designing hardcore whilst pretending to be picking your teeth.

this month’s rue magazine blew a gluten-free scent of humility back into the visual stinkbomb of tycoon-income art collections and summer homes i’ve been suffering for a couple days now.

berkus and brent / rue magazine / nov 2013

alexandra kaehler / rue magazine / nov 2013

paul and katie hackworth / rue magazine / nov 2013

paul and katie hackworth / rue magazine / nov 2013

paul and katie hackworth / rue magazine / nov 2013

berkus and brent / rue magazine / nov 2013

berkus and brent / rue magazine / nov 2013

after the relief, though… (dare i say it–) boredom?

to be hip is to achieve aesthetic perfection whilst maintaining the appearance of not giving a fuck.  forget coordinating paints, matching woods, buying furniture sets, or showing any outward signs of luxury.  marble floor?  rip that shit up and turn the broken slabs into a makeshift barcart/island on which you scrape and fold your homemade artisanal fudge to sell at the weekend pop-up market.

this works in a nineteenth century factory with bricks and woods and metals and other rad textures.  this works on teenage runway models with long, slender, perky everything.

this is why you can put dirty white jeans + birkenstocks on kate moss or a broken elementary school desk + succulent in an empty barn and call it design.  when those guys with good bones don’t try, their natural state pwns.

the same how-to guide leaves rest of us looking destitute.

so we of the tallest bell curve bits lean on tailored jackets to hide the lumps and sequined throw pillows to hide the mcmansion. hip is a club as inaccessible as the one percent.

what is it about ‘trying too hard’ that makes us recoil? is it a fear of things sincerely, not ironically, old-fashioned?

imagine the chateau de chambord – now empty of all but stone walls – filled with jewel-tone velvet upholstered louis XVI chairs, dramatic narrative tapestries, plaster cast dragons dressed in hand painted golden scales.


chateau de chambord / aug 2013

some modern day fool rolling through (me?) would likely plop an eames rocker on a brown cowhide rug by the fireplace and pitch it to a magazine.

which is better? (more on my gal chambord, later.)

i read a thought-provoking piece this week by fashion blogoddess leandra medine about her underdressing habit sparked by a traumatic tweenage overdressing to a bat mitzvah.

we the plebes chronically underdress our spaces in the pursuit of cool. earlier this year, i had hoped that gatsby-era sparkle might make a return with movie hype via the likes of kelly wearstler. sure enough, who should enlist her but what?me?pretty? posterchild cameron diaz.


kelly wearstler / elle decor / oct 2013


kelly wearstler / elle decor / oct 2013


kelly wearstler / elle decor / oct 2013


kelly wearstler and cameron diaz

when flannel-and-toes diaz asks for sparkle-and-shine in her home, it’s time to rethink reclaimed wood as the muse of hip irreverence.

waiting for the change. watching you, rue.

vacation homes to give your conscience a rash.

mention “my summer house” and go straight to the douchebag jar. do not pass GO. do not collect $200. bring your wallet – no, not that quilted lady dior shit – and don’t get mugged on the way.

lisa perry / elle decor / dec 2013

despite the massive wealth it takes to buy and furnish homes featured in your run-of-the-mill interiors magazine, i ogle them with a healthy dose of self-delusion. extreme social inequality? nah, everyone needs a comfy place to put up their feet, brew the coffee, spit the toothpaste. that the feet are landing on a $1,900 platner coffee table is just a slight bonus.

but a summer home featured in a magazine…?

lisa perry / elle decor / dec 2013

lisa perry / elle decor / dec 2013

a pristine white canvas on which to showcase your damien hirst paintings while the kids drag sand across the shiny terrazzo floors for six weeks a year…?

lisa perry / elle decor / dec 2013

lisa perry / elle decor / dec 2013

it’s spectacular and it makes my stomach hurt.

i can applaud a summer house feature as a rare curiosity, but the frequency of these spreads boasting oceanside second homes is giving me an itch.

tonight, i’ll be daydreaming about an ocean breeze on the walk past the saxophone street artist warbling the theme to the godfather while the detroit river wind cuts our faces like ice. i might toss him some change. he’s probably saving up for that platner coffee table.

wherein i curse aggressively at new yorkers who stole my paris stash.

in a 22-minute moment of weakness, i watched an episode of the mindy project where mindy was all like “my favorite painting is monet’s water lilies!” and her snooty date was all like “HAH good one, that’s the katy perry of art!” and mindy was all like, “but i heart katy perry!”

…and i heart monet’s water lilies. on our vacation in august, i had stared in the musee de l’orangerie at purple-no-blue-no-purple brushstrokes of flower evoking every nanomoment of the sun’s slow glide through the sky overhead across three hundred feet of canvas, and thought, i am tripping balls.


les nympheas / claude monet / le musee de l’orangerie, paris

in related news this manhattan couple has a monet in their master bedroom. also, a chagall on their headboard and a picasso in their mancave. WHAT THE FUCK.*

eran chen / architectural digest / dec 2013

eran chen / archictural digest / dec 2013

eran chen / architectural digest / dec 2013

*i’m just jealous.

oh that sculpture in the bedroom corner behind the monet is a rodin. a rodin, motherfuckers.*

the thinker / rodin / musée rodin / aug 2013

*i’m just jealous.

rodin happens to have his own personal museum with some of his own works, such as the garden sculpture i snapped above, and the rare photographable van gogh. so here we are in touristface with the only painting we captured on camera.**

portrait of père tanguy / vincent van gogh / musée rodin / aug 2013

the musee d’orsay grabbed my innards and yanked. do you think you’ve seen impressionist art? do ya? fancy yourself a fanboy of a little degas, do ya? maybe have some renoir with your peach cobbler? that’s right i’m talking to you atiya-circa-july-2013? shut your mouth and go to paris.

also go to saint-paul-de-vence where your moody little mountainside hotel offers lunch under a picasso and a swim under a calder.

a picasso / la colombe d’or / st-paul-de-vence, france / aug 2013

a calder / la colombe d’or / st-paul-de-vence, france / aug 2013

swim under a calder? i gaze at a calder in my apartment on sunday afternoons whilst massaging the kale for dinner. eat that, motherfuckers.*

giancarlo giammetti / architectural digest / dec 2013

*i’m just jealous.

syed and i, starry-eyed and determined to start an art collection, met a charming french artist in saint-paul-de-vence named leo who paints out of his studio. we chatted in broken french and waving limbs, laughed together, handed over our amex with giddy american energy. (i’m embarrassed.)



impressionist in style and cheerfully intense with provençal fields bursting off the canvas onto your face, these guys will fit right into our lives for the rest of time. they tell us a story and they will tell our story.

tchotchkes be damned. i’m an art collector, y’all.*

*humor me.

**except mona lisa, that diva bitch. more on her later.

the house-shaped lovechild of your SERENITY NOW and LIFE’S A BEACH office mugs.

for all the atiya-style jibber jabber on city life, a room like this makes my steely resolve crack to pieces.

kelly behun / elle decor / jul-aug 2013

the ocean breeze tickles your eyelashes while you lie around playing candy crush saga.  #nobigdeal

i don’t know who you are, kelly behun, but i will find the construction drawings of your hamptons home and tape them to my husband’s face.

kelly behun / elle decor / jul-aug 2013

note the staircase such as one might find in the greek isles or whilst ascending to God.

kelly behun / elle decor / jul-aug 2013

much like in ferngully, a dozen earthy textures coexist within a balanced ecosystem.  a woodland gnome might pop out from behind the white marble island and hop onto a handstool at any moment. #nbd

each space grabs you by your lapels and screams “i am perfect” into your mouth.  calmingly.

kelly behun / elle decor / jul-aug 2013

i have spent long moments staring at the photos of the house, and i am inspired every time to think “ah, crap.  i should’ve married mark zuckerberg while i had the chance.”

kelly behun / elle decor / jul-aug 2013

like mountains ringing the aspen home, natural features takes this spectacular house into the realms of therapeutic fantasy  (…followed by greedy madness.)

time to stop looking at it before i’m driven to facebook message zuckerberg.

arrested degeneres

ellen degeneres / elle decor / may 2013

been snuggling with the netflix app for days.  (at my couch.  not the pergola.)

for every frame that made it to the gallery wall this week, i rewarded myself with a hit of arrested development.

my place

ok two hits.

portia de rossi, maybe bluth, mother of maeby, gay woman playing straight wife to gay man, awe-inducing comedian of jealousy-inducing haircut and dubious nose job… what was i saying?

she lives on a phat horse ranch with spouse ellen.

ellen degeneres / elle decor / may 2013

the leather.  the RUG.

pause for a moment; note the rich caramel body and curvy weathered arms of the chairs.  that faded green antique rug adds a diffusion of color and pattern, just slips itself into a critical role in the composition without announcement.  how can i be falling so hard for a piece that missed my notice entirely at first viewing?

consider that the last bit of decor tchotch to seduce me was a vase that looks more striking than it would feel if someone were to smash you over the head with it.

abigail turin / architectural digest / april 2013

ellen.  i thought i couldn’t like you any more than i already do.

de rossi and degeneres / elle decor / may 2013

ellen did all the decor for eight buildings on the property.

ellen degeneres / elle decor / may 2013

the wood.  the ART.

ellen degeneres / elle decor / may 2013

a horse lives in that one.  a HORSE.

ellen degeneres / elle decor / may 2013

didn’t believe me, did you?  her name is maeby.

ellen degeneres / elle decor / may 2013

i want to moonwalk to work in my shiny converse sneakers.

anyone else have trouble recognizing portia this week?  a blonde with long wiglike hair does not lindsay bluth make.

still, we’ll give her credit for falling in love with a bona fide design geek.

roast your armchair with a hershey bar and graham crackers

oddly, words did the heavy lifting this month in elle decor.  

“i don’t like a lot of curves — all that modern furniture that looks like a collection of marshmallows.”

DAMN.  gauntlet slap.  who wants to play?

haynes and roberts / elle decor / june 2013

that marshmallow couch is all like, bitch let’s take this outside.

i’m with the couch.

anti-marshmallow supremacist john saladino doesn’t mince words when prosthelytizing:

“so much decorating today is in-your-face — the wow factor.  i like holding back.  i’m more interested in what you leave out than put in.”

a little pretentious for my taste.

i read magazines in rounds, the first round without actually reading any text in order to gauge my unbiased emotional response to design.  timothy haynes and anthony roberts had me awe-gasping straight into a choking hazard.

haynes and roberts / elle decor / june 2013

haynes and roberts / elle decor / june 2013


saladino’s work?  barely caused the needle to twitch on my speedometer.

john saladino / elle decor / june 2013

john saladino / elle decor / june 2013

he has a subtlety obsession tipping into fetish, methinks.

on my second pass through his feature in the magazine, i stifled a yawn and took a close read of his clear descriptive vision.

“they’re metamorphic colors that change according to the time if day–gray to celadon, beige to taupe. they’re always implicit, never explicit.”

unlike his monologues.

john saladino / elle decor / june 2013

“i never do anything obvious.”

except talk, apparently.

subtlety belongs behind the professional photographer on the side of the room where you throw all the old newspapers and toy monkeys to get them out of the way of your photoshoot.

while paging through his rooms, i had flashbacks to architectural digest’s february issue celebrating blandness.

terry hunziker / architectural digest / feb 2013

good enough for a layman’s home and wholly inadequate for a glossy interiors spread.

magazine features should cause a cardiac jolt.

kelly wearstler / lonny magazine / june 2013

eyes bugging at the weirdness?

apparently, marshmallow furniture gets the hollywood regency tycoon kelly wearstler seal of approval.  i’m already buzzing with a dozen ways to fit that funk into my lookbook.  (note the checkerboard coffee table.)

(s’more checkerboard.)

kelly wearstler / lonny magazine / june 2013

(take my love with a grain of salt.  by now, i’d applaud a checkerboard-painted landmine.)

as mad men starts a slow jog to the finish line and the great gatsby gains momentum in its pole dance, we’re seeing a natural pivot away from the mid-century modern cupcake shop and towards art deco froyo.

i’m game for a new shock wave of inspiration as long as “beige to taupe” is never quoted again.

decor that may cause you to choke on your grape

first, swallow your grape.

haynes and roberts / elle decor / june 2013


a quick daybed thought before we both doze off

been getting serious miles out of this new daybed. like, a-free-flight-and-five-nights-in-bali kind of miles.

my place

so disappointed in myself for letting ignorance deprive me for all these years.

if i’m going to bare my soul, i will admit that i used to eye daybeds with suspicion. my parents had never owned one. a couch was a couch and a bed was a bed… how could a piece of furniture be equal parts both? isn’t that forbidden by law in most states?

in the late 80’s, i met my first daybed in the bedroom of a childhood playmate.

“where do you sleep?”

“on my bed.”

“oh. where’s your bed?”

“over there.”


much confusion in preschool.

a couple decades later and i’m lounging in the comfort of a bed avec laptop and coffee without feeling like a lazy piece of shit for staying in bed all day.

i accept it, i love it, but i have to admit that i don’t know how to dress it.

my pea brain could deduce that the mattress would need a cover in the thick, tough disguise of upholstry fabric. these are damn near impossible to find. i dare you to try.

pottery barn was not only the best option, it was the only option.

lewis daybed cover / pottery barn / $129

(west elm sent me a box spring cover. fail.)

next step… hoard cushions?

i already own two king pillows in storage for guests and assumed they would work as a backdrop with a simple quilted sham.

pick-stitch sham / pottery barn / $39

cushions tell the color story. a pop of yellow to speak to the eames shell. a pop of peacock to speak to the rug. a turkish kilim rug pillow to sing its own song and offer a few notes to cushions i already own. a cow hide square for texture. a plain white bolster for shape.

now…. how to arrange them? not a clue. after a few clumsy attempts on my part, my sister-in-law / overnight guest schooled me.

my place

wake me up next week.

how to tame your hard drive of travel photography before it grows a robot brain and destroys you

hold on to your pants, guys.  this is a long one.

i had promised in an early post re: travel tchotchkes to describe a clever tool for showcasing travel photos in a design-conscious way without defaulting to black & white prints.

chowmahalla palace / hyderabad india / dec 2009

don’t be timid about manipulating your prints.  exploit them like a corporate pig, because digital photography is probably ruining your life anyway.

consider this:

1.  in the era of purchasing film, you were selective about using the 24 available exposures on the roll.

2.  you strolled up to the fontana di trevi in your fly new tevas.  you gasped at the realism of its carefully sculpted figures.  your friend pointed out triton’s awkward expression and you all shared a laugh.

3.  you pulled out your camera and thoughtfully chose a few frames:

first, a group shot of you and your friends with the fountain behind you, taken by a fellow tourist.

next, a view facing the fountain head-on and capturing the full extent of the building in all its glory.

finally, a close-up with a beam of sunlight graphically cutting across neptune’s face with a vibrant blue sky as the backdrop.

boom.  three pictures: one for documenting your presence, one for capturing the moment at a macro level, and one for artistic value.  you drop off the film on your way home from the airport and have trevi’s neptune on your wall a week later.

fast-forward fifteen years.  you walk up to the fountain, SLR hanging around your neck.  you say, ooOOoo!  then you pull the camera to your face and start snapping.

a week later, you’re sitting on your couch staring at a folder of 86 fontana di trevi pictures.  you think, shit.  i don’t feel like doing this now.

a year later, those pics are still prisoner in your laptop.

i am SO guilty here.

it’s no wonder that i hestitate to take photographs at all anymore.  photography management is a full time job requiring a mechanically cooled data center and paid interns.  i don’t deny the value of digital photography… i just balk at the time commitment forced on me by this tyranny of choice.

so.  in the rare moment when i do get around to printing photographs, i like to take advantage of their digital-ness to the fullest extent i know.

remember these guys above my tv?

my place

they’re 14×11 prints of trips to playa del carmen, istanbul, and hyderabad.

my place

looks all right, yeah?  the mexican palm tree on my honeymoon beach went from standard:

royal hideaway playacar / playa del carmen mexico / aug 2008

to epic:

all it takes is a single filter in GIMP, the free open source equivalent of photoshop, to turn a typical photograph into dramatic – and meaningful – artwork.

choose an image with the most eye-catching silhouette and adjust the frame and tilt until the composition of your photo is to your liking.

blue mosque / istanbul turkey / nov 2009

apply the posterize color tool.

set posterize level to 2.


red-pill-or-blue-pill?-like awesomeness.

manipulating a digital image doesn’t imply that the original is a crappy photograph.  no, the goal in using this GIMP filter is to unify your best pictures so that their most stunning qualities do the following:

a) fit cohesively in the color story of your room, and

b) leap off the wall onto the innocent guest sipping chai on your couch

your friends shouldn’t have to walk up to your travel photos and stare closely as if analyzing a museum piece.  your travels DEMAND attention, damnit.  force them on people.

i haven’t printed this one yet, but i intend to replace chowmahalla palace with these south american beach cliffs which are pretty like so:

miraflores / lima peru / dec 2011

and badass like so:

as i inch forward in developing the home office gallery wall, i’m using GIMP to toy with the prints.  my personal favorite?  a shot i grabbed of the opera house while riding a ferry through sydney harbor.

opera house / sydney australia / sept 2012

after a little GIMP massage, check it:


new look. really, really old chair.

all right, y’all. new blog name. new look.


in other words, my place about places. also math.

let me explain.

these musings on interior design had been bubbling inside me for years before i started this blog. in december, i finally grabbed a domain name in a rush to get words on paper before this mental pressure cooker burned down the city.

well i love me some behr raging sea, but marrying your blog to a brand name other than your own is at best unintelligent. an adjustment was needed. (…and ideally done before producing any more content. forty-three posts take a long minute to reorganize.)

this name is a little more timeless, a little more likely to roll off the tongue, a little more relating directly to me. you may crack a smile if you’ve ever lived the college joyride of differential equations.

it’s also a little less free advertising for behr. the new about page says mo’.

final thought:

i just saw these green velvet pieces in the new lonny and nearly dropped my ipad.

gribbon and tepper / lonny magazine / june 2013

remember the comic-con chair from craigslist?


i clawed through that article like a madwoman to find a description.

“The 1870s velvet-and-horn furniture hails from Texas and came from the Upper East Side apartment Tepper grew up in…”


i dunno what to say.

welcome to the new blog.