Over the hills and far away: A bikepacking adventure in Kyrgyzstan – Dirt Rag (blog)

By Peth Puliti 

It’s too early to be awake, but I’m too cold to sleep. I attempt the fetal position in the tight quarters of my sleeping bag, but wince in pain when my weight shifts to my hip bone. Last night was the second spent camped out in the shell of an outbuilding on the grounds of an abandoned Soviet-era factory. As the hours have turned into days waiting for cold, wet weather to pass, the rock-hard foundation has taken its toll on my tired bones. Not even my swanky NeoAir can cloak two nights on concrete.

I’m here with my husband, Justin — here being Kyrgyzstan, a tiny landlocked country in Central Asia whose name, if I’m being honest, I didn’t know how to pronounce correctly when I first arrived. Kur-guh-STAHN, if you’re curious, is how the locals say it. We arrived in the capital of Bishkek a week ago with enough supplies to keep us alive on a several-month high-altitude bike tour. The rub was that everything also had to fit onto our bikes. So we’re not carrying a lot of stuff. But not because we couldn’t fit it all. Surprisingly, not much is needed to be completely self-sufficient on a bicycle. For example, inside our bikepacking bags are our sleeping kits, a small pile of warm clothes, some toiletries, medicine to treat bacterial and stomach issues, spare bike parts, a few electronics that allow us to work part-time from the road, and not much else.

Though we’ve been touring internationally by bicycle for the past eight months, this marks the first time we’ve turned off the pavé. Consequently, we’re on a different form of transportation than in those early months of travel. Our mountain bikes have made the trip from home for this leg of our adventure: a baby-blue 1×10 converted Haro Mary SS and my not-quite-10- year-old Giant Anthem Advanced. We saw no reason to buy something new if what we have can do the job. Perhaps they’re not the best suited, but they’re beloved members of our “family.”


During our first week in Kyrgyzstan, unseasonably cold weather coupled with an unpredicted snowstorm kept us sleeping on the floor of a Warmshowers house in Bishkek longer than anticipated. Nuzzling cats made their way into our sleeping bags each night, so it was all good. But as soon as the sun broke free from the clouds, it was time to make a break for it ourselves. No sooner did we start pedaling out of the city than it started to cloud over again. But it didn’t matter, because what we discovered trumped any unpleasant weather headed our way.

Greeting us a short distance outside of the contemporary capital was a tangle of red dirt roads that cut through lush, emerald valleys, paralleled thundering rivers of glacial melt and climbed up to snow-capped peaks. More than once, we came up quickly on wild horses and parted the sea of chestnut animals with our own two wheels. Children ran beside and high-fived us as if we were celebrities. Shepherds waved us toward their flocks to shake hands and share a shot of homemade vodka or a glass of kumis, Kyrgyzstan’s nationally adored drink of fermented mare’s milk. We wild camped anywhere, because everywhere was the most beautiful piece of earth we’d ever laid eyes on.

After a week of pedaling straight from the pages of a bikepacking storybook, we find ourselves now hibernating from the frigid rain inside the not quite four walls of an inoperative industrial plant. But not for long. A gaping hole in the wall where a door should be reveals that the rain has let up overnight, leaving a thick curtain of vapor in its place. Great news, because we’re running low on pretty much everything and need to move on from this cinderblock sanctuary.

Yesterday, when I looked out of the same opening, I saw an older gentleman approaching and was sure we were seconds from being asked to leave our temporary shelter. Imagine our surprise when, through a game of Charades, we discovered that he was a fellow squatter. We had a confusing conversation in Kyrgyz, Russian (an official language of the former Soviet republic) and mime about our velosiped, how many kilometers we’d ridden and what countries we’d traveled to thus far. When we gestured that we were low on liquid, our neighbor left us on foot only to return several hours later struggling to carry several gallons of water to top off our every bottle and bladder.

Now, as we move to pack our bags and head back into the hills, his familiar face resurfaces outside our rustic quarters, this time with a stray dog in tow. I gesture for the two of them to come “inside” so that I can repay his kindness with the food we have left. When I ask if it’s OK to give his four-legged friend some of our biscuits, the man politely refuses, gesturing that when he makes his own meal, he puts aside some for the dog. For the second time, I’m overwhelmed by his generosity.

I thank him for refilling our water by handing over a bag filled with two hard-boiled eggs, a small orange and a handful of candies. “Spasibo,” I tell him repeatedly as he departs, grateful to have learned this invaluable word early on.


A fierce headwind greets us as soon as we point our bikes toward the Tian Shan mountains, which are estimated to cover more than 80 percent of Kyrgyzstan. Two days of rain on top of the thawing that accompanies spring weather has made the dirt paths we’re traveling nearly impassable. Gobs of thick, peanut butter mud slow us down until we’re pedaling in place. We’re unable to even push our loaded rigs without seeking out a small patch of grass, spot of dry earth or piece of litter to gain traction. The cold was bad, the wind awful, but it’s the immobilizing sludge that brings me to ultimate frustration.

Our bike shoes aren’t cutting it in these temperatures and conditions and so we decide to purchase a pair of Russian galoshes with insulated liners from the local bazaar for a few hundred Kyrgyzstani som. They are immediately put to use pedaling and pushing up snow-covered mountain passes, coasting down icy-cold descents and slogging across water-logged meadows. My attitude improves immensely with the addition to my wardrobe. It’s incredible the power that warmth holds.

We’re halfway up a dirt mountain path that will lead us closer to the Pamir Highway (our ultimate destination) when a man wearing a fur ushanka whistles and beckons us closer. We look at each other and momentarily consider ignoring the gesture, as it’s a bit too cold to stop for long and he’s on the other side of an overflowing stream. Another whistle and it’s decided. We set down our bikes, pull on our galoshes and trudge through the arctic water.

“Sneg,” he says, which means “snow” in Russian.

“Snow is OK. We are riding bikes with big tires,” Justin says, pointing to the snow on the sides of the road and to our bikes. The man shakes his head and holds his arm waist-high to demonstrate just how much sneg we’re talking about farther up.

We point to the road and try to ask through gestures if we’d be able to make it over the pass. Our inquiry is met with a firm “Net.”

“What do you want to do?” Justin asks me, as if there is any other choice but to turn around. Before I can get a word out, the man interjects and asks if we’d like chay. Warm tea is the only thing that sounds appealing at the moment and so we accept.

Following chickens up a set of homemade steps, we enter a small retired railway-car-turned-home. Inside, we’re given tiny stools to sit on while the homeowner fetches dried dung to start a fire. In a few minutes’ time, water boils on top of the wood stove, we’re poured small bowls of tea, and food — pulled from I don’t know where — is spread out on a miniature short-legged table. Bottomless warm tea thaws my extremities and we fill our stomachs with biscuits, bread, butter, hard- cooked eggs and sweets. In place of conversation, songs — one of which is in English, which delights our companion — play through a dusty black box in the background.

When Justin and I make our way to leave, our host scoops up all of the extra candy that’s left on the table and piles it into our hands. There’s no pantry stocked with bulk foods or freezer filled with meals prepped for the week. We are likely given the only remaining food this man has to eat. But he won’t take net for an answer. My body is heavy with emotion as we walk out of the railcar and into the cold. I want to tell him that this experience is one of the most generous things anyone has ever done for me, but spasibo is literally all I can say. So, I do. Over and over.


We point our bikes in the opposite direction when we leave, as we’ll need to figure out a different route toward the second-highest international highway in the world now. Over the next week, countless miles of corrugated dirt roads rattle our bodies sore. Frozen, high-altitude mountain passes slow our pedaling to a stupid pace and leave us gasping for oxygen. A seemingly permanent headwind greets us each morning. On the days gravity is our friend, we cruise down to grassy valleys and grazing animals, soaking in every minute of the warmer temperatures, knowing full well that it’s only a short period of time until our tires point upward again.

This exceptionally rugged topography physically isolates the ex-Soviet state; as a result, its ancient culture has been protected. Where we saw city-dwelling Kyrgyz dressed in modern clothing, living in apartments and driving cars or using public shuttle buses, villagers wear clothes made from thick wool (at times sporting national dress), live in mud-brick homes or yurts higher up the mountains and frequently use horses for transportation. We also can’t pass a single adult without being invited back to his home for chay. It’s incredible.

In the lowlands, we fill our water in streams and well pumps alongside Kyrgyz who find our presence at their local water source bemusing. When we roll up to a village, in need of water, we never know where we’ll be sourcing it. In rural Kyrgyzstan, the same number of people obtain water from ditches, rivers, canals and springs as they do street standpipes. When we arrive in a village today to refill, people point us to the center of town, where a small stream runs down from the nearby mountain. We sterilize our water with a SteriPEN, which draws a crowd of mostly children who smile and point to the glowing UV light. As we are about to pedal away, a little girl with shoulder-length earrings and spiky pigtails gifts me a tiny bottle of green sparkle nail polish. I thank her with a bouquet of wildflowers, the first of the season, gifted to me earlier in the day by a young shepherd.

We continue pedaling over the most incredible, and incredibly exhausting, landscape I’ve experienced in my lifetime, stopping more than we ever have to eat, drink or simply collapse on top of the earth. When the ability to go farther is unbearable, we retire for the night sometimes right where we are. Kyrgyzstan is a wild-camping dream like that. Occasionally we’re too tired or hungry to cook, so we eat fish from a can and circles of tandoor-baked nan as big as our heads. The times we fi nd the energy to light the stove and the patience to wait for a meal, we boil lentils, pasta or potatoes. Tiny markets, hardly recognizable and sometimes inside homes, seem to offer only two staples: vodka and cookies. We’re lucky we have what we do. Accompanying many of our meals is Calvados, an amber-colored Kyrgyz spirit that claims it’s made from apples, but tastes like burning alcohol. When you make camp at four in the afternoon, it helps you fall asleep a few hours later.

Tonight, as we’re camping in a dried-up riverbed, I hear something outside. Hooves. They slow when our tent comes into sight and then ultimately stop just beside us. We’re not carrying protection of any kind because we’ve never felt threatened anywhere we’ve traveled. Including right now. I assume it’s the landowner outside about to ask us to leave the property (though that’s never happened to us before).

When we venture out to investigate, I see a young man on horseback. He’s intrigued by our bikes and tent, but unconcerned with our presence. Through gestures, we learn that he is 18 years old and on his way home by horseback — 10 kilometers following the riverbed. We attempt to share with him the names of a few other countries we’ve biked in and that we are in love with the beauty and beautiful people of Kyrgyzstan. When we offer him some Calvados and chocolate, he accepts only the sweet, thanking us. I ask if he wouldn’t mind taking a photo with us and he smiles when I show him the LCD screen. When he leaves, only the light of the stars and his tiny Nokia flip phone guides his way.


We pedal for days on dirt roads whose very tallest points are just now feeling spring temperatures. Thick, thawing mud greets us at the tops of passes, and we are forced to push our way up and over while the couple vehicles that attempt the same path spin and retreat. As we make our way south and pass through a stretch of desert-like vegetation, red clay and rock pinnacles, I’m hit with a pang of nostalgia for the American Southwest.

At long last, when we reach the remote town of Kazarman, only one 14,000-foot mountain pass separates our hard-earned travels from semi-smooth sailing to the start of the Pamir Highway. We inquire at the local police station and are told the road won’t open to cars for six more weeks, which means it’s likely impassable by any means of transportation. It’s a devastating blow, and our visa date has been set to enter Tajikistan in one week. We do the only thing that makes sense: a day-long taxi ride to Bishkek (our only option) and then another one to Osh, where we’ll rejoin our planned route and resume pedaling.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to score a fair taxi ride in Kyrgyzstan. The country is corrupt, our skin is white and bargaining is expected. At the bazaar in Bishkek, we pedal through the shipping- container-turned-storefronts to a parking lot full of aged cars and vans. We’re followed from car to car by men who bark cities, various outrageous prices and the word “taxi” over and over in our faces. Finally, we find a car that will drive to Osh. It’s smaller than we’d like, but the driver promises us we will be the only passengers, a rare occurrence in these parts. Our bags will fit inside, but our bikes will have to be tied to the roof. It’s not ideal. So, we keep searching.

In the next parking lot, old Sprinter vans are lined up waiting for cargo. We find one that’s headed our way and has room for passengers. The driver proudly slides open the door, revealing makeshift bunk beds behind the front row. He gestures that three people have already claimed the top bunk. The condition of the roads will make it impossible to sleep, and so I request to sit next to him in the front instead. He agrees. Fourteen hours later with one stop a few hours in for gas, and one stop at midnight for food, we find ourselves in Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city and at the start of the Pamir Highway.


Much like the rest of our experience, southern Kyrgyzstan proves beautiful and difficult. We turn the pedals for roughly 125 miles before finding ourselves on a snow- and wind-filled steep descent into Sary-Tash, a resupply point and a crossroads between China, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. When we arrive into the center of the small community, a woman working at a gas station waves us over and offers her house for us to stay in. We follow her down an alley off of the main road to a small home with a long hallway. For 500 som (about $8), we’re offered a room, where brightly colored rugs hang on the walls, three home-cooked meals a day, bottomless chay, a bed of tushuks at night and buckets of water to bathe in the banya. We take it.

Not even an hour into our stay, our door is slowly opened and a small smile peeks inside. We motion for the young boy to enter and he wobbles in followed by two older sisters. Our accommodation may lack heat and running water, but it makes up for it with the warm company of our host’s lovable children. The afternoon is filled with hair braiding, traditional dancing and dodgeball in the hallway. We go to bed at night stomachs bursting, faces wind-burned, lips chapped, fingers still numb and so incredibly thankful to have met this family.

The next morning, a cow blocks my path to the outhouse. As I wait shivering in the falling snow, I ponder whether we should move on. We’ll reach the border of Tajikistan in one day. It’s May 1, the day our visa starts, but riding our bikes in these conditions is less than appealing. We decide to stay put.

That day, we show photos and videos of Kyrgyzstan to the children, who eventually spot folders of photos from America. They’re captivated by our friends’ kids and love learning their names. While I teach 7-year- old Arunga how to use a mouse, 2-year-old Ak-bee sits content in Justin’s lap, helping to consume the spread of food, especially the chocolate, that is set out on a small, shin-high table before us. In addition to entertaining us, they are responsible for serving us meals, showing us how to retrieve water from the river for the house and making our bed at night. Arunga also desperately attempts to teach us the Cyrillic alphabet using her storybooks.

In total, five children are being raised in this home, and, as far as we can see, a single ball is their only toy. On our last night, we gift them three balloons that we find in their local market. You would have thought we bought them the world. Without warning, the reserved, wise-beyond-their-years kids transform before our eyes into genuine children who climb the walls, laugh out loud and jump into our arms.

While the impressive landscape in Kyrgyzstan has earned it the nickname “The Switzerland of Central Asia,” it’s the country’s citizens who are truly unforgettable. The Kyrgyz people don’t have a lot, but they give you everything they have. We left the country many months ago, but I doubt it will ever leave us.

Our Gear-Carrying Setup

· Ortlieb Ultimate 6M Pro E handlebar bags
· Revelate Designs Ranger frame bag, two Sweetroll handlebar bags and two Viscacha seat bags (for clothes, tent, sleeping kit, spare parts, etc.)
· Revelate Designs Mountain feedbags (for water bottles) and Gas Tank top-tube bags (for snacks)
· Old Man Mountain rack
· Ortlieb Sport-Packer panniers (for electronics, cook set, etc.)
· Osprey Escapist Mira pack
· Wingnut pack
*Our carrying system these days has since ditched the rack and panniers.

Our Gear

· MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent
· Therm-a-Rest NeoAir sleeping pads
· Nearly 10-year-old 30-degree Sierra Designs down bag (Beth) and Mountain Hardwear Phantom 45 sleeping bag (Justin)
· Cocoon silk mummy liners
· MSR WhisperLite Universal stove and cook set
· SteriPEN Ultra
· Montbell down pants
· Ibex and Icebreaker base layers
· Pearl Izumi and Sugoi bike shorts
· Patagonia long underwear
· Showers Pass and Mammut rain jackets
· Outdoor Research and Kilimanjaro down jackets
· First-aid kit
· Spare bike parts and gear-repair kit
· One compact laptop and one tablet for work purposes
· One smartphone, which we used to navigate using the MAPS.ME app
· Rubber gloves, handmade wool socks and Russian galoshes from the local bazaar
*Our sleeping kit has since shed some weight and now consists of a Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum tent and an Enlightened Equipment Accomplice two-person quilt.

If you go:

What: Don’t expect to find nice hotels anywhere outside of the big cities. Guesthouses are fairly common, but more often than not, there will be no accommodations at all. If you dream of wild camping, you can do so for weeks on end. If you dream of running water and showers, this may not be the place for you.

When: High-altitude landscape and climate make timing crucial. Summertime is the best time to visit Kyrgyzstan. Mountain passes will be impassable in winter, and may also be obstructed in the spring and fall due to snow. That doesn’t mean summer is without its challenges. Wind/sandstorms, land/mudslides and unpredictable weather are all par for the course any time of the year.

Why: Visa on arrival. Mountains. Yurts. Wild horses. Hospitality.

How: Option #1: Fly into Manas International Airport in the capital city of Bishkek with your bike checked in a bike box. Either cab it from there to a hotel or build your bike up at the airport, like we did. Note that building a bike up outside of the airport will also build up a large crowd of inquiring men who desperately want to know how much your bicycle costs. Your options are to say how much it really costs, lie to them or tell them it’s not for sale.
Option #2: Fly into Manas International Airport and rent or buy a bike when you get there. Gergert Sport on Gorky Street is one of the better bike shops in the city.

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Over the Moon: Enough already with evil bunnies – NWAOnline

Dear Otus,

When I was 3 years old in 1999, my favorite book was Goodnight Moon. But then my mother suddenly refused to read it to me anymore. She recently told me it was because of something you wrote back then.

I now have my own 2-year-old daughter and I’d like to read it to her, but not if there’s something wrong with it. Can you fill me in?

— Blanche Oelrichs,


Dear Blanche.

It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you and a further pleasure to enlighten and admonish a new generation of young parents who seem to be ignoring the exhortatory clarion that continues to grow louder as the years pass.

Goodnight Moon, the so-called “beloved” children’s book that has been a bedtime staple since it was first published in 1947, was written by Margaret Wise Brown. She was also the subversive author of other dangerously anthropomorphic books, including the duplicitous Little Fur Family.

Anthropomorphism is dangerous in any form, but especially with furry critters that can bite.

Clement Hurd drew the disturbing illustrations for Goodnight Moon, a bunny’s bedtime ritual of saying “good night” to various inanimate and living objects in his bedroom.

Inexplicably, the book — a mere 30 pages and 130 words — still sells about 800,000 copies annually, for a cumulative total estimated at 48 million copies. It has been translated into 12 languages ranging from Hebrew to Hmong.

For 70 years misguided parents have been unknowingly sowing the seeds of chronic hypersomnia, parasomnia and leporiphobia into their children. Owner’s parents read the newly published book to him in 1949. Owner read it to Master Ben 37 years later. Hillary read it to Chelsea. Ivanka even read it to little Arabella, Joseph and baby Teddy.

Consider the book’s damaging subliminal messages: “In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon. And there were three little bears sitting on chairs.”

The illustrations also show a painting on the far wall of a mother rabbit in waders fly fishing in a stream for a young rabbit pretending to be a trout. A carrot is being used for bait. Besides being a psychologically disturbing image, this is actually a scene from Brown’s 1942 children’s book, The Runaway Bunny.

Through the window can be seen the rising full moon and exactly 52 stars which, by the way, shift location from illustration to illustration. Parents should also note that a fire burns robustly in the fireplace without the benefit of a firescreen. It is an open invitation to disaster and the creation of juvenile pyrophobiacs.

The aforementioned red helium balloon floats directly above the bed (an obvious choking hazard), beside which is a politically incorrect tiger skin rug. The text then reveals: “And two little kittens and a pair of mittens, and a little toy house and a young mouse …”

Consider this: The great green room contains not only a roaring fire, but a rodent and two complicit felines. Notice the incongruity of that? Perhaps the varmint was drawn to the open bowl of mush left on the table.

Most enigmatic is the sudden appearance of “a quiet old lady [an unidentified older rabbit] who was whispering, ‘hush.'”

“Goodnight room,” the young rabbit intones as he begins his nightly ritual. “Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light and the red balloon. Goodnight bears. Goodnight chairs.”

According to the two clocks in the illustrations, it took 10 long minutes for the rabbit to bid goodnight to those seven items. That’s 1.43 minutes per item.

As the list continues, the mush, old lady, stars and even the air are mentioned. Then the bunny says, “Goodnight nobody.” The illustration is a blank page. What sort of freakish, idiosyncratic dementia is that? Then comes the final goodnight: “Goodnight noises everywhere.”

By the clocks, it has taken a stunning hour and 20 minutes for this young rabbit to go through this process.

One final mystery. What happened to the balloon? It vanishes sometime between 7:30 and 7:40.

Until next time, Kalaka reminds you to consider a Goodnight Moon connection when you hear of someone suffering from narcolepsy, sleep apnea, bruxism, enuresis or even fibromyalgia.


Fayetteville-born Otus the Head Cat’s award-winning column of

humorous fabrication

appears every Saturday. E-mail:


Disclaimer: Fayetteville-born Otus the Head Cat’s award-winning column of 👉 humorous fabrication 👈 appears every Saturday. Email: mstorey@arkansasonline.com

HomeStyle on 09/30/2017

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What Writers Can Learn From Goodnight Moon – The Atlantic

By Heart is a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature. See entries from Colum McCann, George Saunders, Emma Donoghue, Michael Chabon, and more.

Doug McLean

Celeste Ng’s books feature the hallmarks of classic mystery novels—a crime to be solved, a roster of suspects, chilling details that aren’t quite what they seem. Her bestselling debut, Everything I Never Told You, fixates on the strange circumstances surrounding a young woman’s death by drowning; a devastating act of suspected arson rages at the center of her new novel, Little Fires Everywhere. But while standard whodunits build momentum through intricately plotted twists and turns, Ng’s interest lies in the private emotional lives of people. Her novels may be page-turners that push toward a final revelation, but the suspense stems less from the who and the how than the why.

Ng’s interest in that persistent question—why?—helps to explain her attraction to the children’s classic Goodnight Moon. In a conversation for this series, she discussed how the subtle, mysterious illustrations have more in common with Christie and Conan Doyle than you might think, asking the careful reader to provide solutions to a series of confounding puzzles. Ultimately, the book’s structure helps illuminate Ng’s own creative process, the way she uses a central narrative enigma—a drowning, a fire—as an opportunity to uncover her characters’ hidden desires and secret histories.

In Little Fires Everywhere, the unwelcome presence of an itinerant artist and her daughter roils the staid community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, inflaming racial, cultural, and economic tensions that result in a suspicious fire. Ng received an MFA in writing from the University of Michigan; Everything I Never Told You won the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and the American Library Association’s Alex Award. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and spoke to me by phone.

Celeste Ng: For the first three years of his life, my son insisted on hearing Goodnight Moon before bedtime. Like most babies, he was not a good sleeper by disposition—but reading seemed to help, and this book specifically became part of his whole wind-down ritual. By now, I have read Goodnight Moon literally over a thousand times. As I read it again and again, I started to wonder: Why is this the book everybody feels a child must have? Why is this the book you’re sent by all your relatives and friends, people who must know you already have a copy—but want to give you another one, just in case?

It’s a very odd book, after all. There is no real story. The story is: The rabbit goes to bed. That’s it. The text is just a list of items, and the artwork has no action in it. And yet, it really does capture something for us. Something more powerful than just pure nostalgia could explain.

If you imagine this book without the words that accompany the pictures, it would be a mystifying work—even a little bit terrifying. It’s creepy that there’s a tiger-skin rug. It’s creepy that there are these yellow and green–striped curtains on the wall. It’s all very surreal, when you think about it. And the more you look at the pictures, the stranger they get. There’s a copy of Goodnight Moon lying on the dresser, for instance, this weird metafictional reference to the very thing we’re reading. There are other allusions to different books by Margaret Wise Brown, too. The picture of a rabbit fishing with a carrot for a baby rabbit comes out of another of her books, The Runaway Bunny—which is itself on the bookshelf pictured here.

Then there’s the portrait that hangs over the bed: three little bears sitting on chairs, with a picture of a cow jumping over the moon in the background. Oddly, the little rabbit has a larger version of the same cow picture in his room. So many of the details have this subtle, almost unnerving strangeness. This is a baby rabbit, so why is there a black office telephone beside his bed? Why is a red balloon floating around? And why is the whispering old lady’s relationship to the child left so deliberately ambiguous?

As my son got older, he wanted to try and explain how the items in the room had gotten there. “Oh,” he’d say, “the balloon is there because maybe this rabbit was just at a birthday party earlier today.” That’s such a natural instinct—our minds are always trying to impose some kind of meaning. We instinctively resist the idea that these are just random objects, a bunch of stuff just lying around a room. Whether it’s a child or adult reader, the impulse is to invent stories that explain how the things in the room connect. We can’t help trying to answer the question why—which, for me, is the fundamental question of fiction.

When I was teaching, many of my students were beginning writers who were nervous about starting a story. To get them going, we’d play a kind of word-association game. I’d ask them to list two people, a location, two objects, an adjective, and an abstraction. I’d write everything on the board, then give them five minutes to try to work everything into the beginning of a story.

Somehow, they’d all be able to dive in right away, and everyone always brought out totally different material from the same details. I think Goodnight Moon works in a similar way: It presents you with a range of ambiguous details, asking you to make connections and supply cause and effect. After all, it’s not one of those baby ABC books that simply lists a bunch of isolated images. Instead, it reveals objects around the room in grouped little sequences—close-ups of the brush, the bowl of mush—before returning us to the larger room again, zooming back out so we can see each item in context. It keeps insisting on that whole, in a way, asking us to integrate the snapshots into some kind of narrative.

In this way, the book teaches you that you have to look twice. You’re shown a page with just the mouse on it, for instance, and then you begin to notice the way the mouse moves freely throughout the room. From there, you start to notice other changes that occur as the story unfolds—the hands are moving on the clock, the moon changes positions in the sky. That motion is part of what makes the illustrations so affecting. I loved math and science growing up, and it reminds me of what we did in calculus: When you take a derivative, you’re looking at the change between two points. That’s what makes a story, too—our sense of the way something changes over time.

In my own work, when I start off writing a scene, I don’t know which physical details are going to turn out to be meaningful. But, inevitably, certain images will stand out—you start to decide which ones are important as you go. When I’ve put an image in and it seems to be working, that’s always a sign to me that I should go back and ask myself what it is about that image that grabbed me, and whether I can dig deeper into that, make it mean something more. In my first book, Everything I Never Told You, I noticed that eggs kept coming up. So I asked myself: Can I use those eggs again somewhere else? I started to think about the way eggs are fragile, but are also very nutritious, all these sorts of things. The appearance of eggs led to a larger thematic exploration, not the other way around. For me, images are where I start digging around to find the meaning.

One of the most fun things for me, as a writer, is when readers ask questions like: “Oh, I noticed that you have a lot of water and baptism imagery in your book. Did you do that on purpose?” Usually, the answer is that I didn’t do it on purpose at the beginning—but then once I realized I was doing it, I tried to use that to make an artistic point. I don’t really buy into Freudian psychology, but this is one example where I almost do. You feel like there are these connections your brain is making that you’re not aware of until you see it happen on the page.

I once heard Michael Byers—one of the professors at the University of Michigan, where I did my MFA—say that at a certain point, the book starts to be a collaborator with you. It’s almost like it starts to tell you how to write itself. I love the idea that, at a certain point, the book starts coming into tune, begins to resonate with itself. Part of what you do is you kind of listen for the note you’re hitting, as you try and find ways to bring the whole thing into resonance.

Everything I Never Told You was a book that really grew out of one image: I knew at the beginning that the main character, Lydia, was going to drown in this lake. Part of my job was to find out how she ended up there, like tracing a ball of yarn backwards. I made progress by trying to establish cause and effect: Lydia had these problems with her mother. But why? Well, her mother was always pressuring her. But why was her mother always pressuring her? Well, because she didn’t get to do these things when she was young. That makes the writing process sound very orderly, but it was actually an extremely messy and un-orderly process; I was very inefficient about it. I ended up moving past Lydia’s relationship with her siblings and parents into her parents’ relationship with each other, and their relationship with their own parents. I ended up writing histories of the parents’ lives, the stories of their childhoods, whole chapters that are no longer in the book. That was how I figured out the underlying dynamics at play between the characters, but ultimately the reader didn’t need to see all that material. In fact, the book is better off without those details spelled out so explicitly.

One of the things I like so much about Goodnight Moon is the way it leaves room for ambiguity. I wonder if one of the reasons that this book remained so popular, is that it exists in a kind of sweet spot: It gives you enough guidance to feel secure so that you’re not totally adrift. And yet, it also leaves enough space for you to make connections, to start to fill things in for yourself. It doesn’t try to give you a specific story. There’s no explanation of where the balloon came from, or why the phone is there. It provides a space to let your mind organize the details as it will.

I used to do my best writing really late at night. Where I was a little sleepy, and it was really quiet, and no one was emailing me. And everyone was else was asleep. I would write between 10:30 at night and maybe 2 in the morning. There was something about it where it was almost like I was getting ready to dream. As if my more rational, analytical self were almost napping. So much of writing is about finding ways to trick yourself into letting go, ways to lull that analytical part of your mind to sleep, and just plunge in—like that exercise I did with my students. It’s about just seeing where you end up, allowing yourself the freedom to put down a bunch of details, making connections your analytical self might throw out.

So it was a big transition to make once I had my son, because I  really couldn’t write between 10:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. anymore. So I try to write in the morning now. It’s difficult if I get sucked into email, because it burns off the morning-ness, the dream-like quality of attention that’s still present when you first wake up. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. I think that’s why so many writers get up, have their coffee, and get straight to work. They can’t speak to anyone, they can’t talk to their partners. They’ve learned they’ve got to go straight to their desk, or else they’ll lose that dream logic.

It can be scary to surrender to that more subconscious way of thinking, just the way it can be scary for a child to surrender to sleep. It’s unnerving to be unmoored like that. But maybe that’s why my son and countless other children have found Goodnight Moon so comforting. Maybe it’s because it mirrors that in-between state before sleep begins, when you finally let your mind wander, freely, from one thought to the next.

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Ultra Modern living – Jamaica Observer

A search by a Kingston family for a relatively modern and spacious home led us to Gavia. They immediately liked the look and feel of the community — contemporary architecture, open green spaces and lush vegetation surrounding the community, with modern amenities. The townhouses are aesthetically appealing and designed to reflect clean, geometric lines along with open living spaces, ample windows and sliding glass doors that allow for natural light to enter rooms from multiple angles as well as allowing for multiple outdoor views and almost forging a relationship with nature. “Perfect for our family,” says the homeowner.

In keeping with the look and feel of the community and to complement the architectural design of the townhouse and its accompanying modern amenities and functionality, the couple felt that they needed to hire the services of a professional interior decorator to enable them “to create an ultra-modern and contemporary living space that also felt warm and appealed to the different personalities” of their four-member family. Through their realtor, Remax, they were put on to Eroleen Anderson, who provided the much-needed advice to create a home that is not only ultra-luxe and sophisticated, but comfortable, beautiful and warm — definitely a place in which the family enjoys spending time.

The interior design of this home was quite an extensive job for Anderson. It included, she says, “Buying and conceptualising all new furnishings for all spaces; designing and manufacturing of new window treatments; redoing the kitchen countertops and backsplash. Also expanding the square footage to allow for a newly built powder room and creation of a modern take on a solarium.”

Anderson’s favourite spaces are the living and dining rooms. They adhere to her love of white.

“I am in love with all shades of white, which allows me to overlay all my décor pieces,” adds Anderson.

She applauds the homeowners for agreeing to the simple colour palette featuring whites, greys and silver. “They were very open and receptive to the contemporary design.”

The formal living room is anchored by “a low Italian, white linen, oversized sofa with large sectional pieces, that are adjustable for any design or layout,” the designer says. This is complemented by a coffee table with clean mirrored lines and matching side tables. A pair of gorgeous, textured, Brazilian, graphite lounge chairs makes a curvaceous artistic statement. Gold, black and silver abstract provides the perfect art on the wall while an oversize cow hide rug lies underfoot. The designer has leaned an oversize 7ft mirror in one corner “for an element of surprise and also to allow one to see the room through various angles”. Other armchairs, upholstered in fabrics that match the nearby patio seating, provide additional areas to sit for large groups.

The elegance continues in the dining room where a “highly stylised white, organic cloud chandelier floats above the elegant dining table”. The table has an oak base with an “overlay of clear beveled lead crystal”. It is accompanied by ivory linen, upholstered chairs and an extraordinary cowhide herringbone rug.

The designer shares that she enjoys “playing with metal, glass, wood and acrylic transformed into works of art. The background or canvas of the internal walls or space should be as neutral as possible allowing the elements of décor to pop and translate into meaningful art”.

The kitchen countertops were upgrades with the selection of “a leather granite slab”. Watermarked steel times and basket weave acrylic and steel bar stools add much drama in the well-equipped space.

Yet another special space is in the basement, a complete envisioning of the traditional man cave. Here, an elegant home office has been crafted with a relaxing velvet grey sofa and glass cube tables. A variety of patterned throw cushions “adds pizazz. A luxurious wool and silk rug ties in the space and anchors the room”. All the elements here mirror the clean lines and neutrals of the entire home.

There is a surprising blast of colour, however, in seatings, rugs and accessories on the adjacent patio.

The family’s eight-year-old daughter wanted red in her bedroom, which Anderson delivered in an accent wall but toned down with what she calls “the elegance of white and black”.

The 14-year-old son’s room is blue with “a bit of accent on the walls and a denim theme”. He calls it his “man cave”.

Anderson says her personal style is “international in nature, borrowing from the contemporary flair of Italy and the sensuality of France. Encompassing the simplicity and clean lines of Asian design”.

The master bedroom is la pièce de resistance. The luxury of white combined with pristine soft fabrics and bedding gives the feel of “an oasis in the cloud”.

Modern clean lines in white leather, stainless steel and mirrored glass were the choice for the furniture, a revised version of a French Venetian look.

“The mattress is adjustable for modern-day living,” confides Anderson. Just another small detail adding to the quality of comfort.

The adjacent bathroom is modern yet earthy with its travertine tiles and glass shower and a great deal of storage space in dark cabinetry that is brightened by copious natural light.

There is deliciousness in the details of lighting choices all over and even in minor spaces. The staircase and hallway feature bespoke hand-blown glass pillars with radiating light that is anchored with a stainless steel base. The powder room is illuminated by an Art Deco fixture which drips in glass beads with silver elements. The vanity mirror strategically complements the chandelier as it is lavishly framed with crystals. The result: a sparkling showpiece of a space!

Anderson elaborates, “The spaces I create or design, must rise up and greet the owners with passion, luxury, peace and a feeling of a relaxed mind each and every day.”

Clearly that is the case with these homeowners as they are all enjoying their home and find real comfort in its clean, contemporary style.

Reproduced in SO courtesy of HHG Magazine Summer 2017 Issue – Now on stands

Text: Michele Geister

Photography: Denis Valentine

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A Design Brief by ASH (Angelie Spencer Home) – Jamaica Observer

Kingston will this week be abuzz with yet another brilliant “Lifestyle” initiative by the Jamaica Observer: Design Week. NMW and her Lifestyle team have conquered FOOD, they have conquered FASHION and now it’s on to HOME…in a big way, shining the spotlight on interior decorating, design, building and renovation. I have participated in the Food Awards, FNO (now TSO) and Style Awards, and I am now very excited to be a part of Design Week, having recently introduced my Interior decorating service, ASH, Angelie Spencer Home. Join me later today, at the launch of Design Week at Ashley Furniture Homestore, Hope Road. for Conversations in Design.

Enjoy an exclusive peek at some of my work featured here, and the approach I take to design.

Kitchen: This kitchen had to be both functional and beautiful. There was one major challenge — there was not a single window in the room to let light in! The preference was dark mahogany stained cabinets, but that would have made it even darker and almost cavernous, so the beauty of such a finish would have been lost. I instead had to lighten and brighten the kitchen, so I opted for an almond stain with brown glaze. This type of paint finish is typical of a French country style, so I added appliqués and onlays for beauty and authenticity to subtle arch details above the “work triangle” — sink/stove/refrigerator, as well as “turned legs“ facade. Solid stone countertops and modern stainless steel appliances and farm sink made for a beautiful transitional look.

Dining 1: A calm neutral beige is a great canvas for a large space, but can be a bit dull and monotonous, so a great rule is to add textures when going for a monochromatic colour scheme. Here, I used a grasscloth wallpaper on the main wall of the dining room, and though it is essentially the same colour as the wall paint, the texture adds so much interest and depth. The dining room chairs were commissioned by me and custom made by Island Art in a rich dark wood, with soft silk upholstered seats. A stunning MaraMade Designs dining table and side board were later added to the space with incredible effect. Tamara Harding and I collaborated on the wooden mirrors for a bold and beautiful statement wall. I call this my “Jamaican Made dining space” as it features Cecil Baugh pottery, Gene Pearson masks, Touch by VLS plates and Baughaus bowls and tea set, and I am so proud of our Jamaican artisans and designers whenever I look at the wall.

The Living Room: Cosy and inviting is how I think a living room should feel. It should woo you in and envelope you in comfort. Though this room is light, bright and beige it is still warm and inviting. Soft, comfortable seating is evenly spaced around the room, with large, colourful cushions, a large area rug to soften the tiled floor, potted plants, flowers and beautiful artwork on the walls make this such an inviting and comfortable space. The large picture window and French doors allow sunlight to wash the room.

Study/TV Room: This room serves double duty. The most important things in rooms such as these is comfort. Comfortable seating, comfortable temperature, good lighting and good positioning of the television for viewing.

Girl’s Bedroom: When designing children’s rooms, I much prefer to work with a colour scheme rather than a theme. This child’s favourite colour was purple, but we know how fickle children are, so the purple was a mere accent colour here. I opted to use a calm, beautiful neutral ivory on the remaining three walls, furniture and cornice board, that could go with whatever colour her heart may desire. Fortunately, she still loves her purple, and the bedding and curtains I custom-made to tie the whole colour scheme together. I am a true do- it-yourselfer, so I personally make, or commission custom-made pieces to get the look I want. This beautiful bed with pull-out trundle as well as the cornice boards was custom-made right here in Jamaica, the caning detail to the sides done by The Society for the Blind. I believe they are the only ones who still do this in Jamaica.

Patio: On entering the home, there is a calming water feature that welcomes you. The sound of the water dictated a cool blue on the walls. The patio sits off the living room that features Gene Pearson masks on a main wall. I carried this theme through to the patio with smaller masks along the walls. Comfortable seating with warm-coloured cushions gives this outdoor space a cosy indoor feel.

Entryway: The entryway sets the tone for the colour scheme used throughout the home…off white and grey with wood and gold accents. Large abstract art, wood and stone masks can be seen throughout the home.

Living Room: The client had the existing sofas in the space and in the consultation hinted at an interesting texture like animal skin, so I introduced that texture into the space with a cow skin rug on the floor and calf skin pillows on the sofas. The antler chandelier then seemed like the most ideal choice at that point, as something a bit unexpected in Jamaica, but stylish and appropriate in the space. The client already had three large Gene Pearson masks that I knew would couple beautifully with three wooden blocks I had seen at the launch of MaraMade Designs. The combination made for a stunning feature wall. The guango coffee table I commissioned from MaraMade Designs also featured wooden blocks and worked perfectly in the space with a simple glass top.

Dining Room 2: This client is a sophisticated male, and I wanted the space to reflect that. As head of a major company, I thought that tall, stately commanding chairs should head the dining table, so I commissioned same from Island Art and Framing. A mix of textures like leather and chenille on the chairs and grasscloth and faux wood forest on the wallpapers make this monochromatic room both luxurious and interesting. An oversized gold portal mirror is the main feature in this dining room, along with textured accessories like agate slices, coral and mother of pearl.

Sitting Nook: I love using wallpaper in spaces for dimension, texture and interest. In this small sitting nook that is located off the dining room, I used a darker and complementary shade wallpaper to that in the dining room so the rooms relate to each other. A bold abstract painting sits on the wall above the simple loveseat with a heavily textured cushion as an accent that pulls all the colours of the room together. These hanging pendant lights, mimic the shape and lines of the coffee table, tying the whole space together.

Angelie Martin-Spencer has coined the hashtag #MissJackOfAllTrades as she is a lover of everything lifestyle and does it all. The former Jamaica Observer contributor has successfully operated a catering business, is a certified cake baker and cake decorator, a certified make-up artist and an interior decorator and designer. She is the client and marketing manager for drennaLUNA, and has worked with the brand as stylist since its inception in 2009. In 2010, Angelie designed and launched a Children’s Collection called Christianna and is now creative director for “sol” by drennaLUNA, a swimwear label.

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Tatler compiles list of the 'nine poshest things' in Ikea – Gears Of Biz

It may specialise in affordable flat pack furniture for the masses.

But that clearly doesn’t stop Ikea accommodating for society’s upper echelons.

For society bible Tatler has compiled a list of ‘the nine poshest things you can buy in Ikea’.

This Stockholm pouffe for £195 was one of the items listen in Tatler's nine poshest Ikea items

One of the cheapest bargains on the list was the Stockholm Bowl, which goes for £12 at Ikea

The list, which appears on the magazine’s website, includes a £195 pouffe, a £40 sheepskin rug and a pair of champagne glasses for £5.95, all available from the Swedish giant.

Tatler writer Luciana Bellini wrote: ‘Ikea – home to tiny meatballs, flat-pack furniture and toffs hunting for a bargain.

The SKOLD sheepskin rug sells at £40 in Ikea

Ikea's Ortofta chandelier goes for £99

‘Whether they’re stocking up on champagne flutes, ordering a new chandelier or buying those furry Skold rugs that Jon Snow wore in Game of Thrones, you’ll find them there at 9am on a Saturday, just like everyone else.

‘So we’ve rounded up the nine poshest things you can pick up in your local Ikea. Well, if it’s good enough for the heir to the Iron Throne…’

The Strandmon wing chair costs £199

Benarp Armchairs are £225 at Ikea

The most expensive item on the list is a £225 orange Benarp armchair, followed by a £199 green Strandmon wing chair and a £195 Stockholm pouffe with a black and white cow pattern.

A brown cow-hide rug from Koldby, priced at £180, also features on the list, as well as a £99 Ortofta chandelier, a £45 Moalie wool throw and a £40 brown Skold sheepskin rug.

The Moalie Wool Throw also featured on Tatler's list of Ikea's poshest items

The Konungsug champagne flutes were included in the list of poshest items

At the bottom end of the price scale is a £12 Stockholm bowl, a stainless steel decorative bowl in the shape of a snowflake, and two clear glass Konungslig champagne glasses for £5.95.

Ikea’s sales in the UK were £1.72billion last year, an increase of more than nine per cent on the previous financial year.

The Koldby cow hide rug retails at £180 and was at the more expensive end of the Tatler list

It has become an ‘everyman’ store, attracting shoppers from all walks of life and wealth brackets.

David Cameron was known to use the firm’s £22 ceiling lights in his £1million constituency home in Oxfordshire.

Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne was also seen in one of its warehouses in the West Midlands with his wife. 

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For society bible Tatler has compiled a list of 'the nine poshest things you can buy in Ikea'. – Daily Mail

  • Writer Luciana Bellini said toffs scour the furniture giant for bargain buys 
  • David Cameron and Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne are fans of the store
  • Ikea’s UK sales were £1.72billion last year, an increase of over nine per cent 

Tim Lamden For The Daily Mail

It may specialise in affordable flat pack furniture for the masses.

But that clearly doesn’t stop Ikea accommodating for society’s upper echelons.

For society bible Tatler has compiled a list of ‘the nine poshest things you can buy in Ikea’.

Scroll down for video 

This Stockholm pouffe for £195 was one of the items listen in Tatler's nine poshest Ikea items

This Stockholm pouffe for £195 was one of the items listen in Tatler's nine poshest Ikea items

This Stockholm pouffe for £195 was one of the items listen in Tatler’s nine poshest Ikea items

One of the cheapest bargains on the list was the Stockholm Bowl, which goes for £12 at Ikea

One of the cheapest bargains on the list was the Stockholm Bowl, which goes for £12 at Ikea

One of the cheapest bargains on the list was the Stockholm Bowl, which goes for £12 at Ikea

The list, which appears on the magazine’s website, includes a £195 pouffe, a £40 sheepskin rug and a pair of champagne glasses for £5.95, all available from the Swedish giant.

Tatler writer Luciana Bellini wrote: ‘Ikea – home to tiny meatballs, flat-pack furniture and toffs hunting for a bargain.

The SKOLD sheepskin rug sells at £40 in Ikea

The SKOLD sheepskin rug sells at £40 in Ikea

Ikea's Ortofta chandelier goes for £99

Ikea's Ortofta chandelier goes for £99

Left, Ikea’s Skold sheepskin rug, which can be snapped up for £40 and, right, the Ortofta chandelier, which retails at £99 and was crowned as one of the store’s poshest items by Tatler

‘Whether they’re stocking up on champagne flutes, ordering a new chandelier or buying those furry Skold rugs that Jon Snow wore in Game of Thrones, you’ll find them there at 9am on a Saturday, just like everyone else.

‘So we’ve rounded up the nine poshest things you can pick up in your local Ikea. Well, if it’s good enough for the heir to the Iron Throne…’

The Strandmon wing chair costs £199

The Strandmon wing chair costs £199

Benarp Armchairs are £225 at Ikea

Benarp Armchairs are £225 at Ikea

Right, the most expensive item on Tatler’s list – the Benarp armchair – costs more than £200 and, left, a cheaper alternative is offered in the Strandmon wing chair

The most expensive item on the list is a £225 orange Benarp armchair, followed by a £199 green Strandmon wing chair and a £195 Stockholm pouffe with a black and white cow pattern.

A brown cow-hide rug from Koldby, priced at £180, also features on the list, as well as a £99 Ortofta chandelier, a £45 Moalie wool throw and a £40 brown Skold sheepskin rug.

The Moalie Wool Throw also featured on Tatler's list of Ikea's poshest items

The Moalie Wool Throw also featured on Tatler's list of Ikea's poshest items

The Konungsug champagne flutes were included in the list of poshest items

The Konungsug champagne flutes were included in the list of poshest items

Left, the Moalie Wool Throw and, right, Konunsug champagne glasses – the cheapest items featured on the Tatler list

At the bottom end of the price scale is a £12 Stockholm bowl, a stainless steel decorative bowl in the shape of a snowflake, and two clear glass Konungslig champagne glasses for £5.95.

Ikea’s sales in the UK were £1.72billion last year, an increase of more than nine per cent on the previous financial year.

The Koldby cow hide rug retails at £180 and was at the more expensive end of the Tatler list

The Koldby cow hide rug retails at £180 and was at the more expensive end of the Tatler list

The Koldby cow hide rug retails at £180 and was at the more expensive end of the Tatler list

It has become an ‘everyman’ store, attracting shoppers from all walks of life and wealth brackets.

David Cameron was known to use the firm’s £22 ceiling lights in his £1million constituency home in Oxfordshire.

Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne was also seen in one of its warehouses in the West Midlands with his wife. 

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This modernized Greek revival in New Albany is eclectic yet cohesive – The Courier-Journal


Art defines this New Albany home in almost every room with modern paintings, brutalist sculptures and unique finds from the couple’s travels.
Bobby Shipman/Courier-Journal/USA TODAY Network

A project awaited Ben and Kimberly Aschenbrenner when they bought their Greek revival home around three years ago.

“We kept saying, ‘it’s a blank slate,” Kimberly said about the 1860s home that originally housed a doctor’s office. 

The couple bought the home during a renovation but have since made it their own. They’ve ripped out the kitchen for a more contemporary look and painted and decorated its two stories with everything from thrifty and online finds to Kimberly’s own artwork, bringing cohesion to their eclectic style. 

You’ll like this: Prairie homestead takes you on a trip around the globe

More: Rustic yet luxurious, this golf course ranch is perfect for a big family


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The pairings in this home include a Zebra print sofa across from a blue velvet one in the parlor, as well as a glass ribbon lucite chandelier in the foyer found on eBay and wooden bookshelves in the library that belonged to Ben’s dad.

Wallpaper with a black background and floral print covers the walls of the formal dining room that combines plush pink velvet chairs with a glass-topped table for a touch of elegance.

More: Coastal meets Southern rustic in this elegant Goshen estate

In the family room, a jungle-themed mural found on Etsy pairs with an animal print rug Kimberly bought off Craigslist, plus a leather sofa, a wooden love seat and a velvet yellow chair. 

“It’s the thrill of the hunt, honestly,” Kimberly said about finding unique pieces. 


For a couple that likes to cook and entertain, the Aschenbrenners converted a room that was once down to studs into a pristine white, modernized kitchen. White porcelain tile covers the kitchen floor and matches cupboards outfitted with gold fixtures. The walls, covered in white subway tiles, add texture along with the room’s Carrera marble countertops. Exposed beams on the ceiling and an island made from barn wood create a rustic touch. 

A kitchen nook allows for access to a bar area, while the breakfast nook to the right — with a cow hide carpet under black rubber chairs and simple white table from IKEA — creates a more relaxed dining experience. A wooden divider painted with abstract shapes in whites, blacks and purples finishes the room with style. 


Art defines the Aschenbrenner’s home. In almost every room, there’s modern art, brutalist sculptures and unique finds from the couple’s travels. 

In the foyer, a quirky portrait gallery — including Kimberly’s own work — hangs bunched on the wall across from the staircase. At the top of the stairs, the landing serves as a gallery of sorts, decorated with natural elements including woven straw chairs. An animal skull with drawings hangs on one wall and on the other, a wall hanging of the anatomy of the brain.

More: Elegant blends with industrial in this simple Old Louisville home

Read this: Antique meets modern in renovated 150-year-old Italianate home 

Above the couple’s bed hangs an African juju hat, a ceremonial piece worn by prominent members of African society. 

nuts & bolts

Home: This modernized Greek revival home was built in the 1860s and home to doctors’ offices in the past. Now, the 4,400-square-foot historic abode has a mix of thrifty finds and local art.

Homeowners: Ben and Kimberly Aschenbrenner moved into this 4-bed, 2-and-1/2-bath home about three years ago with Kimberly’s daughter, Ava. Ben is a math teacher at Ivy Tech and Kimberly is an art director for Rue La La.

Distinctive elements: Large bay window in parlor; mix of wood and metal furniture; portrait gallery wall in foyer; animal hide and animal print rugs; modern and abstract art pieces; brutalist sculptures; chunky ’80s furniture; white “blank canvas” walls; velvet couches; antique and thrifty finds; full library with bookshelves lining the walls; funky light fixtures; oriental rugs; contrast of wood and metal pieces.

Applause, Applause! The homeowners would like to thank David and Nancy Young, Susan Block with Semonin Realty, and family and friends who were helpful during the renovation process. 


WHAT: New Albany Historic Home Tour

WHEN:  10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9

WHERE: The day begins at the New Albany Farmer’s Market at the corner of Bank and Market streets, where you can pick up your tour booklet. 

TICKETS: $15 in advance; $5 kids under 12th grade; $20 day of tour. Tickets can be purchased online at www.developna.org or at area retailers. 

MORE INFORMATION:www.developna.org

Read or Share this story: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/life/home-garden/home-of-the-week/2017/08/31/modernized-greek-revival-new-albany-eclectic-yet-cohesive/484746001/

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TasWeekend: Jo Cook's home an urban oasis for family and food – The Mercury

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The Mercury

TasWeekend: Jo Cook's home an urban oasis for family and food
The Mercury
… operates out of an office cleverly disguised as a 1970s sitting room. A Chiswell sideboard is a family heirloom replete with its original receipt, there's a re-covered click-clack lounge, covetable German ceramics and a shaggy highland cow hide rug.

and more »

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