I majored in journalism because, well, when I started college I wasn’t terrible at writing and I fit that cliche mold of an overly idealistic 19 year old who thought they could change the world. (Spoiler alert: I haven’t and I won’t.) Say what you will about the dying newspaper industry and the minuscule salary earned by reporters, but one of the cool things about being a journalism major is getting an excuse to take lots of photography and graphic design classes.
Oh…wait….I didn’t do that. Dumb.
I don’t really remember what my reasons were for not taking a photography class–a class COMPLETELY supported by my major and funded by my financial aid. I think it was something about the lab hours being too demanding and I was at the point in my young life where I had a hot new boyfriend (now husband) and was more interested in hanging out in his dark room (HEY-OH). I did manage to fit in one graphic design course, but because the teaching assistant was a big-time sarcastic bully, I skipped out on most of those labs too.
As a result, I graduated sans graphics and photography know-how. It was a true shame considering I would soon develop a mild obsession with design and photography, which I would satisfy by teaching myself. There is a lot I need to learn and I know I’m very rough around the edges—especially when compared to the high-calliber pros—but I feel comfortable with what I’ve accomplished on my own thus far.
A few recent examples.
Posters and Flyers
Brochures and Other Publications (Click the image to see the entire package.)
Even Billboards (Oh yeah, I never wrote about that time I had a billboard! Fun story for later.)
I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about all of the graphic design nuances. There are rules and techniques that I am sure I don’t follow—more out of ignorance than an act of rebellious independence—and hundreds of styles I’ve yet to explore. Truthfully, I really have only grazed the surface of possibilities, but that has me more excited than intimidated.
I write this not to pat myself on the back or beg applause from readers. But I’ll admit I’ve got ulterior motives for laying my art and my insecurities out on the table. I try not to talk about my professional life too much, but recently at work some design-oriented projects I really cared about were vendored out to The Pros. And it has shaken my creative confidence.
But here’s the thing, too often I downplay my abilities and sulk over the fact that I would probably never be a “real” graphic designer. But honestly, these days I’m less woeful about my reluctance to seize the opportunity to learn the right way in college, and more proud of what I have been able to figure out on my own. Teaching myself was an education in its own merit. I had to admit what I didn’t know, do my own research and ask for help when I needed it—sometimes even from my own journalism students, when I was teaching, which makes for quite the humbling experience. I established my own standard and had only myself to impress, and I think I’m finally coming around to believing I am an OK student. I’m not an artist savant and I don’t want to be. I’d rather find joy in making mistakes, learning from them at my own pace than creating art that I feel good about. I encourage others to embrace their interests whole heartedly and do the same. There’s no “real” way to learn to be expressive, no “right” way to be creative.
“Take your pleasure seriously.” — Charles Eames, designer
I was going through my flickr account recently, which I hate to admit is sorely outdated, and I came across a handful of pictures of the original Doodle House. We lived there a year and a half before moving to our current pad, doing what we could to make it feel like home given our limited capabilities as renters. We painted. We updated some hardware here and there. We got our start raising chickens. It was the house we lived in as newly weds and we did what we could with what we had to make it ours. I don’t have any negative feelings or weird associations with our old place, none at all. But looking back, I realize now, even with all its quirks, how much more our current house feels like home than did this little eclectic cottage. It’s kind of funny how much can change in just a couple of years.
OK. I’m just going to get right in to it. Because I know there are hundreds, nay thousands, of people out there who are hungry for extremely detailed and helpful step-by-step instructions on installing flooring—the right way—in their homes*. So here it is, in a nutshell. You’re welcome.
1. Rip up the old carpet as recklessly as possible. Don’t even think about the best method for removal or what you will do with the carpet once it’s gone. Just get equal parts frustrated with current carpet and excited about the prospect of new flooring and rip that old garbage up as fast as humanely possible. If you really want to go the way of the doodle, don’t even bother taking all the furniture out of the room first. Work around it. There is no time for that. Planet Earth is depending on you to install these floors and install them fast.
2. Watch a lot of YouTube videos. When you’re obnoxiously impatient and overly enthused about a lofty renovation project, it means you don’t need to consult an expert beforehand. Don’t talk to anyone at Home Depot or call up your contractor relatives. Mathematically it works out: eagerness + materials = perfect DIY project. That’s all you need. Just 20 minutes of YouTubing and you’re good to go.
3. Choose the right playlist. One DH reader suggested we get a good playlist going before installing the floors, as dance breaks can be a crucial component to a happy flooring project. Since Handyman Heath was going to be the one doing most of the dirty work (with me as his trusty sidekick), I suggested he be the driver of our audio experience—which meant we were in for about 12 straight hours of listening to The Ticket, a Dallas-based sports radio network. So much for dance breaks. At least now I know as much about the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers as I do about laminate flooring. I’ll miss seeing you on the field Nelly Cruz.
4. Seriously consider selling your soul for an “undo” button. About 18 hours into the project, when you’re about halfway through, think seriously about not finishing it. We were really good at this step. When Heath had just started transitioning from laying the planks out in the living room to the hallway, he looked up and me with the saddest, most pathetic puppy dog eyes, and said “I’m so over this.” Ah yes, we have arrived at that terrible, terrible moment in every major DIY project where you wish you never started it. The living room planks were all down, but the narrow hallway, which required way more meticulous measuring and cutting than the large living room did, was only just then getting underway. Even when that was finished, there would be many, many feet of trim to measure and cut and nail and paint. Damn. Was the carpet really so bad? Who said hallways need flooring anyway? Those aren’t even real rooms. No one will notice.
5. Blog about it. Much like that riddle about the tree that falls in a forest, did the project truly happen if you don’t blog about it? Probably not. So now, I submit my evidence. The best damned laminate flooring this house has ever seen.
Living room before…
The difference has been incalculable. It’s made the house feel bigger, cleaner and more vibrant.The doodles aren’t quite used to it yet. Their paws are still slippin’ and slidin’ more than they would like, but I’m acclimated.
In all seriousness, it feels really, really, really good to be rid of the carpet I’ve fantasized about losing since we moved in almost 2 years ago. I am so thankful for the ReStore for making it happen when it did and love, love, love my Handyman Heath for being so willing to jump into this endeavor head first.
The only thing I regret about this project is that I didn’t do it sooner. Obviously, you have to work within the constraints of your budget, but for whatever reason I didn’t consider the ReStore as a flooring source before we accidentally stumbled upon it when in search for something completely different (more on that later). It was a fluke, but I’m very grateful for it. I encourage any DIY home improvement junkie to go to their local Habitat for Humanity ReStore as soon as humanely possible to discover what amazing projects you can check off your list at a fraction of the cost. To break it down in real numbers, if we performed this same makeover with resources from our usual go-to, Home Depot, it would have cost us more than $1,000. But with the help of the ReStore, we did it for just a little more than $600. That’s a deal if I’ve ever heard one. Go to there. You must.
*If you’re in to doing floors yourself, I suggest looking at the following links which are actually much more instructional, eloquent and useful than anything I have ever produced. Especially this one. Though, full disclosure, we did not use the second, sound proof layer of padding when we did our floors, nor did we use painter’s tape to stick our spacers to the wall. I also suggest this post from Young House Love for a good recap on installing real wood floors.
You know that children’s book If You Give a Moose a Muffin? The one where the little boy gives a muffin to a moose and then the next thing you know one thing has led to another and he, the moose, is performing a puppet show in your mom’s living room? Well that’s basically the same storyline of If You Let Kelsey Make a Mood Board, which I did for the first time recently on the DH bathroom.
I have certainly seen mood boards before. They are all over the design blogs I read, and I have no qualms with them, but for whatever reason I had never taken the time time to make one myself, despite the dozens of room makeovers I have undergone (which perhaps would be smaller if I had made a mood board in the first place). The bathroom is the last frontier of The Doodle House—never painted, never loved. In fact, you’ve probably noticed a lack of bathroom oriented posts on the blog. (Actually no, I hope you haven’t been reading this, pining for more posts about our water closet. But that’s not the point.) That is probably because it’s tiny and there isn’t much to it besides this kinda quirky, retro avocado ’50s tile that I really, really, REALLY like. Other than that, there’s not much else going on in there. It’s small, and there isn’t any storage, and the layout leaves much to be desired.
But I came across this photo of a bathroom—with a similar size and layout to ours—on Apartment Therapy and got inspired to pay some much-needed attention to the tiniest, but arguably most frequently used, room in the house.
That’s when I remembered: just because a room is small, does not mean it should also be sterile and void of any personality or charm. So I spent the morning foolin’ around on the laptop, googling everything from “hexagonal tile” to “swimming dog art” to create a mood board for the left-behind lavatory. Once I got started, I got so flippin’ excited I could hardly control myself. What started as a lazy Saturday morning with Heath and I debating whether to go to Barton Springs or the Greenbelt, quickly found us both at Home Depot, stocking up on “bleached linen” paint and extra long shower curtains and stainless steel towel racks to see the look through to fruition. Fast forward half an hour and I’m using the electric drill to take down the shelves and cover the walls with its first coat of paint.
This evening the bathroom is in transition as I map out the plan for its immediate future.
No more mood boards for me. It only leads to trouble.
This morning I awoke with the full intention of taking some updated photos of the DH with which I could provide a splendid house tour blog post outlining my favorite spaces of the home. But during our little photo shoot I noticed a peculiar pattern: Stella and Wyatt began photo bombing ever picture I attempted to take. No matter how much I shooed them away, the doodles always found an excuse to slink back into the photos. And I liked it. So instead of gushing about the bookshelf that Heath built or the kitchen we poured blood, sweat and tears into, I bring you a collection of images of the dogs sprawled upon nearly every surface of our home. It truly is the doodles’ house.
Yes, I am attached to our furniture and artwork and wall colors and yadda, yadda, yadda. But at the end of the day, it’s the dogs that make the house a home. Thanks for the reality check, doodles.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I might very well be the living, breathing, walking, talking, blogging symbol of American consumerism. I sees something I wants sprawled across the pages of a catalog or draped stylishly over some hipster walking the chicest of city streets or proudly taking up real estate in a post of some brand name design blog, and I inevitably come to the conclusion that I must attain that picnic scenario, those awesome Ikat shorts, that fantastic living room–or at least a cheap knock off version of each. Every now and then I’m temporarily relieved of my obsession after some life-changing adventure, say a trip to India for instance, but at one point or another it’s certain I will find myself curled up in secret with the iPad at 11 at night, googling pictures of “homemade earring stands” so that I can emulate some totally random, completely irresistible image I saw in that catalog, on that girl at Whole Foods, in that post on Design*Sponge. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have a shopping problem (see homemade earring stand comment above), but at the very least it’s a browsing problem. As of late, I had been eyeballing these, as Heath would say, “super omega krunk” modern orbital light fixtures.
I’m not entirely positive as to why I am so drawn toward and mystified by these quirky living and dining room accessories. I’d like to say something about how we view light as a symbol for life and I feel rejuvenated by them. Or that their incessant circular design holds some alluring magnetism. Or that proper lighting determines the mood of the room and ultimately oneself and that these examples reiterate the attitude I want reflected in my home. Yes. I’d like to say that. But really it boils down to pretty…so pretty.
Good old mom knew I had been toying with the idea of swapping out our not-so-terrible, but also not-so-special 80s light fixture for a illumination source that’s more stylish and charismatic (and remnant of something from that website, magazine, catalog, street corner, etc). Next thing I know, a mystery package from Joss & Main shows up on our door step and I’m staring this thing square in the eye.
Its formal fancy pants name is the “Aumi Pendant” but I just like to call it “SUH-WEET!” It cost $136, through whatever black magic Joss & Main works, and I was able to put those awesome waves together in about an hour while sitting on the living room floor watching a rerun of Saturday Night Live. The only trouble with it was, while it was labeled as a “pendant” it actually didn’t have traditional pendant wiring and instead was equipped with a standard plug-in for a wall outlet. But our local handyman was able to rewire the thing in about half an hour and we wound up with this impressive get up that’s still far cheaper than anything I would have been able to find at a fancy lighting or faddish vintage store. The doodle doggies don’t seem to mind the imposing orb.After all my catalog flipping and blog scrolling you might say, I’ve finally got my eye on the ball (ey….ey?!). Consumerism Shmonshmumerism. I’m a happy girl with this new, magazine-inspired, designer knock-off ball of brilliance—a stylish charm that radiates beauty, whimsy, serenity and, oh yeah, light.
“What Netflix movie did we get this week?”
“An American in Paris.”
“Oh the Woody Allen movie. Cool.”
“No, not the Woody Allen movie. That’s Midnight in Paris. This is the musical with Gene Kelly.”
“The Singing in the rain guy?”
…And so began our journey into this nearly forgotten movie musical.
My mom did a good job of ensuring I accrued a respectable number of musical titles as a child, for whatever that’s worth. Weekly trips to the public library always returned the best of Rogers and Hammerstein scores and MGM films. Oklahoma, West Side Story, Sound of Music, The King and I, Singing in the Rain all had regular dates with my VCR. Like most egocentric children, I took great delight in bellowing “Shall We Dance” and “Do-Re-Mi” through the house as loud as humanly possible and fantasizing about the day I would be cast to play the female lead in a grand stage version of each. And before you go around feeling sorry for my poor family who had to endure these homemade song and dance numbers, let it be known that ole Gretchen didn’t do much to discourage this behavior. There’s even a recording of me somewhere screaming “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” into a microphone at the tender age of 4, which is hilarious now for reasons I didn’t understand at the time.
But I digress.
I had vague, vague memories of the 1951 musical An American in Paris being on the musical circuit that passed through our home, but hardly could recall what it was about or recite any of the lyrics from the film’s musical numbers, which is a shame considering its Gershwin score and the fact that it won some six Oscars (if you care about that sort of thing), including one for Best Picture. One thing I did remember is for a wide-release film, it was uncharacteristically loaded with ballet numbers—a quality I gave extra weight too as a once aspiring ballerina—but not much else. So, 20 years later, as I scrolled through endless selection of Netflix titles, I thought I should give An American in Paris another try. Only this time, I would be viewing it not so much as a young amateur ballerina, but as a young adult with a developing interest in art, design, and history.
An American in Paris follows the story of Jerry Mulligan, a World War II veteran, who falls in love with a French shop girl. But as is to be expected, no couple can fall in love in Paris with out an obstacle or two to get in the way of their journey to happily ever after. The object of Kelly’s affection is of course engaged to another man, while the lead character himself is being pursued by a wealthy American heiress who vies for his attention under the guise that she is a great patron of the arts with an interest in sponsoring a grand exhibition by the American solder turned Parisian painter.
Unsurprisingly, the dancing in American in Paris is top notch. Gene Kelley makes producing 24802934234 sounds at once via his tap shoes appear all too easy and 19-year-old Leslie Caron (in her film debut) performs challenging fouettés like she was born doing them. But, you come to expect dancing of the highest caliber when you’re dealing with Hollywood’s heavy hitters. The Gershwin score too is one to be admired. Most of the numbers begin as soft and pleasant ditties that slowly build into epic mind-melting compositions. But again, it’s Gershwin. You know you’re in for a sing-songy treat before it even begins.
Re-watching this as an oh-so-wise-and-worldly 26-year-old, it was not only the song and dance that tickled my fancy. The art direction played so powerful a role in this film, the scenery and background seem to be their own character (not so divergent from the way, say, Wes Anderson or Baz Luhrmanm strategically employ art, color and light as visual communicators in films today). Throughout the movie the viewer is treated to surreal and dreamy vignettes that feature Caron, Kelly and composer-actor Oscar Levant in scenes that provide an escape from the somewhat predictable, plot. In one scene, for example, as Levant and French actor Georges Guetary describe the characteristics they seek out in the perfect woman, the audience gets to see Caron provide visual interpretations of what it means to be “modern,” “classic,” intelligent,” etc. And Kelly, portraying an artist, appropriately dances in and out of famous French artworks like Chocolate Dancing by Toulouse-Lautrec. And the film culminates in a 16-minute (and allegedly $500,000) ballet, which takes place on a set that draws inspiration from famous works by Renoir, Van Gogh and other iconic artists. (Check out this great frame-by-frame comparison of the film to its artistic inspiration here.) The visual elements were stimulating, engaging, surreal…exactly what a musical should be.
I haphazardly clicked the “add to queue” button on the Netflix account to bring An American in Paris into my living room, but was pleased to rediscover a piece of Hollywood cinema that left a lasting impression and awoke in me a new appreciation for the way proper art direction helps shape a story. It has me itching to rewatch other forgotten movies of my childhood to see what else I may have missed, and to explore newer releases for the surprises that may unfold as a result of the latest and greatest technologies in visual storytelling.
Some of us aren’t fans of revisiting films—unless of course, it’s one of those mega classics like Star Wars, for instance, or The Big Lebowski. With the incalculable number of films out there, it doesn’t seem practical to some to rehash the old while forgoing the new. But taking a second look has done me a world of good, and I’m motivated now more than ever to take another peak at yesterday’s movies to discover something remarkable and rejuvinating.