelf in the Living Room.

We finally have a bookshelf in the living room!

I have been planning this bookshelf for years. Click here to see pictures of this wall without the bookshelf.   Initially we were planning on building bookshelves on either side of our mantel.  We decided against this mainly because this wall runs at an angle (our house is trapezoid in shape).   After we decided where we wanted the bookshelf I dedicated my time to designing the bookshelf.  I wanted something off the floor, white and mounted to the wall which seemed simple enough.  We had many carpenters come by and give us estimates and a lot of unsolicited advice.  Most of the carpenters had very strong feelings about my plan to paint the wood white.   I had no idea that painting wood could elicit such a strong negative response!  We finally decided to go with the Elfa shelves from the Container Store mainly because they could be wall mounted.  The fact that they were very affordable and came in white was an added bonus.

The shelves are super sturdy and blend into the wall which is exactly what I was looking for.  The entire shelving system is held together by one horizontal strip of mental attached to the wall.  I was afraid that the weight of the books would pull the shelves off the wall.  Scott installed the shelves and assures me that the shelves are anchored properly.  It took us several hours to get the shelves up mainly because I couldn’t decide if I wanted the shelves to cover the outlet.  We finally decided to install the shelving over the outlets so that we could have easy access to the outlets and to avoid any fire hazards.  We had the vertical strips specifically cut to our measurements.

I could go on and on abut how much I love these shelves.  They are perfect for the space and are exactly what I wanted.  I have always admired the String shelving systems and the Dieter Rams Vitsoe shelving.  These Elfa shelves however cost considerably less and are equally appealing.

All our books fit on the shelf. The top shelves contain our Science books, Scott’s Math books, Legal books, some Psychology books and Social Sciences books that we couldn’t get rid of.  The rest of the books are our collection of novels, organized alphabetically by author (which took a really long time to do and Kiran was a huge help in getting this done).  The last two shelves contain my interior decoration collection of magazines (Living etc, Elle Decoration (UK), and Dwell) and books.

The photos are a bit grainy since I have a really hard time taking decent pictures with the light coming in from the windows.  I am so glad that our books are finally off the floor and organized.

Less is Better…sometimes.

I have been clearing out drawers, closets, toy bins and almost any other place where things seem to collect. A few months ago Scott and I cleared out the basement of old furniture we weren’t really sure why we were holding on to. All this editing has turned out to be quite fun. Recently I removed the living room rug. I had forgotten how beautiful the oak parquet looked without a rug!

Soon I will dismantle this gallery wall to make room for a floor to ceiling bookshelf:

We haven’t decided whether we will build a wooden bookshelf onto the wall which will start about a foot off the floor (so that it doesn’t hide the decorative oak inlay on the floor) or if we will install elfa shelves from the Container Store.   I will keep you posted.

The Living Room is White!

When we first renovated our house I decided to paint the living room a pale yellow.  I loved it in the beginning but I ended up not liking yellow.  I decided I wanted to re-paint the whole house in white.  Scott and I finally painted the living room and dining room white.  Since we were painting over yellow in the living room and pale blue in the dining room we primed all the walls first.  It took us a whole week to prime all the walls and then we painted all the walls and ceiling in Benjamin Moore Aura paint in Moonlight White.  I absolutely LOVE the white walls! It is a great backdrop for all the paintings and furniture.   Here’s a corner of the living room:

These pictures aren’t very good.  It was a rainy cloudy day and the light wasn’t very good.  Hopefully I’ll get around to posting more pictures of the living room and dining room soon.  With two kids are house seems to have tons of stuff strewn around.  While Scott and I both clean often we also believe in letting the kids have full reign of the house.  We don’t have a designated “play area” and Kiran and Jai generally like to spread out in the living room, dining room, kitchen, their room, the guestroom, our bedroom and the backroom to play.  Every evening Scott and I put away all the toys, costumes and cardboard houses and every morning and every evening the kids stuff seems take over the house again.

 Here are some close up pictures of our amazing new lamp:

The lamp is called the Otis and it is designed by Logan at OneFortyThree.  It has a 180 degree swivel and it is the perfect reading lamp for the couch.  All Logan’s lamps are fabulous.  I am planning on getting another one for the living room and possibly a few more when we get around to renovating the kitchen. 


Tiles in the Fireplace.

I finally got around to buying tiles and getting them installed in the fireplace.  I LOVE the way this looks. 

//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.jsWhen we first purchased the house there was a giant faux brick mantle with an even more giant mirror glued to the wall over the mantle.  There had clearly been a fireplace here but somewhere down the line it had been removed and used as a vent for the hot water heater pipes.  Since our house is trapezoid in shape this large space looked very awkward.  We decided to embrace and highlight the awkwardness of the angle by installing an old mantle.  We meticulously measured the space and carried around the measurements everywhere we went.  One day we stumbled upon a large mahogany mantle at a thrift store in Philly.  We immediately bought it!

Since Scott installed it something didn’t seem right about it.  It just seemed really big and the space inside (which would have consisted of the fireplace) just seemed bare.  As a temporary fix I filled it up with books  which looked great.  However, piling the books on top of each other was damaging the books and it was a huge magnet for dust.  Finally, we got around to buying some Moroccan cement tiles and getting them installed.  I couldn’t be happier at how the mantle turned out.  

Side Note: The drawing in front of the mantle is by Kiran and me and it is waiting to be hung in the dining room.  Since most of our walls are plaster I can’t just hammer in a nail.  I have to instead beg and plead with Scott to drill another hole for me in one of the plaster walls that he laboriously repaired.