About Noz Nozawa

I'm Noz. I am a San Francisco Interior Designer and seeker of good, smart design. I believe in dark walls, excellent lighting, decanters for everything, good food, wine + scotch, and that if all else fails, spray paint may indeed be the solution. What I do: I'm an interior designer + lifestyle manager. I care a lot about investing in quality at every budget level, making well-informed purchases, and ensuring that my clients are all better at winning at life after I've be summoned.

Diary Moment: Did my Dad know I’d end up in Interior Design?

Yesterday somewhere between 1:30am and 2am was the 7-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Missing him hit me much harder than it has in recent years, so I wrote a cathartic Facebook post reflecting on the past year since I started my lil interior design business:

Seven years ago, right around this time of night, my dad left this earth. And while it’s “gotten easier” since, tonight is really, really emotional.

I think it’s because, in the past year that I’ve been working on my little business, there have been so many times that I wish I could have asked him for his advice, or for his stories I’d never thought to ask about. Like, “When you had to publish your Business Name Statement, which newspaper did you pick?” “Why were your swags bamboo fans and chip clips?” “When did you realize that you could survive the rough patches?” or “Did you ever get over how terrifying and futile it all feels sometimes?”… and I’ve wondered what he’d think of my business cards or what I keep under his old paperweights.

But while my dad was alive, despite being an entrepreneur his whole career, he never suggested it as an option to me. Looking back, given the racism he faced as a post-WWII Japanese American, and given that he was removed from UCLA to be sent to the internment camps and not given the chance to complete college, I can imagine he might not have thought he had other options like a “white collar job” at some big firm when he was young. So a part of me suspects he wanted an easier life for me: graduate from a good university, get a nice-paying corporate job, struggle little, stress not… because now that I’ve been through my first incredibly trying year of setting out on my own, I completely relate to the self-doubt, depression, and paralyzing fear that loom over this path of self-employment.

And yet, I think if he were here today, he’d still have told me to go for it – so I’ll keep that with me whenever things get difficult. But for tonight, I’ll let myself cry it out and miss my Daddy. And then I’ll get back to business.

My favorite photo of me and my dad, taken on his fishing boat when I was about 4. He got me and my sis Little Mermaid life jackets, which was like the most exciting thoughtful thing ever to lil baby Noz.

Even though my dad was very proud that I’d be working at Clorox in Marketing after I graduated (I accepted the job offer 6 months before he passed), I’ve so wished that he were alive to know that I followed quite closely in his footsteps. My dad’s main businesses while I was growing up were in real estate + construction: a fully vertical model, he would sell land to a client as the Broker, and then he’d put on his General Contractor hat and build the buildings on that land. He also designed + managed the construction of his dream “forever family home” in the burbs of LA that I spent almost all of my childhood in.

But while I wish I could have told him that my first very own company is an interior design business, all day I’ve been reflecting on the time I had with him, wondering whether my dad might in fact have totally figured I’d end up in interior design eventually. I mean, there were a lot of signs:

  1. First off, I was obsessed with details of the homes I grew up in. The home we rented while our “forever family home” was being built had this heinous forest green carpet, which I LOVED and was devastated to leave behind. Later when I was older, I brought up the carpet and the weird tacky wishing fountain in the rental home’s foyer, and both my mom and dad were shocked that I had such vivid memories of that home – I was only 2-3 years old when we lived there!
  2. Given my attachment to that green carpet, my dad actually let little 3-year-old me “pick” the carpet that would go into our new home! This is another vivid memory: he showed me different samples, and I picked a speckled tufted carpet that was salmon-pink with speckles in rainbow colors. OBVIOUSLY a toddler would pick the most ridiculously colorful option. But instead, he went with an oatmeal-colored loop carpet that ALSO had multi-colored speckles (but they were brown, navy, and grey). So when we moved in a year later and I was so disappointed he didn’t install the carpet I had picked, I think he was really surprised that I 1. remembered at all, and 2. had expected so seriously for the carpet to have been the one I chose.
  3. When my dad was doing materials specifications on our home, he asked me what color I’d want for the toilets/bathtubs and tile. He had already planned on blue bathrooms, and my favorite color at the time was blue, so Little Me was thrilled when all 3 bathrooms ended up blue. I mean, have you ever seen a blue toilet in a house built in the last 30 years? It’s so random! I think my dad beamed a little bit whenever I’d give my friends the tour of the house and gloat when they were like, “Awww man! We only have boring white toilets!”

    The bathtub was also blue. And the sink basins. And the counters. Also note the blue linoleum. And I already covered the blue toilets.

    The bathtub was also blue. And the sink basins. And the counters. Also note the blue linoleum + bath mat. I’m the one with hella buckteeth.

  4. Whenever I played with Legos, all I ever built were homes. I would make a rectangle all the way around the baseplate (maximizing the square footage of the house based on the size of the “lot”, obvi), and then I would create partitions and make different layouts. I remember once lamenting to my dad that there was no Lego toilet piece, because I had to improvise with a 2×3 block with a 1×2 on top (the 1×2 was the tank), and that took up way more square footage than a Lego toilet would have.
  5. My dad often took my sister and me on outings to the local bookstore (anyone remember Bookstar??), and while my sister would run to the kid’s section, I would invariably, from the time I was maybe 6 years old, plunk down in the home decor book section and fan through the pages of books about bathroom design and living room design. My dad would always try to recommend books about kitchens, letting me know that kitchen design and kitchen renovations were where all the value was. But alas, as a little kid, I never played in the kitchen (because fire and boiling water and knives), so I was always like “Okay Daddy whatevs.”
  6. When I was grounded and sent to my room (often), I would spend most of the time decorating my bedroom with grocery store items, like when I tried to drape blue plastic wrap along the ceiling so it’d feel like I was inside a genie’s lamp.
  7. Not to mention when I was in middle school, I told my dad I wanted to be an architect, and took a year of old school drafting my freshman year of high school – which I discovered I was very good at. My dad was actually the one who told me that I should pursue a business career instead of architecture based on the fact that most architects didn’t make much money (see the italicized section above for context about the path my dad hoped for me), and Teenage Me took that advice to heart.

So I dunno, maybe it was obvious and maybe he did imagine that my journey through life might ultimately meander towards this space (in which case, he definitely should have gone with that rainbow speckle salmon carpet because clearly Baby Noz had mad interior design sensibilities!).

But while this time of year is always difficult and a part of me will always wish he could have known that I’m my own boss now, having my own business and working in residential interiors makes me feel so much more connected to his legacy. And who knows, maybe one day a client will ask me to design a bathroom with a blue toilet, and that will be my little sign from the universe that he knew all along 🙂

Project Reveal: Black + White Kitchen + Dining Corner

When my friends and former colleagues (from when I was a toilet cleaner brand marketer (like actually – my face was in the news about it)) asked me to design and manage the renovation of their kitchen and dining area, it was a dream opportunity. It’s always such an honor to get to design spaces for my friends, but Abby and Kurt are the chicest, most stylish couple ever, so I knew this project would be an epic collaboration.

Their house in the classic SF neighborhood of Nob Hill is adorable and petite at 14 feet wide. And while Abby and Kurt have applied their style to the upstairs living spaces, the kitchen and dining space downstairs remained as it looked when they moved in years ago: dark, busy, bullnose counters, red cherry wood cabinets, limited space for relaxed seating, and not a lot of direct sunlight. It was time for an update.

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen BEFORE

The design brief was basically, “Our style is Dorothy-Draper-meets-Tom-Ford – Hollywood Regency. Bold. Drama. SHINE. Also please take the weird stained glass panels off the kitchen window.” Here’s how it turned out:

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Kitchen 2

For my very first complete-scope kitchen renovation, I’m super proud of our finished product. And we haven’t even talked about the dining corner yet (I’ll get to it in a bit)!

Because the kitchen was in good working order and occupies such a small footprint, we were able to splurge on really luxurious finishes like solid-slab Calacatta marble counters and a marble tile backsplash in a herringbone pattern. We also went with fab polished brass hardware – bamboo-esque drawer pulls à la Hollywood Regency, and large “Minnie Mouse” round knobs.

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Kitchen Details

Also please notice Abby + Kurt’s ADORABLE Wisconsin-state cutting board, which Kurt immediately noted I had positioned upside-down in this shot!

AND, since the cabinets were only several years old and quality-built of solid wood, we opted to spare the expense (and the waste!) of refacing the cabinets (refacing = replacing the cabinet doors and drawer fronts with new ones). Instead, we refinished them in a high-gloss white for the upper cabinets and a high-gloss black for the lower cabinets. I love that the black cabinets are so shiny that you can often see reflections of the hardware in them.

Another way we maximized the budget was with the counters: Abby really loves Calacatta marble, and in kitchens, it’s stunning; but also it’s expensive at $90-130+ per square foot. We needed much less than a slab (you have to buy whole slabs, which are 40–50 square feet each) for their counters, so I found one with big grey sections (“flaws”) at a FRACTION the cost, and then we just cut around the grey to use only the most beautiful parts! NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Calacatta Vagli slab

Now for the dining area: Abby and Kurt’s one specific must-have was to create a custom L-shaped bench seat in the dining corner so that they could lounge in the space in addition to eat. Other than that, the goal was to bring to life their vision and style in the space.

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Breakfast 3

Super fab brass light fixture by triple7recycled | custom L-shaped bench by Joybird | Kartell Ghost chairs

First off, I just absolutely love the black + white stripes. They start from the mirrored wall and continue all the way down the entry hallway to the front door – making the petite lil house feel much deeper. Abby’s Pinboard had several photos of homes with stripes, so when I presented the idea of the black + white walls with a black + white kitchen, it was like, “When can we start?”

As for the L-bench, I opted for a piece that looked more like furniture rather than a built-in, to keep the dining corner feeling light. The Kelly Green upholstery is amazing because Kurt has the coolest suede loafers in the same color. I mean honestly, if you saw these two in this space, you wouldn’t know where their personal fashion sense ended and their interior design sensibilities began.

We also replaced their larger rectangular dining table with an oval tulip to allow easier entry/exit to/from the bench, and went with Ghost chairs for the additional seating because they disappear visually, which helps the kitchen-dining area feel spacious.

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Kitchen Full onAnd there you have it – a lot of design in a little space, for a fabulous couple with a ton of style. Hope you enjoy! You can see more photos of this project on my design website, all of which were taken by the amazing Colin Price Photography.

How to Remove Graffiti from Your Building

Graffiti is pretty much everywhere. Sometimes it’s artistic, sometimes it’s drug/crime-related, and sometimes it’s just petty vandalism; but if you live in a city long enough, it often just becomes visual white noise – part of the texture of our urban landscape.

NOZNOZNOZ - Graffiti before stairs

Graffiti on the inside wall of my building’s front stoop. Does anyone know if this is code for something?

… Until it shows up on my building. Then I’m pissed. I live on a “gentrifying” block of Hayes Valley in San Francisco where I’m surrounded on all sides by housing projects and a halfway house for ex-convicts. It’s usually a very quiet part of town, where everyone’s respectful of each other, quiet after 10pm, and fellow neighbors watch out for the block. But occasionally, you’ll wake up and someone has tagged “GIVE” twice on your building.

The problem with tagging is that it needs to be removed as soon as you discover it – not just because it’s easier to get spray paint / marker off the sooner you get at it, but also because if the tag is drug-related, leaving the tag there is a territorial signal to other drug traffickers in the area – and it could encourage additional tags to be graffiti’d over the original one (see also: the broken windows theory). In fact, some cities require building owners to remove graffiti within 3 days, or they’ll face a fine.

So, removing graffiti isn’t really one of those “I’ll get to it eventually” chores. The good news is the first removal step (which is the most critical – getting the graffiti off) takes like 5 minutes.

STEP 1: REMOVE THE TAG ITSELF

REMOVING PAINT ON WALLS: Usually, an ordinary paint thinner or paint remover does the trick in removing spray paint or regular-paint tags. Load up a rag with paint thinner, and if needed, bring in some steel wool or an abrasive sponge to help get stubborn paint off. There’s a good chance, though, that after you’re done, that area will still just look like there was graffiti recently removed (as opposed to looking like the graffiti had never been there).

REMOVING PAINT ON METAL SURFACES / POWDER-COATED METAL: Just like on painted walls, spray paint on metal / powder-coated metal usually comes out with paint thinner or paint remover. But if it is being stubborn, there is actually a product specifically intended to remove graffiti. We have it for our building (literally, simply, called “Graffiti Off”), and whatever’s in it, it works.

NOZNOZNOZ - Graffiti Off

Online, you can only buy a 6-pack case of Graffiti Off. We got our bottle at the local hardware store.

REMOVING PERMANENT MARKER: If someone has graffitied your building with a Sharpie or other permanent marker, 1) they need to be slapped – it’s much harder than spray paint to remove; and 2) skip the paint thinner and go straight for the “Graffiti Off.” On metals, spray the graffiti remover directly on the tag, and rub it off with a rag. That should do the trick. On a painted wall, remove as much of the marker as you can with Graffiti Off, and then just skip to Step 2.

STEP 2: PAINT THE WALL OVER AGAIN

Because paint thinner / graffiti remover takes off spray paint, it will probably remove part of your actual building paint along with it (which is partially why, after Step 1, the area that was graffitied still won’t look right). And so hopefully, you, your building, or your landlord has leftover exterior paint. If not, grab a bunch of paint chips, color-match as best you can (don’t forget to note the finish – flat, eggshell, etc.), and get a high-quality exterior paint.

Then, wipe down the once-graffitied area w/ water and a little dish soap (to remove any residual paint thinner/remover), let it dry, and paint as you would normally with a roller.

Voila! The paint was still drying while I took this photo, so please pardon the splotchiness.

Voila! The paint was still drying while I took this photo, so please pardon the splotchiness. You can also see that the roller didn’t fit under the handrail, and I just left it because I didn’t have a brush at the time.

PRO TIP: Paint as much of the wall as you possibly can – not just where you took the graffiti off. Building exteriors fade really quickly because of weather and sunlight, so there’s a good chance that even if you have an exact paint match, it won’t look exact once applied. THAT is the great pain of graffiti removal – the only way to conceal the new paint and keep your wall from looking previously graffiti’d is to paint the whole wall over again.

NOZNOZNOZ - Graffiti After - garage and bannister

Here’s how different my building’s paint looks – the 2nd “GIVE” tag was to the right of the garage door. So I painted over that wall, the stoop bannister, and the wall with the mailboxes on it, up until I couldn’t reach anymore. There you can see the faded grayer older paint line.

On the bright side, taking care of this chore renewed my sense of pride in being a homeowner – and I broke a sweat before 10am on a Saturday! So there you have it: 2 steps to removing graffiti from your building and retain your sanity living in an urban setting.

My 2015 Resolution: Cure My *Tsundoku* Book-Collecting Quirk

11 days into this fresh new year, I’m finally settling on a resolution for 2015: cure myself of tsundoku. Huh? Tsundoku is one of those brilliant other-language words for which there is no direct English translation but whose meaning is so perfect that we should be adding it to the dictionaries (my other favorite: schadenfreude) – and it means the habit of buying / collecting books and letting them pile up without ever reading them.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tsundoku - Bookcase 1

The bookcase in my living room, with my design reference / inspiration books on the right.

This word is basically my life. And until recently haven’t felt that guilty about it. For years now, I’ve bought books the way I bought objets d’art: as decorative accessories to adorn my bookcases and coffee table with titles or subject matter that represented to guests who I am and what I care about. But when I started my design business last year, I also started amassing a number of decorating / art / interior design books as part of my reference files. And while I’ve thumbed through a few of them, I’m a tech and internet-dependent millennial – so the majority of my reference materials are online, and I’ve been able to rely mostly on browser bookmarks rather than real ones in real books.

So, anyway I am going to reform my tsundoku ways, and as of this post, I resolve to read through my little-but-growing collection of design + decorating books, one book a month, each month, for the rest of 2015. Maybe beyond too. And to keep me accountable, I’ll be posting a book review (cuing memories of 7th grade) of that month’s book to this little blog.

Closer up, here are some of my design/art books – so you can get a preview of what I'll be reporting back on!

Closer up, here are some of my design/art books – so you can get a preview of what I’ll be reporting back on! Also, ha – I just noticed one of my books does have a bookmark in it, sort of.

And if any of you has a favorite design book that I should add to my collection (especially ones with beautiful bindings, covers, or other physical aspects), let me know! I promise I won’t let them go unopened + unread.

Happy reading, y’all!

5 House Party Tips for the Up-&-Coming Host or Hostess

I love a good house party – in particular, I love hosting them. Hedge and I just threw our annual holiday party last weekend (a tradition of mine since 2009, and one we have shared since 2013!!), which we relish in trying to make bigger and better every year – more guests, fancier food + drink, more features. That said, we’re both “normal” people, throwing parties on a budget, so we’ve gotten pretty clever at stretching our spend to reach for Gatsby-esque party glitz.

For those of us hosts + hostesses who similarly have grown out of red Solo cup parties but aren’t quite at hiring full-service caterers + valets, here are some tips to take your next house party to the next level:

1. RENT YOUR GLASSWARE

This was the "drinks station" we set up for the 2013 holiday party.

This was the “drinks station” we set up for the 2013 holiday party.

A lot of people don’t realize you can rent wine glasses, champagne flutes, low balls, etc. (not to mention serving plates, silverware, etc.) from party rental companies. These are the same companies that outfit large-scale events like corporate parties and weddings, but they also accept small orders that you can pick up and drop off at will-call. Just google “[your city] stemware rental” to find some options.

Not only does real glassware take the “class” level up immeasurably from plastic disposable options, it’s also much more environmentally friendly. Plus, I’ve noticed that guests are better-behaved when holding a real glass – maybe out of fear of breaking it, but also I think because it adds a different elegant tone to the party.

Good news too: when the party’s over, you don’t need to wash or rinse anything: just put everything back in the shipping crates and bring it back the next weekday.

Cost: it varies by the style (I mean, you can rent actual crystal!), but expect a wine glass to cost $0.75-$2.00 a piece to rent from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, and a lowball to stay under $1.00.

2. START A TRADITION

Of course, traditions are only official after they have happened more than once, but even if you think you might throw another party again, it’s worth thinking of something special you would like to your guests to remember about your events. For instance, Hedge used to live in Sevilla; and during the holidays in Spain, a family will put out a big leg of jamon serrano (or ibérico, if you’re fancy) and slice pieces off throughout the season. He wanted to share that Spanish tradition with our friends last year, and it was such a hit that we knew it needed to be a feature of our holiday parties every year.

Before and after: our leg of jamon serrano. Note to the wise that in 2013 we had the leg be a participatory thing, but we decided going forward that drunk friends wielding 14" fileting knives = not the safest.

Before and after: our leg of jamon serrano. Note to the wise that in 2013 we had the leg be a participatory thing, but we decided going forward that drunk friends wielding 14″ fileting knives = not the safest.

3. SET UP A PHOTO BOOTH

In this age of social media and digital storage limitlessness, people love taking photos at events – and house parties should be no exception! Hedge’s awesome idea for this year’s holiday party was to turn his man cave into a photo booth for guests, using my Nikon DSLR, backdrop decor + silly festive hats from Amazon.com, and this $50 photo booth software for his laptop.

Our little photo booth template, which I created in Illustrator. Lil Viv in her reindeer antlers stars in the template, as well as photos!

Our little photo booth template, which I created in Illustrator. Lil Viv in her reindeer antlers stars in the template, as well as photos!

Another cute thing about this software is that you can create custom templates for guests’ photos to be arranged into – from a single photo to multiple, and include party messages or hashtags. We chose to make the largest photo in the template the *third* photo taken, since we figured the first would be practice and the third would be the wackiest.

Then, guests can email the finished photo booth output to themselves, or even text (but it costs $0.0075 per text, via Twilio).

NOZNOZNOZ - House Party Tips - Photo Booth example photo

Hedge’s friends from college and +1s, a few hours into the party (lolz), sporting festive headwear.

For backdrop inspiration, I turned to the interwebs for how to get something cheap + decent looking for our first photo booth attempt – turns out a lot of fabulous bloggers have shared their insanely creative photo booth decor ideas. Next year, the backdrop will be taken to the next level: green screen (maybe. Or just less janky).

NOZNOZNOZ - House Party Tips - Photo Booth backdrop 1

Our backdrop, a little haggard the day after the party. It’s made of 2 cheap plastic tablecloths, and 2 packs of tinsel “curtains,” all from Amazon.

4. CONSIDER BOXED WINE IN DECANTERS (Yes, really!)

Our go-to boxed wine brand is Wine Cube (far right), available at Target of all places.

Our go-to boxed wine brand is Wine Cube (far right), available at Target of all places.

Boxed wine has come a long way since the Franzia days. Really legit winemakers have been introducing new brands of boxed wine whose quality is on-par with very reputable *traditional bottled* wine. I have taste-tested many Wine Cube wines with my wine-loving friends over the past couple years, and they’ve all been so surprised and impressed.

Another benefit, besides cost-effectiveness (average $4-5/750mL), is how much waste you minimize with boxed wine. 8 boxes of Wine Cube (at 3L in each box) takes up only 2 cubic feet of space, and only weighs what the wine weighs inside – compare that to its weight and space-taking equivalent of 32 bottles! You’re saving from consuming and disposing of all that glass, as well as (if you’re an eco-friendly nerd like me) the amount of energy + fuel it takes to produce the bottles and transport them. PLUS… Hedge and I live in a 3rd story walk-up, so party prep AND clean-up involves carrying everything up and down a bunch of stairs. It was a lot tougher when we were trucking cases and cases of wine vs. just a few boxes.

That said, don’t serve boxed wine out of the box – that’s tacky. Decanters, on the other hand, are so beautiful, and functionally help aerate the wine. I’ve collected a few over the years, and a very thoughtful friend bought me one as a hostess gift; but if you don’t have enough for your party, guess what – yes, party rental places do rent decanters as well 🙂

Wacky Carafes

Some wacky decanters, which wouldn’t hold a ton of wine, but would definitely impress some guests and start conversation

5. GET A COAT RACK

It sounds really minor, but giving your guests a civilized place to put away their coats and bags when they arrive at your house (especially during winter parties) makes such a difference – particularly if you live in a city-sized place, as we do. I’ve always felt that having your guests throw their belongings down on a bed or a couch in another room makes their process of leaving the party more stressful. Inevitably, someone loses their coat, or takes someone else’s, or their coat falls off the bed and gets stepped on.

Party rental companies rent coat racks (super affordable – ours was a 6 foot rack that folded down for transportation, and only $16 for the weekend!), but you can also buy them on Amazon for $20-80 (“garment rack, or rolling garment rack”), if you have room to store one after. Note: whether your rent or buy a coat rack, the rack will NOT come with hangers. So you’ll need to get some online or borrow a bunch from your neighborhood dry cleaners.

Do you have any other house party advice for those of us with fancy party tastes on a budget? Share the wealth!! And happiest of holidays, everyone!!

Is That a Star Trek Ship in Your Tree?: Our First Xmas Tree

Somehow 2014 has flown by, and it’s already the holidays – the first holiday that Hedge and I are sharing as a live-together couple – which means our Christmas decorations, Christmas tree, and holiday party decor are now an equally shared endeavor.

NOZNOZNOZ - Juxtaposition of Hedge and Noz

Here, you can see the melding of our ornament collections: Hedge’s light-up SF 49ers blimp, and my vintage wooden drag queen ballerina.

So far in our living together, “our” new style has usually been simple: Hedge will have very specific functional requests (e.g. “I want bookshelves for all my books” or “I wish to have my desk facing the TV so that I may play Final Fantasy and watch sports simultaneously”), and then he is happy with any style / specific items I select to make it come together. This has worked out quite well so far.

But when it comes to the holidays, Hedge and I are equally opinionated on how to decorate. Luckily, both of us are actually really nostalgic about Xmas trees and lights. I think some people have assumed I’d have a very designy-tree, but Christmas is a time where I love to feel at every turn the holiday magic I felt as a kid – same with Hedge. So it’s been a pretty seamless blending our decorations so far: rainbow lights (incandescent old-school lights, never LEDs), vintage wooden ornaments from the 1980s, and now (thanks to Señor Hedge), lots of light-up, talking nerd space ships + sports memorabilia!

Our first Xmas tree living together. Also Viv in a Santa hat.

Our first Xmas tree living together. Also Viv in a Santa hat.

As far as tree decorating advice, I’m all about people just enjoying decorating for the holidays in ways that cherish the traditions they love — not necessarily to impress anyone. As long as the tree itself is beautiful (Noble Firs for the win, but I’m also into the more spare “Charlie Brown” look of Silver Tip trees), the lights are evenly strung, and each ornament is hung to face outward, I will probably be obsessed with your tree, because it is a reflection of how the holidays make you happy.  My newest clients’ home in San Francisco is covered in their huge nutcracker collection, for example.

SOOOO, in that spirit, the rest of this post will just be close-ups of some of the decorations in our tree and other evidence of Hedge’s holiday nerdery around the house!

Why yes, that is in fact a Star Trek "USS Rio Grande" that speaks nerd when you press a button.

Why yes, that is in fact a Star Trek “USS Rio Grande” that speaks nerd when you press a button. If you’re curious, there is also a Star Trek Enterprise, a Shuttlecraft, and a Delta Flyer. They all light up and speak because they hook into the Xmas light strand.

This ornament has been the most contentious of Hedge's – as it's a very heavy World Series champion trophy that he wanted to be the FIRST ornament people saw when they walked into the house. It's been migrated to face the living room vs. the front door.  SIDE NOTE: I kind of like that this photo obscures the last # in the year (201#) because IT COULD REALLY APPLY TO 2010, 2012, OR 2014. BOOYAAAAH.

This ornament has been the most contentious of Hedge’s – as it’s a very heavy World Series champion trophy that he wanted to be the FIRST ornament people saw when they walked into the house. It’s been migrated to face the living room vs. the front door. Note also the frilly glittery / pearly ornaments around it.
SIDE NOTE: I kind of like that this photo obscures the last # in the year (201#) because it could apply to any of the years the Giants won – 2010, 2012, OR 2014. BOOYAAAAH.

This Yoda lego baby was actually a recent addition – from Hedge's mom last year.

This Yoda lego baby was actually a recent addition – from Hedge’s mom last year. My little wooden angel in a sled is behind.

Perhaps surprising, the Hello Kitty ornament is in fact a nostalgic relic from Hedge's childhood.

Perhaps surprising, the Hello Kitty ornament is in fact a nostalgic relic from Hedge’s childhood.

My cutie glittery carousel horse (I am obsessed with carousels) + an old angel baby holding a snare drum (?)

My cutie glittery carousel horse (I am obsessed with carousels) + an old angel baby.

Last nerdery in the post: Hedge's hilarious Wookiee stocking. I'm a Disney nerd, but the Mickey stocking has just been a placeholder since I haven't found something else I love.

Last nerdery in the post: Hedge’s hilarious Wookiee stocking. I’m a Disney nerd, but the Mickey stocking has just been a placeholder since I haven’t found a stocking that I love.

I will end this post with a final note that, whatever decorations you and your family put up for the holidays, no matter how tacky you think they might be, they are already awesome – the holidays are about love and being together and happiness and magic!!!! No need to over-design that 🙂

DIY: Halloween! SF Giants! GOURDS.

In honor of today, which is both Halloween and the day my city of San Francisco shut half the streets down for the World Series parade (Go Giants!!), I finally gave into Decorative Gourd Season and decorated some mother fucking gourds!!!!NOZNOZNOZ - Halloween SF Giants Cover

Since it’s the last day of October, I avoided having more than 1 overtly “spooky / Halloweeny” gourd (the butternut squash) and went with a black/white/gold theme that will be fall-holiday (that totally portmanteaus into “falliday, btw) relevant for as long as these gourds keep – hopefully until it’s Christmas Tree time.

Total time spent: 45 minutes including driving to the grocery store (would have taken less but I screwed up the gold SF pumpkin the first time)

Total cost: about $6 for 2 little pumpkins, 1 butternut squash, and 1 wonky ass swan-gourd – I already had the nails and paint.

GOURD 1: Literally found this wonky bumpy twisty swan-neck-looking gourd in the “Decorative Gourds” basket. Pretty sure this isn’t meant to be eaten, but the bumps and porousness of the gourd skin make spray painting this one REALLY easy and efficient.

Spray painting pro tip: set the gourd down exactly as you want it on display and then spray paint from all angles without moving the gourd. This way the bottom doesn’t get painty and end up sticking to your table/mantle/wherever you display it. (More spray paint tips here)

NOZNOZNOZ - Halloween SF Giants 1

GOURD 2: Inspired by brass tack pumpkin DIYs, I went for a slightly more Edward Scissorhands/bondage-y butternut squash look. Also I decided to do this gourd DIY rather spontaneously and wanted to see what I could do just with the stuff I have at home – thusly, nails.

Pro tip: if you’re ever spray painting something that you’re going to then stab with nails/tacks/etc, spray paint the object FIRST, then add the nails, then spray paint again. NOZNOZNOZ - Halloween SF Giants 2

GOURDS 3 + 4: My beloved SF Giants pumpkins!! This year was the first year I 1. understood baseball strategy, 2. watched a decent amount of baseball, and 3. decided I like Pablo Sandoval, aka: The Panda. And so, these cutie pumpkins. The process on both of these was the same: spray paint, let dry, then use black acrylic paint to do the design. I’m especially proud of my kawaii Japanese Panda anime face.

Side note: the gold pumpkin was originally meant to be black with gold lettering. I made a stencil out of paper to spray paint a gold “SF” and realized that stenciling irregular round things doesn’t work. Also I definitely missed the bottom of the Panda pumpkin.

NOZNOZNOZ - Halloween SF Giants 3

ENJOY!!!!!!! There will definitely be more spray paint / DIY holiday posts as the winter season approaches, so let me know if you want to see anything done or if you’ve done a super sick gourd DIY this month!

LEATHER KNOWLEDGE: Quality + Grain Vocab

My favorite of all the San Francisco street festivals is Folsom Street Fair – coming up this Sunday – and in the spirit of its celebration of BDSM / kink / leather lifestyle, this post is dedicated to leather knowledge!

Leather is one of my favorite materials, but with the huge range in price points, many animal hide types, and nonintuitive terminology for quality levels (and frankly, the definitions online are rather confusing), it can be pretty daunting to shop for it. And if you’re thinking of making a pricy furniture purchase, it’s super important to have as much knowledge about what you’re buying as possible.

NOZNOZNOZ - Leather Knowledge - Hides in a row

Special thanks to Joel at HD Buttercup in San Francisco for letting me snap some photos of the fabulous leather hide samples they have on display!

FIRST: WHAT IS LEATHER GRAIN?

Think of a leather hide as being composed of layers – 1) the hair/fur; 2) the “skin” surface layer, which like human skin has grooves, wrinkles, maybe a couple scars from healed wounds, and a lot of character; 3) the layer underneath called the “split”, which is still leather but without the 2) layer’s “skin” texture.

The grain also refers to the surface of 2) the “skin” – each leather hide has its own unique grain pattern, kind of like human fingerprints.

FULL GRAIN LEATHER:

Full Grain is the highest-quality leather you can get. It’s basically the full hide, with the hair/fur removed. Its quality comes from 2 main reasons: because it’s both the 2) and 3) layers, and more importantly, the better, less-flawed hides are reserved for Full Grain – because the hide’s natural grain surface is preserved as much as possible, producers will select those pieces with fewer blemishes and irregularities to make into Full Grain leather.

You can see the leather layers in this photo: the upper leather sample is Full Grain, and the bottom is Top Grain – it's thinner, and missing the lower split layer.

You can see the leather layers in this photo: the upper leather sample is Full Grain, and the bottom is Top Grain – it’s thinner, and missing the lower split layer.

TOP GRAIN LEATHER:

Whereas Full Grain leather is made of layers 2) and 3), Top Grain leather is the upper 2) skin” layer, with the lower 3) “split” removed. It’s thinner without the split and also more pliable, but still 100% high quality leather. Top Grain leather is very commonly used in higher-end furniture production, because it’s still durable like Full Grain leather, but more affordable because less-perfect hides are used, so Top Grain leather is produced at a higher volume.

Since hides used for Top Grain leather have more blemishes and irregularities than Full Grain, part of the production process includes sanding the surface of those flaws away, and then stamping a faux grain back onto the leather, so that the final piece appears flawless.

THE “SPLIT”:

As you might have suspected, the lower split layer of leather is effectively suede and can be used as such. Thickness of the split depends on the hide and the production process, so it can be thin for suede clothing, or much thicker and tougher for work applications. Lesser-quality splits are also used in Bycast Leather production (see below).

MORE AFFORDABLE LEATHERS / “LEATHERS”:

If you’ve shopped for leather furniture before, you’ve definitely seen that there are sometimes VERY affordable options out there, especially compared to higher-end retailers. The nice thing about leather is you pretty much get what you pay for. Full and Top Grain leathers last longer and wear better with a lot of use. They also let your skin breathe, unlike the below leather types which will give you that sweaty “sticking to my couch” feeling. So, if you’re planning to purchase a leather couch or chair that you intend to sit in often and keep for a long time, make the investment.

But regardless of your budget or whether you just want a leather piece for its good looks, it’s important to be aware of what you’re buying when reading product descriptions.

CORRECTED GRAIN LEATHER:

Some leather hides are just so flawed or unattractive that they won’t qualify for Full or Top Grain production. What happens here is the ENTIRE SURFACE of the leather gets sanded away (just like the blemishes in Top Grain hides), and then the entire thing gets stamped with a faux-grain. Then the surface is sealed with polyurethane. You’re still getting a 100% intact leather piece, but it’s underneath the sealant and stamped grain.

BYCAST LEATHER:

Some splits are too flawed or too thin for normal use. So, producers take these splits and give them the Corrected Grain treatment: a faux-grain stamping, and a polyurethane sealant. Again, it still is leather technically (moreso a byproduct of regular leather production), but if you sit in a chair made of Corrected Grain or Bycast Leather, your skin isn’t actually in contact with leather.

BONDED LEATHER (WHICH SHOULD BE “LEATHER”):

NOZNOZNOZ - Bonded Leather Comparison

Bonded leather is the Chicken McNugget of leather (sorry McD’s fans – I love fast food, but that sh-t ain’t chicken). You know how all the unusable, inedible parts of a chicken’s body are pulverized, and then reconstituted with fillers and synthetic preservatives / pink sludge to make a food-like McNugget? That’s basically how you make bonded leather.

In making true leather furniture, patterns for the chair backs, sofa arms, etc. are cut out of a hide. After the patterns are cut out, there are a bunch of leather scraps. Bonded leather producers take leather scraps and shred them; then that substance is mixed with chemical binders and plastics to make the upholstery material. Technically, bonded leather only has to be 17% actual leather to qualify. It’s really more of a “leather product” than true leather, the way Kraft Singles now have to be classified as “cheese product” (WOW, a lot of food analogies here).

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT. Now you have all the basic quality and grain vocab to be an informed leather shopper!

Happy Folsom Week!!

WORKSPACE TOUR: His + Hers Home Offices

As a burgeoning designer, one of the dearest nods of support is when my friends + colleagues want and trust me to design spaces in their own homes. Earlier this year, my good friends Sunny and Stephen bought a beautiful 4-bedroom house in Potrero Hill SF, and they moved in with only a bed, a 30-year-old couch, and an IKEA desk. It was such a treat and an honor to help them outfit their new home!

While Sunny and Stephen’s styles were compatible for their living-dining-kitchen shared space, I had a ton of fun decorating their respective “his” and “hers” offices, which occupy 2 of the 4 bedrooms.

HIS OFFICE:

NOZNOZNOZ - Workspace Tour - His Office

Stephen works primarily from his home office, so he knew what he needed functionally for the space to work. He had just a few requests for his office: a really big desk for his dual-monitor computer system (which we set back up after the photo shoot), another desk surface for non-computers, and a warm industrial-chic feel.

NOZNOZNOZ - Workspace Tour - His Office 2

Main desk: Restoration Hardware; console table: Room & Board; shelves: Anthropologie; rugs: Overstock; decor and desk chair: client’s own.

For the floors, we layered two rugs: a large-weave jute rug, with a faux cowhide rug on top. Another benefit of the jute rug: the wide weave made it easy to thread cords and cables under the rug to the wall outlets.

A few of my favorite decor pieces in Stephen's office are the classic dogs-playing-poker print, the sword bookends, and the nautical-inspired clock.

A few of my favorite decor pieces in Stephen’s office are the classic dogs-playing-poker print, the sword bookends, and the nautical-inspired clock.

Pro tip: if you find yourself with more shelf space than you feel you have things to display, try lying thick books on their sides, and remember that objects that might not seem “designery” may still look great as part of a showcase – for instance, the board games in the previous photo.

HER OFFICE: 

NOZNOZNOZ - Workspace Tour - Her Office

Desk: Williams Sonoma; rug: Global Views “Arabesque”; shelves: One Kings Lane; pendant: Robert Abbey on Lumens.

Sunny’s objective for her office was to have a bright (I almost said “sunny”, which is just too punny!), feminine, open-feeling space to do work. To achieve maximum light around the clock, we used Hunter Douglas honeycomb shades to diffuse the direct sunshine and provide privacy (her office faces the street), and we installed a warm nickel pendant that drops into the room. We also chose an open, glass-top desk so that light could pass through to the rug.

NOZNOZNOZ - Workspace Tour - Her Office Detail

Pink boxes and stars: One Kings Lane; white urchin: HD Buttercup; gold menagerie: Horchow; perfume bottle: Z Gallerie; other objects: client’s own.

We kept the decor on her shelves minimal for now, so that Sunny can add new items over time as she finds objects that she loves. For now, the color palette is a warm, modern, femmy magenta, café latte, white, and mixed metals.

Thanks again to my fabulous friends-now-clients for asking me to make their house into a home!

All photos in this post are by Colin Price Photography!

5 Budget-Friendly Lighting Upgrades

If you browse through enough interior design / decorating blogs, you’ll get the message that lighting is incredibly important in pulling together, if not outright making, a space. Whether you own your home and can punch new lights into the ceiling, or you’re in a rental with a curmudgeonly landlord, there are lots of ways to upgrade your current lighting situation without breaking the bank or needing an electrician.

1. HIDE YOUR NIPPLES!

This is the living room in my old apartment, before I replaced the light with a crystal chandelier I found on Craigslist for $80.

This is the living room in my old apartment, before I replaced the light with a crystal chandelier I found on Craigslist for $80.

One of my greatest pet peeves about all my past rentals (and rentals in general in San Francisco) is the pervasive “nipple ceiling light” – or “boobie/titty light” if you’re so inclined. Not only is it boring and a clear signal that your place came with it, it’s also just a terrible way to distribute light – especially if you have tall ceilings or your specific nipple light has opaque-ish glass.

But, take heart! These fixtures are actually very easy to replace on your own, or by hiring a handyman for 30 minutes. You can find pre-owned fixtures pretty often on Craigslist, or buy a new fixture on places like Lamps Plus in budget brackets like “under $100” and “under $200”. Plus, if/when you move, you can take your fixture with you and just put the old nipple light back.

2. ACCENT LAMPS ARE DECORATIONS, TOO

If your ceiling light game is already on-point (or you don’t want to mess with it), accent lamps do wonders for rooms but sometimes get overlooked. While you’re shopping for decorative accents like vases, books, or pillows, add a table lamp to the mix – accenty AND functional.

Sometimes, though, beautiful designer table lamps are hilariously expensive. For example, I’m in love with Moooi’s Rabbit Lamp, but at ~$550 each, I just can’t right now. I’m on a self-employment budget. I ate peanut butter pretzel bites for lunch.

NOZNOZNOZ – Moooi Lamp DIY - pretzels

So if you find yourself in a similar predicament, get creative with DIY! eBay, yard sales, Craigslist, and Goodwill are fabulous places to find really inexpensive cool lamp bases. Try searching for colors, animals, or things, like “pink lamp” or “monkey lamp.” Then, spray paint the lamp base and/or add a new lampshade, and voila!

Pre-DIY, the "Before" lamp just felt too Chinoiserie for my style.

Pre-DIY, the “Before” lamp just felt too Chinoiserie for my style.

TOTAL COST OF THAT DIY: $25 ($5 for spray paint and $20 for the lampshade)

3. SHOW OFF THE LIGHTBULBS

Hedge's man cave lighting

Hedge’s man cave lighting

These days, filament bulbs are everywhere, and light fixtures with exposed bulbs are de la mode. At $5-20 each, filament bulbs aren’t cheap. Nor do they put out that much light – but the glow they cast is very pretty mood lighting, and the filament patterns are beautiful when lit.

4. GO WIRELESS + GET CRAZY

Someone’s totally tricked out gaming room

As a child of the 90’s, the novelty of being able to Clap-On Clap-Off your lights was huge. So when Philips came out with Hue, wireless-enabled color-changing magic bulbs, duh I got the set. Mainly I got the set so that I could turn my lights on remotely if I was out of town (or turn them on/off from my phone without getting up). But as LEDs can be any color, you can download apps to make the lights strobe out in disco rainbow patterns and RAGE.

5. SHINY THINGS REFLECT LIGHT

Gold, mirrored, and crystal surfaces bring a lot of light to this black/white space

Taking things a bit farther from actual lighting, consider that your whole room influences the way light feels. If you’ve covered lamps + ceiling lighting but your space still doesn’t feel quite light enough, try adding decor / furniture with reflective surfaces. Mirrors, laquered or glazed pieces, metal accents, and translucent glass or plastic will reflect the light that’s in the room and redirect it from multiple angles, giving a fuller sense of light.