Get The Look: Retro Blend Living Space

Just discovered this gorgeous space over on Smile And Wave (click here to check out more images of the room) and am totally inspired. I love how they blended clean midcentury lines with vintage light fixtures and splashes of country-cozy, and then threw in a few weather-beaten signs just to make the whole thing exactly up my alley.

This is what I’m talking about when I refer to a space that’s “collected” rather than “decorated”…and as you can see, “mismatched” doesn’t have to mean “messy”.

Of course the best way to achieve this look is by putting on your thrifting pants and hitting an excellent patch of luck, but if you’re not into scouring your local flea markets, below are some purchase-able ways to get your own retro blend.

Some of the above pieces are affordable; others, not so much. My advice for decorating in this style? Thrift as much as you can, and purchase only those key elements that you simply can’t live without. Because the real key to this look is loving what’s around you and making it your own.

Product info after the jump.

Clockwise from top right: Cola-Red “Memphis” chair, faux Eames rocker (find them on Etsy or Overstock), Leeds mirror ($199), sheepskin rug ($109), crochet blanket (50 EUR), Retro Planet tin sign ($18), vintage typewriter ($215), Navajo-style rug ($600), Room & Board pillow ($50), Ikea Norden table ($279).

What To Do: With Your Sunroom

Q. Hi Jordan, 

I have a really nice enclosed front porch, but it’s a bland room. What do you suggest for a small space like this? 



A. I’m kind of obsessed with sunroom decor myself lately - my favorite room in our new house is a kinda-sunroom just off of the kitchen with big windows that overlook the backyard, and since I figure that’s where we’re basically going to live, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to decorate it.

What I think makes the most sense for us is to use the sunroom as our dining room (and make the “formal” dining room, which we would otherwise never use, an office/playroom area), but what would be more fun would be to have it be a casual eat/work/play area.

Like this.

Or this (love that rustic box-as-table).

Or this.

In all three of these shots, there are two main things that really stand out: a gorgeous table with lots of personality (go low if you prefer a living-room feel, or choose a high table if you plan to use it for work or eating), and great pillows with beautiful patterns.

For a cool (and affordable) table, try WorldMarket (I love the two pictured above - the Tribal Carved Table is on the left, and the White Basanti Hexagon Table is on the right), or pick up something used on CraigsList and give it a little TLC, if necessary. Try surrounding your pick with mismatched chairs painted in a calming shade, and add some bright pillows for color.

I also want to point out this room, which I love because the owners weren’t afraid to make bold choices and mix styles. I recently saw tables (really more “stools”) just like this at a HomeGoods summer preview, so if you’re in the market for fun pieces that’s a great place to check out.

Itsy Bitsy Bedroom: Maximizing Your Small Space

Q. Hey Jordan,

I’m getting ready to move into a new place, and our landlord gave me one set of dimensions for the bedroom…but upon moving in we have found that it is actually a few feet smaller in both directions. I know you have experience with small living spaces, so I figured I’d see whether you have any tips for maximizing storage opportunities but still keeping the room inviting and not overcrowded.



A. You’re certainly right - while our present apartment (pictured above) has a fairly roomy bedroom by NYC standards, I have plenty of experience living in small spaces. In our last apartment (the one in Hell’s Kitchen), you had to actually sit on the bed in order to open either our dresser drawers or closet doors. That was fun.

And although right now our place looks like an episode of Hoarders, what with the boxes that I’m stockpiling for moving day (if it ever comes), baby stuff, and props and such for Jordan In The House, it…well, it usually doesn’t. I’m usually pretty good at keeping even the smallest spaces nice and orderly.


I’ll tell you!

1. First, every single piece of furniture must have drawers, or at least some kind of storage space. Do not buy adorable minimalist nightstands. Buy ones with drawers. Do not buy one of those very chic beds that sits right on the floor. Buy a nice high one that either has drawers you can leave exposed, or at least a space that you can stuff things underneath (packed away in soft bins) and then cover it all up with a (non-ruffly) dust ruffle.

2. Look for interesting storage solutions for every room in your home; the more space you have to keep things, the better. Rather than a coffee table, try an antique (or faux-antique) box that opens to store things like linens and extra pillows. And for extra seating, pick up one of those ottomans with storage space inside. (L to R: Home Decorators Storage Ottoman, Pottery Barn Nightstand, World Market Storage Coffee Table.)

3. De-clutter, but if you must clutter, clutter neatly. Display only what you must, and stash away all your extra bits and bobs in pretty boxes or trays.

4. Think outside-the-box. If you spend a lot of time in your bedroom and don’t want the bed to take up all the available space, a gorgeous day bed might be the perfect option for you.

5. Let no space go overlooked. I stack my luggage one inside the other so that the pieces don’t take up too much room, but make sure that even if you only have one large rolling bag, you use it as extra storage space (for things you don’t use often, like out-of-season clothing or bedding).

6. Make the most of your closet, adding a row of waist-level rods (so that shorter items can be hung on both levels), shoe organizers, and tiered racks for things like ties, scarves, and belts.

7. Don’t let that laundry pile up. I know, if you’re living in a city and need to cart your laundry down the block to get it done, it can be easy to let it go. But a huge heap of dirty clothes is the quickest way to make your room feel cluttered.

8. And when it comes to decor, try sticking to a simple, calming color scheme, and investing in a couple of pretty mirrors for your walls.

Clutter: gone.


College Apartment Decorating Tips

Small Space Decor

Decorating Narrow Spaces

How-To: Add Warmth To A Cool Space

Q. Hey Jordan!

My husband & I just bought our first home and I am in the process of decorating…my concern now is curtains. I’m thinking I want to go with something sheer, but I’m not sure what color. I’d love some ideas for what I can do to warm up the place and make it feel more homey!


- Steph

A. Congrats on your new home!

First, I ran your photo through a color palette generator to clearly lay out what we’re working with here - your room is full of shades of grey and blue-grey with a touch of burgundy and black, which is a very cool color scheme, so you’re absolutely right to have the goal of adding a little warmth - and curtains are a great place to start.

You can choose curtains that are red, dusty rose, silver, gold, or cream, but what I would do to add a homey feel is focus on texture, layering in rich, cozy fabrics.

Start with some cream curtains and sparkling tie-backs…

Add a super-soft area rug (it looks like you have a carpet - but maybe there are hardwood floors underneath? Just an idea) and throw blanket…

And some pillows…

And then sprinkle in some inexpensive, fun accessories and natural elements that bring the outdoors in.

Click here for lots more inexpensive decorating ideas, and remember - you can always check out my Pinterest for tons more home decor inspiration.

Product info after the jump.

Chloe Gauze Curtains ($20)

Antique Brooch Curtain Tie-backs (2 for $24)

Crate & Barrel Rug (try Overstock for inexpensive alternatives)

West Elm Throw ($79)

Pillows (L to R): West Elm ($29), Croscill ($50), West Elm ($39)

John Lewis Candlesticks (12 EUR; try Target or Z Galerie for similar)

Retro Planet Clock ($33)

College Apartment Decorating Tips

Q. Hi Jordan!

I’m a freshman in college and just found out I’ll be living in apartment-style campus housing next year…we’ve already started planning because we’re so excited! However, we’re limited by budget and the fact that we can’t make any sort of permanent change or provide a whole lot of furniture (the place comes with standard dorm built-ins, couches, etc.).

I love what you’ve done with your apartment and figure the same concepts could apply to our space. Do you have any tips for making it cozy, functional, and cute?


A. This is a great situation to be in: you basically get to do all the exciting decor stuff - playing with color and style - without having to make any major financial investments or long-term commitments…and that is awesome. Always dreamed of having a Moroccan-style living room with tons of pillows piled on the floor? Do it. Fantasize about having one of those net curtains around your bed? Now’s the time to pick one up. Think inexpensive, think adventurous, and think fun. 

Easy Style Updates:

1. Plants. Incorporate at least one bit of greenery into every room. I go for fake over real because I have a Black Thumb, but whatever you choose, it’ll go a long way towards making your temporary rental feel like a for-real home.

2. Soft Stuff. Curtains and rugs provide instant coziness, and are an easy way to add colors and patterns to a simply decorated space. Curtains in particular do wonders to soften a room, and you can find chic styles at low prices (try World Market and Urban Outfitters). You might also want to consider splurging on some pretty rods or tie-backs, which really make a room look finished and can easily come with you when you move (but be sure to fill in those holes so you don’t lose your deposit!).

3. Mirrors. They’re gorgeous, they make small rooms look instantly larger, and they’re fun to hunt around for at yard sales and flea markets. Try either one large mirror in a striking frame above the couch, or a selection of smaller mirrors in mismatched shapes and frames grouped on one wall.

4. Color & Texture. Since you’re probably working with a fairly neutral starting palette, look for creative ways to add interest, like the fabric headboard and “grass” rug in the above photo.

5. Lighting. Lighting is so important for making a place feel homey. In every rental apartment I’ve lived in, one of the things that’s made the biggest difference to me is having lots of good light - at the very least, consider a retro standing lamp to brighten a dark corner.

If You Have A Little Extra Time & Money:

1. Paint or Wall Art. A coat of bright paint on a single wall can make the entire apartment feel brand-new (you may also want to just paint the moldings; this is a quick way to give a room some character). Remember, though, you’ll have to return the apartment to its original look when you leave, so that’s something to keep in mind…and is the reason why you might want to go for interesting wall art (or decals) instead.

2. Ceiling Fan. A ceiling fan makes a world of difference in terms of the feel of your apartment, and isn’t all that difficult to install as long as you already have a central light fixture.

3. Pendant Lighting Fixture. I never wanted to invest in one of these because I thought, you know, how annoying to have to a) install and b) take with you when you move…but I put one in our nursery, and boom: the room instantly looked more finished and like an actual home that actual people lived in. And these can be more affordable than you think: I love the options from West Elm and, of course, the Mason Jar Pendant Lighting Fixture from Pottery Barn (100% putting one in our kitchen in the new place).

You might also want to check out these links:

Rental Apartment Re-Do

Personalize Your Rental Apartment

Small Space Decor

Decorating Narrow Spaces

Getting Back Your Security Deposit

And finally, just because your question got me all nostalgic and sent me rifling through old photo albums last night…

want to see a photo of my freshman year dorm room?

Not terribly homey, but still: memories.

Oh Yes, Please: This Is Pretty Much It

Presenting: almost to-the-letter-exactly what I want to do with my future kitchen, assuming inspections continue along their merry way.

Key Elements:

- Black & white checkerboard floor (self-stick vinyl floor tiles are an easy, inexpensive solution; click here for more ugly floor rehab ideas)

- Girly chandelier (L to R: Roxy Lighting, Checkolite, French Bedroom Company; click here to learn how to transform your less-than-cute lighting fixture for less)

- White paint & natural wood

- A touch of greenery (preferably not the alive kind, although a DIY Mason Jar Herb Garden, pictured above, would be quite lovely)

- A handful of chrome or black-and-white accents (L to R: Mauviel ice bucket, Mackenzie-Childs kettle, Crate & Barrel retro toaster)

Easy; done.

Accessible Decor: Floor Poufs

How to keep a black-and-white palette from looking cold: just add texture, splashes of green (exposed brick and wood balance out the look nicely too, if you’ve got ‘em), and cozy things like floor poufs.

Love floor poufs; wish I had them (both because they’re cute and because I spend a large amount of time every day perched on the floor next to a bouncy seat). Of course those oversized Missoni ones are The Dream, but there are lots of affordable options out there. Por ejemplo:

Product info after the jump…

Clockwise from top left: Tazi Designs ($240); Urban Outfitters ($149); Neiman Marcus ($199); E Kenoz ($99); World Market ($49.99); Urban Outfitters ($109)

Easy Holiday Party Decor Ideas

I’m not big on time (or labor)-intensive holiday decor. You know those people who have houses that look like Christmas exploded inside from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, what with the greenery-wrapped bannisters, holiday-themed place settings, and a tree or wreath around every corner?

Very lovely; totally not me. Or at least not at this particular juncture in my life.

I put up a tree, keep a festive candle or two lit at all times, stick Santa hats and/or elf outfits onto the heads and/or bodies of any creature in my household who will hold still for long enough, and pretty much call it a day.

And when it comes to holiday entertaining…honestly? I think lots of candles and a little sparkle go a long way, and I don’t do much more in the way of decor. Even if I’m hosting a party, I keep things simple and easy, and spend my time focusing on important things, like cocktails.


Some quick-and-easy suggestions for your holiday party decor:

- All those extra ornaments you have laying around? Put them to work, filling up a pretty bowl or clear vase and using it as a centerpiece. I like using just one color, like silver, or a bunch of mismatched vintage-style ornaments (you can pick up cool ones on eBay).

- No need for lots of expensive flowers - just a couple of branches of red berries in a tall vase will add instant color. Or you can go for a dramatic arrangement of plain branches and hang a handful of bold ornaments from those, too.

- Lighting is key, so if you don’t have dimmers, consider picking up a few low-watt lightbulbs, and using candles to up the atmosphere even more (that’s our traditional, prettily lit Christmas Eve picnic, above).

- And speaking of candles: a few go a long way, so to keep your apartment from getting overheated try mixing in a few flameless votives with the real ones (these are great - and affordable).

- I love this idea from Country Living: hang angel wings on the back of each guest’s chair for a sweet touch of spirit.

- Dress up hot beverages with DIY-ed chocolate spoons (just dip plastic spoons in melted chocolate, sprinkle on the toppings of your choice, and set on wax paper in the refrigerator to dry).

- Skip the spicy, foodie scents (which give some people headaches) in favor of crisp, pine-y ones.

- Instead of red and green, try a simple palette of blue and silver, gold and white, or graphic black-and-white with splashes of evergreen.

- For a rustic touch, fill bowls with scented glitter pinecones, and hang extras from doorknobs (or on the tree).

- Don’t forget to make the restroom pretty! You don’t have to do a ton: just make sure there’s plenty of supplies and a small candle burning. Since this is a space that your guests won’t spend much time in, this is a good spot to try out a fun scent; I keep a Wasabi Pear-scented candle in my water closet.

- Add festive little extras where you can, like bowls of peppermint bark (easy to make and inexpensive) scattered through the apartment, or fill little baggies with peppermint-chocolate pretzels and leave them by the door for guests to take with them when they leave.

- No fireplace? No problem: just tune your TV to the Yule Log station. Cheesy, yes…but I love it.


Easy Hors D’Ouevres