Friday, May 29, 2015

Blueberry Picking in Georgia: A Perfectly Peaceful Day Surrounded by Greenery

Finally! I've been meaning to head 45 minutes north to Georgia to pick blueberries for years now! I enjoyed the experience more than I thought I would. It was different than I'd imagined, the field was huge and surrounded on all sides by a pine tree forrest. The farm was delightfully rustic, I loved the hand-painted sign and patio furniture lunch area. I expected to have fun and buy loads of local, organic berries for my daily smoothies for less, but I didn't anticipate how meditative and relaxing the experience wold be. You forget the daily woes and get sucked into the task at hand, no relentless music blaring or the sounds of traffic from outside my window. Just the soft rustling of branches as the breeze cooled us, or the songs from birds overhead. It was blissful, and I'll certainly be back to pick more.

The farm owner gave us a tour, recommended which berries to pick, and provided us with harnesses for easier berry picking! You hook on your bucket and it's easy to pick all day.

My pounds of berries are already nearly devoured, they didn't even make it into my planned raw vegan blueberry pie! Actually, we're already making plans to explore Georgia more in general. It's not far away yet I rarely visit, only one state North, yet there's a different culture across the state line.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thrifters Around the World: Hunting and Making in Timisoara, Romania with Art Teacher, Anca

Long-time reader Anca recently reached out to share her story after my World Thrifters re-cap, and I'd be remiss not to share the story of a art educator and thrifter from Romania! Oh, and she's in a feminist vocal arts group? How awesome is that? With descriptions of ample relaxing parks of cafes, Romania's a new place on my dream-visit list!

Please tell us about yourself, Anca!

I’m Anca and I am from Timisoara, a city in Romania. I live with my two best friends and our two rescue dogs. I work as an art teacher and artist.

You told me you're an art educator, which is something I consider going to school for every few minutes, haha. Please tell us about your art education/background.

I studied painting at the Art University in my city, it was my teenage dream to be able to study there. My generation was the last to study exclusively for free, but the admission exam was difficult. I was very disappointed though after the first months of studying there, in the very macho and competition oriented atmosphere. But that was where I’ve met my friends with whom I work now, so studying there wasn’t for nothing.

I've had multiple friends tell me they suffered through the same environment. "I took a year break to recover from art school," is a joke I often hear. What's your favorite thing to create?

I work together with my friends in a feminist visual art group and working with them is my main interest and passion. Besides that, I have many creative hobbies like film photography, embroidery and drawing.

What's your favorite thing to collect?
I like to collect things that can be used creatively, like old photo cameras or crafting supplies. But also, I am searching for things that tell a story about their era or their former owners like antique and vintage photos, old costume jewelry and toys and school supplies from my childhood.

How does hunting inspire you creatively?
I love being surrounded by objects that have a history. Trying to unravel their story is very intriguing to me, and that includes the knowledge that part of their story will always stay a mystery.

Tell us about where you live.
It’s one of the big cities in Romania, but it doesn’t really feel like a big city, besides the fact that there are too many cars. It's a pleasant place to live in most of the time, with many parks and relaxed cafes.

Is there a big art/diy/craft culture in Romania?

I wouldn't say there is a big scene, especially concerning the kinds of art, crafts and design that I 'm interested in (that have a clear ecologist and anti- consumerist stance). But, I don' t feel isolated either, there are people around me to be inspired by, to discuss and work with.

Is there a big thrifting culture?

I couldn’t say that thrifting is something “mainstream”, but it’s something important for people who are creative and want to step out (at least partially) from the consumer culture. But also, I know stories of people who are ashamed to run into acquaintances at the flea market.

What are thrift stores like where you live?

I find most of the things I collect at the flea market, thrift stores here sell mostly clothes, some of them having very small knick-knacks sections. But I don’t complain, I have found many great pieces of clothing in thrift stores; actually I can’t even remember when I last bought a clothing item new (besides underwear and socks).

What are vintage shops like where you live?

There are not many curated vintage shops, actually now I can think of only one that is doing well. I think that people who are interested in vintage items prefer to search for them in flea markets.

What drives you to hunt and collect?
I think it' s important to buy as little as possible new mass-produced items, things whose production is most often based on the exploitation of humans, animals and nature.  So, searching for useful pre-owned items is really important to me.  Also adding to my collections is something that relaxes and inspires me.

What's your biggest creative muse?
Everyday life!  The streets I walk by, the things that happen to me and my friends, our dogs, our reactions to how things are reflected in mainstream media, etc. And the flea markets, of course!

Any creative plans for the future?

Among other things, I plan to continue an embroidered diary and also draw (at least) 100 things from nature, to have as examples for my students in the next school year, but also because it is so nice to look closely at flowers and leaves and acorns.

Favorite thrifted find?

It’s hard to narrow it down to one favorite, but I was very glad when I have found a sterling guilloche enameled pendant shaped as an acorn (it opens like a box) from the 1910s- 1920s. Also, finding a Chinese pencil case from the eighties that it’s the exact same one that I used to have as a kid was something that made me very happy.

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Anca! Anca blogs at Stories of Objects.

/Comments Off I'm finally out of town at the Hostel in the Forest for a couple of days! I'm keeping the comments off for the next couple of posts so I can leave electronics behind and just explore nature. :D I'll post updates on Instagram.
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Monday, May 25, 2015

Vintage Instagram Sale- Retro Wares, Some New, Some Old Starting at $5.00 Each. One Day Only!

It's liberating to do something for your business on a whim! I've been embroiled in business planning, reading, making spreadsheets, crunching numbers and generally being super methodical with the next moves. When it came time to tackle the task of packing the rest of my vintage merchandise for mom's attic (as she generously offered) I randomly decided to launch my first Instagram sale! I was admiring the beauty of each item as I cleaned, add decided I want to give blog readers a chance to own some of these beauties for less. They're sexy and they want new homes with people who'll love them. I heard them say this to me, I'm crazy like that.

Edit: The sale is now over. Check out my Etsy shop if you'd like to buy anything!

/ / / / /

It was fun to snap the photos for this sale and take a break from my usual tedious shooting/working style. The mostly 1970s wares look nice on this retro "woodgrain" backdrop and a polaroid-style filter! I hope you'll check out the sale. If it does well I'll be sure to do more of these. I have plenty of fun wares that haven't been seen yet, I'd love to connect them with my kindred creative spirits. If you check out the same items in my Etsy shop you'll see you're getting amazing deals on everything. This isn't even a profit-maker for me, it's more of a way to clear out and get my items in new homes rather than letting them waste away in the attic :)

I had this song playing while I snapped the photos, for proper immersion into the era these items were made sold during!

/Comments Off but e-mail me if you have any questions. There are more items in my Etsy shop.
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Friday, May 22, 2015

Thrifters Around the World: A Global Look at Craft and Collecting Culture.

I have severe wanderlust. I want to explore all the things, see all the places. It's a goal of mine to renovate and take residence in a retro RV and travel the USA, stopping at markets to sell my wares in different states and taking hundreds of photos along the way. I would of course, stop at local thrifts, junk shops and art boutiques/galleries, too. When I was going to open a vintage shop the goal was to collect enough to fill a store, now-a-days I'd take photos of most things and buy only the rare, odd, most-special items for my collection. Ah, to dream!

With my past "Thrifters Around the World" series I was able to vicariously satisfy my travel bug. It was fascinating to peer into the worlds of these fellow collectors and creators. I still long to see those thrifts in Amsterdam, or shop those night markets in Taiwan- the perfect thing for a busy-brained night owl! We need those here where I live! I've received grateful e-mails about the series from people across the globe and continue to make interesting connections from it. I was interviewed by this awesome duo because they found my blog while googling "Thrift Stores in Amsterdam". They were going on an extended vacation and wanted to thrift while they were visiting!

I'm excited to continue sharing stories from all walks of life and locations. For now, this a look back at my global thrifters series. This series slowed down when frequent submissions stopped, but I have a new line-up of creatives who want to share their global thrifting experiences. This calls for a revival!

  If you would like to be featured in home tour, indie business, or creative business interview, shoot me an e-mail.  I would love to interview you and chat about being creative where you live.

Past Thrifters Around The World Interviews:

Thrifting in New Zealand with Georgia and Christie

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mad Men Finale: Thoughts on Show Themes. What Are Your Thoughts on the Ending?

Mad Men has directly helped me be a successful reseller. I've sold many an iconic "Dorothy Thrope" roly poly, portable bar or cute Betty Draper-style cute 60s kitchen piece. When Mad Men seasons would come back on the air, traffic to my Etsy shop would surge. I initially watched the show for market trends, I tried to start at Season 2 and turned off my rented library DVD a few minutes in, confused. Years later, assured by a movie buff acquaintance that I'd get sucked into the character's stories, I tried again from episode one. I predicted the pilot at every turn and it took a few episodes for me to get used to the extremely subtle and nuanced storytelling devices, but once I got it, I was absolutely hooked. Like all the other devotees, I eagerly awaited each new episode. Now that the landmark series has concluded, I thought I'd share some views on the show's major themes:

Major Themes of Mad Men

1) People Never Change Don boozes, cheats, and makes the same mistakes over. And over. And OVER. All the characters move in obnoxious self-destructive circles, and you know what, that's real life. We're born with flaws and these don't truly change. With work, we get better and identifying them and the battle to keep our flaws in check (procrastination, temper, etc.) is lifelong.

2) The Past is Not Who We Are

"Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will SHOCK you, how much this never happened." 
These are the famous words from Don to Peggy, the words that saved her life. We tend define ourselves with past experiences. Sometimes, we spin it into a hindering, unhealthy narrative. We tend wield the past like an excuse to stop us from facing responsibilities in life or doing what we truly want to do. We say things like, "I was bad at this as a kid and throughout life, so even though I desperately want to do it now, I won't." The BIG stuff in life, traveling, going after dreams, it's risky, it's scary. And humans want to avoid this as a natural instinct, we're meant to reduce stress in our lives, not pile it on. Don is a deeply flawed human, but his advice here is sound. It doesn't mean that our past won't reappear in some way, it doesn't mean that we shouldn't deal with it through a psychiatrist if necessary, it means we don't let it "define us". It absolutely does not. It's behind us. Live in the present moment and never let the past stop you from being who you want to be.

3) We Often Try to Fill Emotional Voids with Stuff or even People. Look Within to Heal.

"Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay."
Above is my favorite Mad Men quote, it's from the pilot episode. Don hops from woman to woman (to woman...) and the new pleasure each brings is fleeting. This is a series about unhappy people using booze, shopping, sex, and work to mask problems instead of dealing with their problems outright and healthfully. I love thinking of the quote above when I'm considering buying or keeping things I don't need- buying is about temporarily fulfilling an emotional need, always. It's also a good quote for me to consider as a business woman, I have to make sure the products I share have a story and tap into an emotional need.

/ / / / / 

The subtle story telling style rewards re-watches and creates a show rich with interpretive value. How do you view the ending? What themes to do you see from Mad Men? I feel like the central theme of people not changing can be discouraging, but also a way to challenge yourself to rise above your flaws and improve.

Of course, one of the biggest, if not more important reason we kept tuning is the absolutely perfection of the visual style. Each shot staging, each set, each costume; glorious. I'm going to count-down my favorite costumes and sets next week.

The editing and styling of this final season trailer just melts this retro movie nerd. Dear God. Perfect.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Blogging from Inside the Confessional: 6 Reasons Why I'm Crazy Honest On My Blog

I used to write business advice for the now-defunct Handmade Success. The editor wanted me to write a post on why I choose to be so brutally honest with my business and on my blog. (I've dished about going broke, getting cheated on, abusive relationships with ex-bosses, and business secrets.) This post has been floating around in my head ever since, marinating. Business is often just that, the name alone dredges up the cold and impersonal- like office buildings. IRS tax forms. Evil! Hell, I just had a nightmare I was trapped in an office again, writing copy. Nightmare! With business and life I do have a healthy mix, I've learned who not to collaborate with, I've leaned what things to keep to myself. But I still prefer to be as hyper-honest on my blog as possible. Here's why:

Working on a final vintage-sort. Hopefully there will be less ETERNAL WORK MESS this way and peace throughout this apartment. Boxing it now, a shot of mess in-real-time. It'll be very clean again soon...

1) It's Easy: Why curate another reality or spin a story when you can share it exactly as it happened? Relief! Much easier. It's cathartic, really.

2) It Helps People: Too many "lifestyle" blogs don't share "real life". They omit the inevitable problems and share only the "pretty". Which is fine, I get that they're curating something, but when people don't admit that they're actively curating, it can give readers feelings of inadequacy. Especially in "lifestyle" blogging, which purports to be "real life." In more naive times when I was first launching a vintage shop, I once though some of these Stepford-Bloggers actually lived perfect lives. They don't. No one does. And it helps others feel better when you show that you "mess up" just like they do. When I've shared messes and insecurities people have sent e-mails saying things like, "Wow, thank you, I thought your house was always clean and you were always happy and confident." HAHA, no. Impossible.

3) It Makes You "Real": Blogging is a flat transaction, it's hard to get a feel for the writer. It helps to share photos and details and yep, flaws, about yourself. It helps readers paint the full picture of yourself. Bonus: people want to buy from real people more than just random brands. Particularly in the handmade/art niche I find myself in, it's about solidarity and story. People are more likely to support you when you're "real".

4) I Was Raised Catholic: One of my favorite artists, Robert Crumb, writes about crazy sexual fantasies and lurid confessions in his famous comic books. A critic once said his former Catholicism might contribute to his need for "confession" via his comics. I'm no longer Catholic. AT ALL (ha!) But it's ancient, potent brainwashing and I'm still influenced by it whether I like it or not. I CANNOT watch Catholic-imagery horror movies alone or have ANY religious imagery in my house, It scares the hell out of me! It's still food for thought, my upbringing could contribute to my need to be honest and "confess" my sins.

5) I Appreciate it When Others Do it: I'm entranced when other bloggers share brutally honest stories. Penelope Trunk is a famous business blogger that's written about some crazy personal shit, and I love her for it. Being so honest has set her apart from all other business bloggers and it's made her successful. (Polarizing, but successful. If you don't have some haters, you're doing it wrong.)

6) People Will Help You: People can't help you if you don't share your problems. They won't know your dreams unless you make them known. I wrote this dream shop post and soon after received a $15,000 check in the mail to start my shop! The investor ended up running into tax trouble and eventually I realized I didn't want to own a vintage shop, but it got me started on my path to leaving work and becoming self-employed. All because I opened up, and shared.

Try It: Be crazy honest in a blog post. To a friend. Share something you were scared to share before. It's cathartic. Or share something in the comments here. Are you scared to be honest about failures or private thoughts on your blog? Do you think some blogs over-share? Let's Discuss.
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Friday, May 15, 2015

Netflix and YouTube Watching: Retro, Disco, Surrealism, Kitsch, Tragedy, Laughs

And my movie snobbery shall reign free in another post! I've discovered some new favorites, one flick with squandered potential, and another to add to my list of so-bad-they're good movies. But let's start out with the best ones...

Danger 5

Danger 5 is a series about a team of special agents with one mission: Kill Adolf Hitler. Set in the 1960s and later, the 1980s it's an absolutely hilarious valentine to badly-aged action/spy shows of the 1960s (like Thunderbirds) and horror/action movies of the 1980s. There's something for everyone, this is a wildly eclectic show. I love every intentionally cheesy second of it! I've never seen anything so beautifully curated to be "bad." It's deliciously surreal and emulates the eras its satirizing with near-perfect accuracy. It can quickly become a game of "spot the reference" for movie buffs, and even the aspect ratio and film quality changes between seasons to accurately depict the 1960s vs 1980s film styles. It's a show for movie nerds, but funny enough that everyone can be entertained.

The sets are obvious models, the action scenes have this delicious obvious artifice (a lot of toy airplanes and cars, no attempt to hide the strings) and you just know the creators had a literal blast exploding so many heads...airplanes...roller coasters...the list goes on. There's even references to Power Rangers, anime, horror, and many other genres that magically blend in perfectly. It's incredibly well-styled and choreographed, the director has a knack for perfectly emulating the exact look of particular genres. He does this to perfect affect in Italian Spiderman, a reproduction of 1970s Italian exploitation rip-off films. Expect shark-people, Japanese lions, Wolf Samurai, robots and dinosaurs aplenty! I cannot sing enough acclaim for this show. It is weird and wonderful in so many ways.

Watch the video above (click through to the blog if you're reading this via e-mail) to get a better idea of the surreal imagery, no words can do it justice! Get out of my head, show producers! I love the first 1960s season and it just upped the action and bizarre to crazy fun levels in the second 1980s themed season. LOVE! There are raptors with gatling guns, c'mon! 

Paris is Burning

My roomie and I found this film while looking for RuPaul's Drag Race on Netflix. (It was, unfortunately, no longer available. Boo! We need our Drag Race Fix!) What came up instead was Paris is Burning, a thoughtful exploration of drag during its "glory days" as it evolved in New York underground clubs. This is another must-watch for creators, for anyone that burns to rise from their current economic status, for dreamers, for artists. Gender and gender roles are endlessly fascinating for me. I appreciate anyone who challenges them. I've challenged them. My roomie and I are huge LGTB supporters, when a (thankfully, ex) boyfriend of hers went on a rant against lesbians when we were watching a video about Drag Kings we ran to the bedroom and dressed in drag to offend him. It ran 'em off. I have pictures but I'll share the rest of that story another day!

Drag can be baudy, crass, colorful and wildly fun. But there's more to it than that, and Paris is Burning has a pitch-perfect, pensive look at the phenomenon. Drag is a fantasy. Drag stars create an exaggerated kabuki-like caricature of femininity. This documentary shows low-income individuals indulge in the facade of living life "at the top"; the polar opposite of their societal position. Glamorous women are imitated because they're the "pinnacle" of their American Dream; desired, rich, respected, successful. This is exemplified in the concept of "Voguing" (just like the Madonna song, it's a dance form that evolved from New York drag) where drag queens walk the cat walk and strike a pose like a model on the cover of the iconic fashion magazine of the same name. The performers put a lot of work and sometimes investments into their costumes and performances, it's an expression, and for the often Latino and Black low-income participants, an escape from everyday life in recession-stricken late 1980s NYC. Participants from all walks of life are interviewed. Some are sex workers to survive, others are taken in by drag "mothers" after they were kicked out conservative homes. Definitely a must-watch, a classic depiction of the subculture and an award-winner for a reason. Nonbelievers, give this sensitive movie a watch.


Lovelace is biographical film about Linda Lovelace, a polarizing porn star that starred in the pop culture phenomenon, Deep Throat. For reasons I can't fathom, the film became a mega-hit in 1972, being the first porn flick to have a relatively high budget, script, and a long running time of 61 minutes. It started the "Porno Chic Era," a brief period of mainstream interest in pornographic films. Lovelace focuses on the conflicting stories about the creation of the movie rather than its massive influence.

Linda Lovelace was initially wildly supportive of the film. Soon after it's release she wrote a book about the experience, all positivity. Later she would become an outspoken anti-porn activist, she'd write a 2nd book saying she was forced to star in the movies and was in an extremely abusive relationship with her husband. This landmark film has two origin stories, and Lovelace handles this in an interesting way, by telling both side. First, we see it as Linda Lovelace first described the experience, and then the story she'd later claim happened. I appreciated the innovation with the storytelling but honestly, this felt like a made-for-tv movie. Rushed, cheap, bad set-design, and unfortunately, bad acting. And Amanda Seyfried is very talented, she just had no material to work with. The general artifice of the acting, sets, and some bad wigs on Seyfried worked from keeping me immersed in the film. The movie fails to give the most important perspective- Lovelace's. We never feel her experience, there's no voice over, no hint at some deeper emotions. The cold clinical approach to the storytelling was probably to keep the film like a fair and partial documentary but this story needed more warmth. I do appreciate it for introducing me to details about Deep Throat. I'd heard the name, but never knew what it was about or why it was significant to American culture.

The Secret Disco Revolution

I grew up listening to disco records and have always been drawn to that era of music. The documentarian is equally fascinated with the 70s most popular expat and his movie centers on a bold hypothesis. He says disco was a revolution that crossed color barriers and united all social statuses during a low-point in America's lifestyle and economy, creating peace throughout the land with song and dance. The claims are punctuated with kitschy actors, each representing the "causes" that disco supposedly championed. A picture of the poor economic and political climate is painted, and a decent case is made by the director. There are interviews with the DJs who intentionally worked to make disco the dominant sound of the 1970s and more interviews disco stars of the era. In a funny move that undermines his thesis, the directors keeps in the scenes were nearly all of the disco legends tell him he's over-thinking it and his theory is crazy, with differing degrees of confusion and annoyance. But I argue that there's some truth there and the documentary explains itself very well in a appropriately gaudy, kitschy way. Disco got people dancing as couples again, it created an explosion of exposure for black artists, and it was an inner-city respite during a violent and tough economic time. Disco fans or just the curious should give it a watch, even if you don't agree, it's an entertaining diversion.

Kept Woman

I love cheesy Lifetime movies, especially the slew that came out in the 1990s. Sometimes I'll let myself click down the YouTube rabbit hole, where many of these movies are available in full. This one was not a YouTube discovery, but instead was described to me by my mom during a phone conversation. "I'm watching this crazy movie where this guy wants everything to be like the 1950s. He has a perfect replica, uh, it looks exactly like the stuff you sell, of that type of house in his basement. He keeps women in there..." She needed say no more, I was already typing the movie in YouTube where it was, of course, fully available.  I watched, I cringed. I laughed. So bad, so good.

I see what you're doing here, Lifetime. Mad Men was on the way back with their final season and everyone is still ape shit for that Betty Draper "perfect housewife" drag. This movie's a quick cash-in with bits of shallow feminism thrown in to spice up the mix to pretend it's something deeper. Kept Woman's protagonist is so unmemorable I can't remember her name so I'll just call her SF for "Straw Feminist". She's a graphic designer but keeps getting distracted from doing her work so she can solve mysteries on the side. Oh yes, you just read that. She's basically a stay-at-home wife that makes her long-suffering husband take on all the housekeeping roles in addition to working full-time to pay for the home that SHE expressly demanded. When she and her husband first started dating she territorially put lipstick on all of his shirt collars. This in told in passing like it's charming. SF is abducted by her neighbor, a "Men's Studies" professor (he dresses "millennial retro"- 1950s-inaccurate-fedora, bow tie, sweater vests) who longs for the era when woman were expected to be obedient, servile housewives. He locks SF in his perfect 1950s replica "basement home" to be his "second wife."  SF has to use her informed-by-the-script wit to escape the horror! The movie is laughably transparent, it's clear this is a vintage-gasm aimed at our current obsession with 1950s styling and decor. A lot of comments on this video I've seen on the web stated how "cute" the kidnapped rape, abuse and kidnap victim looks after her "1950s makeover" or how amazing the 1950s set (a DUNGEON for kidnapped women) looked. If you're a bad/horror movie lover AND vintage fan (like me), this a fresh pastel 1950s home-baked treat.

Been watching anything interesting lately? Any recommendations for me? I've been meaning to get to the Red Box to catch-up on some newer films...
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Groovy Land House: A Warm, Inviting and Cozy Shared Artist Abode in Riverside


This beautiful old home is the roost the sits in front of Groovy Land which I wrote about a little while back. The same day I was invited inside and snapped a few quick shots of the cozy space. It's inviting and pleasantly worn in that particular earthy, shared-hippie-artist-space way that I adore. Something about the throws, homemade hanging art pieces, eclectic old furniture and collections of natural objects create the vibe. The cups of paint brushes and art supplies out and ready for work appeals, too.

I enjoy many different styles of decor, but this particular type of bohemian homestead is my favorite to really use and be inside of. This space reminds me of The Hostel in the Forest or a down-to-earth Bed and Breakfast. It's as unpretentious as its traditional shaker-style furniture. Functional yet rustic and inviting.

I aspire to own a home like this someday. In the meantime, I can work on slowly giving my apartment the same inviting feel. It's pretty sterile after my recent purges and could use some more life!

What's your favorite style of home? I sure as hell appreciate sterile and industrial and much as rustic, but a cozy hippie casa, which art supplies and instruments out and ready for friendly gatherings, is probably my favorite...
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