Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Bootstrap Project - Global Design/Doing Good

As we're constantly in the midst of some project or enhancement or renovation at our place, I'm constantly in the midst of searching for design ideas, inspiration, unique pieces, resources for unique home decor, etc. Have you ever heard of/shopped at Ten Thousand Villages? One of the world's largest fair trade organizations, the company works to improve the livelihood of disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries around the world through their established sustainable market for handmade products in North America, and by building long-term buying relationships in places where skilled artisan partners lack opportunities for stable income. My parents introduced me to this store several years ago, and I immediately fell in love with what is truly an exceptional source for unique handmade gifts, jewelry, home decor, art, sculpture, textiles, serving ware, and accessories, representing the diverse cultures of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. I was thrilled to discover they have stores around the country - and especially excited to discover one in Evanston, just north of Chicago.

Today I discovered The Bootstrap Project, another great organization with a similar and extraordinarily lovely goal (discovered by way of The City Sage). Per their Mission Statement:

The Bootstrap Project's mission is to create a sustainable platform to promote and retain centuries-old crafts and customs. We create the outlet for the local artisans. The profits of the sales go back to the artists and their communities, through our development partners, to empower them by providing the education and opportunity to retain, preserve and advance their fast-dying crafts, customs and way of life. By purchasing through Bootstrap you allow artisans—who act as the catalyst for their whole communities—to end their own poverty. It’s trade not aid.

In the Project's online shop, each item is displayed above a picture of the artisan. Click on an item and you'll read more about it and its creator, including that 100% of the profits go back to that individual and his or her community. For example:

(Poofs by Rose in Zambia)
(Baskets by Raphael in Zambia, who hopes that sales of his baskets will enable him build a home with a permanent roof that can keep his children warm and dry in the rainy season. )
(Artisan Robiya Qayumova, from Tajikistan, makes several items sold through The Bootstrap Project, including the kurpacha in the two photos above, which is the Tajik answer to the the chair, but can clearly be used in several cool design/function ways)
If you're changing up your own home decor, or just want a new, unique item, this is a pretty cool way to accessorize your home and help the true artists enjoy the benefits of the sales of their work. I'm definitely going to keep checking back in to this site for new items, and I'm sure we'll find something(s) that would really work in our home.

What do you think?

Monday, April 25, 2011

By Request: Rug Close-Ups

I've had a couple requests for closer-up shots of the colors and pattern of the new living room rug, so here you go:

I like it more every day...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Milestone Overlooked

Somehow I missed our hundredth post! How did I overlook that?! A milestone, indeed. 100 seems like a lot... but when I look back at Post #1, it definitely feels like a lifetime ago.

Lots to be happy about with regards to our progress here, so we're just having an easy, restful Sunday, and not doing any home projects. We just got back from a nice long walk (it's supposed to rain for the next four or five days, so we have to take advantage of the sunshine when we have it), and it's back to taking it easy.

So to note this slightly overlooked milestone, here's just a quick shot of us lounging in our newly-rugged living room. Enjoy your Sunday! Love, us.

(= cozy)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sit Down and Let Me Tell You a Story... About Buying a Rug

Long ago I purchased a rug for the living room that I got really excited about. But it was too small (see here), and after I conceded that fact, I also decided I was really just all excited about *a* rug, not *that* rug, and so it was returned. Once we determined we were replacing the floors, we decided to wait on the rug-hunt and find something then. The hunt started back up again a few weeks ago. First we went to peruse the selection at Home Depot (thumbs down). Then we went to a local shop, The Exposition Flooring Design Center (which sounds fancy by name, and which looks fancy by website, but which is pretty busted in person). Then we decided to take a nice long walk with Lanie and make our way down Chicago's Devon Avenue.

Devon has been settled by many immigrant groups throughout Chicago's past. Along Devon was or is an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, a Russian American neighborhood, an Indian American neighborhood, a Pakistani American neighborhood, and a Bangladeshi American  neighborhood. Locally, though, it's known most, I'd say, for being Little India. Block after block is punctuated with sari stores, Indian restaurants, Indian video stores, grocery stores advertising Indian spices and other imported goods, and more. In between these there are Orthodox Jewish bookstores, Chinese restaurants, cell phone vendors, furniture stores, and RUG SHOPS!

Our first outing in the rug hunt included Lanie, and it was more a research expedition. We went into at least four different rug shops, and found they were filled with great items, very comparable to what we'd seen in other stores and online, and generally for great prices, or at least reasonable prices that seemed fair. So this was the spot. We found a shop we liked and decided we'd come back another day with the car to make our purchase.

Then it started raining. For days. DAYS! Today, finally, the sun was shining, we decided it was the day, and we drove back over to our shop. After wandering about the store a bit, looking through some of the piles of beautiful (and less-beautiful) rugs, and listening to Indian customers bartering with the shop employees, we were finally approached by someone and asked if we could be helped. After showing us somewhere in the range of 30-40 options in the size-range we were seeking, we finally landed on our pick. Previously we had been looking almost exclusively at more traditional, Oriental-style designs. Our choice, while traditional, is not in that style at all. But we both really liked the colors, the look, and the feel.

But I digress. Bartering. The rug we picked was out of a pile with a "fixed price." Once we'd agreed on a selection, Dave looked up at the guy and said a price $50 lower. The guy looked at us and chuckled out loud, and then repeated the "fixed price." Dave repeated is offer. The man scoffed, audibly, and told us "no, no. We set fixed prices so they are fixed, you see." We saw. But still, Dave was unrelenting. "You can't do anything for us?" He asked. "We'll walk away with it right now." He said no, and walked away. "Fixed price." We mumbled between us a bit. I was feeling a little like it might be time to let go. We either buy the rug at the fixed price, or take a walk. There were at least four other rug shops we'd already been to on this very same street that we could revisit. But Dave persisted. He went up by $25 and told the man he'd pay in cash. "Cash, credit card, no matter," the man said, "the price is..." Fixed, we know. Dave's eyes twinkled at him. He came back over to the pile and lifted a few rugs to show us another we'd considered and said he'd give us that one for the reduced-by-$25 price. "That's not the one we want," we said. "Come on," Dave said, and repeated the price. The man began walking away again. I was squirming. Let's go, I looked at Dave and silently insisted. And then, suddenly, the man turned around. "Okay," he said, "but plus tax." We won! (sort of.)

So that's the story of buying a rug. Now see what it looks like in our living room:

(Go Bulls! Go Celts!)
(Lanie approves)
What say you, dear Family and Friends? Do you approve of our selection? What about Dave's skills?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

20th Project - April

The beach is always at its best right after a big storm... have we really been here eight 20ths?


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Simple Bargain

Bargain Hunter is my middle name! Well, it's not. But with genes like the ones in my family, I was destined to uncover the most hidden of good deals. I have had this nagging desire to fill the space by the window part of the sliding glass door in the living room with something. I have also thought that we could stick something on either side of the television, but haven't found that something yet, either. So my eyes are basically always peeled, and I have been searching for a bench, or the perfect ottoman, but haven't found quite what I thought would work there. Yesterday, on a wandering-about trip to Le Target, I found something that I thought could work (even if just temporarily). And it was on a clearance shelf, so I had to check it out. Two stack-able wooden stools. A dark stain, similar to that of the new dining furniture. A design just simple and cute enough. And only $11.18 each, to boot! There was no harm in bringing them home. So I did! And they look great.

Now I just need to get myself over to the Gethsemane Garden Center in Andersonville like I've been planning and get something to top that other guy! Satisfied.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dining in Style...

I worked from home today to accept the delivery of our new dining room furniture! And Dave came home to put it all together in time for us to have dinner ON it! Hooray! Everything came from World Market, and I have to give credit to the delivery service they use -- totally worth it. It's a separate company that they use exclusively. They charge a fee, but it's completely reasonable, and the service is outstanding. I highly recommend both WM and their delivery chaps. Now... for the furniture:

(construction destruction)
(attaching legs)
(upright table and bench)
(big picture))
Not to mention those beautiful floors!

Our house is becoming a home...


The floors are finished! And they look fantastic! We finally bid adieu to our contractor (thank goodness, but again, no need to get into the details) Monday, after he came back to complete his incomplete job. Among other minor issues, the main finishing touch was the installation of a "shoe" to the baseboards. A "shoe" is the little bump-like lip adjoining the baseboard to the floor, effectively covering any gaps between these pieces resulting from inconsistencies in slope, etc. We did not know about any "shoe" when we purchased our flooring, so The World's Greatest Contractor had to come back to add it in. He wasn't the easiest to deal with throughout this project, but in the end, it really made a difference to have him return. This is a shoe:

So the only thing left to do is paint the baseboards so that the nail holes are covered and all is clean and bright and shiny and new! Hooray!

Full flooring impact in next post on... OUR NEW DINING FURNITURE!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Crop Circle Explained -- Already

I jumped the gun on wondering about the tape crop circle... Dave wasn't home when I got here - he and Lanie were out for an evening jog. They just got back, and it turns out Dave made the tape crop circle, because the boards feel loose in that area, and he wants Danny to take a look at it tomorrow and see if it's a problem that can be fixed. Sigh. Oh well, mystery solved.

Floors: Near Completion

All of the flooring is installed! So why "near completion" you might be asking? Well, I'm not sure. But all of our contractor's equipment and stuff are still out, so it looks to me like he's not quite finished yet. Also there's an interesting taping situation going on in the front hall, which equally leads me to believe that there more work to do. I think he needs to do some finishing work on the thresholds and the baseboards, but beyond that, I can't figure it out. Guess we'll find out tomorrow. In the meantime, it really looks transformed. Here are some new shots, including a few "perspective" shots for my dad...

(from the front door looking in)
(aforementioned taping situation... we'll call it a tape crop circle)
(mysterious tape crop circle markings - arrows pointing at... well, nothing except the middle of the circle.)
(from our bedroom door, looking down the hall toward the dining room)
(and looking into the kitchen...)
(look at that beautiful, seamless hallway situation! ignore the edge of the tape crop circle...)
(living room)
(perspective shot: looking into the living room from the balcony, by way of the new door! (forgive the mess))
And on a side note... how great is it to still have day light at nearly 7:00pm?! Hooray Spring!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Floors and a Door

Good news! After some set-backs (a few additional set-backs while we were away... but they're in the past now, so they need not be regurgitated), we have some serious floor progress! Hooray! And they are really looking great. So far, the floors are installed in the living room, dining room, most of the hall space, and some of the kitchen. All that's left is the rest of the front hallway, including the closet, and the rest of the kitchen. One or two days more and we're fully floored--literally and figuratively. We also got a surprise phone call on our way home from our travels letting us know that the replacement slider for the living room had come in, so the new sliding door is also in place, and it looks fantastic. Bonus: it opens and closes easily! Great day at the HSS! Enjoy...

(living and dining room: complete!)

(hallway through to the master suite door: complete!)

(front hall -- complete up to the closet area)
(kitchen: just barely started... say goodbye to those amazing laminate faux bricks!)
And here's the new slider (I promise I'll provide better photos in daylight):

(ooh la la = easy access to grill)
Lanie thinks it smells funny in here, but I think she appreciates how sleek it's looking!

Hopefully there will be more exciting news to report on tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm off to consider running for the condo Board (oh, man...)!