Monthly Archives: February 2012

Why It’s Okay To Be Sad About Whitney

Dear Diary,

I was in the car on Sunday after the Rose Bowl Flea Market and a Whitney medley came on the radio. At which point tears started streaming down my face. I was a little confused as to what I was so upset about. After all, it’s not like I was besties with Whitney Houston or that I was one of her biggest fans. Quite the contrary, I made fun of her crazy antics along with everyone else. But upon further investigation I’ve decided what bothers me so much about her death is the loss of something so beautiful, a gift so incredibly rare and wasted.

When I think of Whitney, I think of her in the 80s. She was blessed with such an incredible gift and it came in such a beautiful, exuberant, youthful package. Her performance in the video for “How Will I Know” (which is maybe my favorite song alongside “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”) is the essence of vitality. She just drips with beauty and talent in this video.

Here’s the video:

I also love these images of Whitney in the 80s and 90s. They are photographs of somebody who could have (and did at times) had everything. Sure, she was hardworking and ambitious, and that counts for something. But she was born with an innate gift, an unparralleled voice, that ultimately went wasted. That seems kind of harsh, given how many songs she created over her life, but she could have created more. When you love an artist, you just can’t get enough of her work and I definitely think we didn’t get enough of Whitney.

The sadness about her death, aside from the tragedy of someone with a family dying so young, is for me about a lost opportunity to create beautiful things. When she died she was no longer the youthful, vibrant siren she was in her 20s, but I always had this subconscious hope that she would clean herself up and somehow get her voice back so that she could continue to create beautiful songs to share with us. When someone talented dies too early, it feels like a robbery and a waste (recently deceased artist Mike Kelly and incredible talent Amy Winehouse come to mind).

With all these thoughts in mind I’m not going to feel weird about mourning the death of a stranger. With Whitney we’ve lost not only an American icon. We’ve lost something beautiful, an artist who created wonderful things that made us happy and, in ways small and large, enriched our lives.



Filed under Art, Style

Chili: The “Gumbo of the Midwest”

By Contributing Food Editor Jared Levan

Dear Chili,

We’ve historically recognized you as a spicy stew made of beef, red chilies/chili powder, tomatoes and beans, but these days it seems you’ve lost that straight-forward sense of identify.

When you look at any number of recipes today, the combinations aren’t limited to just beans and beef. On the contrary, the combinations are practically endless yet they all retain the name chili.

Some have meat and no beans. Some have vegetables and no meat or beans…it reminds me of gumbo, actually. A wise man once described gumbo to me as follows:

“If it crawls, flies, swims or grows, then it belongs in your gumbo.”

In the same way gumbo recipes have been tweaked and embellished to include everything under the sun, so too have the myriad chili recipes you’ll find out there. Case in point: My homemade concoction (below).

Smoky Braised Pork & Beef Chili with Fresh Chimichurri
2 Lb Lean ground beef
1-2 Lb Pork loin
2 x 28 Oz Canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 Yellow onion, chopped
1 Cup Sweet yellow corn, roasted
20 Oz Organic black beans
10 Oz Organic pinto beans
1 Cup Beef stock
1/2 Tbsp Ground cumin
1 Tsp Garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp Smoked paprika
2-3 Tbsp Mexican chili powder
1/2 Tbsp Fresh ground black pepper
2 Tsp Sea salt

In a large crockpot, combine crushed tomatoes, paprika and all but 1 tsp of the chili. Season pork loin with black pepper, garlic powder and 1/2 of the salt. Place in tomato mixture, cover and cook on high for 3 hours.

Remove pork from crockpot and reduce to low heat. Allow pork to rest for 5-7 minutes before chopping into small cubes. Meanwhile, sauté onions in 1/2 Tbsp olive oil until translucent. Add ground cumin and remaining chili. Stir to coat and add to crock. In the same pan, brown the beef. Add to crock pot with juices.

Add rinsed beans, reserved pork and corn and allow to cook for an additional 30-45 minutes on low heat to allow flavors to blend.

Classic Chimichurri Sauce
1 Cup cilantro, packed
1 1/2 Cups Italian parsley, packed
1/2 Tbsp Ground cumin
4 Cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 Cup Red wine vinegar
2/3 Cup olive oil

Chop garlic cloves in food processor. Add cilantro, parsley, cumin and process to a paste. With processor running, add vinegar. Add olive oil just until the mixture begins to emulsify; this may take some or all of the olive oil. Store at room temperature and spoon on top of warm chili.

Keep on doing your thing and I’ll keep on eating you by the bowl full, chili.

Happy cooking all.


Jared Levan


Filed under Style

Wherefore Art Thou Roman Shade?

Dear Roman Polanski,

I know you’ve been quite controversial recently, and I’m not going to comment on that. What I will comment on is the fact that you share a name with my favorite type of window covering (Roman Shades). And perhaps that counts for something. Actually, no it doesn’t…

Roman Shades are a great alternative to drapery for a few reasons. Firstly, if you’re a dude (or a butch lesbian), they’re way more masculine in appearance than a flowing drape. Having them in your apartment and/or home will make you look way less ladypants than a house full of girly drapery. Not that there’s anything wrong with looking ladypants. I’m wearing women’s jeans right now. Secondly, Romans are more modern. So if you like rectangles and hard edges, a roman shade is probably much more your style. Finally, I like romans because they are practical for spaces where you can’t allow drapery to fall all the way to the floor (i.e. behind a bench or somewhere you’ll be sitting). I’m not a fan of curtains that don’t go to the floor (often called “cafe curtains”).

The only problem I have with Romans is how expensive they are. Making them custom normally costs $250-$500 per window, which makes them totally cost prohibitive for a lot of people. But Emily turned me on to this great resource that I’d like to share with you. Don’t be scared by the name (believe me, I was). It’s a company called Country Curtains. The name might conjure images of someone named Jeb sitting on the front porch playing a ukulele whilst chewing on a piece of straw, but don’t be scared, they actually have some great stuff. Recently we used their Cordless Roman Shades for a client and I’m super happy with how they turned out. Each window cost around $79.50 (the cost is based on window width) so we did the whole project for less than $600 (which isn’t bad because there were seven windows altogether).

Here are some images of the breakfast nook with newly installed Roman Shades:

In addition to the style we ordered, they have some other great options. I like this Woven Cordless Roman Shade. $86.50 – $116.50.

This Ticking Stripe Rolling Shade is adorable, right? I want to put it in my bedroom. We would have used it for our client but there’s already a lot of pinstripe in the house and that would have taken it over the edge. $46.50 – $54.50.

The Woven Shades also come with a border, which I like for a slightly more formal look. $89.50 – $119.50.

This is another image of the style we used for our client. $69.50 – $199.50.

Now that I’ve discovered how cheap these Romans/Roller shades are I kind of want to put them all over my house and/or my body. I love you Romans! Not you, Roman Polanski; you’re totally a weirdo.



Filed under Decor

I Want Something From To Do Something

Dear Furniture & Cabinetry Company To Do Something,

I was at the home of one of my favorite clients today and she told me about you and showed me your stuff and I was instantly in love. I love the clean, modern lines, the playful color, the clever legs. I love the beautiful woods, the generous scale, the masculine shapes. Therefore, To Do Something, you are my favorite discovery of the day. Thank you for existing.

Let’s start with the sexy chairs.

Hay chair! I’m not usually a fan of plywood, but I love how it’s juxtaposed with white lacquer here.

I think good design often means you don’t notice the design at all. This chair is exactly what it’s supposed to be, without any stupid distracting details.

I love the stain on this piece, making it look all cartoony plastic. Like my face.

If I had a record player (which I don’t, because I’m a nerd), I’d name him Herbert and put him in this piece of furniture designed specifically for record players. Luxury.

I’d like to put this pop-y table in my urban loft. If I had one. I hate my life.

The legs on this dining table mean the world to me. How much do you love that gold on the bottom? When, due to the ramifications of Prop 8 being overturned in California, people are allowed to marry goats and inanimate objects, I will most certainly be marrying this table, getting a gold wedding ring to match his gold legs. That sentence was way too long. I’m sorry.

Ugh. Be MINE!

In addition to uberglamourous furniture this company also does uberglamourous custom cabinetry. There is more on their site but I was drawn to the aqua kitchen. Like, duh.

Someday, I will have a house full of this gorgeous cabinetry (who doesn’t love built-in storage?) and each and every one of these pieces of furniture. If that doesn’t happen I’ll hate my life and resent you for it. Yes, you. This is all your fault!



Filed under Decor

Sofa’s Choice

Dear Sophia Loren,

You know, if you were my daughter I would have named you Sofa Loren. I really love a good sofa. I’ve been searching for a new one for quite some time. My old sofa was great. Totally big mid-century piece. But it took up way too much space in my living room because it was 110″ wide. Which I loved but it left no room for side tables, which I believe to be a necessary part of having a sofa if you want to host parties because where else will people put their drinks?

I loved the shape of this sofa. Very clean lines yet still interesting.

Emily and I found this piece for $99 at Goodwill. It was completely disgusting when we found it but we could tell it had potential. It was filthy and it needed new foam and everything, but according to our upholsterer the wooden frame was still very strong. And it’s 80″ so it leaves plenty of room for side tables. The best part about this sofa is that it’s a sofabed, which is a huge thing for me because I live in a one bedroom apartment and I have nowhere for any visitors to sleep. Tears.

Unfortunately the inner bed mechanism had to be replaced, which added $200 to the budget. This is the sofa mid-way through the process, before the new bed mechanism was installed.

This is how dirty it was. <Insert barfing noises>.

And here is the finished product. Yay!

I chose to cover it in a beautiful peacock blue velvet I bought for about $25 a yard (I needed 16 yards). This soft velvet feels like the tender touch of an angel.

The lines of this sofa are very similar to the old one. Sloped arms, tufted back. I love it all.

I accessorized the sofa the same way I did the old one and put it on the same gallery wall. I’m kind of loving it and I can’t wait to have a guest so I can show them the super crazy half-spring/half aerobed mattress I got for it. It’s SOOOOOO comfy I considered sleeping on it instead of my real bed.

In the end, here’s how the cost of the sofabed broke down:

Sofabed: $100
Fabric: $400
New Bed Frame: $200
Upholstery: $600
New Mattress: $300

Total: $1600

So all in all it’s a $1600 sofa. Which isn’t super cheap but is pretty good for a custom sofabed that no one else in the world has. I know I love this new addition to my family. This Valentines Day I’ll be sending it Valentines and asking it to be my mine. I can’t wait!


PS: Stay tuned for pictures of the sofabed styled as a bed. It’s pretty luxe…


Filed under Decor

Dollhouse Update: Back the Drawing Board…

Dear Everyone,

I know a lot of you have been curious WHAT was up with my dollhouse. Well, here’s the scoop. When we started the I’m A Giant challenge, Emily and I were very busy starting our design company and working on clients all over LA and New York. So, to make a long story short, my poor dollhouse sat at Corbett’s house for months, languishing on in the cold garage. Until a few weeks ago when I realized that it was supposed to be done February 1. Clearly that’s not happening, construction is taking much longer than expected (as is often the case with new home construction). Ok, so here’s the progress I’ve made:

The first thing I did is hire my architect friend Louis to design the back of my house. I had no idea what to do back there because I want the entire back of the house to be glass/open but I want it to look like a falling down barn still. Thus, I hired a professional architect to figure it out for me.

For the bathroom floor, I’ve put down couscous as a pebble floor. I’m going to paint it white and finish it with a lacquer finish so it looks fancier.

I adhered the couscous to foamcore frame of my house with white glue. This process was one of those things that seemed like it would be easy when I started. Cut to me screaming and crying on the bathroom floor, covered in Elmer’s glue and couscous bits.

I painted this little chest of drawers peacock blue. Which is the new color of EVERYTHING I’m buying for my apartment. Glamour.

I had to do some minor repairs on the wall in the twins room (sidenote: my dollhouse is inhabited by two gay men Orlando and Ricky Martin and their twin boys Chadleigh and Tadleigh). I found out that you can spackle on top of foam core, which was pretty exciting. I am going to paint it all flat blue and then fix the trim, etc.

I’ve actually done a lot more than this but I haven’t had time to take any pictures because I spent the last week on a top secret celebrity interior design job. I’ll tell you about that when you’re older. Until then, I’ll be trapped in my apartment working on my dollhouse.



Filed under Decor