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The Uncommon Life

How to Style Tea Towels in Two Rooms

May 29, 2012

I live in a very old building in Brooklyn. My apartment definitely needs a little work, so I’m always on the lookout for fun ways to dress the place up. After hearing about a few ways to take tea tea towels above and beyond their dish-drying duties, I decided to give towels as home decòr a try.

Inspired by these suggestions, (but not feeling crafty enough to get stitching or framing), I picked out some of our newest towels to try a few ideas of my own.

Tea towels can be used a curtains, turned in to pillows (as several of our reviewers have suggested in the past), or framed (also suggested in a customer review).

I absolutely love coffee and tea, so for my first towel decòr experiment I chose Sara Selepouchin’s Tea and Coffee diagram towels.

I didn’t get too fancy with the tea tea towel, but I do love the idea of having a tea towel diagraming tea! I hung the towel on my oven, right near my tea pot, so this one might end up soaking up a spill or drying a dish at some point. But for now, it just looks really nice hanging in my kitchen.

The coffee towel is another story, though. I can’t bear the thought of this lovely piece of textile art– a tribute to one of my all time favorite things–cleaning up kitchen messes.

First, I ironed the towel, because it came out of the packaging a little creased. Then, I refolded it to fit the space I wanted it to cover–a weird, painted over door on my kitchen wall.

I used nails to hang a thick string across the space, then used clothespins to hang the towel, creating a clothesline look. For a more rustic feel, you could do this with twine or frayed rope.

Simply adding two towels to my kitchen was a big improvement. I’d much rather look at Sara’s delightful diagrams than my old oven or the thick paint over the mystery door.

The towels look great in the kitchen, so I wondered if the same trick would work in another room and chose the Typographic Tongue Twister Towel to add a nice pop of color to the living room.

My husband built a fancy oak cover for our radiator that also acts as an end table. It’s beautiful, but I worry about it getting scratched or ruined by someone not using a coaster. This towel solves that problem. It makes a great table runner, because it’s small enough that it doesn’t cover up all of the wood’s natural beauty. It’s fun, colorful, and really looks great with my giant paperclip print.

I love the design so much, that I might actually frame the towel and hang it someday. But for now, it’s keeping my end table/ radiator cover safe while adding color and style to the room.

Wooden Drawing Model Guy agrees and gives the Typographic Towel a thumbs-up. Or he would…if he had thumbs.


Best of the Best Design Blog Posts of 2011

January 3, 2012

1 & 4 / 2 / 3

January is a time to reflect on the passing year and plan for the one ahead. Some of my favorite design blogs are doing just that and rounding up their favorite posts of 2011 to share again for inspiration. Think of it as creative recycling when we need it most. I thought I would be clever and compile a round-up of round-ups.

Stefanie from Brooklyn Limestone has shared her favorite posts from 2011 including home organization tips, beautiful travel photos and exciting DIY tutorials. She also just curated a collection for us– here are her top picks for getting organized in the new year.

In case you don’t have enough blogs to follow, over at Rambling Renovators they have compiled a list of the best blogs from 2011. The series is broken up into different volumes and includes a description of their favorite post from each blog.

Apartment Therapy has been doing a lot of reflecting on 2011. They have even round-up their favorite house tours by month. My favorite is their January round-up for its diversity.

Nole at Oh So Beautiful Paper collected her favorite blog posts from this year categorized by design style. I absolutely love colors and type placement on her pick of neon wedding invitations and watercolor designs.

Having resolved to add more color to my life, I am smitten with re-nest‘s round up of color inspiration posts. After perusing the posts you may have the urge to make a colorful statement in your home.

It may be cathartic for these bloggers to look back and share their successes but I find it so helpful as I plan the improvements I will make in 2012.

Gift Guides

How To Tie a Gift Bow

December 14, 2011

You’ve finished your holiday shopping; now it’s time to wrap up all the gifts. But don’t worry! Here are a few tips to turn a basic gift box and ribbon into a present fit to be placed under any tree:

Think you’ve mastered the bow tie? Here are a few more tips to refine your technique:

1. Pick The Right Ribbon

The width of the ribbon will depend on the size of the box. On smaller boxes I would use widths ranging from .25”-.5”. For medium boxes .5”-1”, and for larger boxes 1”-1.5”.

2. Vary The Texture

Textures range from satin, grosgrain, organdy, and some even have flowers on them. It depends on the look that you are going for.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Mess Up

There’s so much you can do with ribbon. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

If you aren’t satisfied with your bow, you can start over using the same ribbon. Just make sure to line up the ribbon but the placement when doing the ribbon over must be precise. Meaning, you have to make sure you’re tying the ribbon in the same exact spots or you will see creases in the ribbon. If you think you cut the wrong length, start with a fresh piece of ribbon. It’s not like you’ll have to throw out a crumpled sheet of wrapping paper!

Got a gift wrapping question? Just ask in the comments below.

Gift Guides

How To Wrap A Gift Box

November 18, 2011

With the holidays coming up, I wanted to show you a few ways to make your holiday gifts stand out in the crowd. Here are two easy tricks to wrap your presents so that anyone would think they’d been wrapped by professionals!

These gift wrapping techniques can be used for any occasion. I usually try to pick wrapping paper that goes with the theme of the gift, or something that suits my recipient’s personality.

I learned my gift wrapping techniques while working at Kate’s Paperie located in Soho in 2003. This is where I actually learned that I was good at arts and crafts. Along with gift wrapping, I would perform demonstrations on scrap booking, different ways to tie a ribbon around your gift, how to create your own greeting cards & envelopes, and much more.

If you have any questions, just leave me a comment!

Put your new wrapping skills to use. Find gifts for everyone on your list.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

August 12, 2011

Marketing intern Ashley added some uncommon experience to her resume this summer by perfecting the art of kite flying with the High Art Kite.

I had never flown a kite before, and in New York City my opportunities to enjoy the outdoors are fairly limited. When I saw the High Art Kite, I thought it was a great chance to test my urban kite flying skills.

I love the slightly devious look of the Winged Demon design and took the kite out to the East River Park to test on a sunny Saturday.

The kite includes directions for assembly and comes together quickly (but also folds up neatly for easy storage and transportation).

Unfortunately, my first attempt at kite-flying failed. There wasn’t enough wind along the East River that day, and there’s not enough room to get a running start without running into cyclists.

A few weeks later into the summer, I headed out to a very windy Brooklyn waterfront next to the UncommonGoods office, with much better results.  See the video below to get an idea of how easy it was to fly out on the docks in Sunset Park.

Conclusion: at just $12, the High Art Kite is a simple and fun way to enjoy the outdoors, even in an urban setting like New York City.  For more family-friendly ideas and games to test before school starts, check out our wide selection of kits and crafts!

The Uncommon Life

The Recycling Bin: May Day Baskets

April 28, 2010

May Day Baskets
This is the perfect project for people who are too lazy to take out their recycling, but not too lazy to do arts and crafts (i.e. me). For whatever reason, I never feel the need to take out the recycling until there are at least four cans and a couple bottles that I have set on the floor next to the bin. I agree, it’s ridiculous and disgusting, but if I took out the recycling … I wouldn’t have been able to do this cool May Day basket project.

Let’s begin!

First, go to your recycling bin and survey the scene. Tin cans work well, as do the bottom half of plastic bottles, and milk or juice cartons. I didn’t have any small glass jars – but those would be a good option too. Anything that held a liquid before is a good choice since you will putting flowers and water in it.
Recycling Bin May Day Baskets
Now comes the gross part. If you are like me, you didn’t properly rinse out all of your containers before putting them in the bin … so you’re going to have to give everything a good rinse and scrub. Nobody wants a May Day basket that has dried tomato sauce on it!

For bottles and cartons, you will need to peel off any labels and cut off the top half to make a proper container ……… this is me waiting for you to cut the bottles in half …….. be careful – nobody wants a May Day basket with dried blood on it!

Now comes the fun part – decorating! I have decided to use this super-cool decorative masking tape. This stuff is great. It comes in all these wonderful patterns and colors, so you can create a lot of different looks when you have several rolls. I started with a few simple patterns and then went on to do layered designs.

Japanese Decorate Tape
Japanese Paper Decorative Masking Tape

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The Uncommon Life

I’m on Cloud 9

April 26, 2010

In third grade, I was the last person to pick a topic for the science fair. While my classmates got the more glamorous projects – lizards! exploding volcanoes! mold & bacteria! – I got clouds. Clouds! Can you believe it?  My project consisted of me going outside taking pictures of the sky and taping them onto a sky blue poster board. I was virtually ignored at the science fair, “Please!!!! Let me tell you about cirrus clouds!!!” “No thanks, going to see the lizards.”

If only I had had these cute paper clouds back in third grade – nobody would have been able to resist my report!

Clouds from Catalog

These happy, little (and, if memory serves me right, cumulus) clouds were leftover from our recent catalog, and since it would be a crime to throw a cloud away, they now live up in the atmosphere of the creative studio.

Missy Cloud

They make me smile whenever I come into work – I just find them so darn cute! And not only do they make lovely office decor, but they also would look darling in a kid’s room or (on a smaller scale) above a crib in place of a mobile.

Want to make your own paper clouds? It’s easy!

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