All original work © Jason W. Wong. Please ask for permission to reproduce any work.

All original work © Jason W. Wong. Please ask for permission to reproduce any work.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm so glad that I just got my pay, I was born on Christmas Day

The dry weather and mild temperatures (and crazy work schedules--I have an installation for Ye Olde Dayjobbe over the holidays!) has made me kind of forget that Christmas is coming in less than a week.

How are the rest of you doing?

I tried to do some shopping during my lunch break today and had an epic fail. I was shocked (well, not really) that there were crowds out at 12:30pm on a Monday afternoon in downtown San Francisco. Anyhow, I thought of some last minute gift ideas:

1. Apartment Therapy showcased some great gifts under $100 last month and you can still get some of these. (They also followed up with some great design gifts for under $100.) My favorite is probably the emergency radio--I have a small wind-up model from LL Bean that is great for emergencies. I keep it in one of my bags all the time.

2. This year I told my brother how much more important it was to give experiences rather than things. So when he asked me what I wanted this past weekend, I told him to buy me dinner. And he did. Problem solved! So give an experience--a massage, a manicure, a dinner, a concert. Share in the experience and make it a gift for both of you.

3. Ever since I took a 60% pay cut from my last career to become an interior designer, I haven't been able to donate to as many charities as I used to. Charity now starts at home, with "Jason's IRA" and "Jason's Roth IRA". So even though I was able to donate our old car to charity, and I dropped off my trusty camel coat at a local bar during a coat drive, I still wish I could do more. Why not donate to a charity in someone else's name? I think that's a wonderful gift and wish people would do that more.

4. Make something! You could give me some Nestle Toll House cookies that you slapped onto a baking sheet for 10 minutes and I'd be one happy camper. Don't underestimate the power of a (mostly) homemade gift or treat.

5. Finally, if you're stumped on a gift for a loved one, think like a computer (or at least like some Google algorithm). Make a list of the last few gifts you've given him/her and take an average. Maybe you've given him four massages, two fitness magazine subscriptions, and three pairs of running shoes over the years. Average it out and try to put a new spin on it, like getting him a reflexology session, or a personal training session instead. Try applying this formula to other facets of their life, whether they're into books, cosmetics, food, or wine.

I hope everyone out there has a good holiday. I can't wait to see some good friends, hang out poolside, and deliver a few gifts. I'm looking forward to doing something a little different this year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Is it just me, or does it not feel like the holidays have come yet? Construction at my house has set things back, and now we're mid-December and there's still no tree, stockings, or other decorations up yet :(

We're also going to visit friends at the end of the month, so we were debating whether to put up our fake silver tree this year anyhow. The contractor working on our place was super nice and gave us a little mini living tree. I have some tiny ornaments that will fit just fine, so I think we're going to do the mini tree this year (with our stockings--maybe) on the newly reconstructed fireplace mantel.

Whether you're feeling the spirit or not, how about creating a great playlist for the holidays? If nothing else, it's nice to play during dinner or a party. Here are some of my faves:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What child is this?

I took last week off for Thanksgiving and the short work week. It's been nice lounging around the house, even though we're still under construction and covered in plastic. This year I was thankful for my health and for spending the holiday with friends and loved ones.

After hearing about this Black Friday story, I was glad we didn't do any shopping whatsoever after Thanksgiving:

Alson on Friday, we saw a news story about the Occupy movement marching along downtown San Francisco, which sparked a lively conversation at home. My partner and I talked about how the large retailers are fueling this frenzy to consume-consume-consume, at the expense (and peril) of the 99%. It made me wonder: Why not buy less this year? Why not give experiences instead of material things (which often end up cluttering our homes anyway)? Why not make something instead? (I actually baked some banana bread that night in protest.)

I know it sounds a little hypocritical coming from me, since part of my job is to get people to furnish and decorate their homes. And at Ye Olde Dayjobbe I clearly serve the 1% targeted by the Occupy movement. But this time of the year always makes me reflect: What did we accomplish this year? What was it all for?

Since it's hard to escape the holiday buying frenzy, I tried to support Small Business Saturday yesterday instead. Some of my local neighborhood shops include:
  • Whatever (books and comic books)
  • Books Inc. (a Bay Area chain of bookstores)
  • A&G Merch (home furnishings and accessories)
  • Aldea (home furnishings and accessories--great stockists of Dwell Studio products)
  • Hand Job (unisex day spa, offering reflexology for tired, aching feet)
  • Under One Roof (HIV/AIDS charity shop where I get all my holiday cards)
What are some of your favorite neighborhood shops? Please share!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It always feels like somebody's watching me (and I got no privacy)

Well, it finally happened--I've become a victim of identity theft. I've spent the last week filing the necessary reports and replacing everything that needs to be replaced. But I didn't lose my wallet--I want you all to know that this happened somewhere near or around my own home. So this week I wanted to focus on home security. All the pretty and well-designed things you bring into your home don't mean a thing if they're compromised or stolen (and that includes your identity and personal information.)

We naturally think of alarm systems for our homes when it comes to protecting material possessions. But I met an interesting woman last week who lived for several years in Cape Town, South Africa. Her home had been burgled and she said it's a common occurrance over there. She mentioned that no matter how many alarms and locks you place on your home, at some point you'll trust someone with that code (a cleaner, a security guard, etc.) and eventually that person can betray you. Even the police were too overwhelmed to deal with residential break-ins. So what was her solution? Her neighbors. She said that the closest relationships she had were with her neighbors--she could call any of them in the middle of the night, knowing they had her back. And she would come running if they ever called her. The lesson here is to really know the people living around you. Even though a Neighborhood Watch can be hard to organize in a city, your neighbors can still be the best security system for you home.

I don't know if my thief did it all electronically or by stealing my mail, but I'm getting a locked mailbox just in case. So far I've seen these rather stylish options at Home Depot:

This wall-mounted model comes in a variety of finishes and is pretty understated.

And I like the simple curve of this mailbox, too:

When I told a friend a colleague of mine what had happened with my ID theft, she recommended cancelling my seldom-used credit cards. "But wouldn't that hurt my credit?" I asked.

"Well...yes and no. In the end, having all these store cards and lines of unused credit can look just as bad because to some creditors it's like you have more ways of debts to fall into," she responded. I trust her--she used to work in finance--so goodbye to my department store cards.

Next, I needed to beef up security on my home internet service, and as I did this I kept hitting myself, asking why we didn't do this three weeks ago. Or last spring. Or even last year! All my tech friends are probably shaking their heads at me in shame, but I didn't realize you could stop broadcasting the SSID of your network to others, or that keeping the factory default name could let hackers figure out which model router you're using. And I was a fool to keep the default encryption code as a password instead of using something personal. These are all small steps--and possibly not enough to prevent the most determined hackers--but at least it's something you can do.

My former finance friend and colleague also recommended an ID/credit monitoring service. There are a lot out there (like Life Lock) that provide similar services. They will alert you if new lines of credit have been opened or if applications have been submitted in your name. For $10-20 a month, they're worth it for some piece of mind.

Even if you can't afford or justify paying for that service, at the very least you've got to run a periodic credit report on yourself. Free Credit Reports really is free and lets you know what lines of credit you currently have open. Forgot you still had that credit card from The Limited back in the '90s? Well, it'll show up on your credit report.

I just hope my nightmare will end someday. I always think about this article I read a couple of years ago that shows how long it can last. (If the "other" Jason is out there reading this, please give me a break--I took a 60% pay cut when I switched careers, and I'm just trying to get by and save a little for retirement.)

For the rest of you reading this, please learn from my mistakes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Eyes without a face...

Hey readers, I know not everyone out there is on Facebook, but you don't have to be an FB'er to be able to click on the Facebook links to the right ----->

Anyone can do it, even my luddite partner ;)

I like to post supplemental links, photos, or videos to go along with my weekly posts, in case you didn't already know. So please, check out some of the other artists and resources listed on my Facebook page.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Honey Honey, how you thrill me (uh-huh, uh-huh)

Okay, I was out of commission last week 'cause, well, I just didn't have anything to write about. But over the course of the week, I found new inspiration:

I've been walking by these exquisite leather sling dining chairs (and their matching lounge chair counterparts) at Farnsworth for weeks now, every day to and from the gym. They're reminiscent of the iconic butterfly chair of the '60s, but with more panache and style, and I always stop for a moment to admire them and wonder if there's anything else like them.

Then about a week ago I looked through the new CB2 catalog and saw these:

It's an all-leather version of the butterfly chair in my favorite shade of leather--honey or caramel. At $399, it's a steal and I plan on using it for a Retrograde project soon. Over time the leather will wear nicely and develop a rich patina and loads of character. Heck, I'd use it in my own home if I weren't turning my living room into a study/library (more on that personal project soon!)

The reason why I love this particular color for leather is that it feels like the furniture equivalent of camel hair. In fashion, I'm always drawn to camel-colored sweaters and camel hair coats (especially as we move into fall and winter.) It just completes one's wardrobe and suits so many different people. Both my camel hair coat and my tan/honey/caramel leather jacket look great with any combo of shirts/sweaters/pants or with t-shirts and jeans. In your home, these tan/honey/caramel leather accents often have a rustic charm and can work with so many other styles and furniture pieces to provide a warm, rich neutral hue to any interior.

Here's another great leather chair from Restoration Hardware. Meant to be a dining chair, I think a grouping of them would look just great in any living room or den, too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm a soul man...

So we got back from Chicago last week and had a couple of days to recover from our vacation and catch up on San Francisco home life. What was one of the first things we did (besides to through all our mail)?

We got a new car.

Check out what we've lovingly dubbed The Green Machine:

Now you have to understand--I haven't driven a brand-new car (with the exception of rentals here and there) since I was 17. So...that makes 18 years. We were going to originally buy a used car, but we did that last time and ended up sinking in so much money into regular maintenance and repairs. What's so special about this funny little Kia Soul? Well, for one thing, we're leasing it.

Since a car's value drops the minute you drive it off the lot, we figured leasing might be a way to go. Or at least try. The commitment only lasts three years, and then we can move onto something else. In some ways it suits our lifestyle as renters here in San Francisco, seeing as how we'll never be able to buy a home here. Why not treat our car the same way?

Anyhow, it wasn't funny hamsters on TV or anything like that which made us choose this car. I saw one on the street a little while ago and thought, "That thing is kind of boxy and weird...why am I strangely drawn to it!?" Yes, it is boxy, but it's quirky, which suits us. And it can haul a LOT of stuff, which comes in handy for Ye Olde Dayjobbe as well as Retrograde. My partner is just happy it can make it up our surrounding hills with ease.

So much has changed since our last car: satellite radio, power windows, rear back-up's like a whole new world. And it's definitely less embarassing now when I drive to different places for Ye Olde Dayjobbe. (It used to really be comical, rolling up to a palatial home or job site in our scratched-up '98 Saturn with the glued-back-on side mirror.) But I'm more careful now, too--I used to face down crazy drivers in our old hoopty knowing I had nothing to lose; I used to park in the tightest spots since I didn't worry about the car getting any more scratched than it already was. All that reckless behavior has changed now...

Like some Retrograde people I meet, I held onto something old for waaaaay too long. Getting a new car helps me understand what it's like for clients who take that big step toward a new sofa or bed. And guess what? After taking that big step to improve your surroundings, you wonder why you didn't do it sooner.

So if you see us tooling around in The Green Machine, wave and say "hey!" And if anyone at Ye Olde Dayjobbe tries to give me hell for driving a weird little green box, all I have to say is I don't get paid enough to drive a luxury car ;)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And all that jazz...

We just got back from a great trip to Chicago--my first time ever! (My partner used to live there back in the mid-90s.) So that kind of explains this week's late post...

I loved this trip. It was such a great city, and seeing how residential towers and skyscrapers had been integrated into the downtown area was really inspiring. It made downtown feel like a real place, not just a space for tourists and businesspeople. We had some good friends (and former San Franciscans) show us around.

Here are some photos I snapped:

One of my friends also turned me on to this amazing outsider artist from Chicago, Vivian Maier. Her story (and work) is just...amazing. Here's one of her photos:

We will definitely be back. Hell, we might just move there--it's a lot more affordable than San Francisco, that's for sure. I'm officially a fan. I heart Chicago!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A pink flamingo double-wide; one-bedroom in a high-rise; a mansion on a hill...

I just read an article in Men's Health last night titled, "Are You Burned Out?" and I was not too shocked to see how many items on the checklist applied to me. The last few months have been really tough at Ye Olde Dayjobbe (YOD), and the past year and a half has been a rollercoaster ride. I've been offered champagne, been yelled at, been graciously thanked, faced multiple obstacles (and installations) at name it, I've seen it. It's been like a fast-track boot camp for interior design.

But I'm going on vacation this week--and even though I know five days won't solve everything, being in Chicago (a place I've never been!) and seeing old friends and family will surely help.

You know what else will help? Retrograde.

At YOD, I'm seen as an associate designer who finds resources, edits them down, orders them, installs them, and coordinates every little detail surrounding said resources. My past life (and career) as a senior graphic designer and production coordinator doesn't matter to most people at YOD, but my 10+ years of organizational skills and project management benefit them, even if they don't realize or appreciate it.

At Retrograde, I feel more like a collaborator, working with you to help you figure out your needs. I feel like some kind of animated Johnny Cash spirit guide (that's a Simpsons reference), here to empower you so you can make choices on your own. It's kind of like eliminating work for myself--which is something I've often done in the past--but it's what I believe in: teaching you (the readers) design skills and tools, and inspiring you to take risks to personalize your spaces. Even though YOD required me to cool things down at Retrograde, I still relish the two side projects I have remaining because I love designing for with everyday people.

Here are three Living Room concepts I developed for a young family this past week. Of course this is the first round, so there will be tweaking and refinement to come. But I'm really looking forward to developing one of these, and helping the client get it all installed in the next few weeks.

Recently I was the Design Center and was chatting with one of the showroom managers. She asked me what I was doing this weekend and I said I was going to help a friend with some home accessories shopping. That's what Retrograde clients (and readers) are to me--friends who need a little help with their homes. Just when I think I'm going crazy and feeling burned out, I remember why I'm doing all this--for you.

When I woke up this morning, it was cloudy and gray and I felt depressed. But now as I finish this post, the sun's come out, I'm fully caffeinated, and feeling so much better about things.

You guys keep me sane.

Monday, September 26, 2011

You can stand under my umbrella (ella ella ella)

At Ye Olde Dayjobbe I've been living in a world of outdoor fabrics for the past few months. But guess what? They rock.

Sunbrella is the general term for any ol' solution-dyed acrylic fabric, but it's also a name brand. Used to be, you'd associate Sunbrella with the hard, scratchy "fabric" that covered your pool furniture, but these days Sunbrella makes fabrics for lots of high-end designer lines. Almost every designer showroom I've been to has its own line(s) of Sunbrella fabrics and boy have they come a long way!

Outdoor fabrics don't have to be stiff and scratchy any more. I've come across some baby-soft chenilles and knits that your baby would love--and that could also handle your baby's barf and poop. They can range anywhere from $60 to $150 a yard, depending on where you go.

I've had this handy storage ottoman from Ballard Designs for the past couple of years and I must say I've been pretty happy. I got it upholstered in one of Ballard's outdoor fabrics:
BUT...check it out. Sometimes you get what you pay for. I was kind of disappointed that they didn't bother to line up the pattern.

But you know what else? My cat threw up on this ottoman a little while ago and I cleaned it up with some soap and water. It couldn't have been easier. After that, I felt like I totally got my $495 dollar's worth. have a baby? You have an army of messy kids or roommates? You have a cat that eats a bit too much and barfs all over the place? Then get yourself some Sunbrella, friend!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yes I did, yes I did...would someone please tell 'em who the f--- I is

Well, I went without a post last week for a good reason--I had not one, but TWO projects wrap up at Ye Olde Dayjobbe on the same day. This had me working crazy 10- and 11-hour days to get everything sorted out. After logging many miles in my car (and earning miles on my AmEx!) I got through it. Of course, the commercial job entailed some magic products from Cliff's Variety:

And my residential project was saved by a big accessory run at West Elm. They had pillows in the perfect shade of yellow (see last week's post about my obession with yellow this summer). I love how they call it "horseradish":

Both projects kept me busy, but both were also great examples of high-low design and decorating: custom pieces (like sofas and chairs) mixed with fun, off-the-shelf accessories.

(Well, the commercial project was also about getting crafty and industrious with the carpet tape and switching out light bulbs here and there...)

Okay, more next week, I promise!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I wrote a song for you and all the things you do...and it was called "Yellow"

For the last couple of years I've been drawn to orange because I wanted to challenge myself. I thought it was weird and garish and yet I was inexplicably drawn to it--heck, I even started Retrograde and created the logo based on my love-hate-fascination with the color.

But I think I'm moving on--to yellow!

Check it out. I'm more partial to mustard-y yellows, but there are so many shades out there:

Here are some great furniture pieces from When Modern Was in Noe Valley--affordably priced and cheerful yellow pieces!

And I guess it all started last year when I spray-painted my rusty Michael Graves clock (from Target) a warm yellow. It really made my bathroom sunnier.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Birds on the telephone line are crying out to me...

I'm all about collecting things and showing off your collections. I have a bunch of owl banks around my house, placed strategically in various feng shui areas for luck, as well as aesthetics (hey, they're cute, okay?)

Here they are, all together:

And why stop with the banks? West Elm has these super cute measuring cups and butter dish with a retro owl theme right now:

And we've also got all these owl and pussycat things around the house. One of our favorites is a sketch done by a friend who was housesitting for us:

And we've also got a collection of the dynamic duo on a wall:

Of course, nothing compares to the friendliest pussycat in the world, Mister Chino!

What are you collecting these days? C'mon, share with us!

It's Going to Take Some Time - Dishwalla by jezcle

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Don't blame this sleeping satellite...

So I don't know if any you know this or not, but Mercury (the planet) has been in retrograde this month. And boy have I been feeling it! It's like, everything that could go wrong at Ye Olde Dayjobbe has gone wrong. Curtain hardware for one project has been declared defective not just once but TWICE, delaying one installation. And another project has had multiple pieces delayed either by misunderstandings, techinical difficulties, or shipping/freight errors.

For a large commercial project I've been working on, it turned out that a check for a table was sent to the wrong vendor and was never sent back! Someone working on the same project just replied to an e-mail I sent back in MAY.

Susan Miller says this crazy time will end soon, but still...I've got to deal with craziness and madcap hilarity until August 26. Basically, I keep hitting my head against my desk as the bad news rolls in, saying to my coworkers over and over again, "Why me? Why me?"

At home, my DVR died after five years of faithful service. Goodbye to movies I recorded and will never see, like The Seven Samurai and Jindabyne. I guess I'll have to check online for the next few days to see what happens on Degrassi or Design Star. Needless to say, the liquor cabinet is constantly stocked with bourbon right now.

What craziness has been happening to you lately? I'm interested in knowing how this Mercury retrograde phase is affecting us all...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

This is your payback, moneygrabber

Projects are bound to get super personal when family is involved. When my mother decided it was finally time to paint her house after 20 years of neglect and bad decisions, it was finally time to play the "Dammit Mom, I'm a professional now" card.

Here's what the house looked like earlier in the year when she first started thinking about painting:

You can't see it that photo, but there are missing roof tiles, horribly tarnished and pockmarked brass light fixtures, and these crazy mis-matched tiles along the bottom of the stucco that were a short-sighted solution for some water damage. My mother has never asked for my design advice before (you should see the granite she chose for her kitchen several years ago--the backsplash alone defies any logic!)


But she finally caved and let me do some damage control. First I chose a darker taupe/warm gray paint color for the stucco that made the weird slate tiles look somewhat integrated. This was hard to do since the tiles came in varying shades of gray and rust. I also wanted to find a nice shade of gray that worked with the red barrel tile roof. It was a real challenge!

After freshening up the columns, trim, and door with a fresh coat of white paint (I tried to paint the door black, but my mother was having none of that), I chose simpler weathered bronze lights for the entry and the garage doors--this finish wouldn't age nearly as badly as the old polished brass fixtures. And the frosted glass cover would hide the mish mash of compact fluorescent bulbs that were being used.

Through a family friend, my mother found painters who would do all the work for $2000. I was nervous about this and wanted to make sure they knew the scope of the work involved--all the painting, the various parts of the roof that needed attention and new tiles, the fact that I saw a bunch of wasps flying around certain parts, etc. I worked closely with my brother (who lives close by) to make sure we were all on the same page about what had to be done.

Naturally I also had freakouts about what my mother apparently wanted to have done for $2000. In the end, they did a pretty good job. Of course I noticed a few things, like a spot on the front door that could have been spackled and smoothed out before painting, and the wrong finish used on the trim and columns...but for that price, my mother was happy and I paid for half of the paint and supplies. (The roof ended up being another a separate expense since the damage was waaaay out of the painters' league.)

Next year...we tackle in the interior painting. Get ready to hear about the tears and screaming over that project, folks. (You know I'm going to insist on a dark ebony banister with white balusters while she'll want to keep the price low!)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pictures of you, pictures of me remind us all of what we used to be...

Yesterday my partner and I went to one of our favorite bookstores in the East Bay, Serendipity Books. This huge space is carved out like a rabbit's warren and there are so many books, boxes, and bags you can get lost.

Sadly, they're also going out of business due to the death of the proprietor.

Since the store is only vaguely categorized, it's sometimes hard to find things you're looking for. More often than not, you find things that are happy accidents, like the old Dictionary of Slang I got yesterday. It even had a four-leaf clover pressed between its pages--I felt so lucky like I was "sitting in a tub of butter!"

Almost a year ago, we spied this hot '70s-era painting there gathering dust. The price was kind of high for us, so we just let it go. But yesterday we were able to get it for less than half of the 1980 gallery price listed on the back. For what it is (an acrylic mixed media piece) we thought it was cool. Then we found out it came from the collection of a publisher who championed poets and writers like Harold Norse and Thom Gunn, who my partner had interviewed in the past.

I keep lecturing y'all to get some original art in your spaces, so keep looking! It can come from dusty, magical old bookstores, thrift stores, or even from your talented friends. Case in point, my friend Stephen Williams. I recently got one of his paintings and have been hunting high and low for the right frame for it.

I think my/our next acquisition will be something more abstract. Balance is important, too. So many pieces around our flat are figurative or highly graphic or based on typography. Even though those things are near and dear to our hearts (I'm talking about my partner, who's a writer, and me--a former graphic designer), we have to keep challenging ourselves and pushing our boundaries.

Art should provoke thought--whether they're relaxing thoughts or some political diatribe is completely up to you and how you want your home to feel!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rome Wasn't Built In A Day...

This week I get to show off all the work that's taken place over the past year on a friend's loft. Last March we started slowly and patiently--she wasn't in a rush and wanted her place to develop over time. You may remember some of the great DIY projects that were featured on Apartment Therapy during this project.

Well, after nearly 16 months, I think we're pretty much done! See what a difference color, art, thrift store finds, some spray paint, and custom built-in storage (including a custom kitchen island) can do!

Here are the before and afters. See what a difference the custom Kitchen island makes:


I love how the Kitchen is brightened up by this thrift store table, painted a sunny yellow. The deep blue of the neighboring wall creates this split-screen effect that I love:

The blue wall really helps define the Living Room:

A lighter shade of blue (and a groovy fringe panel!) help define the Bedroom area:

We were lucky that her mother and mother's boyfriend were handy enough to do so much work like paint, hang the fringe curtain, and even make the Kitchen island and all the window seat storage from scratch! The blue walls and bamboo shades make such a difference. The space now feels like a proper home to my friend.

Yes, it took over a year, but each piece really has a story. You can get so much done by taking your time.