How To Plant a Succulent Garden Without Making a Giant Mess in Your Apartment

Photographs by Sean Gin

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Dear Other People Who Live in Urban Apartments,

Do you ever feel sad about the fact you have no outdoor space? Like no yard with a hose to water your plants, a space to run around in? That you can’t just go outside and dig your hands in the dirt and feel SO connected to nature just like you did in your forest upbringing? I do. As someone who was raised in a land where I could stick my hand in dirt whenever I felt like it, without the risk of getting a lethal strain of face-eating virus from the city-germs in the soil, I feel sad whenever I have to buy dirt at a nursery. Also, I don’t understand how people who live in urban apartments pot their plants. I tried one time, and I totally clogged the sink and my landlord told me I’d have to buy a new sink if I ever did that again. So I’ve decided to share a few of my tips for living in a big city AND potting plants without getting kicked out of your apartment.

Plant nurseries are one of my favorite places to hang out. I find it so relaxing to be around all those plants growing, birds chirping, pesticides brimming from the potted succulents. One of my favorite nurseries in Los Angeles is Mickey Hartigay Plants, where I went this week to search for plants for Rumi Neely, a wonderful fashion blogger whose house I’m designing for Homepolish. The nursery is in the middle of Hollywood and feels kind of like it belongs in another time. I can be totally pissed off and crazy and high on caffeine and as soon as I step into this place I feel better. Perhaps it has something to do with the big-ass Buddha head:

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So here we go…

Five Tips For Potting Plants If You Live In An Apartment

1. Force the dude who runs the nursery to pot your plants for you.

This is a trick I learned a few years ago. Normally I feel badly asking anyone to do anything for me. Like at a restaurant if the waiter brings me a meal I totally didn’t order, I’ll just pretend it’s what I wanted so I don’t cause a fuss. I wont ask him to exchange it for the right one because that makes me feel like a jerk. But I’ve noticed a lot of people who work at nurseries (I’m talking about mom ‘n’ pop nurseries not big box places) tend to be really friendly and willing to help. If they won’t pot your plants for free they will normally charge you a small fee (usually around $5). Which is totally worth it not to make a big mess in your apartment. If you’d rather plant your own plants (like I did), you can ask them if it’s okay for you to use their facilities. Most will be fine with this, especially if you are doing something interesting like potting a succulent collection. They might stand there and ogle you, but the attention will give you energy and make you feel important.

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2. Choose your pot wisely. And make sure to look very concerned while you do so. 

Choose a pot that looks like it actually belongs indoors. If you choose a terra cotta pot or something that looks too rustic people will feel like they’ve stepped into a terrifying outdoor farmland when they enter your space and they will never want to talk to you again. Also, most plants need drainage so keep that in mind. Or be very careful with how frequently you water (I actually chose a pot with no drainage, but I’ve figured out how to  make sure the soil gets dry enough between waterings).

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3. Use the variety of plants available to your advantage.

I like to compose my succulent arrangements while looking at all the options available. Thus, I tend to arrange them right in front of the succulents on display. As a genius plant artist, you need to be surrounded by all your most essential art supplies. I like to have a few statement plants, a few clusters, and a pop of color. It’s good to vary the scale and texture to keep the eye moving around the arrangement. Really it’s not rocket science. Just play with plants until they look pretty and then you’ve got your composition. Watch this video Emily made if you want more info on composition.

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4. Ask boring and sciency plant questions.

Nurseries are a great place to ask a lot of questions about your plants that no one else would know how to answer. Keep in mind these people spend all day watering plants and trying to make sure they don’t die, so if there’s anyone who can tell you how not to kill your fiddle leaf fig, it’s them. You can show them pictures of spaces in your apartment, describe lighting situations, and ask them what plants would survive there, ask them what type of plant food to feed your plants, how big the pot needs to be, etc. The kind man at Mickey Hartigay referred me to the correct soil for succulents, which hopefully means the plants I buy for Rumi will live forever. Like I plan to.

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5. Make sure they wrap/box up your plants so dirt doesn’t get all over your car/everyone on the subway/however you get home.

Nurseries are great at figuring out how to wrap plants so dirt doesn’t go flying all over the place on your trip home. Usually this means they wrap them in newspaper and tape to hold in the dirt and keep the plants in place. Make sure they package your plants adequately so they don’t get murdered on the way home. I’ve had one too many fast stops where the plant goes flying and my car turns into a succulent graveyard FILLED with dirt. Don’t let that be you.

So there you go. Mainly the moral of the story is that if you live in an apartment with no yard and hose, you should never try to pot anything inside. It’s just a recipe for disappointment and misery and fear. Kind of like eating a giant burrito right before going to a fancy gay pool party.

Love,
Orlando

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Restoring a Rain-Destroyed Dresser in Three Easy Steps Without Exerting Any Effort at All

Photos by Sean Gin 

Dear Diary,

I had a wonderful trip to New York a few weeks ago. If you haven’t heard of it, New York is a large metropolitan American city where residents are known to complain about winter for six months out of the year and then flee the city for the entire summer to go to the Hamptons or Fire Island. Anyway, while I was in New York there was a monumental rainstorm in Los Angeles which I named “Rainmageddon.” Rain is a  big deal in Los Angeles. Like as soon as it starts raining cats start wailing, luxury automobiles inexplicably careen into palm trees, and women with enormous artificial breasts start sobbing uncontrollably, wondering how they will get from their cars into the restaurant without ruining their hair. Living in LA makes you somewhat incapable of dealing with anything that resembles actual weather. Or dealing with anything at at all. So rain is basically the most devastating natural event that can occur (aside from the terrifying earthquake that woke me up this morning).

Another fun fact about Los Angeles is that because it never rains here many of our dwellings are not water tight. It’s kind of like we all live in thatched huts because we are island people and we don’t know any better. It’s not until a torrential rain that we notice a leak in the roof. When I walked in the door after getting back from New York, I was greeted by intoxicating scent of toxic mold. I was devastated, because I hate smells (all of them).

But no one was more devastated by Rainmageddon than the beautiful mid-century dresser I bought at Rose Bowl last year. I came into my bedroom to find it bewildered, scared, looking like this:

It was all “Why did you leave me for so long?!?” It was covered in rain damage and I felt guilty. I assumed my dresser was destroyed forever. Sidenote: I bought this dresser with my ex and it was a positive memory until we broke up and then it was a sad memory, like a totally depressing “you-broke-up-and-now-you’re-all-alone” dresser. I thought of my ruined dresser as a metaphor for my failed relationship. Second Sidenote: Do you ever make things that, like, totally aren’t metaphors into metaphors? And then you realize that instead of being a symbol of failure maybe your dresser is just a really cool mid-century dresser? I need to stop doing that…

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Okay, sorry that was depressing. Here’s where the story gets good. I had used a product called Restor-A-Finish on a few vintage pieces before so I thought I’d give it a try. Even though the company that makes it has no idea how to spell “Restore,” it’s actually a great product. It looks like this:

The process I used to restore my dresser is as easy as 1-2-3! Seriously:

1. Sand surface with very fine sandpaper until white moldy stuff disappears.
2. Apply Restor-A-Finish to a rag and apply to freshly sanded surface.
3. Wipe away excess and begin the first day of the rest of your life.

After being restored, my dresser was ready for its close-up:

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While I was at it I painted the weird stainless pulls gold to match the fun gold inlay “X’s” on the top of the dresser.

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After:

So all in all Rainmageddon really didn’t end up ruining my dresser’s life. It took me like 17 minutes to make it better. Now I urge you, if you have a dresser that suffered through its own Rainmageddon or something similar, give it some Restor-A-Finish and, like, get on with your life.

Love,
Orlando

PS: This post was in no way sponsored by Restor-A-Finish, but if you work for that company please contact me and I will tell you where you can send a check.

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Fashion Felicitations From My Father’s Closet: 70s Bird Shirt

Photographs by Sean Gin

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Dear Fashion Diary,

One of the most exciting pieces of clothing I’ve taken from my father’s closet is this ridiculously awesome bird shirt my mom made for him when they were in their twenties. Shown are my parents, my father in the glamourshirt:

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It’s not something that you’d wear to, like, a job interview or anywhere fancy. But every once in a while, when you want to wear something luxuriously 70z, it’s great to put on. I love that it looks like a gorgeous Japanese watercolor painting.

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I remember in high school, like freshman year, all the cool kids were into 70z stuff. Like seriously bellbottoms, etcetera. And I just saw a little spread in LA Magazine about how bellbottoms and 70z nonsense are coming back again. Don’t you kind of feel like everything is aways coming back all the time? Like as soon as something falls out of popularity someone is like “oh my god ironic 90z Tommy Hillfiger jeans are SO cool” and then you look at them and you’re like “wait, that is kind of cool.” Maybe fashion is just an endless cycle of getting sick of stuff, forgetting about it, and then remembering it again and getting excited. Which basically means we’re all idiots with the brain capacity of goldfish but whatever. Anyway, all this is to say that I’m into this shirt, even though it’s so 70z.

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If you’re my mother, you can make this thing by hand, otherwise, check out the similar pieces I found online:

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1. Chambray Shirt, $139 from Scotch & Soda
2. Slim-Fit Emerald Chino, $115 from Scotch & Soda
3. Brogue Leather Boots, $95 from ASOS

Now go buy this stuff and dress up like me dressing up like my dad.

Love,
Orlando

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Style Tips From The Desk of Kelly Oxford

Photo via Domaine

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Dear Reader,

Do you ever fantasize about trapping Kelly Oxford in a human-size birdcage so you can force her to talk to you and be your friend? Me too. That has nothing to do with the piece I wrote for Refinery29, but make sure you read it anyway. Some good tips on how to make your office as cozy and comfortable as the cage I designed for Kelly. I mean office. Whatever. Go read!

Love,
Orlando

LINK: Kelly Oxford Office Decor Ideas on Refinery29

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Whut Beauty: The Photo Diary of John Arsenault

Photographs by John Arsenault

Dear John Arsenault,

Say what you will about Facebook, but sometimes it can be such a great tool for discovery. Just the other day, I was sifting through the vast stream of Gay shirtless pics, life-is-glamourous-I’m-somewhere-expensive status updates, and countless Buzzfeed GIF-list posts and I came across, as if by miracle, one of your images. I was immediately entranced. I love how quiet, mysterious, and ravishingly beautiful your work is. The following is a mixup of pieces from your visual diary and photos from your various exhibitions. I love it all so much that I want to bite it. With my mouth.

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Thanks for the lovely work. I certainly will be continually checking the John Arsenault Photography site for updates.

Love,
Orlando

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Homepolishing in Laurel Canyon

Photographs by Tessa Neustadt

Dear Reader,

For a long time, it’s been a dream of mine to live in Laurel Canyon. I just imagine I’d move there, Joni Mitchell would be my neighbor, she would sing to me every morning out her window, and I’d be surrounded by trees and wilderness and I could pretend I lived nowhere near a city. Do you ever notice that the longer you live in a city the more annoying it starts to feel? Like you’ll be walking down the street and you’ll be like “why are there so many people waddling in front of me?!?” (I love to walk fast so this is a particular pet peeve of mine). Or you’ll be at a sandwich shop and you’ll be like “why are there so many other people eating sandwiches!?!” I think it’s good to get out of the city every once in a while so you don’t go totally crazy. Or you can just move to a part of town that feels slightly less like a city.

One of my favorite Homepolish designers decorated this glamour cottage on a mountaintop in Laurel Canyon and I want to move into it, like, yesterday.

Most of the furnishings in this two bedroom home are vintage, sourced at flea markets and local vintage stores.

The whole place has a very casual, old-world feel. The clients are big collectors who love beautiful, unique objects. There’s a ton of character in this place because there is so much to ogle all over the place.

The place gets tons of natural light, so the designer kept the walls white and brought in color in art and objects, which as you probably know is my favorite way of bringing in color.

This rustic sofa table provides a nice contrast with the crisp, white sofa.

We made that poor dog sit outside that window for so long just to get that shot.

The dining nook provides the perfect place for a romantic dinner with your imaginary boyfriend.

A fun fact about me is that I’m terrified of crucifixes. Like when I was little I would go to my friend’s house and his parents had crucifixes everywhere but they were like SUPER GRAPHIC crucifixes with tons of blood and gore and I thought they were the scariest thing ever. At that point in my life I though Gremlins was a horror movie so seeing a bloody dead guy hanging on a piece of wood was pretty much the most terrifying thing imaginable. Anyway, that being said I love this little window moment. And I’m glad the crucifix is gold and not covered with scary realistic blood the way my friend’s were…

Don’t you just wanna get in that tub and live there? Forever? Staring out the window onto that lovely rock-filled back yard, watching baby deer chew on grass?

Note that the designer painted the door the same color as the dog and the totally cool Stussy hat.

Another non-terrifying crucifix helps this dresser-top look casually cool and collected. The whole place feels so comfortable and sophisticated, which should be the goal when designing any interior space.

Love,
Orlando

PS: Want to hire the glamourdesigner that created this beautiful space? Contact Homepolish!

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Nate Berkus & Jeremiah Brent Have Gone Bananas

Photographs by Mikael Jansson

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Dear Gay Diary,

This isn’t exactly hot-off-the-press news, but I discovered recently that everyone’s favorite design powercouple Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent are part of a new Banana Republic ad campaign. Thus, I had to share the totally cute pics of them canoodling, cuddling, and just generally making every other couple on earth look like moldy dog food. Thanks guys! Of course these images fill me with the normal amount of jealousy, bewilderment, and outrage. But they also just kind of made me glad to see a cute gay couple in an ad like it ain’t no thang. The images were shot by Mikael Jansson and are beautifully done. It appears that they were shot at their totally ugly house, which I would love to break into and live in until I am dramatically removed by violent police force.

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They’re so cute, right? Someday, when they die, I plan to taxidermy their dead bodies and put them in my living room as the ULTIMATE interior design accessories. That’ll teach them to keep their out-of-control dimples and get-lost-in-me eyes to themselves.

Love,
Orlando

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