2 Months In: Our Flanders St. Living Room Progress

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It’s been two months since we made the move from our studio apartment on Northrup to our third-floor Victorian on Flanders. In distance, the two places are just eight blocks apart, but psychologically the move was big, for a few reasons.

One is that in our old place our living room doubled as our bedroom, so right beside the futon and coffee table (which we have since sold), was our bed, with no door, no separation between the two areas. Joe and I both lived in studios in South Korea for two years before moving to Portland, and that set-up can totally work—it’s liberating, even, to have everything you need for daily life in one open space. But by this fall, we started thinking how sweet it would be to have our living room, which we hang out in all the time, be just that. (Truthfully, we also wanted a bedroom with a door to stop Cleo from waking us up at 5 a.m. wanting to play fetch with her little paper balls. This totally hasn’t worked. But it’s a dream we hope to see play out in the future.)

Part of the call for change was decor driven: we wanted to go in a new direction with our colours and furniture, but when you’re trying to create two spaces with two different purposes in one pretty small room, and you know the apartment is temporary, it’s a bit of a losing battle.

We were in a holding pattern: not that stoked about the stuff we had (bought rather hastily when we first moved to Portland), but not prepared to redesign when we knew a move was inevitable. I believe your surroundings impact your mental state, and being somewhat on pause in terms of our living space and uninspired by its aesthetic was making me feel blocked.

So I was pretty happy when we found a one-bedroom we really like, sold the pieces we didn’t want, packed up the rest, and moved in.

This is our current living room, the week before the move.

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That’s a whole lot of tan-coloured flooring and tan-coloured grasscloth wallpaper. If I were renovating, instead of just decorating, these walls would be stripped and painted white, and the floors would be hardwood (still light), not laminate. But we’re working with what the universe has given us here.

This is where the living room is at now:

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Two months in, it’s far from done, but our vision of cozy and calm, cohesive and eclectic (with style and pops of colour) is beginning to take form.

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For those of you who are interested in such things, I’ll break down what we’ve done so far. The couch is the first thing we chose, and it’s this guy, from Walmart. We needed a sleeper sofa for guests, but didn’t want to spend a ton because when we eventually graduate to a two bedroom (one day!) we’ll invest in the real deal (meaning a couch that is only a couch, and doesn’t double as a bed), and this sleeper will find itself in that second bedroom.

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For now, it’s great. A touch firm if you sit in the same spot too long, but totally does the trick and looks good. It’s modern, but with soft lines. We love the grey and I’m into the subtle tufting. My best friend Melissa who came to visit in March spent three nights on it and was her usual happy morning self, every morning.

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See, she looks like she had a good night’s sleep, right? That’s us down the street at Blue Moon Tavern. This was taken in the afternoon, after a hike through Forest Park, by the way. We don’t actually drink ciders in the morning. Although that could be fun. Maybe next time.

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The coffee table and jute rug we found through craigslist (they’re the same pieces I mentioned in this post). The jute is originally from West Elm. It has a few snags, but they’re barely noticeable and we got it for the half the price of what it sells for new. The sheepskin under the coffee table was my grandma Lil’s, and I am so grateful to have it, and a part of her, with me forever. It’s not going to stay there though—I see it draped over my future desk chair that I have yet to find. I’m on the hunt for a bright beautiful patterned rug to layer over the jute instead, bringing more colour into the room and breaking up all that tan shade.

Something like this rug (photo from littlegreennotebook) would be cool. Maybe not quite that bright, but you get the idea:

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The green floor cushion is from World Market. It’s essential seating for devouring cheese plates with friends around the coffee table. The little round dining table is also craigslist, a $20 rescue from a nearby town called Scappoose. Its legs are getting painted a soft grey this spring because while the size and shape is perfect, its colour blends in way too much with the floor and walls.

The bookcase: craigslist Ikea (this one) for a crazy deal.

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I’ve gotta say, there is a whole lot of second-hand Ikea on craigslist. And while I much prefer unique vintage pieces, sometimes a well-priced Ikea item with clean lines that requires no sanding, repainting, or restaining lures me in. One day we will own a serious solid wood bookcase but for now this hit the size and colour we were looking for.

Plus, Cleo officially approved it.

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Though I think she secretly wishes we’d put one of those giant wall-size cat scratching towers here. That will never, ever happen. (We have a small one for her strategically tucked behind the couch, next to the window.) Decor trumps kitten castle. Sorry, Cleo!

6Other plans include: Replacing the green mirror above the dining table with one that’s more interesting. I’ll know it when I see it. Different dining chairs, probably. (I like the yellow but its impact is diminished next to these walls.) Switch out the big gold pillow on the sofa for a few smaller ones, possibly patterned. Some sort of cozy reading chair in the far corner, to the left of the window. And more plants, of course!

Wow, that was some major chit chat about my living room. Thanks for staying with me, friends. This space is currently doubling as my office, which is much cooler than doubling as our bedroom. I can happily write in here for hours, which I do, most days. I’ll share more progress as the apartment evolves…our bedroom and patio are also in the works.

Are any of you moving/decorating/recreating your space? I’d love to hear about it, the challenges and the inspiration. Tell me what you’ve got going on! Happy spring to you all.

xx~C.

ps. Other apartment posts, including manifesting our 3rd Floor Victorian, and furnishing Our Flanders St. Pad

 

A Portland Minute: 3 Floors of Free Books (+ thoughts on life before the internet)

A few weekends ago my friend Lesia and I hung out at a place in downtown Portland where you can borrow up to 150 books at a time, for free.

It’s a 101 year-old building on the corner of 10th and Yamhill, and walking into it feels a bit like going back in time.

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Lesia brought her camera.

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The sense of time travel isn’t just because the Multnomah County Central Library was built in 1913, but because…it’s a library.

The kind of place I used to go before something called the internet took over.

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I’ve thought a lot over the last few years about the downside of the digital era, about the trend of advertising your location or current emotion or accomplishments on social media, about travellers connecting to WiFi while sitting on the beaches of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, staring at their screens as the surf rolls in. About the compulsion to check your inbox multiple times a day.

I do or have done all these things, revelling in the great gift of the internet while simultaneously reminiscing about life before it.

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I miss the mystery we used to feel in just wondering about something, like the distance between planets or the speed of a hummingbird’s wings, or what the name of that town was in the Kootenays where you stopped for the night in 2008, on the drive from Edmonton to Vancouver.

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People are so quick to pull their phones out, mid conversation, to look up the facts of a topic that could have floated among us a little longer, a day, maybe, or a week, without being disrupted by a device.

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The other day I bought a potted hydrangea at Trader Joe’s, and the woman in the line ahead of me commented on how beautiful it was, how much she loved hydrangeas. I told her it was for my patio, and asked if she knew how best to care for it.

The man checking our groceries jumped in with “Google.” Joe and I laughed, but the moment stayed with me—how I had enjoyed asking for information from a stranger, who seemed to love plants as much as I do. How quick we are to turn to a search engine for answers.

DSC_0799Lately I’ve been feeling like so much of what I do involves the computer, from my magazine work for Fine Lifestyles and marketing projects for clients (mostly done virtually with teams across central Canada) to keeping in touch with friends and family through skype and emails. As you know from my last blog, furnishing our apartment is happening mostly through craigslist. A few things on my to-do list over the next couple days are online research of the Galapagos Islands for an article, writing a dining guide for 19 Regina restaurants, combing through accommodation options on Airbnb for an upcoming trip, and learning about our new Oregon health insurance on the Moda website.

Obviously these are all great things—I want to keep connected with friends, I want to write for magazines, I want to find a dresser for our bedroom and chairs for our patio, I want to know exactly how much I need to pay to see a doctor in Oregon. And I’m lucky to have the online resources to do all of this.

It’s just a a hell of a lot of time on my laptop. My neck and shoulders are paying for it, despite walks and stretches and yoga classes. My mind is paying for it, too. I’m more easily distracted than I used to be, taking longer to settle in to the rhythm that a long bout of writing requires. I know I’m not the only one who feels the effects of web reliance: March 7-8th marked the 5th annual National Day of Unplugging, a movement dedicated to taking digital detoxes.

To be honest, an excess of computer time is part of the reason I haven’t been posting as many blogs lately. Sharing glimpses of my life, things I find inspiring, and interviews with various creative people are some of my favourite kinds of writing to do, but putting it all together is another screen activity. I’ve been feeling a bit challenged to find the right balance between my writing work and my writing hobby, both of which demand being online.

All this is to say it was a real pleasure to visit Portland’s library, to stand among the stillness of books.

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The library reminds me of the past. Of days free of signing in, checking messages, searching sites, and downloading attachments.

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And yet it shouldn’t be a symbol of the past, should it? What if it was a more prominent part of our present?

Most people I know love reading books now as much as they did pre-internet era. And yet I don’t often hear of anyone (who isn’t in university) borrowing them from the library. Powell’s Books, Portland’s famous bookstore, is almost always packed, buzzing with the excitement of new, old, and rare titles, visiting authors, and book signings. And while the library certainly had people cruising in and out, browsing aisles and using the computers the two times I’ve been in now, in comparison to the crowds of Powell’s, it’s idle.

Joe got his haircut on the weekend and told his hairdresser about our trip to the library that morning. She said what I imagine a lot of people think (including myself, until a few weeks ago): “I’ve been meaning to get a library card!”

I don’t know the policies of other libraries, but Portland’s allows you to renew the books you borrow up to 49 times. And as I said at the top, you can borrow up to 150 books at a time! We could all be filling our homes with borrowed books, supporting the library, saving money, and reading ’til our brains burst, in a good way.

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Budget cuts in the last few years have impacted libraries across the U.S., with hours shortening and branches closing. The Huffington Post has a series dedicated to the issue, called Libraries in Crisis. I think we’re a long way from libraries becoming obsolete, but the fact that they are in trouble concerns me. It’s a place I envision taking my future child to, imparting my love of books to them, encouraging them to learn and explore through resources other than the internet. It’s a place that people who can’t afford to buy books rely on.

Lesia’s been visiting Portland’s library for the last couple years.

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In her words:

“I love the library; it’s one of my favorite places to explore. We live in a country that has given us the freedom to seek knowledge and explore the worlds of the written word. We must take advantage of public libraries before they cease to exist!”

On my last visit, I took out The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and a stack of coffee table books with names like Caribbean Hideaways and Sudan: The Land and the People. I’m looking forward to taking extra breaks from my laptop and flipping through their pages, exploring new places and ideas, sans google.

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Thank you to Lesia for her beautiful photos and for suggesting the library as our first ‘Portland Minute’ collaboration.

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We’ve got more city adventures and posts to come :)

You can check out Lesia’s photography on her site: Lesia Lichonczak

Thanks for reading, everyone. Let me know if the call of the library finds you.

xx~C.

Inside Our Flanders St. Pad

You know what’s tricky?

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Trying to furnish your apartment through Craigslist when you don’t own a car.

Also, focusing on work when what you really feel like doing is checking out vintage chairs and area rugs on pinterest.

After living mostly in studios (and a lot of Indian, Indonesian, and Cambodian hotel rooms) for the last four years, Joe and I are feeling pretty inspired to get set up now that we’re in our new (1 bedroom!) place. In January we sold most of the furniture we acquired when we first moved to Portland, as a lot of it was hasty Craigslist purchases that ultimately just didn’t feel right. (I’m a believer in either changing or letting go of what’s not working. This applies to life as well as home decor.)

For our new pad, the vision is to create an atmosphere that’s cozy and calm but also has a lot of style and pops of colour. Cohesive and eclectic.

We also want to find as many sweet second-hand deals as we can, so we can bring some new things into the mix too, like bedding, throw pillows, and a couple of these nightstands:

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which I just discovered and which are low enough to go with our (Ikea) Malm bed. Finding nightstands under 22 inches high is surprisingly difficult. We’ve been on the hunt for the last year! Most are designed for regular beds with high headboards, which is the opposite of the Malm. Someone needs to create a line of nightstands for all the low-bed sleepers out there. This is a million-dollar idea, I swear.

But back to Craigslist. You might find an item with serious potential, like this $45 coffee table:

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But realize that because it’s located in Beaverton, a suburb 25 minutes southwest of Portland, you need to coordinate with the seller a time to see it that corresponds with renting a Getaround car in your neighbourhood, with a backseat big enough for the table’s 54 inches in length.

But you’re liking that narrow mid-century look, and it’s freshly painted, says Hanna, the seller, with gold on the drawer pulls and leg bottoms. $45 is a steal, you decide. Beaverton mission must happen, before someone else nabs it. Even if the soonest you can get there is 9 pm on a Tuesday night in the pouring rain.

The coffee table is now in our living room, on top of this second-hand jute rug from West Elm. (These are the Craigslist photos, not our apartment.)

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The chair on the right here was a $10 find just a few blocks away, no car needed. It’s now in a corner of our bedroom.

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This is the sort of thing we’ve been up to since moving—tracking down good finds, checking measurements, visualizing if something will work, and then either passing or making it happen. There’s still a lot on our to-do/wish list, but the place is starting to come together. Especially with the recent spontaneous addition of a lavender plant on top of our fridge and a big-leafed tropical called a monstera deliciosa next to our living room window. I must admit I feel pretty wistful about all the houseplants in beautiful pots I gave away when I moved to Korea four years ago. I don’t even remember which friends got what plants, but I had vines, ferns, a massive jade and others that I’d nurtured over the span of seven years. It’s the tradeoff of living in other parts of the world, this starting over, the rebuilding after. But so worth it.

Here’s what we’re working with:

The Living Room

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Top floor of a 19th century Victorian house = angled ceilings everywhere. This gives the place tons of character but also limits your useable floor space, which can make the layout a challenge. We were a little worried these crazy living room angles were going to make it feel too enclosed, but they don’t at all. Just the right amount of cozy.

That weird triangle window on the left looks out to our patio. We’re trying to coax Cleo into making the area below it into her sleeping zone, which is sort of working, until about 6 a.m. when she starts scratching at our bedroom door and crying to get in.

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The wallpaper is grasscloth, which gives it a cabin-esque feel. My preference would be white walls, but we love the place, so no complaints.

The Kitchen

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One of our biggest priorities when we were manifesting a new apartment was a kitchen that had a decent amount of counter space (vs. our old one, which had basically zero counters) and was open to the living room. We want to hang out and cook at the same time. If Joe’s making us roasted veggie and chipotle quesadillas, we want to be able to chat while he’s doing it, not be calling out to each other from separate rooms. Same for when we have friends over. This kitchen is open and has tons of counter space. And a dishwasher. It’s so. much. better.

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The Bedroom

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For us having a bedroom, period, is a novelty. No more bed-in-the-living-room situation. And this bedroom is big!

The doors lead out to the patio.

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That’s the door to a pretty substantial walk-in closet. Lots of floor space and a long hanging rod, but the whole thing is awkward because the back wall is so sloped. We’re making it work. (And a dresser’s on the list.)

The Patio

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Another priority was having some sort of outdoor space, ideally private. This has it all. Lots of room for a table, chairs, planters, and a few friends. Wrought iron hooks are already hung, so I’m seeing some hanging flowers and succulents in my future. It’s partially covered too, so has a mix of shade and sun. Pretty stoked for morning coffee out here in the summertime.

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The Bathroom

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When our friend Bryan who helped us move in saw the bathroom, he said “It’s so seventies,” which I hadn’t really noticed, but I think that’s because I was so stoked, again, about the counter space. I’m sure I sound like I’m obsessed with counters, but our old bathroom had a pedestal sink with no counter, no cupboard, nowhere to put anything. This one is the opposite. There are so many drawers we don’t know what to do with them. A good problem to have.

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Bath 1

This is the original clawfoot tub. As I wrote that just now I suddenly thought of how that means people have been bathing in it for a over a century, which is kind of out there. Apparently this floor of the house was originally servants’ quarters. That’s a lot of history.

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And that’s a serious claw foot.

Okay, there you have it. Our new place, the bare ‘before’ pics. We plan to keep adding to it gradually over the next few months, so I’ll share a few updates and photos here as it progresses. I’ve also got some other fun posts in the works that have nothing to do with home decorating, but all involve creativity. Coming soon!

If you’re interested, feel free to check out my Apartment Colour Palette board on pinterest to see the direction we’re headed. I’ve got a few other decor inspiration boards started too.

Happy February, everyone!

xo~C.

ps. Some great tips on shopping for vintage on Craigslist, by one of my favourite designers

And more tricks for finding good vintage pieces in second hand stores

Both of these women are total pros and super talented. Enjoy!

Our New Home: 3rd Floor Victorian

See that window on the top floor, underneath the weathervane?

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It’s the window to our new apartment, where we’re moving in 11 days.

On the right side of the house, off of our bedroom, is this magic little spot…

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So if you’re looking for me this summer, I’ll be here, growing, watering, and rearranging plants, reading, sipping coffee or grigio, writing, hosting candlelight dinner parties, and trying to stop Cleo from escaping off the edge or jumping on the rooftop. (Joe’s got big plans for Cleo-proofing this space. So far they involve a lot of chicken wire.)

Okay, we also plan to do a lot of Portland summertime things like picnics, outdoor live music, festivals and farmers markets, and some road trips and camping, so I won’t be on my patio all the time, but since having a private outside space was one of the top things on our ‘Apartment Manifestation 2014′ list, I will be hanging out there a lot.

Finding an apartment in Portland is no joke. This city has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country (everybody’s figuring out how cool Portland is and moving here), and if you’re picky about style, location and keeping within your budget like we were, it takes a serious amount of searching and a touch of alignment from the universe to get the home you truly want. Once we decided to start looking for a new (bigger) place, I signed up for alerts to be emailed to me from two different rental sites, and I was combing Craigslist a few times daily. Through December and the start of January I viewed 14 places in person, and we applied for two of them before this one, both of which we really liked, but that went to other applicants. It’s funny, but somehow both of us being employed with our current organizations for less than a year, having to explain that our previous landlords are located in Busan, South Korea, and me not yet having a U.S. social security number doesn’t exactly makes us star tenants to rent to. Especially when there’s a stack of other eager applicants. (No one actually told us this, but we sort of realized during the process that on paper, we probably don’t stand out as ‘the ones.’) Just when we were starting to feel discouraged, I saw this ad on Craigslist:

Live one block from fabulous N.W. 23rd Ave. Charming third floor 984 sq ft one bedroom, one bath apartment in totally modernized l890′s Victorian triplex. Hardwood floors, open concept kitchen w/ dishwasher, disposal, gas stove. All tile bath w/ plenty of storage and original clawfoot tub w. shower. Your own laundry room w/ washer/dryer. Brand new carpeting in bedroom w/ walk-in closet. French doors opening onto small private covered deck. Iron circular staircase leading down to private enclosed courtyard garden w/ fountain.

I mean, this was hitting A LOT of the items on our list. It’s in the same neighbourhood we’re in now, which we love. And it was in our price range. I kept reading, wondering what the catch would be…

Security system. No pets.

No pets. Joe and I joked about getting rid of Cleo for a few seconds, and then I sent a friendly and very hopeful email reply to the ad, explaining what excellent and responsible tenants we are, that this sounded like just the place we’ve been searching for, and that we would be more than happy to pay an extra deposit for our small and very well-behaved cat. (The well-behaved part was a bit of a stretch.) I asked if they would consider meeting with us for a viewing, added my phone number, and hit send. Then I closed my eyes and said a short prayer to the universe, asking for the person on the other end of the ad to respond.

It was a total long shot. But I believe in the power of manifestation. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes, it really does. (Ask me about the time I manifested meeting Ben Harper.) That evening I kept saying to Joe at random moments in the grocery store, on the walk home, back at our apartment: “I want to live on the top floor of a Victorian house.” I said, “We just need the landlord to be some nice old lady who cares that I wrote a friendly email and that we sound like good people.” Before we went to sleep that night, I said, “Can we manifest living on the top floor of a Victorian house while we sleep?” Joe doesn’t really believe in manifesting, but he loved the look of this place too, so he said okay.

Kate, who owns the house, called me the next morning. She’s a 70-year-old woman who used to be an English teacher. I was the first on her list to call, she told me, because I sounded so nice in the email. “I love writers,” she said when I told her what I do. (My occupation doesn’t always come in handy when trying to convey a stable income, so this was a bonus.) She also loves cats. The issue is that the apartment is covered in grasscloth wallpaper, and a former tenant’s cats scratched it up, so she hasn’t allowed pets since. I assured her we would train our cat not to scratch the walls. (This is the one wild card of this move.) She agreed to meet with us that evening. Long story short, the apartment is ours.

It’s not completely perfect, but it has almost everything we hoped for. Both the kitchen and bathroom have a ton of counter space, which was essential after dealing with basically zero counter space in both those rooms in our current place. The open concept of the kitchen and living room means we can hang out/entertain and cook at the same time, which is tricky to find in an older building. And it’s very, very cute. A weird coincidence is when Joe described the place and location to our friend Sam, he kept asking all these specific questions about what it looks like, because he thought he might have been there before. Turns out his friend Paul was the previous tenant, who just moved out! Weird. But not.

I’m going to share interior photos with you guys soon, along with a few details on our plans for the space. We’ve already sold most of our furniture and are starting fresh, because when we moved here a year and a half ago we had nothing, and made a few hasty decor decisions which now need new direction. I plan to show some of the progress along the way, so if you’re into home design and decor, hopefully you’ll enjoy those posts!

Last note on moving (for now): I’m determined to do it differently this time. No up ’til 3 a.m. frantically packing the night before because I’ve been too busy/not organized enough. (I have too many memories of this type of situation.) Half of our stuff is already in boxes, I’m proud to say. We’ve just got a couple more things to put up for sale, and we’ve already recruited four friends to help on moving day. It’s gonna be easy this time. I’m manifesting it.

xo~C.

A Portland Minute: Double Decker Dress Shop

Sometimes you’re walking down the street in Portland on a Sunday afternoon and you see a double decker bus that’s actually a dress shop.

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At least, that’s what happened to Joe and I. It was one of those sightings that made me say, “That’s so Portland.”

The bus is a 1965 British Bristol Lodekka from Liverpool that the shop owner, Erin Sutherland, found on Craigslist, parked in Springfield, Or. (It carted Liverpool citizens around from 1965 to 1982.) She spent six months gutting it, painting it, and converting it into a store, and opened Lodekka in October of 2010. Most of the shop’s inventory—dresses, accessories, and shoes as well as shirts and ties for the guys—comes from small-town Oregon and Washington thrift stores that Erin scours in search of vintage gems.

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Pretty awesome, right? I haven’t been inside yet, but definitely plan on visiting the next time we’re in the neighbourhood.

I’m going to keep bringing more glimpses of the city to you guys with these ‘Portland Minute’ posts, so let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see or learn about…

ps. Another double decker business in Portland

xx~C.

*Top photo is mine. Bottom photo via Behind The Food Carts

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