Weekly Dose : Lately

Weekly Dose | Taupe & Birch

About 6 months ago, we launched Taupe & Birch with the idea that the blog would be an outlet to share our interests : arts, design and a bit of what we have going on in our lives. Since then we’ve taken a step back and re-evaluated our plans for T & B. I’ve learned that this project has been the perfect excuse to reach out to complete strangers. I’m living my life a little differently now, and I think Sara would agree with me too. I’m more aware of my community and I appreciate the small businesses that manage to keep their doors open when real estate prices are sky rocketing (well, at least in San Francisco).

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week:
1.) Started reading The Authentic life: Zen Wisdom for Living Free from Complacency and Fear.
2.) I’m learning more about my new camera (cannon rebel T3 with a 50mm lens) . I love following photographers on the VSCO Grid for inspiration! ‘
3.) Have you heard of One Password? I just downloaded the app, which is free right now! Hopefully it will help prevent me from having to click “forgot password” on most websites.
4.) I discovered Samovar Tea which was also featured on Apartment 34 last week. Such a gorgeous space!
5.) I attend yoga at Yoga to the People 4-5 days a week. It’s actually in a few major cities. They are donation based and their San Francisco location is stunning.
6.) I’ve been biking a lot more. There’s no better way to get to know your city than biking. This past weekend, I biked over to Bernal Heights. 

Content and Photo by Heather Day.

Coffee in San Fran : Aleksandra Zee

Coffee in San Fran: Aleksandra Zee | Taupe & BirchI found Aleksandra Zee on Instagram after we both completed commissions for Intermix‘s new location in Palo Alto. After months of following each other, we decided to grab a coffee! Naturally, I blogged about our date. 

Location: Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco. 

What do you do? I’m a full time woodworker/artist. 

What’s your favorite part about city living? The fact that everything is so close – the beautiful community of artists that share your work rather than compete against it.

Where do you go to escape the city?   To the beach, big sur, the redwoods, the desert –pretty much anywhere my jeep can take me.

How did you find your dog? He is a rescue from the streets of New Mexico, best decision I could have ever made.

Favorite Color? Gray

Early bird or night owl? Early bird!

Content and photo by Heather Day

Weekly Dose: Green Essential

A few weeks ago I was looking for house plants on Craigslist which let’s be honest, can be like a needle in a haystack. I knew I needed some green in my apartment, especially on the desk in my bedroom where I have my workspace set up. I knew having plants would create an entirely new environment and feeling to the space. Just that pop of green, a little nature brought inside and the fact that they are living, breathing things always brightens my mood. So there I was, browsing Craigslist on the random chance that I would not only find someone selling their plants but selling their plants nearby. And then it happened. I found 3 beautiful, healthy plants for a steal!

Plants are game changers in my opinion. They’re just essential. Here are a few examples. Happy plant searching!

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This is what I mean by pop of green. Against white, it’s a bold punch that’s awesome. Imagine this photo without the plant. It just wouldn’t be the same. Found on Domaine Home.

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For me, plants in the bedroom are so important because I spend a lot of time in my room. It really warms up the space and gives off good vibes. I especially love long vine-y plants. It looks nice to put these inside shelving and let them drape down like shown here by Smile and Wave.

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Want plants in the kitchen but don’t want to lose any counter space? Hang them from a rod over your sink. Love this idea found on Morganours.

342ae5b089b4ec0e22db7bbaad5ac7ebYou can even get a bunch of plants and line them up on a bench to create as the “Easiest Way to Embrace the Jungalow Trend.”

Content curated by Sara Chars.

Workspace Envy

This month, we’re exploring some of our favorite workspaces from across the web.  As far as criteria, I was seeking spaces that were gender neutral. I like to stick with spaces that have a soft voice to avoid distraction while working. I was particularly interested in spaces that looked worked in.

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Fashion icon, Jenna Lyon‘s work space.Workspace Envy | Taupe & BirchWorkspace Envy | Taupe & BirchMonotoned workspace by Hege Morris Workspace Envy | Taupe & Bircharielealasko

Workspace Envy | Taupe & Birch

Rustic studio of Ariele Alasko.

Content curated by Heather Day 

Fig, Hazelnut and Chia Yogurt bowl

Food | Taupe & BirchFig, hazelnut and chia yogurt bowl
Serves 1

Ingredients

1 tsp ghee or butter
4 small figs, halved lengthways
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp honey
Sprinkle of cinnamon
1 cup (280g) plain full fat or Greek yogurt
Small handful of hazelnuts, halved
1/4 tsp chia seeds

Instructions

Heat ghee in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the figs, water, honey and sprinkle with cinnamon. Stir and allow to gently cook for 2 minutes, or until figs have softened a little. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place yogurt in a bowl. Top with the fig mixture, along with the juice. Scatter with hazelnuts and chia seeds.

Recipe by The Grounded Kitchen.

Weekly Dose : Summer Remnants

I always find myself wanting to extend my weekends a bit longer than normal this time of year. The weather is perfect and let’s be honest – It’s not going to last forever. Here’s a round up of images I’m loving this week. Weekly Dose| Taupe & BirchImage found on Perpetual Grace Blog. Weekly Dose| Taupe & Birch Styling by Nina Johnson.Weekly Dose| Taupe & BirchA glimse at Artist, Miranda Skoxsek’s home teaches us that it’s totally ok to play with color. Weekly Dose| Taupe & Birch These chairs remind me of outdoor furniture. I bet they would look really awesome with a throw blanket or piece of cow hide to add comfort.  I’m loving the geometric repetition from the chair to the rug. Image found on Turbulences.

Content curated by Heather Day.  

The Perfect Hot Toddy

Today was the first day I noticed a significant temperature drop and a cool breeze drafting through the open windows as I slipped on cozy sweats early this morning. I decided to make something using the oven to warm me up a bit and thought homemade granola would do the trick. As I was waiting on the granola, I made some tea. This got me thinking about great warm fall drinks and the first one that came to mind was The Hot Toddy, commonly used to treat onsetting colds but equally as good when you’re healthy! This recipe was found on Blue Apron which adds their personal touch of cinnamon sticks, Earl Grey tea, and apple cider.Hot-Toddy2 Hot Toddy

We like a nice bourbon in our hot toddies, but you can easily work with any whisky or brandy you have on hand. Be sure to take these off the stove as soon as they’re warmed to your liking; if you keep simmering the drink, the alcohol will begin to cook off.

INGREDIENTS : Serves 4

  • 8 ounces whisky, bourbon, or brandy
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 4 earl grey tea bags
  • 4 cinnamon sticks

DIRECTIONS In a small pan over medium-low heat, heat the cider, cinnamon, honey, and whisky until hot, stirring to dissolve the honey. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags, and allow the drink to steep for 2 minutes. Remove the tea bags and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Pour into four glass mugs. Garnish with the cinnamon sticks and some lemon slices cut into half moons. Enjoy!

Content selected by Sara Chars.

Weekly Dose : Fall Anticipation

Happy September! A friend and I were talking this past weekend about how busy we’ve been this summer and although it flew by, we are actually anticipating fall for things to settle down a bit! We’re excited for layers, cute ankle boots, scarves, oversized sweaters, hearty soups, pumpkin everything, bonfires, colored leaves and walks on beautiful fall nights. Living in Minnesota, it is hard to even say I am anticipating fall because that means our dreadful winter is just around the corner too — but I have come to peaceful terms with the natural ebb and flow of the seasons and have learned to appreciate each for what it offers. Here are a few visuals highlighting the perks of fall.

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Love this cute outfit with the scarf and ankle boots. If the weather is a bit cooler, you might want to swap the tights out for some warm leggings.

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Rust has such a warm fall feeling. Architect Sean Godsell created a wall of rusted steel with a rich patina. Found on Kirtsy.

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Hearty soups are the best in fall! Lentil soup is one of my absolute favorites. Check out this recipe for Laila’s Arabic Lentil Soup on Veggie Belly.

a21ea6078b32ec606345b0fde3506b81 copyLoving the fall colors of this wildflower bouquet and there’s even a mini version, how cute.

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Content curated by Sara Chars.

Interview with Designer Beau Sinchai of Koonyai Studio

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Today we’ve got the inside scoop on designer and founder of Koonyai Studio, Beau Sinchai. A true woman of passion and dedication, Sinchai has had a love for all things design since she was little and truly has a natural eye for it. Her interest in jewelry making transpired after her undergraduate classes in structural architecture at the University of Minnesota where she started experimenting and constructing small wire-frame design models for various assignments.

Aided by her entrepreneurial spirit and go-getter attitude, Koonyai studio — named after her beloved grandmother — was born. Sinchai says she wanted a creative outlet and a personal project of her own. Without much initial experience, she dove head first and started her own business selling her jewelry on Etsy. Her handmade designs are bold, custom and simple. Her materials are fresh and unique (you don’t see too many designers mixing their own concrete!).

While most of her time goes into her one-woman run business, Sinchai is also attending graduate school studying 3D Design at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. She is currently entering her second year and preparing her thesis on using products and visual communication to address social issues and start conversation. She continually puts one foot in front of the other on her path to success and never looks back. Sinchai is extremely hard working, not afraid of making mistakes and is relentlessly passionate about learning. She is fearless and a true inspiration to anyone.

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We are honored to feature you on T&B! Can you tell us how the name Koonyai Studio come about? What significance does this name mean to you? Koonyai means beloved grandmother in Thai. After my father passed away when I was very young, financial circumstances forced my mother to leave Thailand to find career opportunities overseas. My three siblings and I grew up under the care of our grandmother. Witnessing how hard she works, how much love she gives, and her entrepreneurial spirit, I was determined that I would name something in her honor. So when I started my handmade jewelry business, Koonyai was the first name that came to mind. I added Studio to represent my practice style as it is very hands on. Koonyai Studio is a design studio dedicated to my beloved grandmother.

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How did you get interested in designing and making jewelry? I taught myself how to make jewelry in middle school by reading books from the library because Youtube wasn’t a thing back then (laughs). Jewelry making has been one of my hobbies for the longest time but I never took it serious enough to consider making a business out of it. After receiving my degree in Architecture and being a year into graduate school for 3D design, I realized I cannot and do not want to work for a big corporate design company. I want to have my own business.

As soon as my first year of grad school ended, I started Koonyai Studio from the ground up. I knew basically nothing about how to run a business, all I knew was how to make things. My undergrad and grad school is very theory-driven, so I use jewelry making as an outlet for me to turn conceptual design ideas into a physical objects. It has been very rewarding for me because it is an excuse to make very minimal yet architecture-inspired jewelry.

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What materials do you use to make your jewelry? We noticed you use concrete and we absolutely love that and feel it’s such a unique niche in the handmade jewelry marketplace. What’s the process for this like?  Aww thank you! Concrete and wire is my main material because they remind me of construction concrete and steel rods used in buildings. Concrete as a material is very strong, but when used on such small scale like I do, it ends up being very fragile. There are concrete mixes for jewelry making being sold, but the price is high so I decided to make my own concrete. Being independent of readymade mixes allows me to offer my concrete jewelry at more reasonable prices compared to the current market.

Looking back, it took me a full month of experimenting to get it right. From concrete proportion to mold making to sanding to finishing, every step in the process requires extensive experimentation. The process is full of frustration at times but the result is immeasurable joy. It also makes me happier to know that I am able to develop better and better jewelry because I know exactly what’s in the concrete I make.

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We know you are a busy lady with teaching summer courses at MCAD, designing, making jewelry and attending grad school for your second year this fall. What’s a typical day like for you? Please don’t judge me when I say this. Haha. During the summer, my days start around 11am and end at 3am. I found that I am most creative very late at night, and most productive early in the morning. I do not have a set schedule of when I do what, but I set a specific allowed time for each activity that geta shuffled depending on my mood and the importance of tasks each day. Finishing my to-do list from the night before is two hours and I dedicate a couple hours of my day for digital work. This includes photographing new works, writing up descriptions of products, emailing stores, and connecting with social media. Another two-three hours is for managing orders and shipments, and business keeping. The rest of the day is spent making and designing. Before going to bed, I created a list of things I need to finish tomorrow. This helps me sleep better at night knowing exactly what the next day will entail.

My schedule is different when I teach or I have class. School and teaching come first even if that takes up my entire day. Then time with Koonyai Studio is squeezed in whenever possible. There are times when I pulled all-nighter and did not even notice it. I am so happy doing Koonyai Studio that I never feel like it’s work.

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Where is Koonyai Studio jewelry currently being sold? Currently, Koonyai Studio is on Etsy and gift shops around Minneapolis. However, my preferred platform is Etsy because I am able to interact with my customers which is lacking when my works are being sold in stores without me there. I love being able to include handwritten notes to customers and to follow up with their recent purchase to make sure my products meet their standard.

In addition, I am able to make sure the customers feel that each of Koonyai Studio products is made with care through our special packaging. I want the customers to feel as if they got a gift in the mail and to love it from the minute the package is in their hands, even before they see the products. This is why I put just as much time creating packaging. All jewelry is wrapped in Koonyai Studio small cotton bag made in house before packaged with hand written note from the owner of Koonyai Studio, aka me :). All packages are wrapped and treated like presents because after all, it is a present.

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Any additional thoughts you’d like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs out there? I have so many things running through my mind, but the most important thing is to just go ahead and do it. Things take time to launch and succeed. So you can put it off and wait until next year for a “better time” or start now and see your business grow bigger next year.

Also, don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. DO NOT do that ever! I made this mistake when I just started out. The first couple weeks went by and I did not sell a single thing. You may laugh at this, but a couple weeks seems like years when you see other sellers have hundreds and thousands of sales. It was like comparing myself to an Olympics runner when I just learned how to crawl.

I am happier now that I learned to grow my business at my own pace and celebrate the little milestones along the way. Everyone has a different business model. Some people start off with grand capital investment and take lots of risks. Some people plan their business for several years before starting it with a clear model in mind. I started right away where I am with what I have and learn as I go. Find your own way of creating a business and go for it.

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**Be sure to check out our Instagram for a special giveaway of two pairs of earrings handmade by Koonyai Studio to two lucky winners!

Photographs with models by Vutography, all other photographs courtesy of Beau Sinchai of Koonyai Studio.

Content curated by Sara Chars.

On Trend : Pop-Up Shops

Let’s be real, pop-up shops are on trend and becoming the new thing. What a fun and versatile way to sell anything from cupcakes and posters to handmade clothing, plants and old records. Here are some awesome pop-up shops, whether stationary or mobile, these shops are fleeting so be sure to stop over if you spot them!

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And what cooler way to both run a small business and travel than to own a mobile pop-up shop, commonly in converted vintage Volkswagen vans or the “silver bullet” airstream trailers.

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Dear Hearts, started last May by two friends, is a mobile pop-up shop in the Durham, NC area. Friends Stella and Donna said, “we envisioned a space that fosters a warm feeling of community, excitement and home. We wanted to create a store that is an interesting mix of our different personal styles, a place to house emerging new brands that we love alongside seamlessly integrated, clean & classic vintage, a place where our friends and customers would feel comfortable exploring and experimenting with their own style or just popping in and having a beer with us.”

Cool side note — I discovered them through one of my favorite bands, Sylvan Esso, whom they do styling for. Check their blog for more deets!

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Photos screen shot from their video here.

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Small Room Collective, another mobile pop-up shop run by duo Lauren and Travis Hardy, is still touring the US for its second season in a row. Check their 2014 tour route to see if they are stopping near your city!

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Photos from their Instagram account here.

Content curated by Sara Chars.