Friday, July 29, 2011

White Subway Tile with Dark Grout

As part of my mom's mini kitchen reno last week, she ripped out her old back splash and installed these subway tiles from Home Depot (By herself! She's amazing!).

We decided that a darker grout would both hold up better against staining and would also be a nice way to help the white of the cabinets work with the black of the counter tops.

I also love that it's a tiny bit graphic and a little edgier than plain white grout.

Here are some of my favorite kitchens and baths featuring subway tile with dark grout:

Elle Decor

Elle Decor


Steven Gambrel

Anna Spiro

Viking ad

Elle Decor

Thursday, July 28, 2011


This post is brought to you by HP. For more information on HP and HP products visit us at TheNextBench.

HP ENVY 14: Sound, Style & Speed

By Gizmo Gladstone from HP’s

One of HP’s sleeker notebooks is the ENVY 14. Its metal alloy case, muscular components and speedy processor make the system look and function amazingly. WIRED Magazine recently named it “Computer of the Year.”

But there’s more than meets the eye here. Or should I say ear. The ENVY 14 sports audio technology that HP created with Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records. Called HP Beats Audio, it’s intended to make music sound like it does in the studio.

You can hear Jimmy explain more about Beats Audio. He believes that the digital revolution that made music portable also eroded its quality. His partnership with HP is about undoing some of that damage.

There’s a lot of secret sauce involved in Beats Audio technology. You can learn the basics and see a video explaining it on my blog post about Beats, where I talk about a very important part of the technology package, the audio jack.

If you’d like more information on the system, here are some other highlights:

- Integrated Optical Drive. It comes standard with a slot-loading drive, something that’s not common in systems this small (the ENVY 14 is 1.09 inches thick.)

- Backlit Keyboard. Whether you're typing in a dimly lit cafe or on a late-night flight, being able to see the keys is, well, key. That feature is on board with the ENVY 14.

- More efficient port layout. Putting all jacks and ports in the same area may look good aesthetically, but it could block other ports. All it takes is one oversized USB dongle and you're covering the neighboring inputs. The ENVY 14 divides the ports on the left and right sides to avoid that problem.

- The Right Price. Sure, I enjoy rolling up hundred dollar bills and lighting them on fire as much as the next guy, but for the most part, I'd prefer to save a couple bucks. The nicest surprise with the ENVY 14 is that it’s priced reasonably compared to similar systems, starting at just $999.

Gizmo Gladstone is a gamer, a full-blown nerd and Blogger-in-Chief on HP’s gadget blog, where he writes about how to get the most out of your tech.

Antique Prints in IKEA Frames

Like I mentioned earlier, the main part of my mom's kitchen is very white. So when we added the green wallpaper and painted the island navy blue, it seemed like a good idea to add some white to that side of the room to get some more balance.

When I imagined what art we were going to put over the island, I really wanted two big botanical prints with fruits and vegetables. I did a little searching and nothing I found was the right size or price. So we went antique shopping and found these antique Audobon prints for $26 for all four.

We decided to use just the three blue bird prints in the kitchen and to put the yellow finches in another room. These definitely needed to be reframed though.

I love the modern look and the very reasonable price of IKEA's Ribba frames. My only complaint is the long, european sizing of the mats. It makes framing standard US sized prints very tricky. And getting custom mats cut is more expensive than these frames so we needed a make-it-work solution.

I thought about getting some velvet ribbon to cover the gap between the matting and the print, but first I thought I'd try just painting out the gap. I used a little bit of flat black latex paint right on the paper that comes with the frame. I didn't thinking it would work because it was a little ripple-y at first, but it dried pretty flat.

I LOVE the way the black accents the print. It looks really custom, right?

We hung the frames 3" apart from each other, which is how far apart I usually hang frames in gallery walls.

So, I guess I have two complaints about the Ribba frames. Those lame wire hanging mechanisms on the back always slip and are such a pain to use. And if you hang the frame just by the lip of the moulding, it eventually stretches the wood and the frame begins to sag.

To fix the problem, we bought some of these keyhole fasteners:

And attached them along the top corners of the frame, using a drill and the provided screws. It's a good idea to make a little pilot hole first to avoid any splitting.

We did a little marking and then my Dad drilled in a couple Wall Dog screws to hang these.

The frames are super secure with the new keyhole fasteners. My mom's happy she won't have to be constantly straightening these. And we both love the way the prints look against the wallpaper and with the navy island.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blogging as a Career

I get a lot of questions about the business of blogging. I've posted about my thoughts on growing blog traffic here, but I thought it might be a good idea to talk about advertising. It seems like it's the elephant in the room with the blogging community lately and I always feel better when I am open and honest. So bear with me here.

In this post on Cup of Jo, I mentioned that a year or two ago my blog transitioned from a hobby into a paying job. I think at the time I had about 250,000 monthly page views (just in case you're a fellow blogger and wanting a reference point). I noticed about then that I was spending 20-40 hours a week working on my blog. Every day I would get 100-200 emails. I get more now. Some are press releases or ridiculous, basically spam emails. But many require responses. The time to read and respond to even a quick email really adds up.

Then there's the actual posting. As you fellow bloggers know, even the simplest posts take about an hour to put together -- Editing and uploading the photos takes the most time. Linking takes a while. And then writing the copy can be really time consuming. The longer posts require 3-6 hours of work just to put together - not counting the time to actually do the project or photograph the room, etc. Crazy, right?

I hope to not come across as defensive or like I'm complaining. I'm just trying to keep it real. Seriously, I really, really love my job. I'm so grateful to you readers and the support you guys give me and my family. Every now and then I get a nasty commenter, but for the most part, you guys are only ridiculously sweet and supportive. Virtual hearts!

All this to say that there is usually sort of a turning point when a blogger can start to feel like what they have is more like a business and less like a hobby. For some, this is when the sparkle of blogging starts to fade because it is easy to get caught in the weeds of the business/administrative side of things. I don't think this is a job a person can do unless they are passionate about the subject matter. That said, it can get hard to dedicate the time necessary to maintain something that's just a hobby. Eventually it needs to make financial sense too.

A couple years ago, I started using Google Adsense as a way to offset the cost of blogging - both in terms of time and the expense of the projects I was posting about. Adsense is a free service that is open to any blogger. Though I think they suggest waiting to add the program to your site until you're getting about 10,000 page views a month (I suggest using Google Analytics for traffic tracking). Adsense pays based on traffic and ad clicks. I did Adsense for a couple years and I also accepted (still accept!!) private sponsors, who advertise with the banners in the column to the right.

Earlier this year I was signed by Federated Media, which I was thrilled about. FM is an amazing ad network run by creative, thoughtful people. It had been a dream of mine to work with FM and I'm giddy that I can call myself one of their authors.

FM now manages the ads that you see on my site (excluding the private, small business ads previously mentioned). Also, I recently decided that I am going to try out hosting sponsored posts on LGN. I like to think of a sponsored post as a lot like a commercial. Some of them will be posts that I write, others might be something written by the sponsor.

This has been a tough choice. I am not making a fortune off of my site. I'm sure I'd make a better living if I spent all my time decorating. I keep blogging though because I think it will continue to provide me with good opportunities in the future, but most of all because I love blogging and I love my readers.

Have you been sensing how fast and furious the blog industry is growing? It's really fascinating to me. I've been watching, like you have too, I'm sure, as bloggers have begun to really capitalize on the success of their blogs. I think that some bloggers are handling it *just right*. Sometimes I feel like others might be acting a little sneaky with how they're monetizing their blogs. I worry those few bloggers in the minority are giving the rest a bad rap and making some readers annoyed whenever they see an ad. Me, personally, as a reader, I get it. We all need to make a living and I don't hold that against anyone else. But, me as a blog author, I never, ever, ever want money-making opportunities to overshadow the genuine, hard work I put into this site.

I know not everyone will love seeing these occasional "commercials" but here's what I can promise:

1) I will do my best to keep sponsored posts to a minimum. I'm anticipating only one or two a month.

2) On the very few days that a sponsored post goes up where the content is not mine, I will also be posting a regular content post and I'll try to make it extra good!

3) The words "SPONSORED POST" will be at the top of each of these posts, making it easy to skip past if you're not interested.

4) I am hand-selecting each of my sponsors. I promise to continue to work only with companies that I like and want to support. Not all of them will be design-related companies, but most will. They really will look and feel like commercials.

So there it is. It's not an easy subject to discuss - money and advertising. But after some consideration, I decided it was worth sharing with you lovely, thoughtful readers. Tomorrow my first sponsored post will go live. Thank you in advance for your support with this. I promise to give you lots of the good stuff in return.


PS Also tomorrow, look forward to a post on making too-small art fit beautifully in large frames!

PPS There has been some further clarification in the comments section, so feel free to read my answers there and ask more questions if you have them. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wallpaper in my Mom's Kitchen

When I posted here a while back about using wallpaper in kitchens, my mom called me and said she wanted to do that in her house and asked me to keep an eye out for a fun pattern. Then I found this Brunschwig and Fils wallpaper and my mom loved it as much as I did.

I'm so mad at myself for not taking before pictures! You can see here that my mom had done sort of like a shabby chic crackle paint treatment on this wall a few years ago and she was ready to update.

We hung the wallpaper ourselves using foam mini rollers to quickly spread on the wallpaper paste. Hanging wallpaper is definitely a two person job, but it goes quickly once you get into a groove. We did these two walls in about two hours, start to finish. (even with little ones wanting to assist)

This 12" brush is a lifesaver for hanging wallpaper. Once you have started placing a sheet at the top of the wall, use this brush to smooth down the rest of the paper. It really helps to reduce wrinkles and makes the job go really fast.

You know how when you finish one project in a room, suddenly you want to redo a few other things? As soon as we had the wallpaper up, my mom wanted to repaint her butcher block island (you can see it to the right in the picture below) and she also was not loving the brown accent tiles in the back splash here.

The island got repainted and we also decided to try painting over the brown tiles.

We used an off-white latex paint in high gloss to cover up the brown. This tile is not in the main part of the kitchen - it's just a decorative tile in a lower use place, so we weren't that concerned about durability. I know that there are paints specially formulated for painting over ceramic tile though if you want a more durable solution.

The navy blue color on the island and the white accent tile make all the difference here. Also, it's worth mentioning that we made the mistake of cutting all the wallpaper pieces in the same place on the pattern. We assumed that the wall was even, but it's actually pretty rare for a ceiling to be completely level. We ended up being about half an inch off (as you can see in photos above). It was an easy fix though with a piece of inexpensive molding and a little sample pot of matching green paint (which we also used for touch ups other places).

We also picked up six new bar stools from IKEA as part of the revamp. So far we are pretty happy with the Ingolf stools and the ticking stripe chair pads.

The island was painted in Valspar's Jazz Club, which I think looks great with my mom's granite and the new art we hung (more on that later this week). The main part of the kitchen is mostly white -- painted cabinets and a subway tile back splash--so this wallpaper is a really fun departure.

The kitchen is open to this family room that we redecorated a year or two ago. One of my favorite little details is a pair of decorative cornices I found at a flea market a while back. We hung the pieces in the wall corners and it sort of frames out the view into the kitchen. There's a matching cornice on the other side too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back in the Big Apple

I got back to NYC tonight after three whole weeks in Arizona and California. It was such a fun trip - filled with lots of friends and family time...

PS If you're an iPhone user, you should definitely try Instagram. It's a fun (free!) photo editing app that is nothing short of addicting. My user name is jennykomenda if you want to follow me. xoxo

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Legacy Media Can Learn from Eastman Kodak

What do you do when your industry is changing? What do you do when your innovations are fueling the changes? Those problems have plagued Eastman Kodak Co. for three decades and the company’s experience provides some lessons for those running legacy media businesses.

Eastman Kodak’s success began when it introduced the first effective camera for non-professionals in the late 19th century and in continual improvements to cameras and black and white and color films throughout the twentieth century. Its products became iconic global brands.

The company’s maintained its position through enviable research and development activities, which in 1975 created the first digital camera. Since that time it has amassed more than 1,100 patents involving electronic sensing, digital imaging, electronic photo processing, and digital printing. These developments, however, continually created innovations damaging to its core film-based business.

Digital photography created a strategic dilemma for the company. It could move into digital photography and destroy the highly profitable film-based business or it could exploit the film-based business while it slowly declined and then--when it was no longer profitable--try to leap out of the business into digital world. It was an ugly choice and the company chose the latter.

Today, the company has just 15% of the employees it once had and its stock prices are about 15% of what they were before it finally stripped out its production capacity and distribution systems. An enduring benefit of its research and development activities is that the company now owns patents on much of the underlying technology used in all digital cameras including those in mobile phones. It is building a new digital revenue stream on licenses and infringement payments for use of those technologies. Those alone now account for 10% of its turnover.

Eastman Kodak’s situation is not unlike that of legacy media firms, especially those in print, whose uses of digital technologies two decades before the arrival Internet and whose experiments with teletext and other telecommunication based information distribution systems foreshadowed the arrival of the Internet.

Today, newspapers and magazines—and increasingly broadcasters—are faced with dilemma of whether to keep exploiting their base legacy product or to dump the old business and jump fully into digital. It is as ugly a choice as that faced by Eastman Kodak in the 1980s and 1990s. So, what lessons can be learned from its experience?

1)      Don’t try to fight change

You may not like its direction and may understand how it will affect your current business, but you will not be able to stop its momentum and trajectory if it is beneficial to many customers. In such conditions you can only protect your existing product by making it as productive and competitive as possible, by adjusting its strategies to better serve those who are most loyal and resist change, and by carefully monitoring the pace of change and the investments you make in the existing product. Simultaneously, existing companies that want to benefit from the change need to be creating new products for the new markets and allow them to develop and mature with the pace of change even though they may be compounding the challenges in the pre-existing product.

2)      Don’t wait too long to change

Waiting to move into new markets with new products gives upstart companies and other competitors opportunities to become players with better products and larger market shares once you decide to enter. Although there are sometimes reasons not to be first movers, you should not wait too long because it is very difficult and expensive to enter and become a major player once a new market moves into its maturation phase.

3)      Be willing to sacrifice some short-term profit for long-term gain and sustainability

Careful strategic consideration must be given profits during transitional periods and managers needs to make the strategy clear to the company and its investors. It may be desirable to boost research and development costs even though there is no guarantee they may produce results; it may be necessary to harm the profits of the existing product by building up its replacement and cannibalizing some of its market; it may be appropriate to make investments in the new product that may not pay off in the short-term. Whatever the strategy, it should be the result of clear and deliberate choices and managers need to ensure that investors and entire company understand the reasons for it.

4)      Own the rights to technologies and services your competitors will employ

Use your R&D efforts and make strategic acquisitions to acquire the technologies and services that competitors will need to employ in the new market so they must turn to you and share the benefits of their growth. Unfortunately, few legacy media companies invested in research and development to early exploit opportunities in digital media by creating the underlying hardware and software for content control and distribution online and in phones, tablets, and computers. Thus, they own few intellectual property rights other than trademarks to their legacy media names and most are not benefiting as Eastman Kodak from patents being used by those eroding the business base. However, the new products still need content products and content management services that legacy media have long produced and companies need to be open to cooperating with the new competitors rather than giving them incentives to go elsewhere or to develop their own content capabilities.

These are turbulent times for legacy media and they require making choices and positioning firms for the future. It is no time for timidity or keeping on with business as usual.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

B&F Wallpaper

Farrow and Ball's colors are just perfection. One of my favorites is Arsenic. It's a lovely bluey jade green.

The arsenic color was used on the walls of this pretty Victorian house featured in Living Etc. It's such a pretty, clear color.

A couple months ago I bought about 10 triple rolls of this wallpaper at the Brunschwig and Fils sample sale. It's pretty spot on with the arsenic paint color. I think I paid either $2 or $3 a roll. It was insane.

It wasn't until I got home that I realized that half of the rolls were a smaller, different pattern. I'm thinking of using the smaller pattern on the daybed wall in my office.

I've got plans for a big piece of modern art layered on top to mix up the more traditional pattern. I'm super excited.

Spoiler alert: I brought a few rolls of the bigger damask with me to Arizona. Mom and I did a little mini-reno of her kitchen this week and the wallpaper makes an appearance. Can't wait to share the photos next week. I'm trying to dig up some before photos for you. Aren't afters are always better when you can see the befores?

Happy weekend! xoxo