Housiversary: Year 7

Technically, the 7th anniversary of my move-in happened in July. So I’m running, oh, 2 months behind schedule at this point. Sounds about right. Happy belated, house!

This year has been crazy. I find myself plodding through one of those times in life notable mostly for its impressive and sustained level of stress. I’m not sure when or how that will change, but I know this: it needs to. On good days I am reminded that there is more to life than the things I worry about, and I need to pursue those things again.

In that spirit, I gave myself an afternoon to work on, yes, but also enjoy the house I bought 7 years ago (and refinanced in August!)

HOLY SMOKES there’s a couch now! A non hand-me-down, non Ikea couch!

This is the Dublexo by Innovative Living. It does the couch thing very well, but also:


It’s got Funky Day Bed Mode and Sleeper Sofa Mode! We test drove this functionality by staying in last night and finally — after 5 failed attempts — finishing the movie Dune. I think the couch was instrumental to our success. We started sitting upright but transitioned to a horizontal viewing position sometime around the appearance of Sting’s metal diaper.

Not too long ago I thought I might like to buy a vintage mid-century couch and fix it up myself, but with the limited time I have for projects… nahhh. I didn’t need to spend weekends worrying about how to get an 8-foot frame to an upholsterer. I needed my life to be easy for a change. And thanks to the great people at Cella Luxuria, that’s exactly what it was.



Normally I would make some attempt to color-correct these but whatever LIFE IS SHORT. But I did spend a couple hours framing up part of my feather collection. I’ve been unsure of what to do with them for a while now, but I finally think I like them grouped and wall-mounted here.

And here. Uh, I have a lot of feathers.

That does it for now! Happy 7 years, house. I’m tired and I have nothing coherent to say, but you’re always here for me when life gets like that. <3



Coming back home

Warning: I’m going to blog about my house on my house blog. Weird, right?

2014 has been a year of neglecting this place in favor of other things. Personal projects. New jobs. Design classes. Meeting creative people. All worthy endeavors, but the house was relegated to “that place I sleep” for the majority of it. I haven’t had the energy or the brain power to figure out, for example, how to make my stove less hideous. (I didn’t take a new picture of it for this post; it hurts my eyes. Here’s an old one.)

In 2015, I’d like to get back to spending a little more time with this ol’ rowhome of mine. I’ve been here for SIX years now. (Whaaaat? It’s true.) In that time both my budget and my taste have changed (I’d like to think for the better). So with that in mind, and with freelance and homework finally off my plate, 2015 seems like the right time to bring some of my attention back home.

I no longer have a Penncation — that glorious paid week off between Christmas and New Years when campus shuts down and I am free to cut baseboards for days on end — but I did spend a good chunk of time this past weekend on some easy decluttering and rearranging.



Just Wonderful is a lettering piece I made a few years back, and it just so happens you can pick yourself up a copy on Society6. The new raccoon skull was a holiday present — an excellent one.


The tiny chalk board on the left was also a gift. It’s by the mighty Peg and Awl (shoutout to a fellow Moore alumna). On the right, I finally finished my first bottle of St Germain! I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this bottle forever, but I confess to not really knowing what to do with it. In traditional Lauren fashion, I put a dried branch in it and called it a day. On the wall: a poem letterpressed by Erica Maust back in our Penn days. Which seem like forever ago already. On the cabinet: a dopey picture I took in high school photography. Which also seems like forever ago, but justifiably so.


I decided to neaten up my collection of peacock feathers by shaving them down to just the eyes. They look less like a tangled incubator of bird flu germs this way.


Oh hey look more feathers and shells and twigs. Okay. You get the idea.

What I’d really like to do in 2015, though, is tackle this living room situation:


It still looks a’ight, I guess, although I’ve grown out of the aubergine cushions a bit. But for a room I’ve spent so much time renovating… I don’t get a lot of use out of it. I never hang out here. And it’s totally because of this couch. This creaky, hard-edged couch.


This couch may be causing a bit of a crisis in my life right now. Every time I look at it, I know it needs to go — or at least fall victim to an experimental hack to create something different (ottoman? Second-bedroom lounger?). But new couches are expensive. Does one buy a 4-figure couch for this strangely-sized living room? Does one dare to try to define this space with a… sectional? Is one actually the kind of person who buys a sectional!? Does one expect to be in this house for long enough to make it worthwhile? Or does one expect to die alone here. Perhaps on this sad, low-end IKEA creation.


Stay tuned in 2015. There will be plenty of house-angst, I promise. And hopefully some budget-friendly house solutions.





Quick DIY end table

The day before New Year’s Eve I had just finished up the massive baseboard project and I was too pooped to do much, but I poured a Manhattan and fell into rearranging the craft/sewing room. Furniture was moved. Wacky collections of objects were rearranged.

(From Instagram: weeds from Port Richmond railroad land, peacock feathers from my last job, a container of spare buttons, an empty bottle of port from my only trip to California. These are the things I save.)

Sitting in the room was this piece; what I assume is a plant stand gifted to me by my sister, champion houseplant cultivator, as a housewarming present.

I really liked the lines of it, but I never knew quite how to use it. My house doesn’t get enough light to support plant life in anything but a window. So it had been hanging out unused in the craft room for, errr, five years, waiting for inspiration (and Manhattans) to strike. Finally, they did.

Please excuse my terrifying basement.

From a bit of leftover shelving I cut out a circle to match the diameter of the plant stand. After some sanding and stain…

Instant end table. It’s just the right size for the little corner of the room occupied by my old butterfly chair.

The wardrobe and chair have traded places, which I think makes the room look a little lighter when you first walk in.

The hodgepodge of furniture I own really is insane. Especially in this room, which became a sort of catch-all for things I wanted to save but didn’t know where to put. But I think it kinda works. An area rug would be nice, but meh. I’ll probably get to that in 2020.

Oil wipe Lauren circa 2003 is judging you.


A few house updates 4 U.  </prince>

Occasionally, when the mood strikes me — usually when I should be getting to bed or tackling a homework assignment — I’ll decide that it’s time to reorganize a bookshelf.

I always wanted a big piece of art for that empty space above the terrarium in the pipe unit. And then I remembered that I was/am an artist? And I probably had some art hanging around? This drawing from 2007 is based on my sculpture work and is one of a set of three.

Elsewhere, atop a copy of Sister Carrie that clearly saw some bathtub time, there’s some kind of femur (?) section from some kind of farm animal (?). I honestly don’t know what that thing is, but it’s old and worn and I found it while hiking in Fairmount Park. There’s also a vertebra from the deer skeleton we found in the Poconos last summer. Its skull has moved here, to the front window:

And continuing the hunting lodge theme (although I do not hunt — everything I bring home was very, very dead through no action of my own), some new antler sheds for the mantle! Erica kindly gifted me the two nicest ones. Both of the ones I’ve found on my own were a bit gnawed. You’ve gotta find them before March, I assume. If they’ve been lying out too long, smaller animals chew on them for the calcium.

I’d like to gather up a few more of these and weave them together into… something. Something awesome. I’m waiting for inspiration to strike.

Meanwhile, I also did I bit of rearranging on the bookshelf by the front window:

SURPRISE giant snapping turtle shell. This guy was sent to me ages ago by my friend Alex (bear skull Alex — he’s introduced here), who spends a lot of his year living outdoors and who I haven’t heard from in quite a while. Alex, please tell me you’ve been staying away from huge carnivorous animals with claws… ok?

The turtle must have been a few decades old — his shell is massive. And a little damaged, as you can see. I kept him in the basement for a while as I debated whether I could touch up the cracked portion of his shell with some oil paint, but in the end I thought it was best to leave well enough alone.

On the shelf below is another little change. After a few years of accumulating holiday/birthday/sympathy/UGH, LIFE cards and stuffing them in a desk drawer, I decided that I’d like to have them displayed somehow.

Stacked by size and wrapped with a cotton cord: simple.

That’s all for now! I’m also working on a bit of a dining room reorganization, but that project needs a little more time. Which I have pretty much none of these days. Less than a month until the end of the semester, people! If you want to see some of the things I’ve been working on, laurenhallden.com has been updated pretty regularly as assignments wrap up.

Back in Black

My brain is back online (cue screeching dial-up modem sound), so here are a few little house updates that I’ve been meaning to share.

The only real project I tackled during my week off, besides scrubbing every floor on my hands and knees (BONA!), was to finish painting this bathroom cabinet. I had previously painted just the doors black and left the rest of it primer — I still haven’t dealt with the walls in this room and I don’t know what color they’ll be, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep going — but eventually I got tired of living with black-and-white-striped Tim Burtonesque bathroom storage.

I was a little worried that once the whole thing was black it would make the room look smaller, but thankfully it doesn’t. You know what did? The room’s original, overwhelmingly wooden state. FLASHBACK!

Don’t you just want to burn it all for warmth?

Now that section looks more like this:

So with the completion of the little cabinet, all the wood furniture matches. Which is more than we can say for any of the metal fixtures. But hey.

I now have well-organized bottles of nasal spray and contact lens solution. And I need to properly paste down that accent paper. Or nix it. Or design my own. Not sure. Moving on!

I’ve been looking for an inexpensive cocktail ring for a while now, and was gifted the green labrodite one below from Priscilla and Vi’s Etsy shop. It’s just the size I wanted: bold, but just shy of ridiculous.

Up until this point my few rings and bracelets had been layered precariously on necklace hooks, but it was time to admit that I needed a better storage solution. This little Ikea dish does the trick nicely.

And now for the dining room, where, after 4.5 years of home ownership, THERE IS NOW A RUG.

I was so excited about this improvement that, at one of the season’s many social gatherings, I caught myself earnestly telling the person next to me that it really… tied… the room… together. Yeah.

It’s sisal and therefore not what you would call soft, but it was inexpensive and it does its job of preventing that horrible noise caused by chair legs scraping across a wood floor.

Elsewhere in the room are a few other gifts:

A nice Scotch (thanks, Dad!) and giant leftover bottle of Burgundy. We do both high and low class here at the ‘row. I have not partaken of either, however, as I am debating the merits of Drynuary. Perhaps I’ll try a modified version that allows for the occasional date and work happy hour? Either way I think I’ll save opening the Scotch until we hit the long, cold nights of February. And beyond.


And then there’s this. No explanation, really. I had the bow lying around and you know, it just happened.

(I’m not sorry.)

Make it work

For a long time after last year’s bedroom renovation — far longer than I care to admit — this was the general state of affairs in my home office.

Part storage area, part shamefully neglected mess. The kind of room I closed the door on whenever I was expecting company.

A few months ago, out of a desire to sit down at the computer and actually get some work done, I attempted to make it usable again. But it certainly wasn’t pretty:

The office was the only room in the house that wasn’t a completely obnoxious color when I bought it, so it was the only room that I had not felt the need to immediately attack with an arsenal of brushes and rollers. Instead I tolerated four years of this wimpy pale blue semigloss stuff. But it was time for a change. And there were other minor details that needed sorting out, of course:

Yeah. This house is the ultimate “just drill a hole straight through the wall, whatever!” house.

Bam! Let me fix that for you! (Let me mostly fix that for you, because I sure as hell don’t want to go fishing the coax through the wall to a more convenient place, but whatever, good enough.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Over Memorial Day weekend I tackled this, the last untackled room, and here are the results:

The main project on my office to-do list was the bookshelf. I had been using a shelving system from Ikea that I hacked to fit in this alcove and it worked okay… but just okay. I knew proper custom shelves would maximize my storage space. So out came the miter saw. I love how I can tuck my paper shredder away, now.

Letterpress prints by my typography classmates and myself, with lots of help from Marianne at Huldra Press.

I got brave and installed this funky light fixture myself, replacing your standard Home Depot nipple light. I also installed a dimmer switch. And I’m proud of all that, really, except that these bulbs are not dimable.

My new lighting choice may be a little underpowered for the space, quite honestly. I’ll live with it for a while and see how it goes, but I have a feeling my electrical tape and wire strippers will come out again at some point. For the moment I’m just glad that I’ve learned to do simple jobs like this without setting anything on fire. Thanks, Dad!

And my workspace. (Yes, I have a PC. No, I don’t want to hear it.) The paint color is Behr’s Puddle, which is maybe a touch darker than what I was aiming for? But it’s growing on me. It’s very subtly purple gray.

The poster, The Pictoral Map and Walking Guide to Philadelphia, is by New York Times designer Bill Marsh.

Elsewhere in the room I did a lot of cord wrangling, art placing and lighting improvements — little things that help immensely when you’re trying to make a space feel homey. On the radiator cover is one of my most interesting possessions: a scan of Constantin Brancusi’s college roster from 1898. Brancusi has always been my favorite sculptor, and when I mentioned this to a woman who worked at the college he attended in Romania, she surprised me by emailing me this record from their archives. I kept it on my desk at my last job. I should really frame it up fancier, because holy cow, Brancusi.

As for the discarded Ikea bookshelves:

I hate to chuck something that I’ve put time and effort into, so I was super pleased when I set my shelves in the craft room just to get them out of the way and ended up really liking them there. I removed the door to this bedroom a long time ago to let the window light filter through the second story, but it had the unfortunate side effect of putting what was a mostly blank wall on display to anyone passing through. Now the bookshelf creates a great focal point.

Also, a girl needs somewhere to display her giant blackbear skull, right?

Glass Menagerie

I solved my shell dilemma the way I solve most dilemmas: with a trip to my favorite thrift store. There, I spotted a “set” of “floating candle dishes.” I think the store’s employees just bundled two random glass bowls of a similar shape together and slapped a 95-cent sticker on them, but it worked for me.

In the larger of the two I put my clam and oyster shells, plus a few feathers and one big seed pod. The pod is from a Philly weed tree. I tell you this to illustrate just how serious I am when I say that I can’t not pick things up — I really can’t. I don’t care if it’s a weed in the gutter. I will get my hands dirty and I will bring it home.

I think the large bowl is too similar in size to the plant pot to sit together like this, so I’ll probably end up moving the shell bowl somewhere else. Perhaps to my office, when it’s finished. I recognize that Armageddon may happen first.

The second bowl found a home on my pipe shelves, where I rearranged some things to create a little sea collection.

The dried starfish is something I’ve had since I was a kid and my grandparents took my siblings and me to a huge store packed with all sorts of ocean-related goodies. What I wouldn’t give for another shot at that store as an adult — with real pocket money! I don’t recall what town we were visiting, unfortunately.

The other item on the shelf is a cast porcelain shell with a Delftware-style painting of a pheasant. It’s hanging out in the little red display case and was a gift from a student sculptor I met through my last job.

So there’s my little attempt at bringing a piece of the ocean to Philly. Hurricane Irene probably did a more impressive job of that (har har), but she didn’t damage this here house so I won’t hold it against her.

Weekend Project Wrap-up

The TV unit project is finished with barbecuing time to spare!  Before I get lost in a pitcher of margaritas, though, here’s a quick run-down of what I did (and why).

For those who missed yesterday’s post, the middle of the unit is a simple Ikea kitchen cabinet.  It has one of those nifty hinges that eases the door closed for you.  (Hung low to the ground like this it would probably make more sense for the door to open from the top instead of the bottom, but I’ve decided to refrain from messing with the hinge mechanism unless this configuration really starts to bother me.)

But a single cabinet wasn’t long enough to visually balance the TV, so I set about adding length.  First, I built little 12″ x 14 3/8″ cubbies, for lack of a non-kindergarten term.  Each has a bottom, a back, and two sides.  Cutting the pieces took a while since 14 3/8″-width boards do not exist in the wild, and also because my miter saw only has a 12″ throat.  So I made two cuts to chop each piece to length (flipping the board over after each cut), and two more cuts to trim the width.

Then I screwed all the faces together.  This is probably the part where a real woodworker would countersink things and glue things and throw some biscuits or dowels in there, but me?  Pre-drilling screw holes is about as fancy as I get.  Luckily, that’s really all I needed to do in this case.

Then the cubbies got a good sanding, priming and painting.  I attached them to the sides of the cabinet with more (non-countersunk, so sue me) screws.  Satisfied with the additional two feet of length, it was then time to cover everything with a “nice” top.

I knew I wanted a funky, industrial-looking board to use as the top of the unit — in part because I like the aesthetic of rougher, knotted pieces, and in part because they’re so much cheaper than the unblemished stuff.  In previous trips to Lowe’s I had spotted some pretty wild contenders:

But with no project idea in mind for them at the time, I passed on buying any.  And of course, they’re not in stock anymore.  So I picked the next strangest board I could find.

Did this tree have the chicken pox, or something?  I love it.

My uniquely-diseased board got cut twice to length on the miter saw, and then I trimmed the width down with a jigsaw.  After lots of sanding and few coats of polyurethane, it was ready to be attached to the cabinet via some hidden interior screws.  And there you have it!

Obviously, this isn’t your traditional media unit.  I’m not much of a TV person these days — I have four DVDs to my name and no A/V or gaming peripherals save for the cable box* — so my main goal here was creating general-purpose closed storage.  I’m currently using this puppy to store pet supplies and a yoga mat.  And art, of course — here’s a shoutout to Ruth, who gifted me the hand-thrown mug in the left cubby.

I knew on some level that I should try to ensure that the cable box would at least change channels when you pointed a remote in its general direction, but I refused to make concessions for that clunky sucker in the project’s design (seriously, when are cable boxes going to get smaller?).  Instead, I suspended the box below the main cabinet with a couple of metal brackets.  It’s still floating, but it has a few inches of ventilation room.  I think it looks pretty good for an afterthought!

(No, I still don’t have baseboards.  Shhhh.)

OK.  Enough blogging, and enough power tools.  It’s time to let the holiday weekend begin.  Hope you’re all enjoying yours!

*My DVD player is built into the side of the TV, which saves me the grief of figuring out where to store one more thing.

Also, thanks go out to my Dad, who helped me move an outlet to get this project done.

Memorial Day Weekend Project

With the boyfriend on a business trip and a 3-day weekend looming, I’ve decided to participate in that fine American tradition of the Memorial Day Weekend DIY Project.

This particular project is something I started over the winter.  The goal: to fix this situation…

…by DIYing a proper media cabinet.

As inspiration*, I looked to DoorSixteen’s “Fauxdenza,” a floating storage unit that Anna created with simple IKEA kitchen cabinets.

As Anna pointed out, being able to see the entire stretch of floor does make a room look bigger.  And my space is even tighter than Anna’s, so the float factor seemed pretty key to me.  My little TV wall is so small, in fact, that I could only fit one cabinet mounted horizontally.  Like so:

Yeah.  It was an improvement, but it still wasn’t great.  The length of the TV and the cabinet were too similar.  I lived with it like that for a few months, debating how to finish it, until the plan finally came to me:  lengthen the cabinet with a book cubby on each side.  And cover the whole thing with a funky industrial wood top, to connect it visually with the pipe shelving unit.

This plan required carpentry skills, however.  And if there’s one thing I regret about college (one thing??  How about most things), it’s that I didn’t learn any real carpentry skills.  So I’m faking it.  But so far, so good!

This is the left cubby.  A little sanding, some paint, some screws, repeating the process for cubby #2… this project should come together in no time!  I have 48 hours to get ‘er done.  Then, finished or not, I’m off to nom some BBQ.

*If you’re at all interested in seeing what inspires me (house-wise, style-wise AND food-wise!), I’ve started cataloging some idea on Pinterest.  Pinterest is a nifty visual bookmarking tool that lets you grab images from the web and post them to “boards” of your thematic choice.  It’s also a place where people compulsively post pictures of very, very thin womens’ stomachs with the tag “fitness!!!”, which is a sad side effect of our culture’s bullshit beauty standards, but if you follow my boards I promise to spare you such nonsense.