Why Do Kids Get All the Fun? An Ikea Designer Shopping List for Adults

Why Do Kids Get All the Fun? An Ikea Designer Shopping List for Adults

That dreaded unnamed season about 5/8ths of the way into summer that you don’t want to even think about: Ikea Season. You’ve got to make the inevitable pilgrimage for the kids going off to college, and for the clever teens who have presented well-reasoned arguments for room upgrades under the guise of increased productivity.There’s nothing “designer” there, right?

But while the kids are off picking selecting lamps, mirrors, and all sorts of plastic, we think these items are stylish, super reasonable and worthy of a grown-up abode. Just don’t tell anyone where you got them!

 

Orchids and Bamboo

designer orchids

I’m always shocked at how nice and inexpensive they are, especially the colorful orchids! Why buy the plastic ones? That’s a designer no-no!

 

Velvet Curtain Panels

designer velvet curtains

Great for a guest room, these are a steal- their thickness belies their affordability.  Hem them yourself. Spring for a Bedazzler if you’re an overachiever.

Terracotta Wine Chillers

designer wine cooler

For your “deck wine”

Simple White Plates

designer plates Ikea

I just bought these and have never been happier. Perhaps the best bargain of them all. Simple bliss

Pillow Covers & Down Inserts

 

designer pillow covers

There’s a time I want a gorgeous custom designer pillow. Other times I like to switch them out for the season. Guiltless.

Oversized Paper Napkins

I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a party without these babies. The size makes them seem oddly luxurious.

Minimalist Picture Frames

designer picture frames.

A designer gallery wall to remind you of your newly off-to-college kids? Done.

Happy Hunting!

Dean Malambri

President, Dean Alan Design

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Insider Secrets- Memorial Day Furniture Sales (from a Recovering Furniture Sale Addict)

Insider Secrets- Memorial Day Furniture Sales (from a Recovering Furniture Sale Addict)

My 48th year on planet Earth hit me mildly hard this week. Not with a “quick- call the plastic surgeon” sense of urgency, but as a gentle voice tugging at my sleeve, “take better care of yourself.”  So it’s now a glass of green juice at 5 AM and off to the gym I go!

On the elliptical, I always turn on something brainless, like the local news. And on every commercial break this week, there’s someone shouting about their Memorial Day Furniture Sale. It’s a familiar refrain in America, the excitement of a sale. I’m not immune!

As an interior designer, I do a lot of ton of specifying and shopping for furniture in the normal course of projects. And truth be told, many years ago I got my design start as a “designer” in a furniture store picking out people’s furniture. So with my experience comes my advice on making sense out of  the frenzies that are holiday sales.

Here’s a little key to decoding all those too-good-to be true sales, from lowest discount to most substantial.

Special Order Furniture:

You see something, you like it and want it. Hold on, they need to special order it- it’s not stocked. All furniture stores (and designers)  order this class of furniture the same way: one piece at a time. It’s a bit more specific to what you want, so the store has to arrange for the manufacturer at least to simply send it to a warehouse, and if it’s a customized piece, they’ll have to specify how to make it. It’s the least discounted type of furniture, because it takes the longest amount of time to order. If you need a financing deal though, buying special order furniture makes sense because there’s often an accompanying offer. If you don’t need that, there’s usually no rush. Most all furniture is discounted from retail every day of the week, so don’t succumb to the screams of “this week only!”

In Stock Furniture and “Special Buys”:

What you see is what you get here, no modifying. Usually it’s a generic piece or pieces (bedroom or dining set), and in all likelihood, the pieces are built overseas. These pieces are usually non-polarizing and appeal to the broadest section of people possible. Back in the early 2000’s it was this classic beige microfiber puffy couch

Puffy microfiber sofa The overseas factories can churn out these puppies out by the thousands, and usually the manufacturing cost doesn’t dictate the retail price as much, oddly, as the shipping cost. The proverbial “slow boat from China. (for an interesting look at how inexpensive stuff can look really luxurious, read my friend Laurel’s awesome post “The Shocking Truth About Restoration Hardware”)  If a store can buy a whole ship container of anything, (and as is the trend nowadays, a grey linen-looking Chesterfield like this):

grey chesterfield on sale

this thing’s like $399 this week.

, they get a huge price break and can pass the savings on. That’s usually the type of merchandise that they shout about on the commercial breaks in the morning. If you’re just starting out, or you have a whole empty house and just need stuff fast, some people go this way (hey no judgments here). The landfills will curse you, but really, no judgement…

 Floor Samples:

furniture store clearance sales

The best deals you can get at a furniture store are hands down on floor samples; the holy grail of deals. And the longer it sits there, the cheaper it gets. They’re one of a kind finds, and I have a bunch in my own house.

Luxury designer chair bargain, chartreuse fabric

Awesome deal here because this chartreuse fabric is not everyone’s cup of tea.

You can’t change anything, it comes as is, and it might be there because:

  1. the store wants to rotate its floor pieces
  2. someone at the store ordered it incorrectly for someone else in the first place, or,
  3. no one wanted it in the first place

Hunting floor samples takes cunning and patience. You can save tremendous amounts here and there, but it’s virtually impossible to get a beautiful coordinated room from entirely floor samples. I’ve tried. There’s just too many variables. Trust me on this or you’ll end up with a half-finished space for years. But here and there, yeah, they’re great, and you can be that slightly annoying person at parties who brags to everyone how much money you’ve saved. I’ve been that guy but am now in remission.

A word of warning about floor samples: We have a storage area filled with them in hopes that someday, one of our clients will be a perfect match for something we got a great deal on.  But I have to reign in my “hunter-gatherer” instinct and realize the thrill of the hunt is more thrilling then the actual prize.

Which is why I have:

a “Tibetan Swamp Log” for 7 years

An orange carved mirror

designer mirror with sconces

An electrified mirror with sconces

and dozens of other pieces admittedly, I didn’t need, but I got whipped up in the sale frenzy. At this point, they might be part of my permanent collection!

The best advice I can give you on these sales is to have a firm plan in mind before you walk in. Don’t buy just to buy. That’s very 1996. Realize the long term goal is a beautiful home, not the bargain here and there. And it’s Memorial Day weekend- go to a barbecue instead!

Dean Malambri signature

 

 

Dean Malambri, President of Dean Alan Design

 

 

 

 

Dean Malambri is President and Principal Interior Designer for Dean Alan Design Inc, a residential interior design firm primarily serving Chicago and the Chicago suburbs.

 

 

 

 

 

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Moving Mom Pt. 1- What to Do With All the Furniture?

Moving Mom Pt. 1- What to Do With All the Furniture?

Ah, the circle of life. My mom is officially done with all of the maintenance and care needed to keep a big house going. So, we’ve put the home I grew up in on the market and Mom now aspires to the downsized life. The heat went out this winter and we’ll always remember that event as being the straw that broke the camel’s back. But how do you efficiently sift through 46 years of family memories? Let’s start with the big stuff- the furniture.

Anyone who’s an American knows we are an abundant country. Full of stuff. Whether you are a pack rat or you’ve simply lived a full life, it doesn’t matter- we’re all drowning in excess stuff. And there’s so much new stuff, who wants the old stuff?

It all comes down to:
  1. the quality of the piece,
  2.  how much time you’re willing to invest, and/or
  3. the personal memories your family’s items have for you,

Furniture Quality

When materials were more plentiful, and there was less than 7 billion people on the planet, less expensive items were just made better. Mom’s wrought iron patio set was built in 1968 and you can’t even lift the chairs, they’re so heavy:

great quality patio set from 1968

This set has survived tornadoes, blizzards, and just needs to be spray painted again every once in awhile

Before I “saw the light,” the patio sets I’ve owned have survived 3-4 years, at which point they just fall apart. So a few coats of spray paint, some new cushions, and a new umbrella, and this item will last another 40 years. Nice to keep it in the family.

It gets trickier with upholstered items, like this chaise.

poor quality chaise lounge

A not so great quality piece. If you don’t like the fabric, you’re best off donating it.

In this case, the investment to get it into good shape is too high if you don’t like the fabric it’s covered in. Don’t get me wrong, we  love reupholstering family heirlooms and furniture from America’s Golden Age of Furniture (and do a lot of it for our projects), but reupholstering is not something you can pick up easily from a You Tube DIY video. We use experienced re-upholsterers  who know all the ins and outs of this specialized craft. The frame is not particularly well made, the cushioning needs to be replaced, and, admittedly, my Mom got it “to fill the space.” Here’s a rough idea of costs, if we were to bring it back to life

  • Reupholstery Labor: $800
  • New fabric: 12 yards plain fabric @ roughly $35 a yard= $420
  • Replace cushions and Stuffing= $200
  • New bullion fringe trim on bottom roughly 7 yards @ $25= $175
  • Pick up and re delivery= $200

=  $1800 (and she probably paid half that amount!)

How Much Time Do You Have?

On the other end of the spectrum, this guest bedroom set was bought back in the early 80’s, (around the time the Golden Girls were flourishing), and everyone loved blonde wood:

Solid wood 80s bedroom set

That green carpet color is starting to become popular again, believe it or not

The set is not veneered particle board, like today (you can tell by the edges), so you could get a power belt sander, strip it down and repaint it white over a few weekends. Also, a great choice for college kids in the fall.

if you’re feeling crafty and don’t want to buy something new for a guest room, a good candidate for a garage project.

Maybe it could turn out like this:

brand new

But my brothers and sister and I don’t have time for such a project. So my brother Joe (who’s a master at selling things online), listed it on www.letgo.com. A young couple, expecting a new baby and in the process of buying their first house, called for it quickly. We sold it for a very fair price, and they got some furniture that was made much better than the ready to assemble furniture in the same price range. A good deal for all.

Downsizing & Personal Home Memories

One of the most interesting parts of going through the house were going through the stories that accompanied the smaller pieces (stay tuned for that blog, I can’t wait to tell you what I learned in the process). But I had some strong associations with a few of Mom’s bigger pieces because of my own memories. My parents always threw lavish dinner parties, and this buffet was the place for treats during family events.

Chinoiserie buffet

Oh the parties this buffet has seen!

It opens for larger buffets spreads

Chinoiserie buffet

excuse the shoe.

And I promptly filled the insides it with wine and glassware that I don’t have space for.  

I can’t wait to have Mom over for a dinner party and keep the family dinner party tradition alive using the Chinoiserie-like buffet. And I love the kitsch of it too. Not terribly expensive, but terrific memories!

Family Heirlooms

Probably the strongest memories I have, though, is of music circulating around the house at all hours of the day. Both Mom and Dad were musicians and music teachers, and so this unassuming piece, believe it or not, holds especially fond memories for me.

solid vintage wood music room cabinet

my mom saved up for two of these solid wood music cabinets way back in the 60s!

As a kid, I used to rifle through them all the time: the pieces she taught, the music she herself studied. I remember the sound the drawers made opening and closing. They’re totally beat up from a life of use. Cats have scratched the fronts. But wonderfully made out of solid cherry. At some point, I will restore them using the best refinsher I know. They are my prized possessions and I have now started putting all of my music in them

Vintage music cabinet from moms downsizing

My own music now lives in these cabinets

And they now live happily next to a bookcase reclaimed from a Indian door frame, and a piece of art my aunt did that I love. The custom chair is where I love to read.

Inverness vintage cabinets, reclaimed Indian door fram, luxury chair by Dean Alan Design

Transitions, and moving, it goes without saying, are stressful times for everyone. And I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t go through this process at some point!  But it’s nice to honor the passage of time and to pass on family memories through the items you cherish. But in this era of overabundance, choose wisely!

I’ll leave you with a pic of my Mom, Joan Malambri, who still likes to party!

Alan S

Mom and Alan still partying and having fun!

I’d love to learn about your experiences with your own family home!

Stay tuned for Part 2: what to do with all the small stuff, and why did everyone collect so much?

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Dean Malambri, President of Dean Alan Design

 

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7 Ways to Turn Your Home Into A Cocoon Part 1

7 Ways to Turn Your Home Into A Cocoon Part 1

Futurist and trend-predictor Faith Popcorn first coined the term “cocooning,” 35 years ago. In its broadest sense, “cocooning” meant staying home and insulating oneself from danger, real or imaginary. Back in 1981, that meant retreating to living rooms outfitted with VCR’s, CD players, and Barcaloungers to satisfy that craving for warmth, family, and security.

It seems history has a habit of repeating itself.

Fast-forward to 2017, and Ms. Popcorn has now updated her term to the slicker sounding “uber-cocooning”, or even “super-cocooning.” She predicts now an increase in consumer desires for, among other things, water filtration, home security, and home delivery systems.

Incidentally, this “nesting” desire is nothing new to Chicagoans, albeit without the nagging feelings of impending cataclysm. For us, it arrives yearly, usually around November and slogs on through March. Days are shorter, colder and grayer. So when we ask prospective Chicago clients what they want their home to feel like, “cozy and warm,” is the customary response. Seriously, it’s like a scene out of Groundhog Day!

So rather than waxing on about dystopian solutions, Alan and I put our heads together, and humbly offer up some suggestions here from our body of knowledge on how to make your home more “cocoon- like” year-round (or at least until the apocalypse).

Cocooning Project 1: Let There Be (Warm) Light!

cocooning home, warm versus cool light

Back in the good old days of incandescent bulbs, you just had to pick wattage. Enter the dreaded CFL bulb. While the new CFL (fluorescent) bulbs are remarkable more energy efficient than incandescents, they tend to make your home look like a hospital from a horror movie. Thank god for LED bulbs.

Keep in mind LEDs all have different color “temperatures”, which are measured in Kelvins. It’s more the default these days for the new LED bulbs to be in the “cool zone,” meaning like CFLs, they also can cast an eerie, sterile bluish-green glaze across your home. So remember this rule of thumb: the lower the Kelvin number, the warmer, or yellower the light. Your typical incandescent equates to  somewhere between 2,700 and 3,500K, If that’s the color value you’re going for, look for this Kelvin range while shopping.

“Smart” LED bulbs are a whole different animal, and do not work with existing dimmers. Instead, they are a component of a “smart home system, like the Phillips Hue. So don’t go out and buy the most expensive LED bulb you can find without knowing what you’re in for. Dimmable LEDS instead are most likely what you’re looking for if you just want to replace your bulbs and gain energy efficiency.

Cocooning Project 2: Dress Your Windows in Layers

Those of us in Chicago innately know how to dress in layers. It’s a survival tactic in winter and a fashion statement about half of the year.

Window treatments fall under two categories: hard treatments (blinds, shades & shutters), and soft treatments (draperies and fabric treatments).

If you are serious about your cocooning, you could isolate and close off your room with a touch of a button, James Bond style.

But when you just have some utilitarian hard treatments, it just doesn’t feel right from a cocooning perspective. Hard treatments,by themselves, often rather naked:

not the coziest effect

But overdone soft fabric treatments sometimes get a deservedly bad rap too, courtesy of the 80’s and 90’s, when you could hardly even decipher that windows even existed beneath all those swags and jabots.

over cocooning effect with overdone drapes

you could easily lose a small child in these!

While the old aesthetic was suffocating and “over cozy” to us, naked, exposed windows to us are a little bleak. With our own projects, we try to achieve a happy balance between the two: a combination of a functional hard treatment layer paired with an understated decorative treatment.

Soft treatments never seemed that important to me when I started back in the design business, since I prided myself on being Mr. Contemporary-Sleek- Modern. But if there was one component that I’ve seen that most drastically changes the feel of a room, it would be soft window treatments. I’m not saying your living room should look like the I Dream of Jeannie bottle, just something that softens your hard windows a bit.

Consider this pretty room:

Nice, eh, but cold…

Now look:

The room’s ready for your next Netflix binge session when you close those drapes.

If you perchance to dream, here’s an absolutely lovely example of cozy, warm window treatments with three layers, courtesy of Traditional Home:

Stationary panels, gauzy sheers, and simple roman treatments all contribute to the coziness of this dramatic room.

But be prepared financially. There’s lots of labor, measuring, and material when it comes to layered treatments. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉

Cocooning Project 3: Pad Your Walls

The prevailing trend in interior design is clean, uncluttered and simple, but that’s not to be confused with cold. Invariable, when you’re working with analogous color palettes, and contemporary materials that appear flatter, cooler and/or or smoother, you’ve got to use contrasting textures. One of the most overlooked ways to do this is through some carefully chosen wall coverings. Not to be confused with the word wallpaper.

The word “wallpaper” continues to frighten and terrify people, and with good reason

The backdrop of frequent nightmares

make it stop!!!

Back in the day, wallpapers focused on patterns and a whole lot of them. Today, we view wall coverings as a tool to bring an alternating texture to a space, which ups the coziness ante.

Wall coverings encompass more than bold patterns, they’re also about texture. Consider grass cloths like these:

or even wood veneers like these:

Asian Essence wood veneer wall covering by Winfield Thybony

to lend a warm and inviting feel to your room.

Some luxury wall covering companies like Maya Romanoff even have fabric wallcoverings treated for soil and stain resistance!

Blanket Zig-Zag wool blend wall covering from Maya Romanoff

or for a less permanent solution, you could always cover an accent wall in fabric, drapery style, like we did here for a cozy bedroom feel outside of Chicago

cozy warm bedroom Chicago suburb drapery wall, luxury bedding by Dean Alan Design

We covered the wall in drapery for a cozy effect here in a hotel-like bedroom plan (Upholstered bed by Bernhardt).

Cocooning Project 4: Build a Fort

We’ve noticed a trend that clients are wanting seating groupings that feel more intimate, something better suited towards cozy conversations and “Netflix” nights. The traditional sofa/love seat concept doesn’t really foster this.

I get nervous looking at this…will I get the loveseat?

Instead, you can configure a sectional flexibly.  I’m not talking about those puffy, microfiber behemoths like this:

Just no.

They are usually out of proportion to a room. But consider sectionals that give a feeling of a “built-in” to a small room, upping your coziness quotient

A cozy book nook when the Christmas tree comes down

For the ultimate in flexibility, consider a “pit group.” Despite their “swinging” association with the 70’s,

pit groups are coming back into style, albeit a bit more tastefully. You just pick out the number of pieces,

sectional piecesand configure for your specific room

They’re wonderful before and after the Christmas tree comes down, because you can just add or subtract pieces and store them away until you need them.

So there’s the the first four tips for achieving that cozy feeling in your home. Next week there’s three more including:

  • paint color
  • textures
  • air care (no, there’s not supposed to be an ‘h’ there!

Stay tuned, and stay warm!

Dean Malambri Signature

Dean Malambri

Principal, Dean Alan Design Inc.

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Holiday Survival Skills: The Christmas Costco Conundrum

Holiday Survival Skills: The Christmas Costco Conundrum

If you’re like us, Costco plays a supporting role in almost all of our holiday festivities. In fairly serious strategy sessions around the kitchen island, we try to figure out what things make sense to get there and how to get out FAST. Lists are made. Tactics are formulated (“you get the wine with the cart and I’ll meet you over at the beef tenderloin.”)  But on our trip yesterday, I had a new found understanding of why I both dread our annual holiday pilgrimage to Costco, and actually kind of like it too: it’s a bizarre modern American version of the old bazaar.

Giant TV’s dazzle as you walk in. You try to not make eye contact with the guy hawking the latest and greatest in juicing technology. And it seems you’re always bumping into people at the aisle intersections.

We don’t buy many Christmas presents there anymore. In fact, we hardly buy any gifts like we did in the 90’s. Back then, the cheap imports were starting to flow into our country like water. It was weird and wonderful: the cost of clothing and unnecessary appliances seems to plummet 50% overnight. Our gift opening ritual sometimes went on for 4 or 5 or 6 hours. But life in 2016 is different. In both Alan’s and my families, we have secured every cheaply rendered creature comfort by now. Probably way too many. So buying big plastic things at warehouse stores does not hold the allure it once did at Christmas. Instead, we buy mainly food, booze and an occasional item of whimsy that seems to promise us a feeling of coziness there, like fuzzy slippers or comfy earmuffs. And then there’s the added bonus of all those Costco sampling carts!

There’s a silent tactical battle that goes on into securing a good food sample at Costco, for something like a whisper of turtle cheesecake, or a bite of panko-breaded mozzarella (I know you know what I’m talking about!). Here’s the scene: there’s no samples on the tray, and the demonstrator is dutifully preparing the next batch of say, chipotle meatballs.

you know you want that meatball

You know you want a meatball, but can you wait until they hit the tray? So you pretend to look at some items in the general perimeter of the forthcoming meatball, but your eye is really just focused on the prize. Your peripheral vision has never been this honed as you browse the assortment of tortellini. You know it’s a ruse, and so do the other 10 people waiting for that meatball.

But when those meatballs are finally released for public consumption, a tidal wave of people casually but nonetheless urgently rushes over to the cart. Parents, looking to feed their offspring, gently prod their young in the direction of the meatball-  “get in there,” they urge. It’s like watching a pack of lions devour an antelope, just with slightly more polished manners. That old Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom show comes to mind.

I always feel bad for the people cooking up these mini treats because hardly anyone takes the time to say thank you or strike up a conversation. It’s a frenzy of grab-and-go, and then onto the next conquest, like the shrimp or something. So yesterday, Alan dropped the best shrimp sample joke: “$24.99? Hey, not bad for a little tail!” The hair-netted shrimp-sample-server roared with laughter. I groaned. “You can have as many shrimp as you want; you made me laugh,” the nice lady told us.

So we got the ingredients on our list, some artisan meats to go into my traditional antipasto salad, and got out. But we always get gas too (it’s so cheap), and so the familiar face who works as the gas station attendant came over to say hello. The neat thing about our Costco is that workers stay for years. They pay their employees extremely well, they have sane holiday shopping hours so that their workers can enjoy time with their families, and they offer very good benefits. So it seems no one leaves! At this point, I’ve developed a relationship with the gas station guy. We talk casually talk politics (he liked my Bernie Sanders bumper sticker), shoot the breeze, and for that reason, I come back again and again. I like seeing people I know when I shop.

Alan and I see holiday shopping differently now. With no one wanting or needing gifts, we instead decided to use our Christmas funds to donate to needy kids.

Presents on their way to the United Way!

But we still go to Costco, we just don’t buy the cheap stuff destined quickly for the landfill. We abhor their durable goods, like furniture, because we know that after that rush of the bargain, you’ll throw it away super fast and have to buy another one. These things are actually not durable at all , nor are they meant to be (look for upcoming posts about this). But we love their selection of foods and now Christmas has morphed into more of a Bacchanalian festival of food and drink more so than a gluttonous exercise in opening gifts.

And with the upcoming push from Amazon to sell groceries, I think we’ll still go to Costco for our holiday ingredients. It’s nice to get out to fight the crowds, get some great food and spread the cheer!

Wishing you the most joyous holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

(and Gatsby!))

 

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