Playing Catchup

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

Per usual, the end of the year means I fall off the blogging planet. But time hasn't stopped in the real world, and I actually managed to make some more additions to the apartment to make it feel less like an empty basement and more like my new home.

Step One: Bookshelf.

I picked up this IKEA bookshelf on Craigslist about a month after I moved in because it was the right size and the right price. I like the open style with the metal frame, but have always preferred wood over glass for a warmer look. So, I took a trip to my fave, Home Depot, one Saturday, and had them cut some thin plywood to lay on top of each shelf. (Tip: If you wanna impress the hardware store guys, bring your own tape measurer. BOOM. Their minds were blown.)

Voila. It was an easy switch to make, and while it's mostly covered up with my stuff on the shelves, I much prefer it. You can choose to stain the wood, but I opted to just apply some Feed 'n Wax since I liked the light color. Note that I've simply placed the thin plywood on top of the existing glass shelves so I still have as much support as possible; you can certainly choose to replace the glass shelves with wood completely, but you'll need to choose thicker plywood and may also need to add additional support so there's no bowing.

This is what life looks like when you have zero storage.

Much better. 


Step Two: Hi, screen!

I originally thought I'd use the bookshelf as a divider between the bedroom and living spaces, but that was causing issues with placement of the dresser, and eliminating the possibility of a loveseat (one day...I will find you...), so: screen. I'd had it bookmarked on Urban Outfitters since before I even moved, watching and waiting for the price to go down. When it finally did (70% off, thank you very much), I knew it was time to pounce.

Fun facts: The original placement of the hinges didn't allow for it to open quite as wide as I had wanted, so I repositioned them with the help of my dad when he was visiting. Also, the floors in my apartment are so wonky that when I walk past my bed, they move up and down enough to make the screen wobble alarmingly. My solve? There's a loop of fishing line going from the top of the frame to around the pipes above. It sounds super sloppy, but I honestly can't even see it 99% of the time. And now I don't need to worry about the screen falling and crushing me.


Step Three: Enter the potato table.

I don't like desks. I don't like sitting at them. I don't like working at them. But I knew I needed, at the very least, some extra surface area for writing, using on my laptop, and — let's be honest —placing my crap. I was about to cave and buy something new from Target or IKEA when I came across this fun, weird table on Craigslist.

It's supposedly a table from the 1920s that was built with the express purpose of storing potatoes (see how the lower drawers have metal bottoms, and are crazy deep?). It's beat-up, scratched, a little bit rusty...and I really love it. I made my friend Jamie come with me to pick it up, and I think she was expecting me to have some grand plans for painting or refinishing it. Nope!

We also came across an estate sale on our way home and discovered the most terrifying collection of dolls I've even seen in my life. So, y'know, bonus.


Step Four: Hang some artwork.

20161217_174844 (1).jpg



Step Five: Get something green.

It's a fiddle-leaf fig plant (courtesy of my mom), and against all odds, it's actually GROWING. This has never happened to me in my life.

One last thing of note: I now own a TV for the first time in six years. Everyone in my family's like "it's about time." 

And that's about it for now. More updates later if my loveseat dilemma ever gets solved.

Thrift Store Impulse Buys and Other Saturday Adventures

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

As part of my New Year's resolution to stop over-thinking everything, I got up bright and early last Saturday and left the apartment on a mission. My first stop was Winmil Fabrics, in the Chinatown/Downtown Crossing area.

(Does anyone other than ambitious tourists actually venture downtown before noon on the weekends? It was eerily deserted at 11 a.m.)

My thorough research showed that Boston has basically one fabric store within the city limits (i.e. accessible to us carless people), and this is it. I'm sorry to report that it was as dingy and unimpressive as the outside suggested. To be fair, it had the kind of selection that fourth-grade-sewing-class-Lisa would have been all over: cotton/polyester with busy patterns in bright colors — pretty much everything you'd want for that reversible vest that you definitely wore in public on several separate occasions.

Ahem. Unfortunately, this did not fit present-day-Lisa's needs. Disappointing. This strike-out pretty much solidified what I had feared: I was going to have to order my fabric online.

Ordinarily, I prefer to do my shopping online. However, as someone who works in the online retail industry, I know firsthand just how unreliable product photographs can be, and fabric is especially finicky. But I was reading Rosa Beltran's blog when she mentioned that she buys a lot of the fabric for her projects from because they offer free returns within 30 days of purchase, so it's essentially a risk-free way to try a bunch of different options.

WHAT. This is kind of mind-blowing, because when you order fabric yardage, you're making a cut in the bolt that can't be undone. So, unless someone else wants the exact same fabric for the exact same length or less, the store is pretty screwed trying to re-sell it. I don't know how functions with this policy, but it was enough to convince me to just go ahead and order something already. (2015! New year! Cut the crap!)

Next stop: Michael's, to burn through the shiny new gift card I got for Christmas. There's no better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than by purchasing multiple cans of spray paint, right?

On my way home, I made a stop at Cheap Chic, a thrift store in Allston. I think a more accurate name would be Sometimes Cheap, Rarely Chic, but it's one of Nathan's go-to places for apartment stuff, so I figured I would give it a try. I was originally on the lookout for a mirror but an accent table caught my eye instead.

Remember this? Furniture shame incarnate?


Do not stare directly into its depths.

So, this table, down in the basement depths of Cheap Chic, caught my eye. It seemed like the right measurements for that corner of the living room, and there was something about the shape and details that I really dug. I'll admit, I waffled for a bit, walking endless circles around the piles of furniture while I had an inner debate.

No. Cut the crap. I bought it, and even haggled the price down a bit to make me feel better. I then proceeded to carry it home three-quarters of a mile. (Bet you didn't know that thrifting could be such a great arm workout.)

That's the angle that sold me on it. But it's not without its problem areas...

Part of the decorative molding was ripped off one side, which I hadn't noticed at the store. Perhaps I was too quick to pull the trigger? Oh, irony.

The top, I knew, sported the most damage. I'm not concerned about the middle portion, since that will be covered by the stereo and record player. But I'll have to try out a few things for the edges. So far, rubbing coffee grounds into the scuffs and scratches has not worked, and something tells me that the other at-home remedies I've seen won't make a difference either. Maybe a scratch correcting marker from the hardware store?

Or maybe I'll paint it. As much as I enjoy the little inlaid jazziness going on at the top, I'm tempted to cover the whole thing in a fresh coat of...deep navy? With faux brass end caps on the legs and the metalwork coated in brassy paint? Who knows. Weigh in with your thoughts, please.

For now, I've opted to just live with it, as is, and hold off on any paint-related solutions until it gets warmer out and I can once again use the balcony for my more fume-y projects. 

The cord situation kind of kills me, but it's not like it was much better before. Maybe I'll try wrapping that bundle in black electrical tape, just to wrangle and camouflage it a bit better.

Now. About that spray paint...

It's a Christmas Miracle!

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

Behold, let there be rug.

Just as I was psyching myself up to drop a hefty sum of money on a rug online, I received a text from Andy. While he was home for Thanksgiving, he spied a stash of rugs his mom had in the basement and, being the amazing roommate he is, asked if we might be able to take one off of her hands.

UM, YES PLEASE. Andy's mom is officially my fairy godmother of rugs. Seriously, who is this fabulous person?

Obligatory terrible-quality image to give you an idea of how big this thing is:

In a word, massive. It takes up nearly the entire room. And as soon as it was unrolled, the dining room immediately started to feel like a more hospitable place. Rug? Check.

So now I have no excuses to put off the upholstering project any longer (yes, I'm as sick of hearing about it as you). I've been obsessively scanning Joann Fabrics' web site, Etsy,, and the deep recesses of the web for something, anything, that might feel like The One. A big problem is that the patterns I gravitate toward aren't ones that are going to fit in the space — not with the chairs I have and the rug that I'm now working with.

(It's weird to try to separate what parts of the apartment are truly "my" taste, and what just organically came about because of the space and what we had to work with. That's not to say that I dislike how things are, just that if I had to start from scratch, things could easily go in a completely different direction. I like a little bit of every style, it seems.)

Another problem is the fact that I've become unbearably indecisive. About everything. And it's really slowing down my creative process. So I've decided — hello, 2015! — to cut the crap and stop spiraling into endless "What if?" circles every time I'm faced with a decision. As I told Adrienne during one of my many rants, "Failure IS an option. And that's okay."

No more worrying about the money. No more worrying about picking the wrong color, the wrong size, the wrong whatever. In the words of a famous multinational corporation, "Just do it."

On it.

Operation: Christmas Cheer, Step One

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

Christmas — like birthdays, snow days and New Year's Eve — loses approximately 87% of its magic when you get old enough to start worrying more about bills than whether or not you'll get the Nerf bow and arrow set that you asked for. When you're an adult, it's a choice to get into the holiday spirit, not a given. And now, two weeks into December, after endless days of rain, missed buses, lost wallets, and long workdays, I. am. ready.

Step one for gaining some Christmas cheer: Decorate.

I know, I know. You have a million excuses not to. Christmas is less than two weeks away. Your apartment is tiny. You don't want to spend the money. Blah blah blah. The solution I came up with trumps all those complaints.

Rather than dealing with a full-sized (ha, not gonna happen) or even miniature tree, I snagged a bunch of greenery from a flower shop on my way home from work. I prefer the long needles for a simpler, more classy look, but you go with your gut. For $8, this bunch was hefty enough to perfectly fill an old, industrial-sized olive jar that I had on hand (confession: I've had this since my days of catering in college, hoarded from a food prep day. My only regret is that I didn't snag more). But let's be real, you can't just toss a bunch of branches in a jar and call it a day.

I nested a pint glass inside the jar and surrounded it with old wine corks. On the off-chance that you're not a part-time bartender and don't just have piles and piles (seriously) of these hanging around, feel free to get creative with what you have. Live in the suburbs or the sticks? Collect some pinecones, acorns, or even rocks. Depending on the size of your vessel, you could fill it with clementines — they can get pretty tiny. Even just some plain kraft paper gently crumpled could look lovely. Go crazy. There are no rules, except for maybe one: try not to spend any money.

I filled the pint glass with water to help with making my greenery last and did my best to arrange the bunch into an evenly distributed bouquet. Since my choice of greenery doesn't have very strong branches (it's mostly needles), I opted against putting lights on the tree and went with a garland of gold stars that I had instead (see, Adrienne? I hang on to your gifts, too). The lights that we had from last year's tiny tree were perfect for winding around the base of the arrangement. (If there's one thing I would be okay spending money on, it's lights. They're the secret weapon for easy Christmas decorating and an instant fix of warm and fuzzy feelings.)


Nathan bought some battery operated candles to put in the windows last year, and while I was rummaging around for those, I came across the makeshift marquee I had whipped up then, too. Up it went, along with some candy canes we've had since last December. (Seriously, does anyone actually eat those?)

Note: In my opinion, the easiest way to fill space on a blank or otherwise just awkward wall is with a clothesline arrangement. Whether it's with twine and actual clothespins or fishing line and binder clips, I've used this method in every place I've lived since college. It's great for displaying all your favorite photographs or other two-dimensional keepsakes, it's easy to switch up, and it takes about five minutes to set up. Plus, it's especially useful for holidays and special occasions.

Makeshift tree? Check. Christmas lights? Check. Banner & candy canes? Check. All that was left were the snowflakes.

You learn a lot of important things in the second grade that stay with you for the rest of your life: Don't pick your nose. Stop, drop, and roll. And, most importantly, how to make some pretty sweet snowflakes with just printer paper and safety scissors.

Whether your snowflakes look like authentic cumulus offspring or bizarre, tribal-like symbols, you can take pride in knowing that, either way, they look really cool from the street.

I'll admit that the snowflakes took a little time, but then again, I'm always looking for an excuse to rewatch old episodes of obscure TV series. The rest of it, though? The tree? Took about as long as it did for me to make and enjoy a glass of hot spiced cider and bourbon. (Step 1b to cultivating Christmas cheer: booze.)

You can do it.

The Dining Room: Today

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

In the spirit of full disclosure, I suppose I'm required to show the dining room in all of its bare, abandoned-looking glory. This hurts me more than it hurts you, I promise.

The flowers really help, though, huh?

Okay, so it's not THAT bad. It's not like there's a dirty mattress in the corner and a bucket of homemade moonshine brewing by the window (yet). But when you compare it to the other spaces in the apartment, it feels so...sad. Neglected. Boring.

We're three people with vastly different work schedules, cooking levels, and aversions to social gatherings. In short, we don't really host too many dinner parties here. (Read: none.) But we've been known to have some roommate dinners, and I know that while I am more in the habit of eating at my desk, on the couch, or, shamefully, in bed, Nathan and Andy like to settle in at the table every once in a while for a meal or just to do work. That alone warrants the need to finally wage full-on decorating war up in here.

This built-in here is awesome, and we clearly make good use of it. Between two former bookstore employees and a girl voted Most Likely to Become a Librarian by her brothers, we have a lot of shelf fodder. While it's nice to be able to keep all the booze and accompanying paraphernalia behind closed doors and out of harm's (and dust's) way, I'm thinking it might make more sense to bring that stuff out of the cabinets and onto its own makeshift bar cart. We already have a table in the corner that's essentially going unused, or maybe we could even get a legit cart. The point is, we have the space, and as you can see...

...things are getting a little crowded in there. Plus, it would give me an excuse to create a pretty bar setup and have a place to store my bartending gear other than in an OR dry bag in the back of my closet.

We all know the deal with the chairs and, while I really have nothing against the table itself, I do think we should eventually replace it. It's just not very big, and it'd be nice to squeeze two chairs to a side and have the option of seating six. Technically, it's a loaner table from one of Andy's friends, so I don't think I'll meet much resistance if I find something better.

The rug is a placeholder, borrowed from Nathan's room where it used to reside. I'm still on the lookout for something bigger and better. Possible news on that to come.

Here's our makeshift stereo center. Hoo boy, is it rough. Nathan threw a blanket over the top of it, and when I lifted it up this morning to take a better look, I can't really blame him. Technically, it is a functioning piece of furniture that serves its purpose well. If you want to be more picky and superficial — which I always do, when it comes to décor — it's boring and ill-suited for the task at hand. Ideally, we would find a corner piece that fit more snugly into the space and offered additional room for storage. Having searched for that particular shape for a couple months now, I'm ready to give up on that pipe dream and settle for something that's simply better than this. 

I told you there was a llama here somewhere.

Annnnnd just for funsies, a shot of Nathan's terrariums that he made for the lichen he smuggled home from Alaska. Aside from the fact that they're adorable (and on-trend!), I'm mostly just impressed that they're still alive. 

Now for the fun part: lists!


  1. New rug
  2. Reupholster the chairs (fiiiiiiiiiiiinally)
  3. Reorganize the bookshelves and drawers
  4. Attempt bar setup elsewhere in the room
  5. Find a replacement piece for the stereo equipment or, barring that, fix up what we have
  6. Keep on the lookout for a larger table
  7. Decorate those bare walls!!
  8. Clean the light fixture
  9. Make the dining room feel as welcoming and lived-in as the rest of the apartment

Piece of cake, right?


by Lisa Lombardi in , ,

If, like my mother, you're wondering what the heck happened to those chairs I was moaning about, here's a little something to get you off my back:


I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that they're never going to be perfect. See how it's darker around the edge of where the caning is? There lies the remnants of the old stain that, despite my many attempts, I haven't been able to banish completely. (I might give it one more go before I completely admit defeat — I just need to do it while the guys are out so I don't have to witness the inevitable "Really? This again? Is the apartment ever going to stop smelling like chemicals?" look.)

There's also just some naturally occurring variation in the color, because the chairs are constructed of multiple, different pieces of wood. Strangely, I'm okay with that. I'm actually pretty okay with the whole thing, in general, which is good because I've had moments of sheer panic over these chairs where I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking "OMIGOD WHAT HAVE I DONE??"

I'm just kidding. Kind of.

My anal obsession with the lingering stain, aside, I'm in the home stretch. All I really need to do is pick out new fabric and slap it on those cushions. (I'm also going to work a little Frankenstein-like magic on the foam cushions themselves, but more on that after I put my plan into action.) The issue I'm facing, though, is this: the dining room is a total blank slate. There's nothing but dark wood and empty walls — no real direction to influence what color or pattern (or lack thereof) I choose. This would be a blessing — a license to run wild, really — if not for the fact that I can't get past the idea that what the room really needs is a rug. A big one.

Which leads me to this: how can I pick the upholstery fabric when I don't have that rug to work with? What if I pick some crazy pattern that makes it impossible to find a rug to coordinate with it?

I have this thought cemented in my brain that the dining room can't get just any rug. No, it needs something amazing that goes with the other ones we already have in the apartment. All of the doorways in the living room are so large that they make the whole office/living room/entryway/dining room area feel like one giant common space. That, in turn, makes me feel like I have to come up with some cohesive style that isn't too crazy different from room to room. (The kitchen, with its buffer zone of hallway and pantry, doesn't suffer from this problem. As such, it's noticeably different from the rest of the common spaces.)

So. The rugs. Here's what we're working with:

First up is the rug in the living room, which, as you can see in the photo, is within easy sight of the dining room. 

Next we have the rug in the entryway, which shares doorways with both the living room and the dining room. Similar floral pattern in a slightly different color scheme.

Finally, this is the rug that's in Andy's office, which doesn't share a doorway with the dining room, but is still within easy sight. This rug has a decidedly different pattern and vibe from the other two, but the geometric qualities, color scheme, and vintage look help it mesh just fine. 

For months now, I've been scouring the Internet for a vintage rug that shares some of the qualities found in the ones we have, but for the size I need (between 6'x9' and 8'x10' to keep it from looking dinky) and the budget I'm willing to part with, it's proving damn near impossible. I thought I had a good Craigslist lead last week, but in my attempt to barter, all lines of communication went cold.

I'm thinking now that maybe I try plan B: get a big-ass neutral rug and just layer a vintage one on top of it. It could work; I've found a bunch of rugs that I love and can afford, but they were all just too small on their own.

This is what I've been looking at:

via Apartment Therapy

Via SAS Interiors

So, what do you think? Should I continue my search for the perfect Persian, big size and all? Layer something smaller over a neutral jute or sisal rug? Throw away this notion of cohesion and go for something modern and different? Or maybe do some layering, but with a bunch of neutrals, like in the seventh row of images here?

Inspiration Board: Nathan's Room

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

True story: It took my roommate, Nathan, three months of living in our apartment before he finally unpacked all of his boxes — and even then, he progressed only from having piles of boxes all over his room to having piles of books all over his room. To this day, the only furniture he has is a futon, two small bookcases, and a lap desk. A small desk lamp (sans desk), two gigantic bikes (dude's over six feet tall), and a disproportionately small rug round out his decor.

Another true story: After five years of working in a thankless retail job here in Boston, Nathan quit and decided to spend his summer of freedom on his family's ranch in Colorado. Two months passed with no word from him until Andy and I received an email saying that he'd been exploring the Wrangell-St. Elias mountains in Alaska and, among other things, we should definitely re-sign the lease for another year.

If you say so. Check!

Weeks went by before we got another update: he'd since gotten a job as a camp cook/horse whisperer/latrine digger in the Brooks Range and as soon as he got his paycheck, he'd start making his way back east.

That particular update was more than two weeks ago. No word since. Anxiety levels: rising.

No offense to Boston, but it just can't compete with the Alaskan wilderness. I know it, you know it, and I'm sure Nathan knows it, too, which is why I'm starting to feel a little like he may have changed his mind and decided to become a permanent fixture of the tundra.

But maybe, just maaaybe, if his room here got a little touch of that Western wilderness feel, he'd be more likely to return and stay put! (Disregard how flimsy this logic is. I miss my roommate.)

I present to you, Nathan's Room: a Kaleidoscope of Awesomeness.

12. Emerson Shelving, $400   13. Retro Art print, $33   14. Locust Bison Wood Storage Bin, $59 15. Woven Wire Trashcan, $29   16. Turkish Kilim pillow, $60   17. Greer Leather Recliner, $2,499


Disclaimer: I'm not insane. I realize that someone who just quit his job is not going to be shelling out this kind of money on anything. (I'm gainfully employed and wouldn't buy most of this stuff at its current cost.) This is just — say it with me, now — innnnnspiration.

That being said, with some patient Craigslisting, DIY elbow grease, and strategic sales-shopping, I'm confident I could pull off something fairly close to this. Fingers crossed I get the chance.