Happy 2010, everyone! Hope the first few weeks have shown a lot of improvement over last year.

The New Year’s Eve party held at this old house went off pretty well. I always forget to snap pictures of the people, but at least I have blurry cell phone evidence of just how much we cooked:

And drank?

Missing from these pictures: the giant punch bowl of egg nog, even more spiced nuts, vanilla roasted pears, a veggie platter with homemade dip, and the crazy cannibal gingerbread cookies a guest brought with her.

As a side effect of actually having edible material in the house, I’ve now attracted a mouse. Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know about my ongoing struggle to catch this fuzzy gray thing. But enough about that! On to some new projects.

The first major goal I’d like to accomplish in 2010 is to pull off some eye-catching DIY shelving for one wall of the living room. I’ve been inspired by Morgan of The Brick House, who is running her own awesome and very thrifty home improvement blog. She spotted some shelving in a hotel made completely of plumbing materials and wood planks, which she adapted for her own home.

The Brick House shelving unit.

Morgan researching the Ace Hotel’s shelves.

Since then, I’ve seen a few other adaptations of the idea spring up:

From Apartment Therapy.

Is this not the best way to create your own customized shelving? A whole wall like Morgan’s cost only $200. I think I’m going to scale it down a bit for this wall in my house:

(Old picture alert. God, was my house ever that bright? I miss summer.)

Now that I no longer have a fish (boo), and since my Ikea bookshelf is just a piece of crap anyway (double boo), why not put that wall to use? If things go well, I’m hoping to incorporate a home for a brand new pet into my design. But nothing is going to happen until February. I’ve vowed not to overspend any of my budgets this month.

Stay tuned…

When I was still in college, a friend’s mom bought one of the new cowhide rugs from IKEA, triggering a mini-obsession for me. It was an impulse buy for her and I think she never found anywhere to put it, but for the brief time it lay out in her living room I couldn’t keep my hands off the thing.

For some people I suppose that seems strange — a hide is evidence of the death of an animal, after all — but I’ve always been strange. I like cowhides for the same reason I like peacock feathers and funky plants and skulls and driftwood and praying mantids, and probably for the same reason I studied sculpture in college. The structures and complexities of natural objects are just fascinating to me.

Nature is the best artist of all, so they say.

Anyway, I put off owning a cowhide myself because a) they’re expensive and b) I wasn’t really sure of how to incorporate one into my home without the pattern becoming too dominant. But I’ve been seeing some great examples on design blogs:

Lots of hides, here!

Love the brindle pattern and the angle of the placement. Via The Brick House.

Via Apartment Therapy.

Blog posts mentioning cowhides always seem to attract controversy, with the con people arguing that they just aren’t classy and the pro people arguing that they bring a nice sense of organic irregularity to balance all the right angles of modern furniture.

And although I’m aware that I may someday have house guests who are skeeved out by my choice of floor coverings, in the end the cowhide was also a practical option; hides are easily cleaned with soap and water, and, unlike square rugs, you have more freedom in arranging their placement to suit your space. So I picked one up second-hand on eBay. And for just $80!

The hide is super soft, with really nice patterning. I’m tickled pink.

Keeping busy

I want this floor tile. Now.

The house is currently providing a little distraction from a couple of sad events in my life. I’m also fairly sure that I’m not going to make much more progress on this living room of mine without buying a miter saw. Actually, I couldn’t fall asleep last night because I was too busy thinking about all the stuff I could do with a miter saw. Baseboards! Door trim! Planter boxes! I could extend the built-in bookcase in my living room and make it a floor-to-ceiling piece!

I like miter saws. Unlike their more mobile circular cousins, you always know where the blade is going to end up if something should go wrong. Should I go all fancy and get a sliding compound model?

Anyway, enough power tool dorkitude. The one-year anniversary of my closing date is on Saturday (so soon?!), so I’m working on some images to show my progress to date. I have about a hundred half-finished projects that are not photo-worthy, though. Maybe I’ll make it a yearly report.

I’m feeling motivated to start making artwork again. Look, I even changed the name of the blog!

One thing that’s helping is that I’ve been spending more time checking out other people’s work (and blogs!), and collecting a couple of pieces to hang up around the house. I’m feeling drawn to cheerful prints with a folksy feel — something far away from the “my work is cutting edge and super-serious” vibe of art school. I think these prints are helping to shift my sour attitude.

From top left, clockwise: Melanie Linder, Amy Walsh, and Tory Franklin. Check out their Etsy stores for many more fun pieces.

What I’d really like, though, is some work from my friends to expand the collection. Do you have a print, drawing or painting you can part with? Or a small sculpture? Drop me a line. I can provide a little drinking money in exchange. ;)

House Love

How to do blue, yellow and brown right:

How to do blue, yellow and brown wrong:

Sigh. The first house might just be the prettiest home I’ve ever seen. Lots of art and antiques, but I really like the use of color. I’m filing away its pallet for future reference.

I’m inspired. It’s time to rip out those purple carpets! Grrrrrr!

Working on the house through a four-day weekend. It’s only day two and I’m already wiped out. Keeping me going is a new collection of photographs I’ve been pulling from design blogs to use as inspiration (mostly from apartmenttherapy.com).

I’m really liking this house, and I think it’s a realistic look for me because the designer was working with similar restrictions: crappy wood floors and a very narrow living room. As much as I’m hearing “don’t paint your floors!” when I look at this, I think it could work. And save me a hell of a lot of money. Plus the gray would match the slate color of the floors in my kitchen and dining room, giving the first level of the house some continuity.

I’m probably not bold enough to go with the wall-sized mural. On the other hand, how much would I love this bathroom?

My current bathroom inspiration, however, is this one:

I’ve got the same wall boards and trim, but I never would have thought to match them to the ceiling. I just started working on this room a few months ago and I’m already thinking of repainting.

Ugh, so much to do!

If you appreciate science…

…you should be listening to Radiolab. Which is something like a science-themed This American Life.

I have learned so many bizarre things from randomly downloading old podcasts of this show. Like, did you know that female ducks evolved a vagina with four re-positionable dead ends? It helps them ward off impregnation by boy ducks the ladies deem unworthy of reproducing.

The show on Emergence just explained both how a group of organisms can be collectively smarter than the smartest member of the group, and also why spamming certain websites with links to cheap Viagra is more profitable than you’d imagine. Yesterday, the show taught me that most of the connections from your ear to your brain actually run in the opposite direction. So if your ear is lacking a stimulus to transmit to your brain — like if you’ve gone deaf — it’s possible for your brain to send your ear hallucinations of music it remembers.

Crazy stuff, but every show I’ve heard so far has been fascinating. Check it out if you catch a free minute!