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bringing the circus home

12 Mar

 Old carnival water fountain, Olde Good Things

There’s a huge architectural salvage shop in the Flatiron/Chelsea area of Manhattan called Olde Good Things.  The prices are mostly nutty, so I haven’t really shopped there.  But for a few weeks during the spring and summer, their inventory spills out onto the street, revealing some quite amazing finds.  I used to pass by the store on my way to work and find myself fantasizing about this huge pair of lion statues.  On closer inspection, I noticed a spigot inside the wide-opened mouth (right by the fang), then discovered another pipe down by the base, near the tail.

My Encyclopedia Brown-style curiosity piqued, I constructed a little story in my mind about the backstory of these adorable circus runaways.  I’m assuming they used to grace the entrance to a carnival, as water fountains.  How cool would that be as a child to stick your head in a lion’s mouth for a drink of water?!

In all this time, I haven’t yet mustered the nerve to approach an OGT employee to ask about the origins of these fountains. It doesn’t really matter.  And to most people, I’m sure they look like bashed-up pieces of old metal.   But, man, if we had a backyard, restoring these lions would definitely be my summer project.

All of this got me to thinking about carnivals, circuses, and play time.   As readers of RFYO know by now, I’m very much NOT a fan of the theme room.  Added to the fact that I’m personally NOT a fan of circuses overall, clowns in particular, and caged animals of any kind, this could be a tricky one.  But I’ve been so inspired by some circus-related items I’ve discovered online that I just had to share.

Old Pottery Barn Kids catalog image

Remember this post about painting on the ceiling? If you’re going whole-hog on this circus thing, and you’re incredibly patient, the big-top stripes would definitely be the way to go.  Unfortunately, PBK has discontinued their circus bedding, which is incredibly sweet and well-designed.  But I actually prefer a design from Boodalee Kids.

Boodalee Circus Tree Twin Bedding set, Zac and Zoe, $95 (on sale)

This is not going to last.  At Zac and Zoe, a fantastic online retailer, you can get the entire sheet set for $95 (down from $190) or just the duvet set for $55.

 Circus Seal color palette, colourlovers.com

As this color palette suggests, blue, red, orange, gray and beige look great together.  Blue and red seems to be a popular color combination in kids rooms nowadays, probably because it’s clean, bright, and unisex – great for shared rooms and small spaces.  It’s also easy to match and decorate around.

Boodalee’s matching circus pillows illustrate the point.  Also available at Zac and Zoe, I want them for myself.

Elephant rocking chair, Overstock.com, $67

Any circus-loving fan needs an elephant.  Available on Overstock.com, this rocker (shown above) is the nicest one I’ve found at this price point. 

L: Restoration Hardware (sold out), R: Bazoongi Kids, CSN Stores, $94

Given the reception the PBK rocketship tent received in an earlier post, I set out to find a big top tent.  My favorite by far is the one from Restoration Hardware, but unfortunately, it’s not being sold any more.  If you were interested, I’d scour Ebay for a week or so and one might pop up.  The Bazoongi one is cute, but a bit, um, bold for my taste. Regardless, I’m sure kids would love it.

Doorway Circus Puppet Theater, Restoration Hardware, $35

Alternatively, Restoration Hardware is now selling a circus-themed puppet theater – which may actually be just as fun, and more interactive.  As with the Boodalee bedding, it’s also on sale (from $89) so it may sell out soon.  What’s great about this piece is that the curtain hangs from a tension rod, so it’s easy to move and take down when playtime’s done.

Circus Penguin Print by Watotodesign, Etsy, $27

I just had to end the post with this picture.  Not sure how often you find penguins at the circus, but in the name of artistic license, this print gets a pass.  Watotodesign’s shop is full of whimsical animal prints, featuring penguins, elephants and monkeys.

As always, let me know if you’ve got any circus-related suggestions of your own.  I’d love to hear, and if you’re interested, I’ll follow up with another post sometime soon.

denyse schmidt + embroidery hoops = custom art

12 Feb


denyse schmidtKatie Jump Rope collection by Denyse Schmidt at FreeSpirit Fabrics

Let me start on a disclaimer. I know very close to nothing about fabric, fabric designers, quilters or quilts, their related klatches, knitting circles or blog rings. So for those of you who know more than me (which is mostly everyone), please feel free to drop me a line and let me know your thoughts on this topic.

However, I do know a few things about Denyse Schmidt:
1. Denyse is from Massachusetts and studied graphic design at RISD (my dream school).

2. She has a thriving quilt business.
See this lovely interview at Sew, Mama, Sew!

squaresvilleSquaresville and Full Circle crib bedding, Land of Nod

3. Some of her beautiful quilts and crib bedding designs are now being offered at Land of Nod.

floral ribbonFloral Ribbon, FreeSpirit Fabrics

4. And she has a line of fabric, called Katie Jump Rope, that I’m absolutely crazy about. I especially love the Floral Ribbon print and the Daisy Bunch pattern. (The entire collection is on view at the FreeSpirit website, link above.) Here’s how the collection is described:

Denyse brings her colorful, fresh perspective to one of her most popular fabric collections for FreeSpirit. Katie’s patterns take their cue from the vintage charm of Denyse’s tag sale scores, with a distinctly modern appeal. The refreshing color range draws on the palette of an adorable vintage jump rope, filtered through the lens of Denyse’s jump-roping days of the early 70’s.


I was inspired to research Denyse’s fabrics after noticing a smattering of posts across the internets featuring embroidery hoops in place of picture frames on people’s walls. As I’m not much of a crafter, this seems like the perfect afternoon project.

Single pattern, single colorway, featured on Craftster.org

I found this image (above) on Crafster.org – it features one fabric and a single-sized embroidery hoop.

Norah’s nursery on Ohdeedoh.com

This one (above) features different patterns and different-sized hoops. A great thing about embroidery hoops above a crib is that they’re lightweight (safe) and the fabric is easily changed with the decor. (Instead of a typical stretched canvas, why not use an extra crib sheet and match your art to your crib set?)

Lorena and David’s nursery on flickr.com

Lastly, this design (above) requires little bit more work, but at least you won’t need a mobile! Featured on multiple sites, like the Inspiring Mama blog, Lorena and David did a beautiful job. They even used glow-in-the-dark paint on some of the fabrics! Another creative ceiling feature (see this back link for more)…

If you’re so inspired, I’ve found a place on Etsy where you can buy Denyse’s Katie Jump Rope fabrics by the yard. See the Honeybee Humble Store (username: fabricbee) for more information. And please send me your photos if you get creative.

painting on the ceiling

20 Jan


Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that people now consider a fifth wall – their ceiling – when painting their rooms. Chalk this up on the list of ‘things I never thought about before.’ Back when I was a kid, you’d do one of two things when decorating ceilings: either you’d go nuts with those glow-in-the-dark stars (or bleach, if you had a black light and very permissive parents), or you’d try (and fail) to paint a beautiful sky – which, more often than not, turned out less like Michaelangelo and more like the Simpsons.

Domino: The Book of Decorating

Last night, I was reminded, and heartened, by the new approach being taken with regards to nursery ceilings. It makes sense – given that young ones do spend much of their time staring upwards – although a simple mobile often suffices. Despite the early demise of Domino magazine, the corresponding book is still a strong guide and look book for interior spaces. Here’s where I found the above picture. Knowing that the black wall at right is actually chalkboard paint makes the room feel more whimsical. The striped ceiling is a curious, but interesting, way to add visual interest.

Ohdeedoh: Small Kids Big Color entry 2009

And, wow. I’m not sure if I like this, but it’s certainly worth mentioning. To me, it’s a bit theme-y, having carried the bee motif to the nth degree, but a sign of incredible hard work and dedication on the part of these parents-to-be. Apparently, they spent 40 hours creating and attaching the black honeycomb shapes out of wood molding.

Better Homes & Gardens: Modern Designs for Baby

For a modern alternative to the aformentioned mobiles, I like this suggestion from Better Homes & Gardens magazine. I don’t know how anyone could replicate it without a personal jig saw, but it’s a clever suggestion – all you need to do is drill holes, then mount these plywood shapes with thin chains or cords. This could work in a rental apartment if you don’t want to actually paint the ceiling itself.


But this, by far, takes the cake. I can’t remember where I found the image, but will continue to search for the source. My first instinct is – HOW COOL IS THAT!!! – despite my aversion to rooms that feel like theme park rides. I just fear the day when that little boy grows up and asks his mom for his room to be plain and simple again. It would break my heart to paint over such a valiant effort, which looks like it took hours and hours to create. If it were a decal, however, I wouldn’t feel so bad.