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FOOF: Dwanollah Décor, Part Two:
The Milwaukee Loft Re-Imagined
PAGE ONE
July 2005


*Note: Ever timely, Bobby. Ever timely.

Welcome to the Mondo Condo!

So, after touring the pre-Foofed Loft, you can see why I was worried at first that our crammed bookshelves and antique furniture might look just plain wrong in this super-contemporary space. But despite the ultra-modern aspects of the Loft, it was still, essentially, an old building. The gorgeous old brick and the wood floors would work with our stuff, and the sleeker, contemporary stuff added a delicious clash, and kept things like the flowered sofas and needlepoint rugs from looking too contrived and precious-wecious. This was gonna work, and work brilliantly!

We lived in our space first for a few weeks, getting used to the light, finding favorite nooks, making notes of things we hated (like that tile in the big bathroom), and then fell to with a vengeance.

THTM and I split the work up according to our own work schedules, and since, this time around, I was at home more and he was at the office more, I did the unpacking, moving and Heavy Foofing, while THTM did the hauling, breaking down of boxes, and trash runs on the weekend, along with Supplementary Foofing at the end of the day. We tinkered here and there, tried different arrangements and combinations, ordered stuff, had stuff shipped, hit local antique stores, and bartered amongst ourselves. And sure ‘nuff, in less three months, we had a Fully Foofed Mondo Condo!

 

C’mon in and check it all out. ‘Cos there’s LOTS of stuff to look at!

Each floor of our building is painted a different spectacular shade, and the 7 th floor, where we were, is (obviously) bright red. Really socks you ‘tween the eyes, huh? The paint job inside the loft, however, was quite different; because the Previous Owners (POs) had a much sleeker look, they’d painted the walls various shades of greys, some with metallic washes. That was the first thing we changed, especially considering the gorgeous light the rooms got. So we painted most things white, with a few strategic colors on walls here and there.

The Silver Bathroom was glorious, but we felt compelled to make it more personal, less sleek-and-modern. Even so, it needed little changing, and was the first thing Foofed. I splurged on a couple of framed Barbie dresses, and used the old Miss Clairol hairstyling trophies I’d gotten from Nan (her mom was, I guess, Queen of the Bouffant back in the early ‘60s, and won several) that had originally been in The Lounge, and some silly vanity-type stuff I had (like old rats and hairpins from the 60s, and a Very Important bottle of Spice Girls nail polish), along with that kick-ass yellow plastic vanity set that Kel scored for me at our favorite vintage shop in San Francisco. The framed thingie is a vintage birthday card; I have two shoeboxes full of old postcards and holiday greetings and stuff like that (and I use them for all sorts of things, as you’ll see). We also had favorite towels we got on one of our many trips to Pearl River Mart, and a beloved glitter-lava-lamp nightlight. At a garden store, I discovered a bunch of patio-type stuff on sale, and spray-painted a two-tier plant holder to hold toilet paper and odds and ends instead, and hung a French planter for hand towels. Some of my favorite Burt’s Bees toiletry stuff, some of THTM’s favorite L’Occitane shower stuff, and we were set.

 


Dorky Retro-clutter. This is more our style!

The loft had two bedrooms, and because I was working on my book and applications and articles, I took over the second bedroom for my office. The Previous Owners had wine storage and winter coats in the walk-in closet. They were gobsmacked when they saw what I did to it. I suppose I can’t blame them.


The Barbies got a Mondo condo of their own!

 

I need as many bookcases as I can cram into any given office space. And, with all the books and knick-knacks and just general clutter my office can accumulate, I try to keep the furniture itself pretty basic. Otherwise, how could I cram the space full of not only books, but also the kewl old antique photos I collect, my collage shit, family pictures, and my kick-ass antique typewriter? (And yes, as my cousins once queried incredulously, I really do read all those books.)

The kitchen, admittedly, was one of the things that had me most worried. THTM loved it, and it was beautiful, but… it was so… sleek and modern looking. Marble countertops. Black appliances. Über-contemporary. I tend to prefer kitchens that are more homey and comfortable. But surprisingly, I got to LOVE this kitchen, especially the counter-bar area, which was the site of many a fondue party or cocktail spread… not to mention delivery Chinese food. It just took a little Foofing. I replaced the One Important Piece of Glassware on Each Shelf with our more characteristic clutter, and the retro black-and-turquoise glasses, stainless steel coffeepot from the 1960s THTM had ganked from his mom, and stacks of turquoise cheese plates and turquoise Melmac made that corner less stark. Our vintage kitchen appliances, also scored from THTM’s folks’ garage, both complimented and contrasted with the whole ultra-mod thing, and, naturally, we wrecked havoc on the fridge. It was as fun and functional as I’d hoped any kitchen would be. THTM found a beautiful atomic-looking clock, and I lined the shelf with our favorite British groceries (especially the bottle of Fairy Soap!).

 


Between the selections from my Free Postcard stash, strange magnets, and pictures of our friend Riding in Cars with Durans, no fridge stands a chance around The Goddess of Foof!

 


All cluttered up on the countertop in preparation for a party, BUT…you can still dig our metal breadbox, which my MiL gave me from her Garage Stores after hearing my tale of woe about what Mother did to Gramma’s Breadbox. DAMN YOU, MOMMY! *shaking fist* But I won in the end! Ha! Ha!

 

More clutter…a simply lovely collection of things –soft-core “artistic”photo books, 90210 Dolls, and Broadway Chicken in the entryway display case

 

Plus we included a special homage to the Previous Owners: Theirs and Ours!

 


Theirs and ours

 

Our pictures, if you can’t see ‘em, are old Dick and Jane book pages (yes, actual book pages, not reproductions, even!). One says “Look, Father. Dick is big. Sally is little. Big, big Dick. Little baby Sally.” The other says “Oh, Sally. See Jane go down. Down, down, down. See Jane go down.” Poor Sally. She musta been traumatized after all that.

Another thing I wasn’t sure about was the architectural feature up there. See? That… box thing. We weren’t sure what to do with what we eventually dubbed “The Thing Which Will Be Pink”/“The Thing Which Once Was Red.” Do we put stuff on it? String lights around it? Tear it down? Hm. No, no and no. In the end, we just painted it screaming, noxious, Electroclash pink. Yeah!


 

It became the gateway, however, for something even more spectacular… THTM’s 1950s metal office furniture and our own personal gallery of The Art of Art Frahm! THTM ordered a series of prints, and then framed them with the appropriate Lileks Commentary. On the other wall, he found the perfect space for some of his favorite Chagall prints. The combination of high and low art and halfway vintage ended up making a perfect visual and spatial, as well as thematic, transition into the living room.

It took The Goddess of Foof a little while to hit on the premise for the living room, and it finally coalesced into something sort of like “1920s Salon, Decorated by a Colonial Tchotschke-Obsessed Edwardian-Era Fag Who’d Been Exposed to 1980s Color Palates.” But comfy. So yeah. The living room ended up being quite a departure from what the POs had… as well as from what we’d had at The Mansion and what we had in the LA Downtown Pad. No neutral off-white and taupe for us, either! Instead, we painted a bright, pure red over the metallic dark gray, finally bought the big, squooshy couches we’d been eying for years (and when they were delivered, Gram, Queen of Malapropisms, called to ask how we were enjoying sitting on our “Chubby Cheeks.” Thanks Gram!), and framed all the art prints we’d picked up on various museum outings in a scrabble of old, gold ornate frames. On the brick walls, I hung a collection of sheet music circa 1922. With the bright pink pillows I’d scored in Chinatown, the antique needlepoint pillows I’d found on eBay, the carvings THTM bartered for in Namibia, lots of family photos, and our mish-mash of statues that we’d originally used to decorate tables at our wedding reception, we eventually had as cozy yet interesting a living room as we’d ever hoped for.

 


 


Our Chubby Cheeks ...amongst other Stuff

 


 


Vintage sheet music

One of my favorite things in our home is this bookcase. Our neighbor across the street from The Mansion, who lived in a real mansion, I might add (crumbling and in need of a new roof, but still a mansion, built in 1916, the first house on the block, with a ballroom and balconies and an entry-hall with mahogany built-in bookcases!), was in need of some quick cash, and wanted to sell a couple pieces of furniture. Since, along with living in this real mansion that still had an incredible number of original furnishings (including about a half-dozen Gramophones!), he also worked refurbishing antique furniture, so he had some good shit! The piece he offered us was a locking bookcase from 1890, with inlaid wood and even the original glass in the doors. It took some budget-wonking, but… SCORE! I keep a lot of my vintage books in it. Der. But we also have some family mementoes and trinkets, and, obviously, it makes a great place to put some of our old family photos. (And I do mean old! Most of the pictures up there, except for one of us from out wedding, are from 1920s-40s. We even have a copy of a daguerreotype of THTM’s great-great-GREAT grandparents!) The painting next to the bookcase is another treasure, a wedding gift watercolor painted by a friend.


And then. There was Medusa.


And that ain't the half of it...

If you don’t know now how much both THTM and I dig music – good, bad, and really really bad – then this is prolly the first thing you’ve ever read at C’est Cheese. We met through a Duran Duran fan club, and immediately began exchanging songs and CDs… and it’s only gotten worse over the years. We have an insane and eclectic collection, and no matter how much we have, we never think it’s enough. Music is always on when we’re at home. We play it in chunks. We play favorite artists. We make CDs for gifties and insane playlists for parties. We play dorky songs at each other and sing along. I’ve even got a stash of scratchy old vinyl, and I’ll put on a good, crackly recording of this or that for added ambiance.

But even all that wasn’t good enough for THTM and his geeky-boy self.

When we bought the Mondo Condo, it was already all wired for sound. But rather than just hook up our old receiver and CD player, THTM decided that now was the time to finish his project of scanning all our ten-million CDs into one music database. And build a server to control it. And organize everything. Hell, why not build a server to control ALL the media in the place?

And he did. Several late nights of writing, programming, and coding, and he created this:


Go, Geeky Boy! Go! (Yeah, you read that right: His and Hers TiVos… so I can watch my 90210 reruns or Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, and THTM can watch his Cheers reruns or Iron Chef at the same time.) And via the server, we can watch one thing on one monitor in one room, another in another room, and play different music in both bathrooms if we want. (THTM is fond of setting up specific “Bathroom Music” when we have parties. Our guests will innocently be enjoying our weird-ass party playlist [i.e. Ladytron’s “He Took Her to a Movie” followed by a Pennywise cover of “Hotel California” followed by Backstreet Boys’ “Get Another Boyfriend” followed by Haley Mills’s “Femininity”] in the main areas, but, upon entering the bathroom, will discover an all-porn-music soundtrack/Disney music/teen poo remixes/the Beat Street soundtrack playing.) We can also create multiple playlists and categories with the same songs, too, which most programs won’t let you do. This is especially convenient, because we have drastically different methods of organizing our music; THTM, for instance, will want to spend a whole day listening to songs that haven’t been played in 6 months, or music from 1996, or he’ll play only songs with “sex” or “hot” in the title to tease me, whereas I like to organize my stuff by decade/theme/category, like Dirty Blues or New Wave or Literary Music. With his program, we got all that covered, and something like Duran’s “Careless Memories” can appear multiple times on varying playlists: THTM’s Favorite Songs, 80s, Duran Duran, and Most Played, and my 80s, Duran Duran, New Wave, Rodney Bingenheimer, Estrogen, and Party Toons.

But he still wasn’t done. Knowing my distaste for Home Electronic Chaos, he sent me out of town for several days. So I drove down to visit Cyndi, and he and a couple audio techs took over. I guess we won’t be using that groovy cupboard for storing oversize serving dishes and cleaning supplies, huh?


Gee whiz. What is THTM overcompensating for?!

 

Did I mention my inordinate hatred of living rooms centered around the TV? I would’ve been happy with the Lounge-cade -- the former storage area across the hall from our pad that the POs had used as a home office, but where we moved most of our old Lounge and Arcade accouterments -- being the Site of TV Watching.

The Lounge-cade, new site of THTM’s 80s Video Game Stash. We scored that wonky-ass Turquoise Couch for the original Lounge, rest its soul….

But THTM had another idea for the no-TV-in the living room thing. Witness:


Now you see it, now you don’t: a…movie screen and projector!? Okay, that’ll work!

Not only that, but thanks to various flat-panel monitors, we had the ability to control the music and/or watch TV from the kitchen, the bedroom, or our own computers. Not that THTM is Super-Mondo-Ultra Geek or anything.

These monitors are also groovy for showing footage from old Kroft TV shows or 1940s commercials or 80s videos when we’re having a party.

The only Foofing Failure, at least at first, was the master bathroom. After a ton of research and consulting, I figured that instead of ripping apart the place (which was my haven… ah, the bliss of a giant bathtub!), why not just… paint the tile? We got the color scheme from a mosaic vase I scored at some sale somewhere… springtime green and lilac, which would look good with the darker purple counter. We could also eventually get the bath and toilet re-enameled in a different shade, too, if it looked funny. So, while I was hangin’ with Cyn, THTM arranged for the guy who painted the place initially to come back and do the bathroom. Our phone call the night after he finished it went something like this:

“So how’d the bathroom turn out?”

“Well. Um.”

“Did the paint work okay on the tiles?” I had visions of it warping and peeling away in sheets.

“Oh yeah, the paint worked great. But… I don’t think the color is going to be what you expected.”

“How so?”

“It’s… Shamrock Shake Green.”

And it was. It… almost hurt the eyes. The lilac was lovely, but the green was… oooh. Yeah. The contrast between the bright, bright, obnoxious green and the cream of the bathtub and toilet was too, too much. Paint mishaps are really no big whoop, though. Paint you can paint over. So we came up with a plan to wash it with something to tone down the green, and do a painted boarder along the tiles to soften the contrast between Green Tile and Lilac Wall… either something floral, or maybe something scrolly or with glued-on jeweled or mosaic thingies.

Yeeowch! But, admittedly…it’s still an improvement over the mutli-colored tiles from before.

But the other aspects of the bathroom were perfect… stacks of clean white towels, favorite bath stuff, and OH! The bathtub! *dreamy sigh* So yeah, an oasis… despite the glow of the green paint.

The bedroom, however, became the ultimate cozy nook.

I’ve mentioned before, I have a deep loathing TVs and entertainment centers in bedrooms. I also loathe bedrooms that become pretty much catchalls for junk: bedrooms with abandoned exercise equipment piled with clothes, mountains of unfolded laundry in baskets, desks with computers or tables with remnants of projects…. Even if space is an issue, please, DON’T PUT THE DESK IN THE BEDROOM! *groan* We actually had to do this in our NY pad, and it SUCKED! Of course, when you live in an apartment whose “dining room” used to be a small closet, and you can almost touch the walls on either side of the living room, space is a pricey commodity. But having the “office” in the bedroom was gross; working right where you sleep is only acceptable in a dorm room! Even if the rest of the place is cluttered, messy, crowded or chaotic, for your own mental health, keep the bedroom serene and comfy.

Which, natch, is what we did here.

 

How cozy is this?! The room itself was beautiful to begin with, because of all the gorgeous light pouring in the huge windows and the blonde brick, but once we painted over the midnight-gray-blue finish with a soft lavender color, it made all the difference. You can check out the antique Oriental rug, just worn enough, that I won on an eBay auction, and the bench we got on our Lost Weekend. When I got back from my Midwest Jaunt to visit Cyn during the Medusa Media Blitz, THTM also had surprised me with that beautiful wrought-iron bed, and we piled it with chintz-print linens, both new and vintage… and NOTHING feels quite as cozy as lounging on cool, worn-cotton sheets or cuddling under a too-big down comforter... but it's also casual and non-fussy enough to just plonk across it and read a book (and "making" the bed involves nothing more than fwapping the comforter to straighten it out and re-plumping the pillow, since we both hate getting tangled up in three layers of flat sheets and blankets). I’ve scored the flower-paintings over the dresser at various places; the first one – the unframed one on the bottom – was my first Expensive Antique Purchase from a place on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn; it cost me $100! Dang! But it was exactly what I’d been looking for for years, so I got it. The other two pictures, by contrast, I haggled for at the Flea Market on Fairfax in LA, and got for under $20. They both were in hideous frames, though, which didn’t suit the paintings at all. So I painted the grimy black frame white, and the tacky cream frame gold, and I’d say it much improved things! (In keeping with the floral thing, I have my dried wedding bouquet in a shadow box on the other side of the wall, too.) I rescued Gram’s old swan TV lamp from the storage shed, and the antique glass lamp from a friend’s storage shed. The dressers…? Discovered in a clearance sale at an antique store, and got ‘em for $50. For BOTH! It just took a little light refinishing and waxing, and they were perfect. They’re from the 1950s, but the style is almost art-deco, and unless you get up close, it’s hard to tell that it’s pasteboard, not wood inlay.

The picture over in the corner here, above the little table (with my jewelry on various china saucers), was THTM’s first big art splurge; he discovered it in New York, and it’s a photo of flower petals sticking to a curb and bicycle wheel after a rainstorm, according to the artist. I tried it in a couple spots around the place, but it looked beautiful against the brick.

Again, in case you hadn’t noticed, Foof is all in the details… personal details. This collection of stuff on top of the dresser is a primo example: everything on this dresser is special and personal, from our engagement photo to the little pressed flowers in a frame that O Nancy My Nancy gave me. The costume jewelry, on a mismatched china saucer from my MiL’s garage, all belonged to Gram and Great-Gram. The doily/table runner and the vintage hankies (held by an antique hanky and glove stand) were gifts from a family friend, who discovered several boxes of her mom’s and grandma’s old linens (many handmade and hand-embroidered!) when she cleaned out her garage; the hankies are actually souvenirs from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, and since we were now in the Great Midwest, they seemed appropriate…as if some Milwaukee residents had made the train trip down to the Big City and kept the delicate handkerchiefs as cherished mementos. The ice-pink gloves, there with the hankies, were used in one of the Anne of Green Gables movies, and I got them as a treat (along with my Johns Hopkins Guide!) with part of my prize money for a paper I presented about L.M. Montgomery. The hat, on an antique hat-stand, is a 1920s-cloche style brown velvet creation that I got when I first got my hair – which I’d worn long forever – impulsively cut into a shorter bob. The purse and the floral tin container were flea-market finds, and the wrought-iron piece is what got THTM hooked on architectural salvage stuff. And the lamp… well, I had these scans of vintage French postcards, and was trying to think of something to do with ‘em. But, after seeing a lampshade decorated with antique iron keys hanging from twine, I stole the idea and modified it, and, with the help of some craft glue, created that, which, I might note, looks even better at night when it’s turned on! I got the lamp because of the shape of the shade, but the metal lamp itself was too sleek-looking, so I eventually changed it out with a more ornate, bronzy-looking lamp.

So yeah! We got everything Foofed and Nested, and were all settled in. We’d moved into the Mondo Condo in January 2004. And come June, I found out which of the PhD programs – if any – had accepted me. Not Madison. Not Bloomington, Indiana. Not, it turned out, anything even remotely near Milwaukee.

Instead? Los Angeles. SoCal. Again.

The saga continues, because we had to turn around after THTM finished out his work year and retired, and move right back to Los Angeles.

So long, Mondo Condo. *sniffle*

But… what did we do in LA…? Check back and find out!

(And what would a Foof be without a List?)

:|FOOF: Dwanollah Décor, Part Two: The Milwaukee Loft Re-Imagined

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