Materialism vs. Designing a Capital "H" Home

So you want to put stuff in your house...

But what stuff? And how? And how do you make that house a HOME? 

Well, with--you know--people and life and love and blah blah blah.  But, ALSO--with STUFF! 
And this materialistic world definitely has a lot of stuff. Beautiful stuff even. But how much is too much when it comes to spending money and time on just stuff?

And there lies the tension. 

How do we reconcile our love for beautiful things with our aversion towards materialism? Is it wrong to buy something that just sits on you wall or your table when your money could be spent elsewhere?

I've thought a lot about this lately and here are my thoughts. 

People are material beings. We have the senses, and flesh, and blood. We have pleasure and pain. And as material beings, we find comfort in material things. It is our nature! And we want to have a comfortable home, decorated with things. 

So, on one hand I hate waste and over-consumption, and I see the images of thousands of tons of "fast fashion" piling up on our earth. On the other hand, having beautiful things in my house makes my house a HOME. Soooooo, I want to buy those things. 

 Each year  Americans throw away  10.5 millions TONS of clothing. How many tons of "fast fashion" decor, cheap rugs, broken chairs, and out of style "wall art" do we send to the landfills?  

Each year Americans throw away 10.5 millions TONS of clothing. How many tons of "fast fashion" decor, cheap rugs, broken chairs, and out of style "wall art" do we send to the landfills?  

So, I must ask the question: how do we balance the ever-present struggle against unmitigated consumerism with the natural human love of things? 

Well, the answer is that we find material things that mimic our non-material soul. Things that have stood the test of time. Design that is not a trend of the day, but a lasting testament to our character. Things that express not only beauty but also TRUTH. Things that have served generations of masters. And things made by the hands of other soulful people with love and care. 

Handmade. Vintage. Sentimental. Slow. Meaningful. Purposeful. Pre-loved. Ever-loved. Timeless.

 This well-designed 1970s apartment is timeless. It would be a darling of 2018 too! 

This well-designed 1970s apartment is timeless. It would be a darling of 2018 too! 

Good, thoughtful design, with great materials and soul, LASTS. 

And the style--hopefully LASTING style-- of your home, matters! Your home is your temple, it is your peace. It is the school in which your children learn through sight, touch, smell. It is the background for the permanent memories that we will ruminate on in our elder years. It is the setting for which we interact with our friends and family. It is the chair where we sit when we discuss our fears and vulnerabilities. It is the intricate painting that instills the sense of wonder in our children, the couch we cry on, the rug we roll with laughter on, and the table we share a meal on. Oh, my friends, decorating your home is not a novelty in this world ruled by novelties, it is our story.  

In my reflection of years past, the dark times of my life had the saddest of interiors. But, the happy memories of my childhood include the paintings my mother put on the wall, the wallpaper in the bedroom, and the sound the antique buffet made when I opened it to find my paper and crayons. The times that I was strongest, and most confident, and most at peace--in those times I had the the most beautiful, carefree home interiors. The kind of interior where every little thing brought me joy. When I walked downstairs in the morning I saw my living room I exclaimed "ahhhh I love this house!" Have you ever felt that way? 

 Waking up to this room every morning, even when it was filled with toys, was my peace. I haven't recreated that in our new home yet, but I'm working on it. 

Waking up to this room every morning, even when it was filled with toys, was my peace. I haven't recreated that in our new home yet, but I'm working on it. 

So yes, our homes' interiors matter. 

(And of course, on a side note, buy more art! For the love of pizza--people--stop buying mass-produced "art" for your walls!) 

 NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NONO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO 

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NONO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO 

So, perhaps this musing on interiors and your soul is only touching the surface of a bigger picture. But in sum, spending money and effort on making a home is most definitely a worthwhile feat. And to make it count, fill your home slowly and mindfully. 

I know its hard; I've bought things shipped to me from China because it was cheap and I was impatient. And my living room is pretty sad and empty right now since I haven't found or had the budget for what I truly want RIGHT now. But, we each have the ability to avoid this trap of going to a store and buying all the things for our home. There are businesses in your neighborhood, or online neighborhood, that make furniture, reupholster furniture, sew pillows, paint paintings, and travel the world finding the best makers to make your rugs and textiles. We live in a unique age where we can edit the world, circulating the best of material things to the best of material people, and can do so without encouraging the creation of more disposable soulless things in the world. It takes more time. It might be more expensive upfront--if you are thrift-lucky, then it probably will not be more expensive. But my goodness, what a home you will have when you have given it its own soul! 


Buy vintage. Shop smart. Create your lovely sanctuary. Keep your soul.

 

And if you don't know where to start, check out these families, people, and small businesses that I love who create the timeless and the beautiful. (Not an exhaustive list!) 

Charish (find vintage art and furniture from hundreds of individual sellers locally or around the country)  here's my favorite Dallas seller, Kerry 

Odd Bird Company (clothing and textiles) 

The CEH (high-end bespoke and vintage furniture) 

Gaia For Women (textile and accessories made buy refugee women) 

Indigo Trade (vintage home deco r sourced globally) 

Hamlet Interiors (Moroccan textiles sourced by Veronica, made by artisans who have generations of experience, and photographed by Carley Page Summers) 

Kaya Kilims (Turkish rugs from Nez, a mother, boss lady, and lover of rugs living in Turkey)  

Atlantis home (textiles and jewelry sourced by Judy) 

Lauren WIlliams Art (hand made tapestries by Lauren) 

Mel Remmers Studio (beautiful paintings by Dallas artist and friend Mel Remmers) 

Magic Hour Shop (my friend Molly who finds the best vintage with a mindful philosophy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks be to the Goodwill gods

The tapa cloth tale 

This colorful magic on my ceiling is called tapa cloth, or mulberry cloth. It is made from the bark of mulberry trees and dyed with its berries. It’s a rare piece, probably something very special to the family that made it, and I (miraculously) found it while treasure hunting on the Goodwill website. (I put this cloth on the ceiling about 9 months ago but I didn’t have a blog then and now I do.)

 This picture got me 1,000 followers on instagram, it's so strange what goes "viral" and what doesn't! I think it has to do with the color pink... 

This picture got me 1,000 followers on instagram, it's so strange what goes "viral" and what doesn't! I think it has to do with the color pink... 

What is tapa cloth?

Tapa can be decorated by rubbing, stamping, stencilling, smoking (Fiji: “masi Kuvui”) or dyeing. The patterns of Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian tapa usually form a grid of squares, each of which contains geometric patterns with repeated motifs such as fish and plants, for example four stylised leaves forming a diagonal cross. Traditional dyes are usually black and rust-brown, although other colours are known.

In former times the cloth was primarily used for clothing, but now cotton and other textiles have replaced it. The major problem with tapa clothing is that the tissue loses its strength when wet and falls apart. (Still it was better than grass-skirts, which usually are either heavier and harder or easily blown apart, but on the low coral atolls where the mulberry does not grow, people had no choice.) It is also labour-intensive to manufacture. Tapa cloth was made by both the men and women in ancient times. An example is the Hawaiian men, who also made their own weapons.

Nowadays tapa is often worn on formal occasions such as weddings. Another use is as a blanket at night or for room dividers. It is highly prized for its decorative value and is often found hung on the walls as decoration. In Tonga a family is considered poor, no matter how much money they have, if they do not have any tapa in stock at home to donate at life events like marriages, funerals and so forth. If the tapa was donated to them by a chief or even the royal family, it is more valuable. It has been used in ceremonial masks in Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands (Mangian masks). It was used to wrap sacred objects, e.g., “God staffs” in the Cook Islands.
— From Wikipedia
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When I bought this online, it was labeled as “rug”, it was in the “art” category, and it looked super small in the picture. I remember looking at the dimensions and thinking it was definitely a typo. (193” by 168”) But I bid anyway, won it, and when the huge box arrived I did a happy dance.

 I had to open the box outside because this was so big it didn't fit in my house! 

I had to open the box outside because this was so big it didn't fit in my house! 

Then the box sat in my shed for like 6 months.

Until, creativity suddenly struck. I was 7 months pregnant in a loopy mood and decided to drape the giant thing on the ceiling of our guest bedroom. IT WAS NOT EASY.

It’s not like wallpaper; it was one giant heavy cloth, and I didn’t want to cut it into sections and possibly ruin the peice. So I decided to roll it up and attach it to the ceiling as if I were rolling out a rug, except upside down. I attached the corners and edges with a staple gun and used spray adhesive on the ceiling. I uninstalled the chandelier, cut a small slit, and reinstalled the chandelier right over the tapa cloth.

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My pregnant arms were sore, but it only took about 1.5 hours and I was done!  

The finished project did not look like a wallpapered ceiling. The tapa cloth itself had flaws, the hand-dyed pattern was not straight, and my ceiling was definitely not straight. But the end result was breathtaking all the same. I used to lay in that room and drink in all the beauty and variations of the cloth. It was like having a piece of art on the ceiling!

We have recently moved from this house and the buyers wanted to keep the tapa cloth, though I considered removing it and taking it with me. It makes me happy that it lives on with a new family in all its glory.

If anyone sees another giant tapa cloth for sale in the wild, please let me know!

Until next time friends,  

Katie 

How to thrift with your pants off

Subtitle: because pants are the worst.

 Want to find a $50 flowertastic couch and $9 set of vintage paintings? Then read on my friends. 

Want to find a $50 flowertastic couch and $9 set of vintage paintings? Then read on my friends. 

Estate sales are a BEAT DOWN. I get it. There are “career” estate-sale-ers who already bought all the good stuff before you even got there, it’s always hot somehow, crowded, and there’s aggressive signs everywhere like “NO KIDS!” and “NO WALKING ON THE GRASS!” and “NO PUSHING!” It’s a bad sign when you have to tell people not to use violence. (Get it? Sign? See what I did there?)  

So, save your sanity and your Saturday mornings: don’t go to estate sales. Here’s where you can search for vintage on the interwebs, from your (flower) couch.

 

Shopgoodwill.com

If you have followed me on Instagram you know that some of my best finds are from shopgoodwill.com. It’s an old website that is in auction format. I actually got this tip a long time ago from Erica Reitman’s blog (http://www.ericareitman.co/blog/ ). She has a lot more online resources in her “online design source shopping list” (which I will not duplicate here but you can check it out for yourself).

 This is a GINORMOUS hand dyed and rare tapa cloth that I scored on Goodwill online and then put on a bedroom ceiling which was AMAZING 

This is a GINORMOUS hand dyed and rare tapa cloth that I scored on Goodwill online and then put on a bedroom ceiling which was AMAZING 

Warning: the Goodwill website quality is TERRIBLE. Here’s my strategy:

I go to Catergories>Art and Categories>Antiques and just see what’s ending that day. For whatever reason, the best stuff is on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It’s my BEST source for old portrait paintings!

Go ahead and try the “For the Home” category but you’ll mostly find Willow Tree wall décor and old humidifiers.  

I also run an individual search for “rug” or “blanket” or “macramé”. 

 

Everything But the House (www.EBTH.com)

 

I have found some of the most unique stuff here! It’s an easy to use app that has a collection of estate sales across the country. They pictures are thorough and the items are well-researched. The shipping is horrendous for furniture, so I always search for local sales with a free pick up option. If clothing and jewelry is you thing though, EBTH has TONS of unique vintage and you won’t get killed in shipping prices. Also, since they're search function is so great, it is the prime place to find a high-end and rare vintage item like a specific lane burl wood dresser or a Murano glass chandelier. (Though not necessarily the cheapest place to find them.) Another tip: ALL the prices go up in the last 30 minutes of the auction so don’t be fooled by the low starting prices.

 

Craigslist

OK I know you already know about Craigslist. But here’s how to get the most out of craigslist:

            Use it on an app with better search features. There are several available.

            Set up alerts if you’re looking for something specific

            But most importantly, don’t search for anything at all. For real! If someone knows that their chair is a Knoll chair, or a Henredon chest, or a Kagan couch, then they know what it is worth, and it will be expensive. You see this amazing chair?

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It was $20 and the description of the ad was “ADULT CHAIR” and nothing else. Plus, at least in Dallas, a lot of my cheapest finds are ads in Spanish!

So what do you do instead? I check Craigslist like I check my email: several times a day. I look in the “furniture by owner” category without anything filtered and arrange the listings by newest to oldest. That way if there is something good, I’m surely the first to find it and contact the seller. If you do find something good right after it was posted, make sure you pick it up before the seller gets 100 messages of people who are offering to pay them more money.

The same strategy applies to all the other buy/sell sites. (I also use OfferUp and 5 miles.)

 

Facebook Yard Sale Pages

Chances are, you have a neighborhood facebook yard sale page. Not all pages are created equal, but check to see what your hood has to offer (or maybe start one of your own!) The best pages are the ones with admins that are very active and with a lot of rules that are enforced.

 

Facebook Marketplace

Ok so I don’t love the Facebook marketplace. The listings are always old and the search function is pretty annoying. That being said, if I have extra time I peruse every once and a while and have actually found one or two unique items as a good price. Plus you can check out the seller’s profile picture and see if they are a serial killer or not.

 

Ebay

Duh. Ebay! This lucite bar cart I got on ebay and I’m not even going to tell you what I paid. I have a pretty targeted strategy for ebay shopping, which is quite in depth and I’ll save that for a future post. But one sneak-peak tip: message the seller and haggle! They are almost always willing to lower the price.

 The most amazing lucite bar cart I bought on eBay and even after paying for shipping it was a GREAT deal (after haggling on the price, of course).  

The most amazing lucite bar cart I bought on eBay and even after paying for shipping it was a GREAT deal (after haggling on the price, of course).  

 

Ok to those of you who haven’t stopped reading out of extreme boredom by now, thank you for sticking with me! Email me if you have any other suggestions, comments, or even hate mail. I love it all.

 

Goodbye for now friends!

 

 

 

 

 

Beginners Tips for Thrift Store Shopping

How to Thrift Like a Champ

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Almost everything in this picture is thrifted. 

SUPER SECRET RULES FOR THRIFT STORE SHOPPING 

1.     Don’t go to thrift stores.

Just kidding. Kind of. But truthfully, thrift stores are often over-priced. UNLESS you use the following tips.

 

2.     Make friends with the staff.

And give them your number! I have a woman who texts me when they get something that she thinks I will like. It’s been a great resource for me and makes shopping so much more fun when you build friendships with other humans along the way.

 

3.     Find out when they stock the floor.

Almost every store only stocks the furniture on certain days or certain times. (In my next posts, I’ll do a guide to Dallas thrifting and tell you the best times to go!)

 

4.     As a general rule, don’t thrift in fancy neighborhoods.

No seriously. Here is the life cycle of most fancy furniture found in thrift stores. Rich guy buys fancy furniture. Rich guy moves to a fancier house, puts outdated furniture on the curb.  Lucky not-rich guy finds furniture on curb. Not-rich guy keeps furniture for 50 years until he dies. Not-rich guy’s kids don’t want their parent’s old ass furniture so they send it to the closest thrift store. That lucky thrift store is not in a fancy neighborhood. It’s in a neighborhood that used to be trendy but now it is mostly abandoned and the only thriving business is check cashing places.  THIS is where the best thrift stores are. These diamonds in the rough have the furniture that is SO outdated, it’s popular again.  

 

5.     Thrift at local charity-based thift stores

The exception to rule #4 is local, non-chain charity-based thrift stores in fancy neighborhoods. Furniture there is sent by fancy people who are aware that they have nice (but unwanted) furniture, but they chose to send it to this one particular thrift store because they know the proceeds will help real people in their community. Knowing that makes people more generous. The down side is that the prices are usually a bit higher.

Also, Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul stores are better the closer they are to a fancy neighborhood. Both stores offer free pick-ups of donations. So, they often have better stuff when the store is close to a fancy neighborhood. Fancy people ain’t got no time for garage sales and posting on craigslist, so they call the donation truck and get on with their fancy lives.

 

6.     Quantity over quality.

It is better to go to one thrift store for 5 minutes every day than go to the best thrift store once in a while. Prepare to not buy anything most of the time.

 

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more thrift guides, for online thrift secrets, online sources for CHEAP vintage, and a review of all the best thrift stores in Dallas!

 

This is a blog.

Hi Visitors! How do you blog? Seriously, tell me. Just write stuff and add pictures? 

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this is me and a fat baby. 

I am new to blogging (like 10 years late, right?) but I have a background in writing. I was a journalism major and created magazines at a PR non-profit job after college. Then I went to law school, though words were read there more than they were created. I still have to look up grammar rules, and I never knew how to spell. I'm rusty. Forgive me. 

It will be great to try a new flavor of writing however. Instagram has its own prose, mostly pictures-as-words, 90% emotion and 10% thoughts, CAPITALIZATION, and a lot of exclamation points!!!!!!! It is great "writing" on IG because grammar rules don't count and if I can't remember how to spell a word I can just use a picture of the word. 

This world is funny, isn't it? 

Anyway, read my blog! Follow me on IG @katiesaro! Buy my stuff! 

Signing off, 

Katie