Monthly Archives: April 2012

Notes On Making A House A Home

nubby twiglet making a house a home

When my brother and I moved into our house a few years back, everything happened fast — we had zero time to plan how we wanted our surroundings to look and to complicate matters more, our decorating budget was also close to zero. Most of our furniture was hand-me-downs, thrift-store finds or purchased from the newly-opened IKEA. At that time, I was 27 and he was 25 and we were just happy to have a place of our own. And, IKEA really is awesome.

nubby twiglet making a house a home

Visiting Schoolhouse last weekend to pick up my City Chandelier. Anna Mara Floral Design (inside) has the same light.

Our house was previously owned by a much older couple who thought high-gloss beige walls and off-white berber carpet were just fine. Our first impulse was to paint out as many rooms white as quickly possible and to rip out the filthy carpet. To keep things easy, we kept the scheme throughout the house white and black. We really just wanted a blank canvas to build off of.

nubby twiglet making a house a home

Dining room details

Over time though, I felt like our place was missing two things: color and those special pieces that make a house feel like a home. Last week, I picked up a custom order from Schoolhouse here in Portland: the City Chandelier. The yellow base and oversized bulbs felt unique and fun and replaced a standard white IKEA fixture we’d had in our dining room. Sometimes, all a room needs is one simple change. In our case, the dining room just needed a splash of color to bring it to life.

nubby twiglet making a house a home

Our living room

Our living room is still a work in progress but a lot of the things we need to change are going to take some serious time and effort. So for now, I’m focusing on what I can change. Our all black couch in the middle of our all white living room has never felt very inviting.

I knew I wanted a blanket to throw over the back to add to the coziness factor but my heart was set on the Crux Blanket by Pia Wallen. I’d been obsessed with this blanket for years but it was totally out of reach until a cotton version, the Cross Blanket was finally released last year. It was still expensive but I knew that if I settled for any other blanket, I just wouldn’t be happy. Sometimes it’s just better to wait it out and to save for what you really want. (Yes, that’s an 8 ft. tall black bear in the corner of our living room. Inviting, huh?)

nubby twiglet making a house a home

• Don’t settle for what you don’t want. In our case, we spent the bare minimum on IKEA basics until we could save towards the particular items we loved. It took a few years but we didn’t make any big impulse purchases. If you buy a substitute for the real thing you’ve always wanted, you probably won’t be satisfied and will just keep obsessing over the object du jour you still don’t have. I saw plenty of other blankets that were great…but they weren’t THE Cross blanket. I knew it was better to wait it out for the blanket of my dreams (yes, that sounds crazy. Thankfully, I’m not alone).

• When you move into a new place and nothing feels right, start by painting the walls a neutral color. For us, there were so many details about our house that felt off that it was beyond overwhelming. Starting with white walls gave us a blank canvas to begin with and allowed us to build our own vision.

• Sometimes, all a room needs is a few small changes to come to life. We tried our dining room in a number of configurations early on but it all felt off until my brother found an old workbench for a table that grounded the room. At first, I didn’t like it but what I later realized is that it added some much needed personality.

• If something doesn’t feel right, don’t settle. When we first moved in, we thought it would be funny to have a black living room (haha?) We spent a few days painting it and…it looked horrible. We kept trying to make it work but walking into a cave every day just felt weird. We finally agreed that it had been a huge mistake and repainted the black walls white. What a pain! But immediately, everything felt better. Go with your gut and suck up those mistakes!

• Don’t get too caught up on Pinterest and inspiration sites. If you see something you like, it doesn’t matter if it’s popular. If you love it, you’ll usually find a way to make it work. Our house is filled with ‘oddities’ but it works for us.

nubby twiglet making a house a home

We still have a million changes to make to our place but these two recent additions have started to make our house feel more like a home. It’s those special touches that bring your surroundings to life.

Readers: What are your suggestions for making a house a home and is there anything on your must-have list you’d like to share?

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The Week In Pictures: 4.20.12

week in pictures

week in pictures

week in pictures

I’m not much of a car buff but am totally enamored with this pristine Nash that I’ve been spotting around Portland lately. It’s impossible to ignore; just look at those curves!

week in pictures

I snapped this on the way home from shooting these photos. I was wearing Wolford Crazy Maze tights.

week in pictures

My sweet sweet Rocky hiding out in bed…I love him so much.

week in pictures

My current desktop is a shot from the new Beyoncé site which sounds a bit random but the type throughout has really been inspiring me.

week in pictures

I stopped by Schoolhouse over the weekend with my dad to pick up a custom order (which I’m super excited to share here next week). Loving these pillows by Egg Press as well.

week in pictures

This shot didn’t make it into my Typofiles post this week but I still really loved this collection of vintage Urban Outfitters catalogs.

week in pictures

On Saturday, my dad took me out to lunch at my favorite German restaurant, Gustav’s for fondue. I’m incredibly lucky to have great parents that are both young at heart. Speaking of parents, my mom is flying in from Phoenix for a visit tomorrow and I can’t wait to see her…I hope you have a great weekend ahead of you as well!

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Link Love: 4.19.12

link love

link love

Natasha Poly by Mario Sorrenti

• The curse of the freelancer is a great reality check.

• Brent Schlender interviewed Steve Jobs multiple times over a 25 year stretch and recently rediscovered the audio tapes. Here’s what he had to say.

• I’ve been more inspired to make mood boards for design projects lately. If you’re considering doing the same, this series has some great inspiration!

• Have you ever wondered what a night club looks like after everyone’s left?

• What do you do if a client suggests a direction that’s not so great?

• Learn how to make a DIY terrarium!

The Pebble smartwatch just crushed all previous Kickstarter records, raising $3.7 million in less than a week!

• What’s the point of dying with a bank account overflowing with money? Live life to the fullest and take some chances.

• If you need to pick out a light for your living space, this is your guide.

• I love the striped walls in Promise Tangeman’s house!

• 4 ways to create brand content that people actually care about.

Advice #45: Should I Use My Degree or Follow My Passion?

ask nubby advice

I am an architecture student finishing my fourth year of school this June but now I’m not sure if I will continue to pursue this path. I want to study fine art but I am scared that I’m not good enough and it costs a lot more. I chose to study architecture because I thought it was more practical to design houses than to paint pictures. Now I’m wondering if I made the right decision. I don’t want to end up doing a job that I don’t find fun!

ask nubby advice


First of all, take a deep breath and realize how close you are to reaching a goal that you began four years ago. Some people may disagree with me but I’m a firm believer in completing what you’ve started when you’re that close (and have invested a good chunk of time and money). If you were only a year or two into your studies, it might make sense to pull out but you’re almost there!

Maybe I’m a bit more traditional in my career views but here’s what I think: For now, being an architect will allow you the opportunity to earn a great living until you figure out your next move. If your goal is to be a fine artist, you don’t have to jump in with both feet first (remember, many artists aren’t solely artists for a living). Perhaps it makes sense to work full-time out of school and see if you even like architecture (who knows, you might fall in love with it once you’re doing it professionally!) And then, maybe you can set a goal of cutting back your hours to part-time within a specific time frame so that you have more time to dedicate to your art. Your decision doesn’t have to be all or nothing right away unless you’re fully comfortable with that prospect.

Your passion does not have to be the same as your career.

Consider this: Your passion or hobby doesn’t have to be the same as your job. Fine art is something many of us do as a creative outlet but it can take awhile to establish yourself and earn a great living as a fine artist. Tangling your passion with your profession can also be tricky. Once you’re creating art to make a living, the focus of your work may also start to shift. What happens if you have bills to pay and a commission comes along that you’re just not comfortable with? Do you take it or leave it? In that position, would you wish that you’d stuck it out with a steady paycheck a bit longer so that you could turn down certain opportunities that didn’t fit within your artistic vision or goals?

Do both.

Have you considered doing both architecture and fine art? Here’s the thing: It’s hard to make a great living right out of school as a fine artist. Yes, it’s possible! Yes, some people have all the charm and talent and make it look easy! But often, unless you’re an illustrator that’s willing to do commercial work or perhaps a painter that does commissions and murals, it can take some serious time and commitment to gain momentum (i.e. a distinct style, solo shows, steady clients and representation). Do you have a plan in place to support yourself in the meantime?

I, too, wanted to be a fine artist. I ended up going to school for design because like you, I felt it was more practical than art. Art was a huge passion of mine but I found a happy medium by becoming a designer which provided a much steadier income and then came home from work and set aside a few hours each night to work on my series. I had a solo show at the first agency I worked at and later, my collages were used on a line of snowboard goggles and helmets! Working as a designer actually helped me open up more doors for creating fine art. Architecture may do the same for you in very unexpected ways.

If fine art is for you, make a plan.

Be smart about your decision. Do you even need another degree to be an artist? Do you have a specific style and medium established? Is your work only accessible through a gallery or do you offer a format and style that would do well on a site like Etsy? Do you have social media set up to promote your artwork? Making a clear plan of what you hope to accomplish will make the transition into fine art as a career a lot less stressful. If you’re looking for more advice about a fine art career, I highly recommend reading Taking the Leap by Cay Lang. This book was recommended to me by another artist years ago and is full of practical advice on how to build a successful career, promote your work and put together contracts.

In Closing.

Remember, life doesn’t have to be about either / or. Fine art vs. architecture doesn’t have to be a black and white decision. If you do decide to use your degree to earn a living, you don’t have to continue down that path forever. How will you know if architecture isn’t right for you if you don’t try? You can always change your mind. Follow your gut. It’s always okay to make a change when something in our lives just doesn’t feel right.

Readers: What do you think? Have you been at this crossroads with your career before? How did you decide what to do next?

The Typofiles #100: My Favorite Catalogs!

I’m a self-confessed magazine junkie but it doesn’t end there; I collect catalogs as well. Not just any old catalogs, though. There’s a handful of titles that I’ve collected for years and with good reason. My passion is editorial design and while there’s a lot of inspiration in this area online, the magazines and catalogs they come from are often truncated to only include the ‘best of the best.’ The experience of flipping through a printed piece, page by page, in its entirety tells a story with a beginning, middle and end that can never quite be replicated online.

Today I’d like to share some of my favorite catalog titles and best of all, they’re all free (see links below). These catalogs can really come in handy for designers. Three years ago, I was hired to design a fashion lookbook for a Fortune 100 company. When I was briefed on on the job, a lightbulb went off. I’d collected dozens of catalogs that were very much in line with the demographic this company was trying to reach so I hauled in my collection the next day and my art director and I got busy flipping through various issues, gathering visual cues and layout inspiration during our early explorations. Having complete catalogs at my fingertips to bookmark and sort through versus screen shots of bits and pieces of online inspiration was immensely helpful.

Books can be expensive and not every designer has the means to build their own personal library right away (I am only now amassing a decent one). But one thing you can do, no budget necessary, is to collect catalogs. They often change their theme and layouts on a monthly basis and can provide a quick dose of inspiration wrapped up in a short retail story.

I love the colored spines on these Anthropologie catalogs. And, I think I recognize that truck!!!!

As a designer, it’s good to be aware of trends and movements around you, not just online but also in print. The goal is to not lift everything you see but to rather ignite the sparks of creation. Colors, type choices, the placement of images and the copy all play a role in the finished product and may inspire your next project, as well. Get inspired and then push forward and use that inspiration to create your own vision. Remember though, inspiration is meant to be just that; inspiration. Then, it’s time to get to work! As Anna recently said, “Try to put a limit on the amount of time you spend searching for and cataloging images for the sake of inspiration. Think more about appreciating these things for what they are, and not just how you can apply them to your own work.”

Here are some of my favorite free catalogs for print inspiration:

• Urban Outfitters: Sign up for monthly catalogs; they change themes very often.

• Anthropologie: Monthly catalogs with inspiring locales and subtle type.

• Madewell: This catalog is in an oversized format and printed on matte paper with hip, lookbook worthy layouts. Definitely my favorite of the bunch!

• House Industries: This type foundry catalog is always colorful with a cheery retro vibe.

• J. Crew: They’re always sending out something new and have glossy magazine-worthy photos and type treatments.

My catalog collection, bursting at the seams!