Blogger Jordan Ferney lives with her husband, Paul, and their two sons in San Francisco’s Mission District. Her old home, just a few blocks away, was only 500 square feet! So we couldn’t wait to see how she decorated their new, bigger space. Jordan always has awesome tips, from finding affordable art to throwing unusual dinner parties. Here’s a peek inside…
On cool dinner parties: Now that we have a dining room, I want to get better at dinner parties. My New Year’s resolution was to host 52 dinners this year, and we just had dinner #24. I’ve learned to plan the menu beforehand and order groceries to save time shopping. Also, always have some sort of surprise. It can be a surprise guest, a surprise dish… One time a friend was out fishing and he caught this huge gorgeous salmon. He brought it to our house, and we had fresh sashimi. He carved the fish right in front of us. I remember thinking, “I’ll never forget this.” Another time, we had a stranger dinner party. We invited four different friends and asked them each to bring someone we didn’t know. It’s nice to do things to make the evening memorable.
On choosing art: Our art is mostly from flea markets and eBay, and most pieces we buy are around $25. Since my husband is an artist, this is one area where he has strong opinions. I’ll bring home thrift store art and he’s like, “WHAT??” because he’s looking at the technique. And I’m like, “It’s quirky!” Once I brought home a painting of a ship, and Paul said, “That looks like a child made it.” Then we decided to re-frame it and when I took it out of its frame, the back of it said “Jeffrey, age 12.” We were laughing so hard. It actually was a child’s artwork!
On inhabiting a bigger space: When we moved to this house, we jokingly called it “the manse,” even though it doesn’t have a backyard and in a lot of the United States, this place would still be considered quite small. But we used to live in a 500-square-foot apartment, so to us, this place is huge. I swore when we moved in, we were going to continue to regularly purge things, and oh my gosh, it did not happen. We somehow wound up with closets full of things. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and was like, “I want to get rid of everything.” But since there are more places to put things, we don’t feel such a sense of urgency.
Black sofa: custom from Clad Home. Green sofa: Room & Board. Rug: vintage, from Morocco. Green pillow: Furbish. Drapes: custom, from Madina Aryeh. Coffee table: Ikea (no longer available, similar here). Yellow chair: vintage. Floor lamp: vintage.
On favorite TV shows: The kids go to bed around 8 p.m., and then sometimes Paul and I will spend a couple hours watching TV together. My favorite show is Broad City. I love is SO MUCH. I’ve probably watched each episode four times. It’s funny in a way that feels fresh. You know what else I’ve been watching lately? The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It totally holds up!
On keeping greenery: There’s an amazing nursery/plant store/coffee shop in San Francisco called Flora Grubb. One trick I’ve learned is to ask the nursery which plants need to be watered once a week. Then I’ll set an alarm on my phone, and on that one day I’ll go through the house and water all the plants. Keeping everything on the same schedule really helps. I can’t deal with needy plants, but once a week I can do.
On wise words: “Nothing will make you feel better except for doing the work.” That’s my personal mantra, and I even have a print of it. When I first heard it, it really resonated with me. I ALWAYS get myself into situations where I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’ll try to think of every way I can to not do that thing. Should I cancel? Should I do something else? In the end, I have to tell myself that nothing will make me feel better except doing the work.
On collecting books: I have been on a big reading kick lately. I loved Lena Dunham’s book, and I really enjoyed Miranda July’s novel. Even though I work a lot, I try to make time for reading. I’ve also been reading the Harry Potter books with my kids. At five and seven, they’re finally old enough where we can enjoy reading a big book together. It’s been amazing. I’m also a big believer in having lots of books in a room. It makes you want to spend more time there.
On keeping the boys’ bedroom tidy: The kids’ room usually does look this organized. At five and seven, our kids are old enough that before bed every night, we do a quick pick-up. The key to organizing, whether it’s in a playroom or an entire house, is to have a place for everything. They know that when they pull out the Lego bin, everything must go back in the Lego bin.
On impromptu geography lessons: I grew up in a really small town in Utah, and one of my dad’s biggest concerns was that he wanted us to be aware and to have a bigger worldview. He got a National Geographic map and wallpapered it on one of our living room walls. I grew up with this giant wall map, so when I saw that map I was immediately like, “That’s going on the wall!” Every time we travel, we’ll find our destination on the map. We’ll talk about distances. Sometimes we’ll even pull the bed away from the wall so we can see where everything is.
On paring things down: We try to edit, and the boys don’t get too attached to things. I’ll say, “Hey, I think I’m going to give this to Goodwill so other kids can get a chance to play with it,” and they’re usually fine with that. After I read the Marie Kondo book, I said to them, “Let’s look around and find things we don’t really love or play with anymore.” They thought about it, and then my son came to me, really wide-eyed, and said, “I figured it out! All those wooden toys up on the shelf!” Then he points to all the beautiful European, carefully crafted wooden toys. I was like, “Over my dead body.”
On dark bedroom walls: We painted the walls and ceiling in the bedroom. I totally copied Jenna Lyons. What she did 15 years ago is still cool right now. The dark walls keep everything feeling kind of calm.
A great place to buy art: There’s this amazing sale once a year in Oakland called the White Elephant Sale. It takes place in a warehouse and is run by these well-to-do old ladies. The whole thing is flawlessly organized. My entire art wall in the bedroom came from the While Elephant sale. Everything was around $45 each, and they come expensively framed. People actually fly out just to go to the White Elephant sale. It’s that good.
Dresser: vintage. Fries Before Guys tote: Oh Happy Day.
On being a good host: Now that we have a guest room, we have guests all the time. Sometimes it’s helpful to put yourself in their shoes to figure out what they’ll need — taking their coat when they walk in, putting a drink in their hand immediately. The guest room has been fun to decorate because it feels like I can take more risks. If I find offbeat bedding or weird art, a lot of time it ends up in there.
On the magic of chocolate cake: If I’m having a bad day, I love baking a cake. I always make Ina Garten’s chocolate cake, which is amazing. There’s a chapter in Julia Child’s biography where she talks about how they were having a terrible day and she says, “I couldn’t even bake a cake because the oven wasn’t working.” That really stuck out to me, if I’m having a rough time, I’ll be like, “Let’s make cookies, that’ll turn this day around!”
On kitchen renovations: The only real renovation we did was the kitchen. I like kitchens to look like kitchens — with that quintessential white subway tile, floor to ceiling. Subway tile is so cheap and actually really easy. We bought it at Lowe’s and it came with built-in spaces within the tiles, so it takes like five seconds to lay. We were able to do it ourselves.
The truth about cute fridges: We had to buy a new fridge for the house. My husband was like, just find a fridge on Craigslist, and that’s where I saw this one for $300. It fell in my lap! My friends are always like, you need to get a grown-up fridge, and maybe we’ll do that in a few years. It doesn’t fit much food, and the freezer is tiny. But we’ve lived with smaller fridges before!
On building a dream pantry: It doesn’t always look this awesome! But most of the time, it looks pretty good. There’s a huge store here called Rainbow Grocery, where they have enormous bins of dry goods. You choose from 20 different kinds of salt, a bunch of different oats. I realized it was easier to pull together healthy meals if you keep dry goods around the house. Plus, they’re beautiful.
On quick dinners: I make an easy version of mac and cheese, called Brown Butter pasta. I always buy a big old chunk of Parmesan cheese, and keep that in the fridge along with some butter. It doesn’t really go bad. You just brown the butter until it gets really caramel-y smelling and then mix in grated Parmesan cheese and pasta. I try to throw something green in there, too. It takes 15 minutes, and everyone loves it.
On the family gathering place: It’s crazy how much time we spend in the kitchen. Our old kitchen didn’t have an island, and now that we have one, we use it all the time. We eat breakfast here, we do homework here; it’s the place where everything comes together.
Counter stools: Design Within Reach.