This column is part of a series for the Design special report of The New York Times. Readers are invited to send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My parents are downsizing and trying to push furniture on me and my siblings. I’m not talking about stodgy old brown furniture, but some sizable and boldly colored postmodern pieces they collected and love but no longer have room for. One is a massive bookcase and another a giant sofa. I don’t want to scuttle these objects, but I’m scared to insert them into our minimally furnished white loft. Is there hope of integrating them?
The good news is that after a long period of disdain, your parents’ postmodern furniture has finally increased in value. As to melding it with your personal aesthetic, statement pieces that command the room like works of art can look great in a reductive environment — and even better than in a house full of the stuff (no offense to Mom and Dad).
We moved into our house 12 years ago, when bold-colored walls combined with David Hicks-inspired geometric patterns felt fresh and special. At the time, we were in revolt against the early-90s neutrals fad, but now want to dial back to that. The problem is, the catalogs are brimming with the same return-of-neutrals story, too, and we worry it will soon be exhausted. Where do we go from here?
The problem with adopting a particular “look” is that of course it will become dated. There are exceptions, like actual David Hicks interiors or masterworks by the Belgian minimalist Axel Vervoordt. But for most mortals, filling a house, all at once, with similarly styled objects gets tired fast.
It is better to add and subtract elements in different yet compatible colors and patterns over time, allowing a more personal feeling to evolve naturally. Ideally you will think of such redos as an opportunity to cull the things you don’t care for anymore and layer in new things you earnestly hope are contenders for eternal use. (Limit trendy elements to small objects like pillows.)
I admire how decorators as great as Albert Hadley have furnished their own interiors by dragging the same pieces from house to house, changing backgrounds but not contents. We should all aspire to that level of personal curation.
I’ve been saving our kitchen scraps in a covered trash bin and taking them to the farmer’s market weekly for composting, but I find the odors and fruit flies an affront. With Thanksgiving — and an abundance of food scraps from meal preparation — around the corner, what are my options for a nice-looking composting container with no smells or little friends?
One of the most popular solutions is the all-stainless Epica ($23), which looks like a miniature trash can. What makes it lovable is the airtight lid and charcoal filter, as well as the basin formed from a single piece of metal that will not leak. It holds more than a gallon of material and can go in the dishwasher.
Somewhat cuter is theOxo Good Grips Compost Bin ($20), a squarish plastic affair that bears the company’s ergo-mod aesthetic and is offered in white or black. It has most of the Epica’s features, but three-fourths of the capacity. The smaller size might be an asset, though, if your counter space is tight.
Bamboozle’s Stationary Composter (at the currently reduced price of $39) looks similar to the Oxo — and also comes in black or white — but is made of processed bamboo, with a natural bamboo handle, and holds a whopping 2.5 gallons.
Whichever bin you choose, be sure it has a carbon filter or airtight lid — criteria that sadly eliminate a lot of attractive wood and ceramic options.
I’ve killed pretty much every plant I have ever been given, and my second-floor apartment isn’t exactly bathed in sunlight. But I really like the look of houseplants and would love to pepper my shady cave with some life. How do I pick plants other than mushrooms that will thrive in a dark environment?
In general, the options for darker spaces have broad leaves (better to absorb sunlight) that are waxy (which helps them retain moisture). Sansevieria, or mother-in-law’s tongue, is a classic un-killable, with a spiky upright form good for tight spaces. Aspidistra — otherwise known as cast iron plants because of their resilience — also have vertical leaves, but in a less compact shape.
These plants are available in several varieties, with striped or speckled leaves that range in color from green to chocolate. All are happy to sit in the dark waiting for the occasional drink.
A bushier option is theZamioculcas, or ZZ plant, which will respond to dimness and neglect with long, arched fronds of thick, shiny leaves.
If you are looking for something taller, Dracaena fragrans, commonly referred to as the cane or corn plant, is a good bet. A mainstay of waiting rooms, it will tolerate a windowless location. Should you ignore it to the point of wilting, it will spring back to life with just a little attention.