It’s been a little while since we’ve had some mom talk around here. But the Real Talk, Real Mom series is still going strong. As a first-time mom, I’ve loved participating in these posts because I learn so much from all the other women involved – and from everyone who comments! I’m sure this time around will be no different. This edition’s topic is all about family traditions. With the holidays quickly creeping up we felt it timely. How do you create your own family traditions? How do you navigate that extended network of kin? What do you want your child to associate with the holiday season? Not exactly the easiest of things to figure out!


The pic above, though not necessarily holiday-season related, does speak to the formation of family tradition. We’re currently on our first official family vacation in Hawaii – a family narrative I would love to continue!

But I have also started to think a lot about the holidays as this is the first year some of it will actually register for our little guy. From Halloween (do you trick or treat with an 18-month old?!) to Thanksgiving and the rest of the entire holiday season it’s now on me to create the sense of wonder, excitement, joy and celebration I so remember enjoying as a child. Having gotten relatively lazy about holiday traditions in the last few years sans baby (I think pizza was eaten on Christmas eve one year), I’m ready to fully invest this time around.

It helps that we have our new house to ground the creation of our own holiday traditions. I’ve always been very clear that Christmas is spent at home – our home. With blended families everywhere the eye can see, trying to visit all the extended relatives during the holiday season means you’re spending more time on the road then in anybody’s presence. That isn’t fun for anyone. Standing firm on that decision has certainly simplified the holiday equation.

So with negotiating the immediate needs of extended families off the table, the question becomes how do you create your own rituals? In my short time as a mom I have already discovered the power of storytelling. Our little guy loves to hear things recounted over and over. Books also help. I’m thinking this will be the first year we read The Polar Express.

But I’d love to hear from other, more seasoned parents. How did you go about creating holiday traditions with and for your littles? Will an 20 month old get the whole concept of Santa Claus? This is where I turn to you, experienced parents. I would so appreciate any and all advice you have for helping create a wondrous experience for our tiny human.

I’ll certainly be turning to the rest of the awesome moms in this series to get their advice. Check on their posts on this topic below.

A Daily Something / Ave Styles /  FreutcakeParker EtcThe Effortless Chic / Sacramento Street /

And if you haven’t checked out the Real Talk, Real Mom series yet, we’ve talked Sleep, Feeding,Travel, Career, Self-CareCo-Parenting and Growing Your Family #realmomseries

Imagine having a successful corporate career and walking away from it all to become an artist. It’s something many of us dream about, but few actually ever take that leap. But artist Windy Chien was able to muster the strength to do exactly that. Discovering talents like Windy is probably my favorite thing about Apt34. Women like Windy – with vision, passion, creativity and drive constantly leave me in awe. I recently had the pleasure of touring Windy’s San Francisco studio where she is twisting the art world into knots – quiet literally.


Windy is making art out of knots and it is absolutely stunning. It all started in January of this year, when The Year of Knots was born. Windy is teaching herself and creating one unique knot each day and assembling  them all into a gorgeous installation in her studio. They are sometimes based off traditional knots, sometimes explorations. Windy starts every day in the studio with a knot, noting that it helps her achieve her creative flow for the day. It’s become an important ritual in her daily life. And the result is just so cool. Some of her knots incorporate a piece of brass hardware, some lay flat, some are multi-dimensional. She has created a handful in a beautiful black cord – a truly modern take on an ancient skill. Color me obsessed.


But what’s even more remarkable is that rope as a medium wasn’t Windy’s initial goal. As she explained during my visit, she simply wanted to flex her creative muscle, actually exploring multiple art forms before discovering knots. Upon her departure from corporate American, Windy tried out all kinds of creative avenues; pottery, painting, wood carving (her hand carved spoons have also garnered a cult following. Whenever one goes up for sale, it’s gone immediately.) But then Windy discovered knots – yes with rope – like what is often used on a boat – and she was hooked. Upon researching the history behind knot-making, Windy began to see knots as their own form of language. Each knot conveys a purpose, a meaning and tells a story. I totally love that. It’s as if her studio wall is an entire novel with hidden secrets about human history. The knots also just look really really amazing.

But the Year of Knots isn’t Windy’s only project. She is also creating gorgeous knotted lighting and wall-hangings. Each one is unique – many are bespoke commissions created specifically for their recipient. While the wall hangings are certainly reminiscent of 70’s macramé we’re seeing everywhere these days, I love how modern, clean and updated Windy’s pieces feel.


Most recently, Windy has taken her work to even greater heights by doing large scale installations in hotels, office buildings and public spaces. I for one would love to be able to walk beneath a Windy Chien piece every day. For now, I will continue to follow her on Instagram and drop into her Mission-based studio for a little creative pick-me-up. If you’ve been looking for an example to inspire you to chase that seemingly crazy dream – Windy is your woman. She’s proof positive that if you put all your energy into doing what you love, you just might be surprised by what falls into place.

Thank you Windy for letting me spend a truly inspiring morning with you!

If you’re looking for even more inspirational women doing super cool stuff check out this post, this post and this post.

And if you like these kinds of posts please let me know in the comments below. If you’re down, I’d really love to get out there to bring you more stories like this one.

original photography by michelle drewes


Apartment 34 on Instagram

With modern and bohemian trends being so prominent in the design industry these days, it has been refreshing seeing some of our favorite lines bringing back the traditional aesthetic.


Kate Spade New York’s new fall home collection has done this impeccably. The collection mixes glamorous materials with traditional patterns keeping things looking classic without being too stuffy. There is also still an air of whimsy which is the Kate Spade trademark. We especially love the new collection’s classic black, white and gold pieces that promise to keep your home timeless regardless of the rest of the design trends du jour that are continually circulating.

We love the look in spaces that feature classic design details like crown molding, parquet floors or wainscoting. But a traditional piece can also add that traditional style if your home is lacking those timeless bones.

We’ve gathered our favorite pieces to help you achieve the new traditional look in your home. A classic stripe, a stately couch and a few fun accessories like a glamorous table lamp or marble-topped coffee table will add the extra touch of personality that a room needs to feel special.

apt34-new traditionalapt34-new-traditional


 Dickinson Large Pendant / Downing Sofa / Double Stripe Pillow  / Keaton Bouquet Table Lamp / Duncan Side Table / Syrie Coffee Table / Norwhich Chair /  Color Block Throw / Daisy Plate



image 1 / image 2 / image 3

This post is in partnership with Kate Spade New York. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own. Thanks for supporting posts that have kept Apartment 34’s doors open.

While I typically reserve Tuesdays for recipes, sometimes a gorgeous kitchen is enough to satisfy. This one certainly is looking mighty tasty.

apt34 -swedish - kitchenapt34-swedish-kitchenapt34-swedish-kitchenapt34-swedish-kitchenapt34-swedish-kithcen

Housed in the penthouse of an 1911 Art Nouveau home in the heart of Stockholm, this kitchen blends old-world charm and modern style beautifully. The black lower cabinets blend in perfectly with painted wood floors ground the entire space. That luscious dark tone gives the kitchen a sexy, moody vibe. The Carrara marble counters help transition between those black lowers and into a set of modern white uppers. The addition of the white help the small space feel more open airy.

But I’m particularly drooling over that custom black glass cabinet, filled with traditional glassware and dishes. That cabinet, combined with the brass hardware, touch of molding and classic stove add a timeless yet fully modern touch that makes this kitchen feel homey and approachable, but still sophisticated. Black appliances blend seamlessly into the background and don’t take away from the timeless vibe. Everything about this kitchen feels just perfect for the fall season, especially October. It’s a little dark. A little sultry. A lot of gorgeous. I’d gladly hop in there and start making a good soup, wine in hand.

Bonus: you actually can! This apartment is currently for sale! Anyone looking to make a move to Sweden? I’m certainly tempted.

For more kitchen design inspiration CLICK HERE

images via historiska hem

Last week I discussed how I’m surviving living in our unfinished renovation: trying to find places to organize amidst the chaos. Well, one of my best opportunities to do that was with my pantry. First off, I’m still in shock that I actually have a pantry. Nothing has ever made me feel more adult – not having the baby, buying the house…nope. It’s this massive space to organize canned goods that makes me feel like I just might finally have my sh** together. Jury’s still out.


But back to the design! So I have this large room – think of a giant shoe box, but with 10ft ceilings. I wanted the space to be highly functional and serve multiple purposes. Not only is it my primary storage for all food-stuffs, but I also wanted to create additional prep and work space for things like our coffee maker and kitchen tools we use less often like my KitchenAid mixer and my juicer (sadly. I keep swearing I’m going to start using it again!). To say I’m happy with the final result is a major understatement. But I won’t pretend to take all the credit for the final result. I called in the big guns for this job including California Closets to design the storage and Neat Method to help me get myself organized.

But let’s go back to the very beginning. Here’s where there room started out. This goes a whole year+ back to when our walls were still open.


You can kind of make out the frame of the pantry in the middle of the pic. 

To make sure this space both worked perfectly and looked amazing I worked with designer Paige Gordon at the Bay Area California Closets to help devise the ultimate storage solution. It was not the easiest of tasks given the relatively narrow space, crazy ceiling height and the massive (original) window at the end of the room. Sadly, all that gorgeous molding actually limited some of our design options as we only had four inches of space along one wall.

To accommodate that, Paige designed a double stack of floor to ceiling shelving on the left hand wall as you enter the doorway. It left a little space between the shelves and the window (how we used it, I’ll get to in a minute). I also wanted to include wine storage because it’s real purdy (and it is how all mothers of toddlers survive). The x-shaped wine boxes Paige designed offer the maximum amount of space and look like a wine cellar. It’s also up off the floor to stay away from tiny fingers. Love.


On the right-hand wall we added closed storage for some of the less pretty things, a section of baskets for things like fruit, potatoes and linens as well counter space that runs wall to wall. Happy dance! A bit of open shelving at a lower height is perfect for things like art & crafts supplies for my kiddo. All the shelving heights are adjustable to accommodate changing storage needs. With this design, the room is fully utilized and maximized. All of the California Closets cabinetry is in white finish with a slight faux wood grain. Like I said about our laundry room, when I think of utilitarian spaces I think white and bright and I’m so happy with the result. But let’s get back to the fun part – the after!


I also wanted to put in open shelving as it’s my favorite thing ever. I turned to a carpenter to create shelves for the space above the California Closet cabinetry. I wanted to use natural wood to warm up the room and match some open shelving that will also go in the kitchen. I’m so thrilled with the result.


When it came to getting my organization game together as it pertains to everything that was actually going into this room, I turned to Neat Method. They are an amazing service staffed with professional organizers that will come to your house, inventory everything you already have, help you figure what else you should have and then devise a plan about how to store it not only effectively (aka easily accessible, easy to see, easy to keep track of what you need), but also to make your organization beautiful. Added bonus: they don’t just tell you how to to it. If you need, they’ll actually do it for you. Hello crazed, overworked, overbooked mom savior from heaven! I mean, just look at my shelves.


This is proof positive that everything looks better decanted. Packaging will just make your eyes cross. I love the uniformity and zen quality of everything being in the same type of container. We may have gone a bit glass jar crazy, but I love it. And each jar is labeled. I went with white written directly on the jar for a more subtle look. Cooking instruction for whatever is inside each jar is simply tucked inside at the back. (The label can be changed with a just a bit of rubbing alcohol). Baskets on the upper shelves contain more random things, cleaning supplies that need to stay out of a toddler’s reach and the stuff I use really infrequently. All organized and labeled of course.

The great thing about a pantry like this, as Lisa Ruff my Neat Method guru explained to me, is that everything is visible. When things are hidden you forget about them and don’t use them. This leads to things going bad and a lot of waste. Now I know what is at my fingertips at all times. All my food stuffs are organized into sections. Nuts, grains, pastas, baking, snacks, canned fruits or veggies. It’s made grocery shopping so much more efficient because now I know exactly what I need and I can avoid the annoyance of being in the middle of a recipe and not having a necessary ingredient.


Now I also have space for paper goods and my ever-growing collection of pitchers and vases. It is so amazing to finally have places for all that stuff to go!


One of my favorite moments in the room is right as you walk in the door. Just to your left I hung picture rail shelves to display my collection of cookbooks. It’s so fun to get to see the covers because that’s why you buy a cookbook half the time anyway, am I right? While I started with three shelves, my collection is so big I’m thinking I’m going to have to add a couple more above. Thank goodness for step ladders!

So there you have it. While the rest of my house looks like we moved in yesterday (not nearly 5 months ago), my pantry is currently my little happy place. I may just go and stand in there from time to time. No judgements.

Oh and if you are in need of some organization help, right now you can get a FREE consultation from the Neat Method. Just mention Apartment 34 when you contact them (which you can do right here).

For the rest of the updates about our remodel CLICK HERE or to read about the history of our historic San Francisco Victorian CLICK HERE

original photography for apartment 34 by michelle drewes

I’ve always been a fan of using art in fresh and unexpected ways. Like in your bathroom. Or under your stairs. Or even beside the bed. But I’m particularly loving this genius theft-worthy idea – a jumbo canvas placed behind a work station.


With an oversized piece of art, you can utilize the entire space above and below your desk. It looks very cool when you’re standing back from it, and it would give you an amazing up-close view of the art when you’re up close and personal during the work day. It’s also an ingenious way to hide unsightly cords.

I think this idea would be particularly fun with an original painting like the one above by Andrew Humke. You would be able to examine the paint strokes up close all day long!

Of course, you’d have to be extra careful about kicking your feet against an original piece of art or heaven forbid, spill something on it, but I think this would be a really interesting way to create a functional focal point in any room.

What do you think? Would you incorporate an over-sized piece of art into a room using this unusual technique?  Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

CLICK HERE to check out our entire Ideal to Steal archive.


image by claire esparros for homepolish 

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