There is something about the southwest that is calling my name and I can’t exactly put my finger on it. I’ve never been to a desert, and part of me pictures a bunch of creepy crawly things, but the other part of me pictures a picturesque vastness of land with beautiful shrubbery and endless sunsets. So I suppose it could be the exotic nature of the southwest that appeals to me since I’ve never been there.
This modern house in Arizona featured in The New York Times Style Magazine definitely captured my heart, which, let’s be honest, isn’t hard to do when it comes to architecture and interior spaces. I don’t say this to minimize it at all; I simply mean that exteriors and interiors broadly speaking really do something for my soul. I like the natural elements of this ranch-style house, with the wooden ceilings, the simple fireplaces, and expansive windows connecting the outdoors to the interior. Just imagine those views… I like the sparsity of the furniture, which draws your focus more towards the space rather than the things that are in it. The mix of contemporary furniture with authentic antique pieces is also right up my alley.
My dad is in Albuquerque, NM for a conference right now and he keeps sending me pictures of things he’s seeing, which is making me pretty green with envy.
Open House Chicago is this wonderful annual two-day weekend event where about 200 sites around the city are open and free to the public. It takes place in October and I went for the first time this year. Although we’ve been blessed with beautiful weather fairly late into the Fall, the Open House weekend was cold and rainy. I did my research on all the sites that were of interest to me the week leading up to Open House and I a long double-sided list of sites I wanted to visit. Sadly I only made it to 8. The sites are all over the city and I mostly made it to the sites I wanted to see downtown and in Logan Square, since that’s where I live and they were very easy to get to. The thing about Chicago is that it’s a big city and it’s not the easiest to get to different neighborhoods without a car, especially if they’re far out from downtown. Chicago does have a good public transportation system, but if you have to transfer between L lines, it can take quite a long time to get to where you’re trying to go.
My first stop was The Robey in Wicker Park, which is a new chic hipster hotel in the Northwest Tower at the six corners intersection. It houses a hotel, restaurant, a lounge/coffee shop, and two rooftop bars, one on the 6th floor and one on the 13th. The 6th floor rooftop even has a small pool (a very small pool) but both offer nice views of the city. And I loved the feel of the lounge/coffee shop on the 2nd floor. It’s definitely a cool place to bring a laptop and do some work, with a nice little view of Wicker Park.
Then I made my way downtown and my first stop was the London House, but due to the long line I just missed the cutoff to get in. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go there for a drink sometime to take in those sweeping views of the Chicago River and the magnificent mile. So then I went to the Hard Rock Hotel in the Art Deco Carbide & Carbon Building, which was beautiful, but not much of it was open for the tour.
Carbide & Carbon Building – Hard Rock Hotel
Next was the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist designed by Harry Weese. The church is a prominent structure along the Chicago River with a unique circular Mid-century Modern design. The interior is laden with concrete supports and ceilings, Italian travertine walls, carpet, and velvet seats. Most of the building is taken up by an expansive semicircular room where their services take place, with a massive organ as its focal point.
Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist
I made my way down LaSalle Street to City Hall where I got to sit in the room where the city council holds their meetings, which was a very cool experience! These meetings are open to the public and I wish I could go to one but they are always held while I’m at work. Then I went to the Federal Reserve Bank, which has a beautiful lobby and a money museum. I learned that it’s the oldest running Federal Reserve Bank in the country, which was surprising to me. I assumed the Federal Reserve Bank in New York would have been the first. The Wintrust Bank, which is right across the street, has an even more beautiful lobby if you ask me. It was truly stunning and I especially liked the Art Nouveau paintings in the frieze, lining the walls in the center of the lobby. I also got the see the vault in the basement, which was a bit eerie and smelled like old paper.
My last stop downtown was the Chicago Board of Trade building. It’s one of my favorite buildings in Chicago, but after being inside I have to say that I prefer it on the outside. The Art Deco lobby is very stylish, but it’s too dark and stark for me. It just doesn’t have a warm and inviting feeling; I found it to be cold and intimidating. The exterior, however, watches over the city with an earnest eye at the end of LaSalle Street. I always love when I’m on Wacker Drive and I look down LaSalle and see her comforting presence. The statue standing on top of the building is the goddess Ceres sculpted by John Storrs in the Art Deco style. I didn’t know this, but apparently the statue is faceless.
Chicago Board of Trade
If the weather hadn’t been so blustery that day I might have made it to more sites in other neighborhoods. But it’s also hard to take everything in and appreciate it all, so maybe keeping the list of sites to see on the shorter side is the best course of action. There is always next year’s Open House to see more!
Nothing is an end in itself and therefore nothing is a source of complete rest. Everything is a stimulus to new wishes, a source of new uneasiness which longs for new satisfaction in the next and again the next thing. Life pushes us forward.
Hugo Munsterberg was a German-American psychologist active in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s who also contributed to film theory, which is how I know him. I studied film in graduate school and we read his book, The Photoplay: A Psychological Study, in a history of cinema class. In looking at this quote, it can obviously apply to life more broadly and not specifically only to film. In fact, not knowing that it’s part of film theory, one probably wouldn’t even relate it to film at all. Either way, I loooooveeee this quote and identify with it so deeply because of my attachment to existentialism. If this isn’t the most fundamental truth of our existence, I don’t know what is. It’s so true though, right? We never seem to be happy or satisfied with our current situation. And even when we are, we worry about what we’re missing – like if we’re too happy or when it might end because it can’t possibly last forever…we can’t possibly be that happy. On the other hand, when we are dissatisfied, we have no choice but to move forward, even if we’re not necessarily moving in a direction that brings us more satisfaction. We’re always looking forward with both skepticism and hope.
My way of expressing myself is to build my own universe, and in doing so, he added, I create my own self.
I really enjoyed this article by Tom Delevan about Oliver Gustav‘s apartment in Copenhagen in the March edition of The New York Times Style Magazine. I was initially drawn to it for a couple of reasons – the gray color palette, which happens to be one of my favorites; and not necessarily for interior spaces, but more so for clothing. I seem to have an infinite supply of gray sweaters and I’m only in my 20s. Gray is not a drab grandma sweater! I was also drawn to the article for its location. I have had a fascination with Scandinavia for a while now, so my interest is definitely peaked whenever I come across something related to that cold, dark, dreary, but comfortable and cozy part of the world (or at least this is how I picture it).
Gustav is a creative based in Copenhagen and New York who works with art and interiors, and his apartment in Copenhagen reflects his passion for both. Reading about the historic structure (built in 1734!) was fascinating because of its eccentricities since it’s so old. The minimalist design and subdued color scheme is evident in the pictures, but what struck me more were Gustav’s thoughts about his space – that in creating the space around him he concurrently creates himself. I can completely identify with this, since I too find great parallels between my space and myself. I also admire his love of collecting because I also like to collect (but on a much smaller scale of course) and I have boxes of things in the attic that I’ve gotten over the years that I’m just waiting to find the right spot for.
I have a love affair with things…I just want a beautiful life.
While this may sound superficial and materialistic, I do think there is something to be said for having a certain eye and taste for things when it’s connected to a deeper cultural or intellectual interest, which it is for me and I’m sure for Gustav as well.
Delevan, the author of the article, is a very talented interior designer in his own right, which is beautifully exemplified on his website. Just so clean and effortless…take a look!
I was reading the fall edition of The Magnolia Journal, which is themed “Gratitude” for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and it came at a very apropos time in my life since I’ve recently received some medical news that has been a bit of a shock and definitely not welcome. When things like this happen it is so easy to fixate our minds on that one facet of our lives and forget about all the things we should actually be grateful for. So I am mindfully trying to make an effort to appreciate the positives in the face of adversity, with a little help from Joanna Gaines.
I am, of course, a fan of the show, along with the millions of others who have been inspired by the stunning transformations that she, Chip, and their team churn out season after season. And not to mention the effervescent love between Chip and Jo…I mean, will we all be lucky enough to find that kind of love?? One can only hope!
In her article on gratitude, Joanna outlines some basic everyday activities in which she has found a sense of pleasure, and even comfort, that I can identify with. Cooking for her family is one. While I don’t have a family of my own, I did enjoy cooking for my parents when I lived at home. I also like cooking with/for friends. I even like cooking just for myself, even though it can be hard to sit down and eat by yourself after putting love and energy into crafting a nice meal. There’s something about it that just feels unnatural…a good meal is definitely better when in the company of others. Cooking can feel therapeutic and productive, not to mention its visual and palatal benefits that result from the finished product.
Driving is another thing Joanna mentions as being a source of relaxation for her, and I can absolutely relate to this one. I don’t always love driving around town when I have to deal with traffic and the constant stop and go, but even then it can be nice to just be in my own head space for a while and listen to music. I LOVED driving when I lived in Williamstown, MA in the Berkshires because every view was just so darn beautiful. The Berkshires are not big mountains, in fact I think they may technically be considered hills, but they are majestic nonetheless. I found any excuse to drive to surrounding towns simply for the scenic drive. I remember driving 45 minutes to the nearest Starbucks one fall evening to get my first pumpkin spice latte of the season. When you have just the right tunes going while on a scenic drive, you can be transported to another place. I don’t have a car now that I live in Chicago and I have to say I do miss driving. But I certainly wouldn’t want to drive in Chicago traffic…
Gardening and laundry, a couple other activities Joanna mentions as bringing her solace, I haven’t quite mastered. I don’t like getting dirty or coming across the unexpected worm, and I find laundry to be quite tedious. BUT, I found her article so helpful in serving as a reminder to look for joy in little things we do every day and to be grateful that we are even able to do them in the first place. Some other things I would add to the list of things to be grateful for (aside from the obvious family & friends), are random encounters we have everyday – like witnessing two strangers on the subway trying to make a genuine connection, or seeing two people on the street laughing together and wondering what’s so funny. These encounters might not directly pertain to us, but they remind us of the connectedness between people and the importance of these connections, because we are all linked in some way. Not only that, these encounters remind us of our place in this web of connections and that our place is so small (which can be both scary and comforting). And that there are far more devastating issues than those we face, which is humbling. I am constantly reminded of this in Chicago where homeless people lining the streets is a sight on practically every corner and L ride; or take the recent weather-related tragedies that have devastated peoples’ lives… We should also be grateful that we were born into privileged circumstances, all things considered. And taking a look back at all that we’ve accomplished and realizing – damn, how did I do all that?? – is a good opportunity to recognize our worth.
We have to try to remind ourselves that somehow everything will be OK even when it’s hard to see any good in a situation. Things have a way of working themselves out that is usually impossible to understand while we’re on the struggle bus. Especially when we’re faced with an impending obstacle, or a potentially life-altering development, we have to try to remember that there are so many things for which to be grateful regardless.
I have a new page on Interiors, which is a little passion of mine that I’ve been trying to pursue. Check it out for tips on renovating, some design projects I’ve started working on, and inspiration.
It’s no secret to those who know me that I don’t like dancing. For whatever reason it’s just never been something I’ve felt comfortable with or enjoyed. Perhaps the fact that my parents had no dancing at their wedding reception could explain it… (sounds like a boring reception). I randomly came across this girl on YouTube when I was looking for music videos of Despacito (definitely a guilty pleasure and yes I have looked up a translation of the lyrics) and I can’t stop watching her videos! She and her brother have a strong YouTube presence with millions of views and followers. I think this mashup is one of their best!
If only I had an older brother like this to teach me how to dance!
I know I’m obsessed, but just one more…
My parents and I took a mini summer vacation a couple weeks ago to Spring Green, WI to see Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Taliesen. The complex consists of his home and studio, as well as some boarding residences for students in his architecture school. We like to see as many FLW houses as we can because my dad is an architect and teaches architecture, and my mom and I are art lovers. I also did an internship with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust in Chicago, so it’s always interesting for all of us. After having seen many of his homes in the Chicago area, what struck me about Taliesen was the beautiful setting in the hilly Wisconsin countryside. The integration between interior living space and the natural world that surrounds it outside, which is a central design concept for FLW, is very present at Taliesen. From the courtyard-like feel in front of the entrance to the house (perhaps inspired by his trip to Italy), to the wall of windows and doors opening out to a balcony on the other side of the house, which overlooks a series of hills, the beautiful Wisconsin countryside setting is very much felt both within and outside the house.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Asian influence also makes a statement in both the home and studio, as large Japanese silk tapestries take center stage on various walls. The room I liked the most was the living room because it felt so spacious with open space in the center of the room and built-in seating/benches along the walls around the periphery of the room. Apparently FLW had dinner parties every Friday night, complete with musical entertainment (for which he designed a music stand that could accommodate three musicians). He also designated a chair for his daughter who played the harp. His affinity for his daughter is also evident in her “little apartment” upstairs, which is accessed either through a lofty space above the bedroom he shared with his wife, or by its own separate staircase off the great room. The intention behind this was that she could perform puppet shows for him and his wife anytime she wanted.
There are different tours that one can take at Taliesen and the one we took was two hours long. Very comprehensive! We had a sweet and knowledgeable tour guide, but my favorite part may have been the resident cat who followed us around for part of the tour 🙂 I leave you with some wise words to live by from good ol’ FLW himself.
“I looked around at the stately villa, the murmuring fountains and, yes, even at the overgrown grass. Rome had its issues. The degradation was real. But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”
I have to remind myself to admire the beauty in my surroundings, even if it’s not always initially apparent to me. I also have to be reminded to allow myself to be pleasantly surprised by the beauty that I might encounter unexpectedly. This New York Times article about Rome by Jason Horowitz resonates with me since I was born in Rome and lived there for the first eight years of my life. But I have to say, in disagreement with the author, I always found it beautiful and never wanted to leave. Rome was the best playground a child could ask for. But I will say, now that I live in Chicago, IL, I resonate with the author’s notion that we must seek to see the beauty even in the chaos or dilapidation that’s around us. I love Chicago as a city for all that it has to offer, but at the same time, the city just gets me down on a daily basis. Relying on public transportation for your commute isn’t easy, especially in the dead of winter. The hustle bustle lifestyle with everyone scurrying around in a hurry and forgetting to be nice to one another just isn’t for me. I find myself craving a much more laid-back kind of life. The architecture downtown juxtaposed next to Lake Michigan is beautiful, but other parts of the city that tourists don’t see where the average Chicagoean actually lives can be dirty and graffiti-stricken. So, faced with all this unpleasantness of city life, I often struggle to find the beauty that I once so admired about Chicago.
Horowitz’s evaluation of various neighborhoods in Rome as he searched for an apartment all over the city reminded me to try to appreciate the little intricacies and charms that each neighborhood of Chicago holds, especially since I don’t get to see them everyday. I like how different each neighborhood is and how diverse the city is. So maybe what I need to do, taking a lesson from Horowitz, is take the time to visit different neighborhoods, as he explored Rome, and experience each one for the unique things it has to offer. And maybe I just need to take a harder look at the small things in my everyday encounters with the city to remind myself what makes Chicago the beloved city that it is by so many.