This time of year always makes me want to switch up my home decor. Luckily, we’ve still got plenty of projects to work on here – but if you’re in the mood for something that freshens up your space, below are my favorite weekend projects that are big on impact but still simple, affordable and rental friendly!
CREATE AN ACCENT WALL:
Hands down my favorite way to make a big statement in a room without a huge commitment. My go-to has always been a rich, dark color – in my first NYC studio apartment I carved out a “bedroom” nook with a deep charcoal grey color behind my bed and it felt so cozy, but in this apartment I love our navy wall that leads into the entryway). And if your landlord approves it – I can’t recommend wallpaper enough. More expensive than a can of paint but SO much fun and personality can be added via print on a wall.
SWITCH YOUR HARDWARE:
I found the below nightstands at Home Goods – and while I loved that they were simple, narrow and included a drawer, the original black knobs made them look cheaper somehow. I found these agate and wood rectangle knobs at Anthropologie, swapped them out in 5 minutes and it elevated the whole look. Plus no one else will have the exact same nightstands now! An under $20 upgrade that makes me happy every time I see them.
CHANGE YOUR LIGHT FIXTURES:
The only thing I truly disliked about our current apartment was the stock, rental light fixtures. If you’re a renter you know the kind. Those sort of gross flush mount ones that barely put off any light? Yeah.. get rid of those. I store mine high up in a closet so that when we move I can throw them back on and take my new lighting with me wherever we go next. While you’re at it? Add a ceiling medallion. I found this one for around $20 at Home Depot and it adds an instant bit of old world elegance to the place. Another 5 minute project that makes your place look really finished.
JUST ADD PLANTS:
To be honest, it’s really taken me a solid year in this new apartment to feel like I’m developing a green thumb. It takes daily maintenance. But the rewards of walking in to your home and seeing LIFE all around you is huge to me. Plants are proven to help filter the air in your home and definitively make people feel happier. Grab a new green friend this weekend, put it in a pretty pot and voila!
DIY A CUSTOM HEADBOARD:
I wanted the look of a custom headboard but didn’t want to commit to the price. So we found a cheap upholstered headboard online, covered it in batting from the craft fair and then wrapped it in a beautiful rich velvet fabric I had (and secured with a staple gun on the back). The entire project cost $100 but looks so much more expensive then that.
I spent last weekend in Charleston with my Mom and Sister on a little girl’s trip. It was my third time visiting that pretty city and I’m still charmed every time. We repeated a lot of the favorites that I mentioned in my Charleston Travel Guide – but this time added on Hominy Grill for brunch, Fleet Landing for a sunset dinner with a view of the water and a candle-making class at Candlefish. Highly recommend all three!
After adding a wallpaper accent wall, fresh coat of paint and new DIY mantle to our bedroom, things are really coming together. The next step is art on the walls, curtains and a vintage dresser makeover. Planning a post soon on all of my sources for affordable art, but this print just arrived and I’m in love. I’ve got my eye on this one next.
I thought this really honest post regarding money from one of my favorite British bloggers – The Frugality – was so refreshing. I find money to be such an interesting topic and most women really don’t talk about it. I’m thinking of starting a series here where I discuss financial things (like how I budget in an expensive city, how Adam and I handle money in our relationship, how I plan for longterm finances, etc.). Would that be of interest?
Speaking of money (well, spending it I guess…) – after plotting and planning for over a year, we just booked on a short trip to Paris in May. I’ve been just once before and that was over 10 years ago but Adam has never been. And honestly, what could be more romantic then a quick skip over to Paris in the spring? I’m hoping to add a couple more pieces to my wardrobe before the trip and this breezy blouse under $40 feels just right. Send me recs if you have them!
I’m starting to slowlyyy feel like the heaviness that I carry throughout winter (in my mood and general mental well-being) is lifting as we enjoy the first warmer days here in New York. March is always the toughest month for me mentally so now that I’ve survived it, I’ve got a few things planned this week to celebrate; like piercing the 2nd pair of holes in my ears (which I’ve wanted to do for like 5 years now, ha) and treating Adam to a fun brunch at our favorite Indian restaurant Babu Ji.
Last week Adam and I got together with two other couple friends for a game night. We played Pandemic and it was SO fun. Everyone is essentially on the same team and you all get to talk about strategy, but it gets really exciting as you go. Highly recommend. I want to get a copy of it to keep at the lake house this summer.
Since I shared my Spring Wishlist (along with a disclaimer that I’m shopping quite a bit less these days) I figured I’d also share my Spring Bucket List – aka all the places and experiences – I’m looking forward to this season. And what better day to share than the first day of Spring!
A stroll along South Street Seaport. I love this area but it can get SO crowded in the Summer. The first really nice spring day is great for walking along the water, grabbing tacos at El Luchador and eating on the benches with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Snagging tickets to see the NYC ballet’s rendition of Jane Eyre. I’m always looking for an excuse to go to the ballet (and Adam has zero interest), so when a friend asked me to join her for this Bronte classic I jumped at the chance! Tickets go on sale this weekend.
A glass of rosé on the Met rooftop – this has become on of my favorite spring traditions. Even better when you can see all of the fresh blooms in Central Park from above.
Running a 10k! This was on my list of things to do in 2019 (for now, my half marathon days are on hold while I see how my knees hold up to shorter distances) and Spring would be the perfect time weather-wise to do it.
We may end up staying in the city over Easter weekend and if so – I definitely want to try a new brunch spot. Although Friend of A Farmer and Buvette (two favorites) are still contenders.
One of my favorite mantras is “live in an environment of growth” – I try to keep this in mind when it comes to myself, my relationships and my career. The problem is, I’m not sure I’ve been living up to those words when it comes to this blog. Now 6+ years into the game, I’ve been feeling a little lost with the whole thing (hence the silence lately).
When I began I actually wanted it as a space to work on my graphic design skills. I had graduated with a degree in Fashion Design a few years prior, and was in the midst of transitioning from a career in Accessories Design into the graphics side of fashion and didn’t have much in the way of a proper portfolio. I also was spending a stint living in LA and thought it would be a fun way to document my adventures and love for clothing/interiors. Hence ‘The Steele Maiden’ – a first voyage if you will. I’ve now got a full time career as an Art Director and am neatly settled into life back in New York City. So if we’re getting technical, the original need has long since been fulfilled.
Somewhere along the way though I started sharing outfit photos, social media became omnipresent and well, here we are. And maybe its winter talking – because you all know I’m a vitamin D junkie – but I just feel sort of tired of the whole thing. Or perhaps more accurately, I feel bored of the whole thing. The witty Instagram captions and constant push to buy new clothing by influencers. The game of who can take the most extravagant vacation and be in the cutest couple. It’s started to feel like the internet equivalent of small talk to me – and I’m just not sure I want in on that kind of conversation anymore.
Don’t get me wrong – there are all sorts of amazing influencers in the world who talk about hard hitting topics and push this industry forward. But for the most part? A lot of it feels self-centered. I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts last week, Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, and comedian Jason Mantzoukas said something that really struck me (to paraphrase) “Story-telling used to consist of someone grabbing the camera, pointing it at their world and allowing us to see it through their eyes. Now it consists of someone turning the camera towards themselves and them simply telling us how they see the world.” I can’t stop thinking about it.
To be honest, I still don’t know where all of this leaves me and The Steele Maiden. I love sharing bits of my New York life and travels, home decor and favorite outfits with you all – and for now I plan to continue, but I think it is also going to come with some sort of more personal writing. Something of substance. It also likely means that I’ll continue to operate this space in a somewhat more pared down version while I focus a portion of my mental efforts on building a new venture which involves a different medium of fashion storytelling surrounding that I’ve been daydreaming about for the past couple of years.
In short (or long actually) – I really appreciate all of you that have come along for the journey thus far. But I think it’s time I push myself back towards that environment of growth. And I hope you’ll come along for that voyage too.
January was a big reading month for me, but coming off of the amazing books I read at the end of last year (see that list here) I knew I wanted to kick off 2019 by diving right in. Below, what I read this past month, plus what I’ve got on my shelf for February:
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena: To be fair, I think this is about what I expected out of this book. A thriller that follows two sets of neighboring couples and a central crime – I think that if the writing had been stronger I could have felt more captivated by this. That being said, if you’re generally thrilled with thrillers this one isn’t without its exciting twists and turns. All in all I’d give it a ‘B’.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: An American classic I had somehow never read, I’m so glad I made time for this. I think sometimes we forget to go back to the classics, favoring newer fiction that’s “popular” instead – and at nearly 600 pages including plenty of jargon from the mid-1800s this wasn’t necessarily a breeze to read. But the story itself is timeless and was certainly a pre-cursor to a million novels that followed. Louise May Alcott, a feminist and suffragette, proved that women’s stories and voices were important, even if her characters were just living everyday lives. Sidetone: I can’t wait for the new film adaptation to come out at the end of this year. Could there be a more perfect Laurie than Timothée Chalamet?!?
I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon: All in all really interesting if you like historical fiction – since there was a lot of true history to be learned from this one. This book follows the story of a woman claiming to be Anastasia Romanov – the young Russian princess who was believed to have been killed, along with her entire family, during the Russian revolution on the early 1900s. It flips back and forth over the span of 40 years telling a captivating story. I was definitely most invested in the early Romanov story since I know admittedly so little about Russian history. After I was finished this book I actually went on to do some internet research to learn more about the family’s story – I love a book that teaches you something you never even knew you would be interested in.
A Wild Swan And Other Tales by Michael Cunningham: From the author of The Hours (a book I love) this is a collection of well known fairy tales, with a modern (decidedly adult) twist. They’re short and simple so I ended up reading a few each night before bed and it was a fun way to end the month after a few heavier books. Added bonus – there are really cool black and white illustrations every few pages that help bring the stories to life.
SHOP THIS MONTH’S BOOK CLUB:
Since it’s a short month I narrowed my reading list to just two stand-out books for February. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – translated into English but originally an Italian novel – that I’ve heard great things about. It follows the story of two women growing up in Italy over the course of their lives and is apparently the first in a trilogy set to become a TV show. And Becoming by Michelle Obama – on my list for month’s now and I can’t wait to dive in.