Wednesday, November 23, 2011


We're hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year with a few friends and my sister who is flying in from NYC.  My friend Noelle was joking around with me, stating I'd better have the house decorated to the nines for dinner because my guests will expect a lot of me because of the magazine cover situation.  At first I thought, no way.  Who cares.  Then I thought hmmm...maybe she's right.  I'd better give it some thought.  After giving it some thought I quickly (and obviously)  reminded myself that I don't live in a magazine cover.  I live in a home.

Today I was watching my kids run around the house, screaming and giggling smearing their dirty hands on the walls, dragging their muddy pants along the floor, and experiencing sheer joy.  Instead of interrupting them to wash their hands, cuff their pants and pick up their trail of toys I just watched them having fun, living life...Living joyfully.  

As much as I love having a nice home with pretty things to look at, that's all buttoned up and organized that's not what really matters.  A home is a place for joy, laughter, snuggling by the fire, reading books on the comfy sofa, listening to music, lounging with friends, getting crazy with friends, smearing paint all over the dining table, digging holes in the yard, filling your shoes with sand at the playground, spilling flour everywhere while baking a cake, emptying toys all over the floor... 

This Thanksgiving we are thankful for so many things, but at the top of the list is the joyful spirit our children bring to our lives.  Our children remind us of what home truly is.  It's so much more than a physical place full of decorated things.  Home is where our spirit lies.  I hope your spirit is filled with joy this Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Build Your Own Damn House

After biking the kids to school this morning Steve asked me if I wanted to try something new.  I had a feeling he was taking me to our friend Sam's favorite coffee shop in the Sunset, near the beach. It's called Trouble and it's on the N Judah line on Judah Street in-between 45th and 46th. 

Source: Giulietta C, owner of Trouble
We're not big coffee drinkers but I remember Steve saying Trouble's scones rival Arizmendi's, our favorite local bakery.  He even muttered something about being on the same page as Tartine.  It turns out I got a lot more than a scone that morning.

Trouble Coffee
The first thing I noticed rolling up was the groovy parklet (two parking spots converted to outdoor cafe seating) with a giant tree trunk turned bench in the middle. Then I noticed all the hipsters and surfers piling into this quaint little shop with lots of funky, weathered treasures.

The scrubbed down glass front door is full of vintage photos.  
The front door to the cafe

The walls are paneled in reclaimed wood blemished and character drenched-- perfectly imperfect.  

The coffee beans sit in old glass jars.  There's even a dress form perched on a shelf, vintage photos plastered on the door, an old map of San Francisco on the wall, and a giant slab of 4 inch thick raw wood for the counter top.  My first instinct was to snap photos for my blog.  

But then I noticed something that pulled my eyes away from the decor and to the pulse of the shop.  I noticed the owner, Giulietta Carrelli, chatting with customers.

Giulietta Carrelli: Trouble Coffee
Source: Edible Communities

There was something different about this coffee shop.  The people behind the counters, the people sitting at the counters, and the people rolling in and out the door had a connection.  It was almost like Steve and I were outsiders, stepping into someone's kitchen- in their home.  Not only did they all know each other but the lines between the people running the shop and patronizing it were blurred.  They were all simpatico.  

We started asking people what they were ordering and soon discovered the toast with cinnamon sugar and butter is famous.  The coffee is Ecco cafe and the cappuccinos are the espresso drink of choice here, not lattes.  We also found out what "Build Your Own Damn House"— which jumps out at you from the menu— means.  It's a package meal-- a young coconut, cup of coffee, and cinnamon sugar toast for $8. It also has another meaning which I will get to soon.

Trouble Coffee Company

Source: Sunset Magazine


Steve and I shared a latte because there is no decaf and caffeine gives us the shakes. But, after talking with the owner about foam and texture she offered us a cappuccino on the house which was even better.  We polished off two scones in a matter of minutes with the orange chocolate one being our fave.

Source: BiciB via Yelp

I started talking to Guilietta and learned how her cafe came to be. She had fallen on tough times, was looking for a career opportunity and saw a need for a good coffee shop in the Sunset. She literally was surviving on coffee, coconut and toast for months so she could save up enough money to open Trouble. She ambitiously signed a 7-year lease with the landlord and built her business from the ground up, so to speak. She did the carpentry herself, was resourceful in acquiring the items she needed to run her business and knew the exact number of beans that went into each espresso.  Guilietta "built her own damn house"-- a thriving business.  Many of the people you see today behind the counter have been there since the early days and she considers them family.
But opening up a successful business with limited means and experience isn't the only trouble Gulietta has had to overcome. Two years into running her shop she became a single mother of twins.
How does she do it?  

She’s built a strong community of loyal employees and customers. The people who run the cafĂ© with her also babysit.

I saw something in her that day that I see in myself. She has a work ethic that is relentless. She doesn't take no for an answer, and she is steadfast in her opinions-- even about lattes.  "Why put more cow juice in your coffee?  I don't get that!"  

Guilietta even knows how to override the building department's bureaucracy.  She is the only business owner in the city who built a parklet without an architectural rendering of her plan.   She funded the permit fee with customer donations.  Their names are inscribed on the cool wooden panels that cover the ground of the parklet.

Back to my initial intrigue--the decor.  The old San Francisco map on the wall with pins sprinkled all around the city.  Those pins represent people who helped Giulietta when she needed them.  
The photos on the front door as you walk in. Those have personal meaning too. The picture of the nun is her mom who left the convent and later married Giulietta's dad.  

The picture of the woman with a saw in the upper left hand corner of the door.  That's Giulietta building her coffee shop herself. She says people ask to buy the memorabilia in her shop to take with them into their own spaces.  

What they don't realize, Giulietta says, is that everything in her shop has meaning for her— has a story behind it that has helped her get to the place she is today.  They're not just objects of art they are memories and reminders of how much her community-- her family-- has helped her build her dream. And they are not for sale.

She's been written up a bunch of times in cool publications like Sunset Magazine, NY Times, 7X7, San Francisco Magazine, among others but none of them have focused on how hard Giulietta has worked to build her business and the importance of forming a tight knit community to ensure it thrives.

There are many layers to Giulietta but the one that stuck to me is how the feeling of her shop, the amazing food and coffee she serves, and even the decor are so much more than just eye candy and sweetness for the taste buds. She serves food and drink for the soul.  I definitely felt my soul touched that morning.

Thank you Giulietta for sharing your story with me. I hope it inspires others as it has inspired me.  

P.S. We went back a few days later to try this fat slice-- AMAZING-- and such a throw back to my childhood!  Sorry, mom, but Trouble's cinnamon sugar toast just doesn't compare.  Source: Loila S via Yelp


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Tour: Chulamama's San Francisco Digs

There's a new mom at school.  She goes by Noelle, and we hit it off from the get-go. We both love to joke around, ride our bikes around town together, and gab about fashion and decor. Noelle's also a DIY girl like me. When she told me how she ripped all the wallpaper off her recently purchased home in a matter of weeks, I knew we'd become fast friends.  Our first play date together was to Scrap.  She's my kinda girl!

She and her business partner Heather run a store called Chulamama-- "cool mom" in Spanish. They sell maternity clothes, baby clothes and baby gifts for the modern family and stylish pregnant women. The physical store is just North of Boston in Danvers, MA.  

Noelle is on the left and her biz partner Heather is on the right

And this is Chulamama!
Chulamama was a hit right out of the gate, winning "Best of Boston" the first year they opened!  

Today Noelle finally invited me to her new San Francisco home. We had an ongoing joke about not allowing me inside until her fabulous new Dwell rugs arrive. FedEx came today and so did I. Of course I knew to bring my camera!  Our kids played together in the backyard while Noelle and I oohed and awed over the new rugs and all of the projects she did around the house in just three months.

Noelle and her husband Ben and their two adorable kids, Jake and Jude, live in a 1920s three-story home by the beach with mid-century modern decor. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was this fabulous old movie projector flanked by two gorgeous Kenneth Wingard table lamps on a beautiful modular case called "3 wide" by Nurserworks.  All I could think was, "This chula mama has been holding out on me!  Forget the Dwell rugs.  There's so much more to see!"

Instead of centering the area rug with the entryhall she casts it to the side creating a cozy seating area. 

The rug is Avalisa and the chair is Herman Miller and the coffee table Offi. Noelle won the photo at an auction and is by a local Boston photographer

When you walk upstairs to the main living area you are greeted by the fun and dramatic dining room. 

And there's the rug we've all been waiting for!

The warm and inviting wood table is one-of-a-kind, sold by In Home Furnishings.  Noelle's hubby, Ben, sanded the top down to lighten it up and left the legs dark. The hip and totally kid-proof orange chairs are from Herman Miller. And the rug Noelle and I have been waiting for is right at home under the table. And yes, it is to die for! The stunning wall of mirrors on the wall is from Kenneth Wingard. Noelle's finishing touch here is the bright orange door to the kitchen. How fun is that!

View in hallway toward living room and you see the hint of stairs which lead up toward the bedrooms

Noelle's avocado green leather sectional from Arhaus reminds me of my morning kale shake! It's such a refreshing change from the expected living room furnishings. It's super comfy to sit on and provides a lot of seating without encroaching too much on this fantastically large room.  What a great piece.

Blu Dot Blockoid Vegan Leather Ottoman accompanies the sectional
With a stunning view out the window of the Pacific ocean, Noelle created a comfy little nook in this corner of the room.  The coveted Eames chair and ottoman sets the stage for luxurious comfort and sophisticated style.  Noelle loves to sit here with her lap top and work on her web site while gazing out the window at the surf. Who wouldn't?! This is one of my favorite vignettes in Noelle's beautiful home.  And how about that amazing yellow lamp!  

Noelle found this yellow lamp at Kenneth Wingard (It is the same lamp featured in Rachel Zoe's house!) Of course Noelle wanted two but they were sold out and something went wrong with production so that was going to be it.  At least she got this one!

Ben is taking guitar lessons.  I love having musical instruments in the home.  Even better if someone is playing them!  
Look at that face.  The owl is from Kenneth Wingard

I love this vignette too!  Noelle creates perfect symmetry with this wall, even down to  the pillows in the floor baskets.  So pretty.
The sleek cabinet shown above, under the TV, is an original by Ben!  Noelle fell in love with a similar piece but of course it cost a fortune and was out of stock.  Ben took one look at Noelle's coveted piece and said he could whip one up in no time!  What a hubby!

Ben made this lovely cabinet out of pine and used a no-VOC water based stain on the wood, which he rubbed on by hand.  The white pieces you see are actually metal. Ben knew just who to call to create these custom aluminum sheets that he had bent just right so they would slide into the grooves of the cabinet.  And they do slide smoothely.  I tested them myself!  Ben acid etched the aluminum and sprayed on a white paint.  Of course he finished off the piece with reclaimed oak for the legs. 

Ben's dad was a master carpenter.  Clearly, Ben's carpentry skills are in his genes, but really, who's husband does this kind of stuff anymore?  Not too many husbands in the city that's for sure!

Love these chairs from Herman Miller.  The pillow is from Gina Triplette.

Noelle's twist on an old "came-with-the-house" fixture
Instead of investing in the costly purchase and installation of 6 new wall sconces Noelle cleverly worked with what she had been given.  She removed the shades and other adornment that didn't mesh with her look and popped in stylish Edison bulbs.  Such an inspirational approach to re-thinking what she already has. They're perfect and uniquely her own! She's so talented! I just love when something old gets a new life!

Noelle took the same approach to the kitchen as she did with the light fixtures-- doing the best with what she's been given.  She painted the top cabinets white and the bottom a buttery yellow.  She definitely capitalizes on the "less is more" notion in the kitchen.  Everything she has in this room has something to offer.

She takes everyday staples like gold fish and straws for the kids and displays them in canning jars.  I noticed it right away and love it!

She popped in simple new cabinet pulls and brought in punches of red with her Le Creuset cookware.

Noelle likes the look of magnetic spices so she created her own!  She purchased these tin cans from Specialty Bottles, placed magnets on the back and spice stickers on the front she made with a label maker.

There's the orange door again...and her Boston Marathon Bib framed.  It adds a fun pop of interest.  This is another great vignette!

...Let's go upstairs. 

Even the guest room is smothered in style.  The bed with pull out trundle is Argington.  The antique dresser is from In Home Furnishings.  I love the over-sized shade on that fat little table lamp from Kenneth Wingard and the fur ball rug.

The beautiful blue painting is something Noelle painted in 5 minutes to add some color!
Jake and Jude's funky and fun bedroom is painted with Behr Paint Ultra "Moss Print."  I love the clean lines of the metal bunk bed and those bright blue comforters are so fun!

Duro Hanley Full-over-Full Bunkbed with West Elm Organic Sheets & Ralph Lauren Aqua Sheet Blankets

Even the lucky kids in this home get to enjoy a stylish "3 Wide" modular case by Nurseryworks in their hip bedroom.  Chula kiddos!
For some reason, with all the hip, clean lined decor in this kid's room, the kid's clutter on the floor doesn't seem so bad! Hmmm....
Ben made this awesome surf board to decorate their room.  
Noelle and Ben's master suite is so calming and pretty.  I love the purple and gray colors.  But as you can see below, Noelle is far from matchy-matchy.  She also brings bright pops of yellow into this room and it works beautifully, adding some sunshine to this soothing room. When you live close to the beach in San Francisco, it's not all sunshine!

The master bedroom has views of the Pacific.  The gorgeous chair by the window is where Noelle and Ben enjoy those views.

The 1960s vintage desk is the perfect size with so much character.  The fab yellow chair is Vitra T-Vac  

And, there's the Dwell rug again.  When Noelle finds a piece she loves, she goes all in.  She often buys two or sometimes three or even four of what she loves and sprinkles it throughout the house.  

Noelle is passionate in all that she does and it shows through in her beautiful San Francisco home.  They've only been in this house for three months and it looks amazing.  Knowing Noelle, there will be many more changes to come.  I'll keep you posted!

Thanks Noelle (and Dwell) for letting us inside your fabulous family home!