Oh, Morocco

Today my Moroccan host brother created a Facebook group for the Rabat medina and I started using a fresh bar of olive oil soap. Those two small and rather mundane things = I’ve been thinking about Morocco off and on all day…

(Photos: The Kasbah of Rabat, the tanneries of Fez, Chefchouen, in the old medina of Rabat, goats in an argan tree, and my host mom Amina making mint tea.)

Goodnight Moon’s Interior Design

I just came across this hilarious bit on the interior design of the bedroom in Goodnight Moon by The Ugly Volvo:

“So what color have we decided on for the upstairs child’s bedroom?”

Which child’s bedroom?”

“The enormous one.  The one with the expansive tomato-colored floor.”

“I was thinking for that room maybe a dark green?”

“Really?  Dark green?  You don’t think maybe dark green walls with a tomato-colored floor is a bit much?”

No, it’ll look amazing.  We can break up the monotony of the color with some dark green and yellow striped curtains.”

“That’s an amazing idea.  On non-matching red and yellow spearhead curtain rods?  Do you think a tiger skin rug would be overkill?”

For a young child’s room?  No.  Not at all.  ”  

“So what color do you think for the child’s bed?”

I was thinking like a tomato-ish red color?”

“You remember the floor’s a tomato-ish red color.”


“You don’t think that’s a lot of red for a child’s bedroom?  We don’t want it to look like the Amityville Horror kill room or anything.”

You don’t trust me?  I’ve been decorating children’s bedrooms for almost twenty years.”

“No, I trust you, I trust you.  So you want to do all the furniture in red?”

Are you out of your f**king mind?  Of course not.  For the rest of the furniture I was thinking something sophisticated, like a mustard yellow.”

“For everything??  All the furniture?”

All the furniture.”

“Even the little toy house?”

Are you seriously asking me this?  No.  Of course not.  The little toy house should be red.”

That just CRACKED ME UP.  Especially because I know that when Steven is illustrating his kids books he’s NOT thinking like that. He’s all, “And I’ll make the sky yellow because my mountains are blue and who gives an eff if that’s not realistic.”

You can check out the whole thing here.

I Love Lamp: Guest Room Upgrade

Can’t stop won’t stop with the painting over here! This week: the guest room.

We’ve had to do some odd things to that room, like add a chimney for our wood stove downstairs and shorten a window so that one day we could replace the old fashioned porch that was once on the front of the house. So we’ve been living with some rather unsightly spackling and such for a bit:

And while these photos don’t really display it, the grey was showing some pretty serious wear and tear, as happens with paint over time.

I took everything but the bed out of the room and removed the doors, which turned the hallway into a bit of a nightmare.

(It’s felt like a weird game of musical chairs over here– just constantly moving the chaos from room to room as I redo each one.)

Then I got to work painting the trim a glossy white and the ceilings and walls flat white. The process was in all honestly pretty boring, but what can ya do?

Once that was done, I was faced with dragging those ancient white bookshelves back into this pristine new room and that just didn’t seem right. But where would the books go?

“On barn shelves of course!” was basically Steven’s answer. But instead of using the barn wood planks (of which we don’t have too many left), we decided to simply rip out the actual shelves in the barn we’d been using for tools since our longterm plan for that space is demo the heck out of the interior anyway.

(That’s them in the upper left corner, shot during the summer obviously. Oh, summer.)

We opted for four and went bottom to top, lining up the bottom shelf with the height of the bed and the bathroom door. Waldo, as usual, was incredibly helpful hung around the entire time trying to eat sandpaper and whatnot.

And ta-da!

Next up for this room is getting a door, but for now I like that you can see the encyclopedia wallpaper from the bed. Not mention, any guest who comes over and needs privacy is staying in the inn anyway, haha!

As usual, let’s conclude with a little side by side Before and After because they’re so satisfying! Like the static version of a montage. Facing north:

And facing south:

Also, because I might be certifiably insane, I decided to repaint Steven’s studio shelves right after this which I’d given a first attempt back in September. And I mean right after– like the paint brush did not even have time to dry.

I have yet to take some good After shots, but here’s a During for your enjoyment:

Steven posted this midway through to Instagram and the audience was divided as to whether or not to continue…

I’ll save the After for next time…!

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)


DIY Hallway Trim and Encyclopedia “Wallpaper”

Guys, we have been some busy DIY country mice out here!

Right after updating our bedroom, we decided it was time to tackle the upstairs hallway. We’d been putting it off because we were a little stumped about how exactly to proceed. As you can see, when we bought the place, that hallway was in a transitional state– partially wallpapered, partially trimmed:

Back in October I painted the linen closet and did a paint test on the hallway walls juuuust in case a coat or three of white could do the trick, but with all the strange layers and textures going on it looked like crap, so there went that idea:

After a few months of thinking while working on other things, we decided the most sensible, inexpensive, and we-can-do-it solution was to:

1. Mimic the existing trim with some new lumber to complete the doorways lacking it.

2. Paint all the trim a uniform, glossy white.

2. Use the pages from an old encyclopedia as “wallpaper”.

Trim went up first. Steven turned his studio back into a wood shop and cut down the trim pieces we’d ordered from the local lumber spot to size.

Then nailed them in place with finishing nails:

Hammered the nails in in deeper with a nail set:

Then filled the holes with puddy:

The top part of the trim around our house has a small shim detail that we included to match. Not particularly difficult to do but looks all that much nicer:

The trickiest doorway was the one at the end of the hallway where there were some gaping holes and crazy warped walls. After measuring at key points up the frame, Steven just went for it and hand milled the trim to best match the wobble with a circular saw.


When we put ‘em up we saw there were a few dark spots created by the shadows of the teeny gaps so we nailed some scrap wood in behind the trim to best cover it and I gave it all a quick coat of white paint.

Meanwhile, I was having a go at the 1947 Encyclopedia Britannica that I’d ordered from eBay for eleven bucks. With an exacto knife, I carefully cut out all 700 plus pages (which yes, were so thin I could do many at a time).

Vase to Zygote contains lots of crazy and fun sounding terms and places and what not. It also contains several topics I didn’t want to plaster on my walls and walk by everyday. From all of World War I and II to these:

Still, even though that eliminated a fair chunk of the book from use, I figured I’d have plenty to work with. I mean, it’s a goddamn encyclopedia.

As Steven put the baseboard trim up, I taped up some of the pages that didn’t make the cut to see if I wanted to paste them in an orderly grid or layer them.

Because I kind of value my sanity, I opted for the more organic look if you will: the layers. But before I could go about pasting those up with wallpaper glue, I had to prime and paint all the new trim Steven had just finished, as well as prime over the inconsistent coloring of the walls. And oh yes, I’d have to paint the ceiling too because we wouldn’t want to have to do that later and drip all over the new wallpaper.

Just a few things.

At least I love the process of white paint going up. It feels so CLEAN (even if you’re just glopping over spider webs).

Somewhere in the middle of all this Steven went out of town to visit his college buddies for a night, I listened to “Shake It Off” approximately 9,000 times, and in the middle of scolding a barking a dog I stepped off my chair DIRECTLY INTO a bucket of paint.

Oh my god, it was like a bad cartoon– the barking, and the paint splattering everywhere, all while I hysterically laughed at myself. Here’s the calm right after the storm:

Still having fun though:

Next up was a wallpaper test patch to see if I needed to be careful about keeping the glue off the front of the pages, and to see if when I layered them you could see through them in an unpleasing matter etc.

In the end it was clear I could go pretty nuts with the glue brush which was great because while the hallway doesn’t seem that big, this was clearly gonna take a fair deal of time. Which by the way is something you NEVER calculate accurately when entering a DIY project. Because otherwise you’d never do it.

Up went the pages, day after day, with breaks in between naturally. I do have an inn to run after all! And finally, FINALLY, I finished last night.

Well, “finished” meaning I ran out of encyclopedia pages about 3/4s of the way. But I chose a purposeful ending point so as I wait for my next encyclopedia to be delivered I won’t feel like I’m walking through a construction zone. BUT LOOK!

Sorry for the strange lighting– this hallway is surprisingly hard to photograph. But you get the idea. Pages upon pages of weird information carefully layered as wallpaper, successfully covering the odd textures and colors of the wall underneath. Tada!

I went the extra mile and used a paper cutter to cut the pages that touch the ceiling and trim so that the random stacking would exist all the way up and down the wall. It’s as if the pages are emerging from the ceiling and baseboards and that the doors were cut out after the fact. Time consuming but worth it.

In the process I learned quite a bit about Welsh Literature, X-Ray Crystals, and Zoology. And I plan to learn much more, each time I pass through the hallway!

I realize that until we redo the bathroom downstairs, everyone who comes over and needs to use the restroom will take awkwardly long and return full of facts about Western Australia and George Washington. But I’m totally cool with that.

So while I still have a bit more to do I can see the light at the end of that particular tunnel. And in the mean time I’m having fun sprucing up other details in the house. Like this birch stairwell handrail we installed:

Just a fallen birch snag from around here and basic stainless steel handrail hardware.

And this built-in nook in our living room I decided to paint the night before we left for a quick trip to Montreal with our buddies who run Brushland Eating House.

Again, like the hallway, kind of hard to photograph but trust me, it feels luxurious.

We were totally inspired to do that by those same friends, Sarah and Soheil, who run a delicious and beautiful spot wonderfully slathered in good glossy black paint.

(This photo by Escape Brooklyn.)

So yeah. We’re still going strong over here on the home renovation front!

To wrap it up, here’s a few side by side Before/After shots because those are always oh so satisfying!

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)


Iceland. Let’s go, ok? I mean, I know it’s reached quite literally -20 degrees here recently, but all the more reason to go somewhere with steamy lagoons, am I right??

(Photo via here, thanks to Honestly WTF).

NYE Letter To Yourself

You know how every NYE I write a letter to myself that I open the next NYE? Well I forced it on all my guests this year, mwahahahaha!

Ok, maybe not quite forced it. More like, put some paper and envelopes and such in all of the rooms with a little explanation of the tradition and said that if folks wanted to write themselves one, I’d happily mail it to them next year.

I was super touch by how many people took me up on it!

Happy New Year to all of you out there!

Barn Wood Bar Booth

I love, love, LOVE the barn wood bar that Steven built for the Inn. It’s handsome and sturdy and very much suits the surroundings.

I’m just realizing that I never actually made a post on how he built it. Hmm…. Here’s the quick photo montage:

And DONE! Haha! Well actually it nearly happened that fast. Design*Sponge confirmed that they were gonna come up and do a feature and we were like, “Cool, there’s literally nothing in the rooms right now but that’s fine. We’ll TOTALLY be able to stage two room types and build a bar in three days”.

And while it was kind of insane, we did it.

We kept a lot of the bar the same for the first few months, moving and/or adding things here or there depending on how we’d seen guests use the space.

But as time has gone on, I’ve found myself feeling not entirely in love with this corner:

The orange chairs and low white stools are in the rooms and I love them there–

But for whatever reason they just weren’t doing it for me in the bar. They somehow felt a little… dainty all together.

So one afternoon sitting behind the bar I asked myself, “If you could have anything there, what would it be?” and immediately I was like, “Duh, a big barn wood booth.”

So I asked my carpenter-man and he said, “No problem” and spent the next few weeks thinking and planning, solving questions of weight and support and how to do this with as little lumber as possible. I’d wake up to the alarm ringing and roll over to find him open eyed, already talking. “I think I figured out a way we can get the kick space to yada yada carpenter talk early in the morning…”

We’ve been on a crazy project binge recently, finishing the wood trim in the hallway and “wallpapering” it with old encyclopedia pages and–

I’ll do another post on that once it’s finished up, but there’s a sneak peek for ya.

So basically we’ve be on such a roll that we figured fuck it, let’s keep going! Yesterday (yes, on Christmas Day, after opening presents), Steven turned his studio into a woodshop and built the booth’s skeleton out of new lumber:

And luckily today it was sunny for the first time in weeks and all the snow had melted and our guests weren’t arriving til the late afternoon so…

We dragged the interior frames into the bar and set up camp in there. And by “we” I mean “he”. I mostly ran around with the dog, did some springtime-esque yard work, and wheelbarrowed over lots of wood for our bar’s fire pit.

I occasionally bopped in to hold pieces in place, press here, pass me that etc. And to take pictures of course! Of Steven drilling from the underside so you won’t be able to see screw heads on the bench seat:

Of the fronts with kick-spaces going on:

Of myself at the bar:

Of Steven head butting his shadow’s butt back supports going up:

Of two stacks of planks for the backs of the booth:

And of the finished product!

If the carpenter looks a little more dazed than pleased as hell with his work, that’s because he’s consumed only half a Cliff bar and a Coke all day. And it’s 4:15pm. And he just dragged that stump in to be a temporary table.

But YAY! Isn’t he good?! Doesn’t it suit the bar so well?!

Here’s Before and After right next to each other:

Next up making a low table to set drinks on. And re-hanging the art and maps so they suit the new set up. And finding a new place for the toaster oven in the mornings. And making a pillow or five so guests can get cozy with their Nordic glögg and boyfriend and whatnot.

Woohoo! Thank you Steven! I love it. I love, love, LOVE it.

UPDATE 12/28:

He used the bases of those Ikea stools and made custom wood tops. BAM!

And I moved some pillows and dried wildflowers in here to soften it up. Ba-BAM!

But I didn’t use a real camera to photograph it. BAM! I mean, sorry.

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

Judge That Book By Its Cover

Yes, I know, EVERYONE makes that title joke. But aaaaanyway– there’s lots of round-ups of the best book design going around right now. ‘Tis the season of lists. I couldn’t resist, here’s a few of my faves:

So far I’ve only read The Bees (which was totally bizarre and enjoyable). Next I REALLY want to dig into Here by Richard McGuire. It’s a graphic novel that takes place at a single location over vastly different points in time– the 1980s, the mid 1600s, even B.C. something or other! And Steven went nuts for The Martian. I’m not that biggest outer space gal, but I’m thinking I might have to give a try.

Wishing you a book-filled holiday season!