The 2 Best Things IKEA Sells

As a designer who cares a lot about the environment and minimizing waste by keeping or updating existing furniture, I’m usually at odds with everything IKEA represents. While I can appreciate their mission to bring affordable modern design to the masses, the reality is that they sell disposable furniture, built to last only a while, and priced to keep the disposers from feeling too guilty about wasting money if they’re too busy to try to resell their IKEA remains.

But there ARE two amazing, shockingly quality items that IKEA carries, that I need to celebrate them for, because they’re such high value items. And they’re both mirrors / mirrored.

FIRST BEST THING, WHICH IS SO BEST: IKEA’s Hovet Mirror ($129)

NOZNOZNOZ - My IKEA Hovet Mirror

At a towering 6’6” tall, the Hovet mirror is the most fantastic thing IKEA sells, the most fantastic IKEA thing I’ve ever bought on Craigslist, and the only IKEA thing I recommend to all my clients. For anyone who’s ever been frustrated by “skinny” mirrors and ‘fatty” mirrors in dressing rooms, the Hovet mirror is sturdy and manufactured really well to return an accurate reflection of you in front of it. The frame is a brushed aluminum, which is maybe a little more modern than some folks are into, but to me, the frame is so thin that it mostly disappears.

Plus, most mirrors at any other reasonably priced retailer like West Elm, Room & Board, etc. sell framed mirrors anywhere from $400 to $900 – I find that for a bedroom / closet dressing mirror, a nicer frame isn’t worth the additional cost.

NOZNOZNOZ - IKEA Hovet vs West Elm search ads.png

I just noticed that when you do a google search for “ikea hovet mirror,” a WEST ELM mirror ad pops up – that’s how popular this mirror is?! 

While several of my clients and I have just leaned our mirrors against a wall, with the base of the mirror on the floor (pro tip: having a slight angle by resting a mirror on the floor can make you feel a little slimmer in the mirror!), this client of mine has the mirror hanging down the hallway from the front door (the Hovet comes with mounting hardware).

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My pro tip would be that if you live in an area where Craigslist is a thing, check there first! Since mirrors are seldom moved around or handled, a used one is likely to look great or like-new, and you won’t have to deal with the ridiculous amounts of cardboard packaging that come with buying a new one.

OTHER BEST THING: IKEA’s Godmorgon Medicine Cabinet ($150-240)

NOZNOZNOZ - IKEA Godmorgon 2 door medicine cabinetNOZNOZNOZ - IKEA Godmorgon 2 door medicine cabinet - sides

While I’ve not used this product in a project yet, the IKEA Godmorgon medicine cabinet is a steal for an inside-and-outside mirrored unit – my go-to brand for medicine cabinets, Robern, offers interior mirrored cabinets for anywhere from $500 to $2,500 retail (granted, the Robern units offer lots of bells & whistles); but if you are renovating your bathroom on a budget, the Godmorgon unit would be a great value, and will look much more expensive than its price. Plus the interior of the Godmorgon, on top of being mirrored, includes 4 tempered glass shelves – so you could add your own DIY lighting at the top of this unit, and it would cast light all the way through!

The only downside to the Godmorgon is its dimensions. Whether you go with the one-door or the two-door unit, the widest single pane mirror you’ll get is 20”, which is a bit of a bummer if you were hoping for a more luxe look (I’m not a big fan of the seam down the middle). And the 1-door only comes in a 15ish-inch-wide option, which is VERY limiting.

Also, I haven’t been able to confirm based on the instruction / install guides whether you can recess these cabinets into the wall, or if they have to be surface-mounted. Despite the limitations of this unit, though, it’s still one of the best things IKEA offers.

And besides these two mirrored value-spectaculars, I’ll go back to having a bone to pick about IKEA.

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.

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).

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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).

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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!!