Go Ask Anna.


Me in 1980, smiling for my kindergarten photo.

Hello! I’m still alive! I unintentionally took a week off from posting, apparently. Sorry about that—I’m still working away on the bathroom, but none of it is particularly interesting (staining the saddle for the doorway, nailing up tongue-and-groove paneling, etc.). Things should be more photogenic by the weekend, when we start painting.

Meanwhile, I’m also really busy with job-stuff, and I’m getting completely bogged down with emails and questions. If you’ve asked me something and haven’t heard back from me, I’m truly sorry. I’m an awful communicator (and excellent procrastinator) in the best of times!

Since a lot of the questions I’ve been asked lately have been related, I think it might make sense to answer some of them here. I tend to get kind of wordy, so getting it all out at once is a good idea.

These are the top 3 questions I plan to answer in exhaustive, potentially boring detail:

1) NEWBURGH? Seriously??!! Why did you move there? Wait, should I move there? And doesn’t the commute make you crazy??

2) Do you read all of the books you design covers for? How does the whole process work? And what do I need to do to become a book cover designer, too?

3) I’m about to buy my own fixer-upper, and I need advice. How did you learn how to do all of this stuff? Do you have a list of resources I might find helpful?

I’ll do my best to answer these questions this week. If there’s anything else (um, within reason) you’re DYING to know, feel free to ask in the comments!

65 comments
  1. AmyFeb 10, 20091:50 pm

    Why can’t we read archives from your old blog? I am interested in that one as well.

    Also, who are your personal style icons?

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  2. MGFeb 10, 20092:03 pm

    Great blog! How have you dealt with electrical issues? Do you call in the pros? Did you have knob and tube wiring?

    Also, are you replacing lathe and plaster with drywall everywhere or only where necessary?

    Thanks!

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  3. PamFeb 10, 20093:00 pm

    Anna, I love your blog, it’s a TRUE inspiration, very motivational. I’m curious about Newburgh real estate, but I don’t know the area. Are there good & bad areas? I’m interested in a safe neighborhood with older character homes, where would you recommend?

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  4. annieFeb 10, 20093:08 pm

    Anna! As a fellow Newburgh homeowner, I want to thank you for showing Newburgh in such a positive light. I’ve lived here almost all of my life (minus college and a few years in the city) and I love it here. My husband and I moved back and bought a house three years ago. I love being here again. I’m glad you do, too!

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  5. Anna at D16Feb 10, 20093:10 pm

    Amy: My old blog is…old, and represented a very different time in my life. I took a couple of years off from blogging in between that blog and this one, and I just needed to let the other one go. It was mostly a bunch of whining, anyway. ;)

    Personal style icons? Hmmm. That’s one of those questions I always have trouble with, because I draw from so many sources of inspiration. Can I just say my mother and leave it at that??

    MG: We didn’t have knob & tube wiring (which, incidentally, is very safe as long as you treat it nicely), but ohhh YES, we have dealt with electrical issues! We had to upgrade the panel immediately after buying the house (we knew before we bought it that we’d have to) because there was melting ice dripping into the basement through one of the circuit breakers — exciting stuff!!! We’ve also had a lot of the wiring replaced, and new grounded outlets and switches and all sorts of other stuff done all over the house. We don’t do that stuff ourselves, though! We hired an electrician and had it all inspected.

    I don’t believe in replacing lathe & plaster unless there’s a very good reason why it can’t be repaired. As far as I’m concerned, plaster walls are one of the nicest things about old houses! There are a few areas in our house where the wall was totally GONE, though (or where the water damage was too great to save the plaster), so we have had to use a little drywall here and there. :)

    Pam: I’ll talk a little about that stuff when I answer question #1, but my best advice is to VISIT the City of Newburgh!

    annie: That is really, really nice to hear. Thank you. I love Newburgh, and I’m glad you came back here. :)

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  6. whitneyFeb 10, 20093:39 pm

    I’m looking forward to your responses Anna! I did something similiar on my blog regarding our experience with NACA after I got about a million emails asking the same thing. Good luck.

    Re: #3 – my experience is that buying a house makes you do things you never thought you could. You become a superhero. Baptism by fire, all the time.

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  7. Denise SmithFeb 10, 20093:57 pm

    Hhhhmmm curious about that old blog. I haven’t heard it mentioned, but it was before my time. And WAYYY back when I worked as a merchandiser, I vaguely remember having to go there. There must have been a mall. Other than that, I got nothing, so it will be interesting to read more.

    Could you discuss the paneling? I just got home from spending a large portion of the day trying to figure out how to get a wood wall. A retro looking wood wall, that is, that doesn’t look cheap and country.

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  8. Denise SmithFeb 10, 20093:59 pm

    by there I mean Newburgh. Sorry. Multitasking ineffectively again!

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  9. FionaFeb 10, 20094:02 pm

    I am curious about the revitalization of Newburgh and where it stands right now. I looked at the site about the architects who did Seaside, and I found that really interesting. When some friends were talking about buying upstate, I suggested Newburgh and people recoiled in fear. (I have never been there, though I have been to Beacon.) Clearly, it can’t be THAT bad everywhere if you feel safe living there, but I’m just wondering if you feel like you have seen changes happen recently.

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  10. MelBombaFeb 10, 20094:19 pm

    It’s so hard to find spare time when renovating a house, so many things to think about, I’m unsure were you would find the time to answer all the question you must get.
    So no questions from me, just wanted to say ‘love your blog’.

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  11. hollandvFeb 10, 20095:15 pm

    Anna, your blog piqued my interest in Newburgh (guess I’m not alone!) I checked out the demographic/stats on city-data.com; some comments in the forums are pretty uncomplimentary … would you say they have any merit or are the posters just sour-pusses?

    Newburgh is featured in a book I’m reading right now: A Clearing in the Distance, bio of Frederick Law Olmstead. Nice to be surrounded by layers of history.

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  12. ThessaFeb 10, 20095:30 pm

    Since you asked…

    I’m going to buy this dresser and paint it white like you did.
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3512/3231675016_0a79e74f50_b.jpg

    What I would like to know is if it is best to paint it before or after assembled. Thanks.

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  13. DewiFeb 10, 20096:08 pm

    Your blog has also inspired me to look at houses in Newburgh.

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  14. red.door.read.Feb 10, 20096:12 pm

    hi anna, i’d love to know what your dream piece of furniture is eg if you could find that perfect thing what would it be? maybe an iconic piece or something custom that suits you.

    mine is a bright red leather chesterfield…

    cheers

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  15. DewiFeb 10, 20096:12 pm

    How did you get Thelonius Monk’s advice to saxophonist Steve Lacy ?

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  16. DawnFeb 10, 20097:55 pm

    How did things work out with the two Kiehl’s eye creams you recently bought? Would you recommend either/both?

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  17. cuppyFeb 10, 20098:08 pm

    “If there’s anything else (um, within reason) you’re DYING to know, feel free to ask in the comments!”

    Yes !!! When on Earth am I going to see you again ???

    xoxoxox

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  18. LoriFeb 10, 20099:26 pm

    Ahhh… A new post! :) I needed a Door Sixteen fix! It is so much fun seeing all of your renovations and getting a glimpse into your life. We are living in an old house and have come to a stand still in fixing it up but may have to start the process again as we may have to move. It seems wrong to have to fix it and leave it but such is life. We have decided this is our last fixer upper b/c we have found out it is just not our thing. With two kiddos, a husband in school and soon to be working (hopefully!) our time is limited. But I have to say, your blog inspires me like no other to get after it and get things done! Love it, love it, love it! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

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  19. Anna at D16Feb 10, 20099:38 pm

    Fiona/holllandv: I will definitely be addressing your Newburgh questions when I answer #1, but yes, Newburgh’s reputation (particularly among people who live in neighboring cities) is far worse than its day-to-day reality.

    Denise: I’ve seen bare, wood-paneled walls that look lovely (particularly in Scandinavian homes), but ours will be painted white.

    Thessa: Definitely prime and paint it AFTER assembly! I’d worry about the pieces not fitting together perfectly otherwise.

    red.door.read: That’s a tough one! I guess I’d have to say just about anything designed by Jean Prouvé. Someday…

    Dewi: There’s a link to the source (swissmiss) under the image.

    Dawn: I like both of them, but lately I’ve only been using the Imperiale Repairateur at night. During the day, I’ve gone back to using my old standby, DermaDoctor Wrinkle Revenge. As nicely moisturizing as the avocado cream is, it just doesn’t cut it when it comes to dark circles. On really cold/windy days, though, I’ve been layering the two during the day.

    cuppy: Soon, I hope! I wish the country were foldable, believe me. xoxox

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  20. verhextFeb 10, 200910:16 pm

    how did all of us tan, tan little goblins who started school in 1980 become the pale, pale goths we were in 1990?

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  21. mayaFeb 10, 200910:40 pm

    yay! you are alive!
    i hope you got my link.
    stay worm!

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  22. MirjamFeb 11, 200912:40 am

    Hi Anna! First of all I want you to know that I think your blog is a real inspiration to me when it comes to renovating our home and that I love how you show us little glimpses of your life. I’m curious about what time you have to get up in the morning and how long you have to travel to your work. I’m curious about that, because I have to travel two hours to get to work, even in such a small country as Holland. About your blog: keep up the good work!

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  23. MaliaFeb 11, 20091:36 am

    Anna, thanks for the great pics and writing!

    These are the things I wonder about you:

    1. Favorite bands?

    2. See any good concerts lately?

    3. Do you watch much TV?

    [Reply]

  24. genevieveFeb 11, 20091:36 am

    if this isn’t too personal, i’d love to hear how/when you & evan met…

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  25. TaniaFeb 11, 20093:58 am

    Hey Anna,
    Tania here from Melbourne Australia… This is less of a question and more of a demand. Please, please, please post more of your everyday outfits… I love the way you combine your clothes. You’re just a great combiner of everything really: colours, textures, tiles, paint, fabric, chairs! I discovered your website one insomniacal night and read the WHOLE blog in one sitting.

    Thanks for bloggin!

    [Reply]

  26. MagdaFeb 11, 20095:24 am

    Awwwwww, you were so cute!

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  27. janetFeb 11, 20095:29 am

    i would NEVER call you a procrastinator! that made me laugh :)

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  28. lalaFeb 11, 20098:10 am

    I just love your blog.

    Greeting from Vienna!

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  29. debFeb 11, 20098:49 am

    Hi Anna,
    I just want to tell you how special is your blog, showing us all the restoration of your new home… It’s a nice step by step, it makes me feel excited about all the process!! i’m so impatient!! :)
    I’d just wish here in Barcelona we’d have beautiful old houses like yours in the States.

    hugs from spain!
    (my english is not perfect, sorry about that…) :)

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  30. mommyFeb 11, 200910:19 am

    I love reading the comments from all over the world. I nearly fell off my chair when I read the one from deb; Barcelona is one of the most incredible cities I have ever visited! We go to Europe just to drool over old, really old, houses. Thanks to people like Anna, the world is finding out that we have some too. And nobody appreciates them like we do.

    (Isn’t she adorable, that little Anna Banna in her pigtails?)

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  31. mayaFeb 11, 200910:44 am

    WARM, sorry…… :) i am the worm.

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  32. erin@designcrisisFeb 11, 200911:13 am

    Awwww… look how adorable you are! From now on, when I think of you doing all this work, I’m going to visualize this little munchkin, troweling grout and staining wood. Hee!

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  33. DawnFeb 11, 200911:47 am

    Thanks, Anna!

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  34. JemmaFeb 11, 20091:05 pm

    I have a totally random question that I logged on to ask you and found your post ‘Go ask Anna’! Here you are then…
    I have been watching end to end episodes of House (the med drama with Hugh Laurie) and really love the 2 chairs he has opposite him at his desk in his office. Do you or any of you out there know about them? Bent wood seat and back with metal legs and back support.
    I love them! And highly recommend the series too. Who knew Hugh Laurie was really quite sexy?!

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  35. Anna at D16Feb 11, 20092:18 pm

    verhext: Two reasons! Until we started school, we were outdoors all day long! And in the ’70s, nobody wore sunscreen on a daily basis. I was tan like this until the end of the ’80s, when I slowly faded to the color of boiled chicken.

    Mirjam: I get up at 5AM, leave the house at 7AM, and arrive at work at 9AM…

    Malia: No concerts recently, and I watch bad TV at night after work (not so much on the weekends). Lots of favorite bands…I’ll just copy my list from my another profile! MORRISSEY, The Smiths, The Chameleons, The Psychedelic Furs, And Also The Trees, The Cure, New Order, Joy Division, Dinosaur Jr, Nick Cave, The Pleased, Jimi Hendrix, Bauhaus, Death In June, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Richard Butler, Beck, Prince, David Bowie, Felt, Neil Young, Stan Getz, Coltrane, Lowlife, Interpol, Legendary Pink Dots, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Love Spit Love, Nick Drake, Nico, Rufus Wainwright, Tears For Fears, early Cocteau Twins, Elliott Smith, James, A Certain Ratio, The Durutti Column, Stereolab.

    genevieve: Evan and I met online, of course. Robot love!

    Tania: I only have three outfits!

    janet: Oh, I am a REALLY BAD procrastinator!!! Believe me…

    mommy: Yes, I am adorable!

    maya: I laughed at the worm typo, I thought it was funny. :) :)

    Jemma: I’ve never seen that show, but I just looked at some photos on the Fox website. In his office I see an Eames lounge chair and either an Eames LCM or Eames DCM (I can’t see enough to tell which it is). There’s also a table sourrounded with Emeco 1006 Navy arm chairs and side chairs. I hope that helps! :)

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  36. AliciaFeb 11, 20094:27 pm

    Regarding question #3, I don’t think one blog post is going to cover that. Anna, I think you should write a how-to book, and then you can design your own cover.

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  37. MichelleFeb 11, 20099:24 pm

    Super Cute Photo!

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  38. JemmaFeb 11, 200910:08 pm

    Looks like the DCM anna…thanks!

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  39. KateFeb 11, 200910:21 pm

    Anna ~ Closet and tiling look beautiful. You tile, cook soup AND have cute labeled spice jars in beautiful writing ?! Can I marry you in my next life? ;)
    See you soon around the neighborhood.
    PS: Don’t know how you handle such little sleep. I seem to be on a similar schedule with the little guy and it is ABSOLUTE TORTURE. Really, I’m going crazy.

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  40. red.door.read.Feb 12, 20097:58 am

    ooh you like nick cave. you just scored bonus points. ding ding ding.

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  41. AverillFeb 12, 20092:22 pm

    I’d definitely like to know how and why you got into blogging and how you developed your blog into what it is today — I’m just starting out in the blog world and would love your perspective.

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  42. ShashiFeb 12, 20093:32 pm

    lol, I loved reading all these. It’s much more fun to come here than update my own blog these days. :D

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  43. emmaFeb 12, 20097:11 pm

    oooh yay, i’m so excited to hear about #2. I already commented with a question about book designing on your Flickr (and you kindly answered) so it will be nice to hear more about the industry. As a illustrator who wants to go freelance only one day, I definitely have high hopes of illustrating a book cover.

    [Reply]

  44. unhaFeb 13, 20091:39 pm

    love your writing! and you totally inspire me to work on the house! i think my real big project will be our front garden!

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  45. AmandaFeb 13, 20093:10 pm

    Anna — LOVE YOUR BLOG! I saw a dog pillow w/a linen cover you made for your boys recently. I have a golden retriever (slightly larger than your babies!) and wanted to make her a similar pillow bed. Do you know of any resources that sell large downy pillows for cheap? Also what weight of linen did you use? Thanks so much!

    Amanda

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  46. puckFeb 13, 20093:53 pm

    Hi Anna! I love your blog because I am a historic preservationist and I am doing very similar projects in my 1906 home. :)

    My question is – do you have pictures anywhere on your blog of your living room, bedroom or kitchen? So far I am only finding bathrooms and the white floor room. I’d love to see the rest of your home!

    I would ask about the book cover designing, but it sounds like you will be answering those later. :)

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  47. puckFeb 13, 20094:12 pm

    Scratch that… I found your house tour on AT.

    My new question is… was your woodwork already painted or did you paint it? (I am guessing it was already painted).

    I ask because I got into it with a couple people that kept harping on me to paint my woodwork. I argued that although I do like the look of white trim better, my woodwork is 100+ years old, and since the house is Queen Anne, it never would have had painted woodwork.

    Some of the rooms that already have been painted, I am leaving white for now, since stripping them is a big job. But the stained ones, will stay stained. Unless someone can give me a good excuse to tell my hubby. ;)

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  48. Northern Westchester HomeFeb 14, 200910:25 am

    I recently found the blog and am really enjoying it. My own blog covers life and living in the more southern part of the Hudson Valley, but it is cool to see people saving and fixing old homes farther north too!

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  49. my vintage homeFeb 15, 20098:58 am

    Your blog is so nice!!!

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  50. OC to Brooklyn and Back AgainFeb 16, 20091:06 am

    I have been considering Newburgh for a few years now, having grown up in Orange County, NY and now living in Brooklyn (for 7 years). I have watched trends in several Brooklyn neighborhoods and I see it all happening in Newburgh right now. I think it would be super cool to be a young person involved in that process instead of just watching it happen. Your blog has bolstered my ambitions to buy and fix up an old home and I have 2 questions for you: Do you think Benkard (and Liberty) is too dangerous of a block? And — I know that there are a few new shops opening on Liberty- but do you think that a craft beer bar would be able to survive in the city as it is right now or not for a few years? Thanks Anna!

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  51. ElisabethFeb 16, 20093:17 pm
  52. Kim de MontrealFeb 16, 20098:35 pm

    Hi Anna,
    Just a little note to thank you for what you share on your blog. I feel like you have brought art and design back into my life. And I love my house so much more now since you’ve inspired me, it’s become my new toy. I’m actually going to start a blog with my sister about our homes just for fun.
    Here’s my question? Where do you find the time to do all of this??????
    xo

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  53. PatriceFeb 17, 200912:20 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your home in your blog! My husband and I are remodelling and old home (on the other side of the country) and I love getting inspiration from your projects. It’s also nice to know someone is obsessing over things like tiles and hardware as much as I am. Please keep it up!

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  54. MagdaFeb 17, 20095:59 am

    Hang on… if you only have three outfits, how do you get six loads of washing?!? ;-)

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  55. Anna at D16Feb 17, 20094:23 pm

    Averill: I don’t remember! It seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess. I started my first “real” (public, with comments) blog in 2002, back when blogging still kind of seemed like a novel thing to do. I’ve never done anything to promote my blog (then or now), and I’ve never really put any conscious effort into making it more successful. My best advice is to keep going regardless of whether you’re getting comments, and to consistently generate new, original content. Use your voice, proofread, and be nice. :)

    Amanda: The pillow inside of the dog bed cost about $75 at BB&B. Yikes! I had actually bought it for myself, but didn’t like it — sooooo…dog bed! I made the cover out of inexpensive, medium-weight unbleached linen from IKEA. (They have great pillows, too!)

    puck: Oh sure, there are (exhaustive) pictures of my WHOLE house on the blog! Just look a the pages and pages of them in the “house” category. Also, I did a house tour for Apartment Therapy last year. The photo are a little outdated, but you get the idea. :)

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  56. Anna at D16Feb 17, 20094:47 pm

    Whoops, I got cut off…

    puck: Yes, the woodwork was already painted. I scraped what was peeling/loose/flaking, patched, caulked, and did a really good painting job. I am not a huge fan of unpainted woodwork in homes of this era (it’s just not my style), and most likely would have painted the trim even if it were bare. You should do what YOU want to do in your house, and don’t worry about what others say! Your home isn’t a museum or a showpiece, it’s there to keep you protected and safe. (p.s. If you want to show your husband the possibilities of painted trim in a traditional home, just buy a copy of Martha Stewart Living!!!)

    OC to Brooklyn and Back Again: Benkard has a rough reputation, but I’ve learned not to go by reputation alone when it comes to Newburgh–otherwise I wouldn’t live there! :) You’ve got to decide for yourself, really. There are a lot of vacant houses in that area, and if enough people take a chance and go for it, it will become a very nice part of the community. As for a craft beer bar, I have no doubt one could survive on Liberty with the right management and hours of operation. I recommend you come up here and talk to the on-site business owners on Liberty who are making it work (Caffe Macchiato, Moo & Oink, etc.) and see what they think. I’m sure they’d be happy to talk to you about it!

    Elisabeth: Wow, that is amazing!!! I love it!

    Kim de Montreal: That makes me happy, thank you. :) (And I don’t have time, which is why I’m always tired and sad.)

    Magda: It’s all my husband’s tee-shirts!! And painting clothes…and dog blankets…and towels…

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  57. YolandeFeb 18, 200910:17 pm

    Hi Anna,

    I have been trying to find the perfect wallpaper and the closest I have gotten is the Blossom wallpaper from Orla Kiely that you have in the vestibule, but since it is no longer available at Anthro, I have to order it online at OK and they don’t offer samples. In your picture, the colour of the stem looks almost grey, but at orlakiely.com, they look brown. Are the colours of the petal more brown or grey? If my walls are a grey white colour and most of the accessories are grey/black, will it clash against this wallpaper?

    Thanks!
    Yolande.

    [Reply]

  58. Anna at D16Feb 18, 200910:52 pm

    Yolande: The petals are 3 shades of teal, and the stem/leaves are brown. I think it really depends on the particular gray of your walls whether the paper will work in context. Keep in mind that this wallpaper is very warm-toned, and probably looks best with soft whites and woods.

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  59. Mary-EllenFeb 19, 20099:11 am

    I would love to know your skincare routine, what brand products you use as well as what makeup do you use on a daily basis. Thanks.

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  60. YolandeFeb 19, 200910:24 am

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for the answer… I am so torn weather to use it or not… finding wallpaper is harder than I thought.
    I had the brilliant idea of calling Orla Kiely Online support and they will send out a sample to me free of charge! Awesome!

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  61. CharissaMar 3, 20097:43 pm

    I’m a little confused. Will you be answering all of the questions in this post or on your actual blog? I’m interested in hearing about your job and how one becomes a book cover designer.

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  62. Anna at D16Mar 3, 20098:07 pm

    Charissa, I will post answers to these questions as entries in my blog. They are likely to be quite lengthy, and unfortunately I still have not had the time available to answer them coherently.

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  63. Liberty StreetMar 6, 20099:50 am

    I love that picture of you. It is so cute! For unwinsome photos, though, I suggest:
    http://www.sexypeople-blog.com/
    Don’t worry – there’s nothing sexy.

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  64. MartinaApr 5, 20095:20 pm

    Hi Anna – checking in from Dublin, Ireland…I discovered your blog about a month ago and really LOVE it :) You are a real inspiration..I am a little older than you and have gone through the renovation thing in my current home…I love my home but will always be tweaking/changing/updating! My question relates to something you mention just once …you said you lost 60lbs in one year!! I am totally lost right now in a battle to lose 45lbs…I had lost 30lb but put it all back on in a matter of months before Christmas (was feeling blue and down and unfortunately I am not one of those people who stop eating when stressed..I inhale it instead!!)…I am flapping around at the moment and cannot seem to focus…I find you and your blog inspiring…I wonder if you could give some hints and help inspire me with some of your weightloss tips? Sorry for such a boring request :)

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  65. carlaJun 16, 20093:37 am

    congratulations on your blog, its very interesting and helpful! i need some advice please!!!! i just moved, and bought some things for my apartment including my matress, but i couldnt find a bed that was cheap and nice enough, so could you please give me an idea of how to make one, or something clever to stop sleeping on the floor??!

    :) thankyou!

    [Reply]

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