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Ten ways to create your sanctuary

Ten ways to create your sanctuary

 What was that certain something that caused me to start Modernplum? It was helping woman find calm and stay grounded and find connections to the things that matter for them. It's a pretty simple idea but in actuality, I think its getting harder and harder to achieve.

Societal influences like digital culture, fast consumerism and an extended work week among others, demand a lot of our attention and they aren't going away any time soon. So we must combat these with daily and seasonal rituals that act as a kind of buffer to the outside. As a company, we are all about celebrating these buffers and making products and creating experiences to help you create calm and stay grounded at home and life. We are the anecdote to these influences and demands for attention, asking instead that you make time for yourself, your home, and the people you love.

Here is my list of must-do's or should-do's for creating a sense of calm, staying grounded, and ultimately staying present to the important things. More posts to follow on these 10 important rituals. 

1. Cook at home
2. Set the table
3. Have a beautiful bed
4. Spend time in bed
5. Vary your decor
6. Read 
7. Drink lots of water 
8. Smell lavender
9. Keep fresh flowers in the house
10. Seek beauty
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Natural dye Easter eggs

Natural dye Easter eggs

                     

Easter is this Sunday, and we are natural dyeing easter eggs this year as part of the celebration. Easter is a multi-faceted holiday for us. It marks the beginning of spring which means that in Chicago, we are now into our 9-month run of great weather.  I have been interested in using natural dye on eggs, and in our textiles, for awhile. In a world full of the artificial, eye candy, bling, and disposable consumerism, natural dye leads us to a place of simplicity, mindfulness, and calm.   Aesthetically, natural dye just looks so earthy and nice and real. While big bright colors are nice, there is something a little fake about doing those colors on eggs. Didn't these just come from a chicken? Just saying. The other thing is that natural is natural, which means it's healthier. I would feel much better about using these eggs for cooking afterward if they were natural dyed. Not so much with artificial color. The other part of natural dye are the recipes which are more akin to cooking a great colorful meal than being in a chemistry lab. Which brings me to another point - natural dye is safer for children, who, if curiosity gets the best of us and them, can even taste these solutions and don't have to worry about them staining the countertop or floor.  What a win.  For recipes, I recommend this article by Martha Stewart or a simple google search also turns up many references: https://www.marthastewart.com/267850/dyeing-eggs-naturally. A Beautiful Mess blog also has a great article on the subject: https://abeautifulmess.com/2018/03/naturally-dyed-easter-eggs

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Bedding for everybody

Bedding for everybody


  

There has been a lot of discussion in the press and otherwise lately about the challenges and victories for achieving equity in daily living. Progress forward is being made in so many areas. But one sector we don't hear much about is design. There is reporting on the latest colors, styles, and latest design projects but with one story missing. And that's is the story on how interiors and specifically bedding is keeping up with the move toward a more unisex or gender-neutral preference. This new aesthetic, we believe, provides a new vision for bedding and home textiles. This new aesthetic is inclusive and simplified. Straight lines, geometric shapes, proportioned color and neutrals ensure a restrained look, but one also filled with great variation and complexity. While very beautiful, ruffles, flowers, swirls, and dots in pastels pinks, peaches, blues and yellow colors are designs with a narrower demographic focus and they seem a little dated from this perspective. At Modernplum, we've been designed this way since day one. Making modern, timeless and inclusive goods is what we do. See our bedding collections here.

 

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Multi-purpose design: Pillows

Multi-purpose design: Pillows

We are excited to be adding multi-purpose linen throw pillows to the line-up for Spring. They are made from European linen with 90/10 feather insert and navy blue YYK zipper. Yes, they look fresh and clean, and very Sp-Su ready. But beyond these details, these pillows are exciting because of their multi-purpose uses and benefits. Each pillows is sized at 22" x 22" inches which is a generous scale for sofa, rightly scaled for beds, especially in combo with larger shams, and the right proportion to sneak on the floor as a cushion. We have double-lined each pillow for added structure and durability, so beyond looking good, they have the structure and support to take on any role where a soft and comfortable pillow is needed. This idea of multi-purpose is one that we believe should be incorporated into product design more often. If conceived upfront this way, then products can double up and take on more uses. What this means for the household is fewer things and more options for flexible living. It means a pared down environment (less stuff) which open up more thinking and living space for doing important things. It's also ultimately less expensive to live with well made, multi-purpose things. It's a sustainable idea, multi-purpose design. See our pillows here.

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Design for the senses

Design for the senses

bare feet and linen vines on apartment
I read a wonderful book this week called Rethink by Amanda Talbot and the ever creative publisher Chronicle Books. The book is all about rethinking how we live in the face of concerns like climate change, terrorism, and technology. The book suggests that modern life at home is not about overly decorated and precious things. It is about freedom from these obligatory things and the opening up of new possibilities for creating a home that is very intimate, personal, meaningful, and sensual. Appealing to the senses in the things we live with and buy is a core idea. Living with plants, pets, organic materials, things picked from nature, flowers and the handmade speaks to the senses. Comfort and connection are supremely important. It comes from engaging not the mind but the heart, and heart is stirred by these humble elements. We come from nature - we are nature - so the things we keep around ought to be a part of that heritage. What happens outside is out of our control, but what we do and live with inside the home is on us. What an opportunity to make a healing part of the home. For extra reading on the sensual house, I was also inspired by the Rue blog's article on Echoview Fiber Mill and House. Now that's a beautiful way to live.
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Fierce is beautiful

Fierce is beautiful

Last weekend I was reading Cereal Magazine's latest winter issue and they had this wonderful image of Lake Michigan from above. At home, we sometimes call the Lake fierce when it looks like this. Also last weekend, it snowed which is the image to the right. Angry lake and winter snow. These are the two weather related events that we see in Chicago this time of year. Both a dramatic and fierce, and both are beautiful. There is beauty in the angry and fierce, just as much as those bright predictable days that seem to get so much attention. Fierce is real. Real is so beautiful.
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My journey into textiles

My journey into textiles

Since founding Modernplum in 2014, people ask me a lot about why and how I got interested in textiles. My relationship with fabrics has many layers that together gives me a great affinity for it, not only for its practical applications but also for it strong cultural influence. My mom was an interior designer who liked to take me to the textile showrooms in LA. As she would scour the racks for specific fabrics, I would be left to explore the world of textiles. The prints, the linens, the weaves, the colors, the textures -- everything was there. While outwardly pretending total boredom, secretly it was thrilling to be exposed to these things. My bedroom at home was also filled with textiles with flowery prints, embroidery and needlepoint, cotton sheeting, and 70's shag carpet. All of it made a beautiful nest that became a reliable sanctuary and a source of daily beauty.
It's true that fabrics by themselves, as they come off the roll, are pretty lifeless. They often get overlooked in home decor in favor of bigger, heavier furniture and objects. But when you bring fabrics into the home - onto a bed, onto a dining table, or to cover a window - they are completely integral to the important rituals of daily life: sleeping, eating, and lounging, to name a few. Textile products aren't inanimate and static objects, they are totally interactive. They become the backdrop and utility for life to unfold. They are a large part of what makes a house, a home.  What's better than being able to help in this process? I often think about how lucky that is.
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Housekeeping: Don't sweat the small stuff

Keeping house, keep it real

It's finally nesting season, and I welcome it with open arms. This is the time when when domestic goddesses can show their stuff and domestic rituals come alive. But during this busy time, let's face it, the house can get a little unsettled. 

My advice: don't sweat the small stuff. When it comes to keeping a house, I draw the line between perfection and good enough, and generally am happy with the latter.  Homes should be generally straightened, since it is this care that allows for the space to function without the distraction and unsettled energy of dirty dishes, unmade beds, toys and such on the floor, or unwashed or folded clothes tossed around. Good enough housekeeping is the compromise between keeping the house functional and keeping it real. Perfect order is unattainable anyway.

Mary Randolph Carter’s book A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life (Rizzoli 2010)  hits this cord well.Carter’s book is refreshing in that it is not a decorating book on how to pretty up a room. It is an honest documentation of homes that have evolved out of the organic process of living, and the value of good enough housekeeping. The book features chapters on topics like Living with Bric-a-Brac, Living with Work, Living with Children, and Clutter with real life case histories. Oberto Gili’s home, for example, depicts how he orchestrates his living and work spaces in a tiny New York apartment, mostly due to his love of tables. The book states that the most valued table (MVT) “is awarded to a marble topped table near the kitchen and the light of the garden. It’s his (Gili’s) favorite place read the newspaper, have coffee, prepares homemade pasta, edit his pictures, meet with clients, and serve dinner to friends.” A creative use of space where the home services real life in a myriad of ways. Other profiles include artist Nathalie Lete, Pamela Bell, artist Natalie Gibson, and Ralph Lauren executive, Daniela Kamiliotis.

Carter tells us that authentic domestic space evolves through the organic process of living. Interests, travels, dreams, experiences are the stuff of a great interior. Keep it real, let it flow, let go of perfection so that the incredible value of good-enough can do its thing.

 

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breakfast table runner

A simple autumn breakfast

This morning, I used a new table runner and got some flowers at the corner grocery. They just seemed to go with the colors of the season. Toast and apricot jam for breakfast, that is all. The toast was sourdough and buttered and the jam is a fruit spread with no sugar. But what makes this little breakfast so appealing I think isn't really about the food per se. It's about the color of the flowers, the deep apricot jam, the silver blade on the knife, and the deep citron and blue stripes on the table runner which is coming to the store soon. The senses are heightened on so many levels. Even the fragrance of the flowers, strong coffee (not pictured), and jam comes into play. When it comes to dining, sometimes it's not just about the food. To make any meal extra special, its good to think about all the elements -- table linens, flowers, the food, and the place -- each of these contributes to the experience of dining. What a pleasure it can be!

 

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A case for hand-crafted goods

A case for hand-crafted goods

The case for homemade and handcrafted goods can be a tough sometimes. How nice would it be to wear or use a product a few times, and then send it off to Goodwill. No upkeep or maintenance required. Just pure uncommitted bliss. Disposable goods are fun, cheap, and can deliver that fast shot of adrenaline that is addictive. What's not to love?

But bliss does have a flip side. Brands with a quick and repetitive sales model often design their goods with "planned obsolescence" in mind. Design decisions like quality and durability of materials and sewing craft are planned to erode quickly. This means that a great bedding set or sweater might look beautiful on first use, but colors will fade, fibers shrink or get itchy, and buttons will fall out quickly. Thus begins the cycle of consumption that requires more visits to Goodwill, stresses your monthly budget, and occupies a never-ending place on your to-do list. It's truly a treadmill. Further, in order to produce these goods at such an enticing price, other corners must be cut. Fast goods are often produced in slum factories in developing countries where children and young woman work for less than living wage. The dye process for some textiles uses harsh chemicals that are dumped into water sources and the soil. All this for fast profits.

The alternative this would be hand-crafted goods. Instead of big highs and big lows, slow goods are long-wearing, predictable, and actually improve their durability over time. They fit into a lifestyle built on ritual, routine, community, and commitment. It takes time to cook, to iron (on occasion), to do laundry and make the bed. Fabrics are savored and collected and become like old friends. Over time, that one pair of favorite linen napkins, for example, will also be less expensive to use and maintain than a slew of paper napkins or cheaper cloth napkins. Your shopping routine will become simple and cost-effective when you live with things that don't often need replacement.

So this is the dilemma. Go for the bright shiny object with the great price or a more authentic and carefully made object that will last longer? I think you know which we prefer. What about you?
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Bedding making tips

Make your bed

Every so often, I get an urge to make my bed. Not in the way of getting new bedding or even in changing the bedroom decor. I mean how the bedding comes together and is arranged - in short, how the bed is made. I know that bed-making is probably way down on your list. Ranking with doing dishes or folding laundry, making the bed is just a chore that needs to get done.

But hold on for a second. Perhaps the drudgery of bed-making has a silver lining. I think it does. In my book, there are two really important things to having the best bed: comfort and beauty.

First, the comfort. You want your bed to be a sanctuary that provides bliss any time of the day. That's asking a lot, but there is a way to get there. The first is making sure that the sheets stay relatively clean. In my 1970's childhood household, sheets were washed once per week and I've tried to stay true to this schedule. Just the idea of slipping into clean sheets produces a tiny burst of joy, yes?

Comfort is also influenced by what fabrics you choose to sleep with. Most sheeting is cotton or linen since they breath, are soft and long wearing. Linen breaths more than cotton and gets softer over time. Either works well. Sheeting should not be made from synthetics since they are the opposite of these. On the next layer, you can add a blanket which should also be made from natural fiber. Wash once a month. Your comforter or duvet insert can be either polyester or down. I recommend having at having a light and heavier weight insert to use seasonally. During the dog days of summer, the duvet cover can be used by itself as a bedspread - no insert needed. As a last layer, don't forget a bed throw either on the bed itself or nearby. Having a throw around is a little personal luxury that's all about portable comfort. I often will use a throw during the day when napping or reading and sometimes at night if it's very cold.

The key to comfort? Cleanliness, quality fabrics and layering.

Beauty

This one is harder to define, since it is very subjective. A beautiful bed is in the eye of the beholder. There are a couple of bedmaking components that enhance beauty, no matter how you define it. The first is keeping everything in good shape. By good shape, I mean keeping pillows, duvets, blankets and all free of rips, tears, stains and in generally good condition. It is surprising how these tiny imperfections impact perception.

The next part of making a beautiful bed is the care and craft of layering and folding the bedding as you make it. This is really a simple act but one that will do wonders for the overall appearance of the bed afterwards. Laying down your flat sheet and tucking the sheeting well is like laying a smooth and well crafted foundation for a home. If this initial part is done well then the entire bed will benefit. We recommend hospital corners for your sheeting. Y’know, the way nurses used to fold sheets before fitted sheets were invented. Not to worry, your bed will not look like it belongs in a hospital. Use this technique with your flat sheet and/or comforter. It might seem minor or a waste of time given no body will actually see these corners. But herein lies the secret to great beauty, I think. beauty is made in the details and when no one seems to be looking.



To get this look, follow these steps:

  • Lay the sheet on the mattress and tuck it in at the foot of the bed.
  • Grab the corner of the sheet still sticking out and pull it up so that it sits on top of the mattress (we’ll call this the triangle).
  • Tuck in the remainder of the sheet corner that you didn’t pull up.
  • Tuck in the triangle.
  • Repeat at the other corner.
From there, you can layer all other components onto the bed. Make sure that underthings like blankets are smooth and tucked in using the hospital corners technique. Finish with pillowcases, shams, and accent pillows either tossed or arranged formally according to your personal preference. Just a bed can be made in 30 seconds or not at all. But a comfortable and beautiful bed might take a few more minutes of effort. Again, the time issue. Something to weigh. An extra few minutes per day at bed-making might just make your day (and night). Enjoy.

By Sydney Lawson
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In praise of linen napkins

In praise of linen napkins

 

Over the years, I've had the conversation many times on the merits and pitfalls of using linen napkins. The first time was with my first collage roommate and the last is still to come. The conversation seems to go like this. Cloth napkins do take some upkeep. They need to be washed and they need to be stored and folded. Ironing is nice for formal events, but not necessary. All that maintenance takes about 10 minutes of extra effort per week. To put that in context, that's about the same amount of time it takes to water an herb garden, make a smoothie, or call a friend. But for the time starved, it's a couple of minutes extra that could be used for something else. The real question becomes what does that extra few minutes per week get you? Is the work worth it? Here are a few that come to mind.

It gets you options for setting a table. Options that come from having several styles and colors of napkins that can match a mood, a particular table setting arrangement, or kind of food. Having options like these is important as it invites mindfulness into the daily ritual of setting the table.

Something else it gives is economy. Over time, having to purchase paper napkins or paper towels can be expensive, and cost will exceed the investment in purchasing linen napkins pretty quickly. Linen is one of the most durable fibers around so the investment is long term.

Using cloth is environmentally friendly. Resources like water and electricity are needed to launder napkins, but over time, the collective amount of paper used for napkins does make a impact on forestry resources.

Most all, cloth appeals to the psychology of ritual that covets predictability, beauty, and tradition. There are few things more pleasurable and reassuring than daily rituals like setting the table. Selecting napkins, feeling and folding them in your hands, using them over and over, laundering, and storing are all markers of ritual. Ritual is a way to structure tasks around the house and it helps develop pride over time of a job well done. 

Paper napkins are faster and more convenient, but using cloth invites a slower more mindful approach to daily life. Try it and see. Here are a couple of Modernplum favorites for late summer.

 

 

 

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