The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to live a life less ordinary and embrace classic style in the broadest sense. it's time to rise above the trite, the boring, the predictable, the mundane, the banal, and the commonplace. It's time to stop behaving like barnyard animals at the trough and leave behind the perpetually sloppy man-child aesthetic of the last two decades or so. It's time to learn once again how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication. And here is where you can learn how.

Friday, July 22, 2016

12 Tips to Make Your Living Space More Stylish and Inviting. . .

Gentlemen, remember to do something about the wall wart plugs and the morass of cords that entangle our 21st century lives to make your living space more stylish and inviting.

The Grand Duchess and Young Master have been away for a few days in Chicago while yours truly mans the fort and deals with disassembling and reassembling the various rooms of Totleigh-in-the-Wold on either side of a visit by the carpet cleaners.  Exciting stuff.

Here's the short version of the story.  And please keep in mind that I like dogs.  Little dogs,  big dogs, and those in between.  The following is in no way meant as a broad indictment of dog-owners and their homes.

The house we purchased last fall is great in that spacious, quiet suburban way.  Sure, it lacks the character of our 1925 Craftsman-style house in Illinois, but it's not bad for a mid-1980s vintage, the surroundings are wonderful, and after looking at something like 20+ houses around the East Lansing area between April-September of last year, really the only option short of venturing into the dreaded McMansion territory.  Fine and dandy.

But.  And there is always a "but."  The previous owners clearly had some kind of huge, old, sweaty dog with bladder control problems.  This issue, while not in evidence when we moved in last December, or during the rest of Winter and into Spring, emerged with a vengeance in May as the temperature began to warm here in Mid-Michigan.  With the change in weather, an unmistakable big dog funk, especially up the carpeted stairs to the upper floor, the hall upstairs, the landing in the foyer, and the master bedroom became blatantly apparent.  Ugh!  I say again, ugh!  First possible solution?  Have the carpets professionally cleaned.

So, wife and child visited Chicago for a few days of sight-seeing this week while yours truly got to move everything out of four rooms and a roll up some area rugs in advance of the carpet cleaners, and replace everything this morning, 24 hours after they finished.  Amazingly, it took only about one hour to put things back in place after my usual mug of early morning coffee once I established that the wall-to-wall carpeting was indeed dry.  

While doing so, it occurred to me that there are a number of very simple things we men, single or otherwise, can do to make our living spaces a bit more. . .  well, stylish and invitingTo be brutally honest for a moment, more of us guys ought to strive for living spaces that are more adult in nature, and I'm not talking about the porno kind of "adult" either.  I mean quiet, understated taste and sophistication.  At its most basic, picked up, straight, with nothing apparent that screams, "Overgrown high school or college kid on the loose for the first time!!!" 

Off the top my head, there are a dozen things you can do easily and without too much expense that will make your living space look more stylish and inviting.  Here we go:

1) Keep your space picked up and free of clutter.  Don't allow mail, discarded clothing, newspapers, magazines, TV remotes, or other junk to pile up on surfaces, against walls, or in corners.  Throw away or recycle disposable stuff, and keep your things picked up and put away.  You aren't 12 anymore.  Likewise, resist the temptation to cover every single table or shelf surface with small knick-knacks (sports memorabilia, travel souvenirs, trophies, etc.).  If you still can't part with some of that stuff from your boyhood, pack it up carefully and put it away in the attic or on a high closet shelf. 

2) For the love of God, put all of your shoes away in a closet and close the door!  Fewer things look worse than a pile of assorted footwear left in an entryway.  Even shoe shelves don't look that great if we are honest.  That sort of thing belongs in your hall or bedroom closet.

3) Hide all of those cords from computers, lamps, and appliances, or at least coil up the excess with plastic zip ties so it looks a bit less awful beneath your computer desk.

4) Lampshade seams should not be visible.  Make sure these face the wall, or window if the lamp(s) are before a window.

5) Straighten your lampshades and pictures now and then.  Air currents within a space and natural settling, to say nothing of the occasional big truck rumbling by outside, will cause these to shift incrementally over time.  Keep an eye on your space and fix these issues as and when needed. 

6) If any of your windows have shades or horizontal blinds, make sure these are straight, i.e. parallel to the sill/floor.  It's just one more free way to keep your space looking a bit nicer than average, but whatever you do, don't simply yank the cord and pull these all the way to the top of the window in question.  Open the shade to just below the half-way point, or, if adjusting horizontal blinds, angle the blinds to let in, or block the daylight depending on your preferences, time of day, angle of the sun, etc.

7) If you are beyond college dorm room/first shoebox apartment age, discard any and all torchiere floor lamps and remove those NFL, NASCAR, bathing beauty, or any other kind of posters from your walls.  Forthwith.  Replace the former with table lamps and end tables (think in pairs here), desk lamps, and those unframed, dog-eared posters with more interesting, tasteful, understated pictures or prints that have been matted and framed professionally.  In an ideal world, wall hangings should have something to do with your interests and travels.  Hopefully by now, these are broader and more cultivated than just professional sports, naked airbrushed women, and late night trips to Wal-Mart for over-sized buckets of generic Rocky Road ice-cream near its sell-by date, which have been, accordingly, reduced in price by 75%.  Take a gander at publications like Architectural Digest for ideas if you're drawing a blank.  Be willing to spend some money when you address this particular issue (lighting and wall treatments that is).  You'll thank yourself later.

8) Similarly, and whatever you do, do not furnish your living space with careless purchases from stores like Target, Michael's, or Hobby Lobby.  Unless you are going for a dorm room style with a tacky, kitchy, campy vibe.  But do you really want to live in a space that looks like a Technicolor combination of the Brady Bunch house interior ca. 1972 and the video for the B-52s song Love Shack?  I didn't think so.  IKEA, with extreme caution, is ok at a stretch for some things.  But have a distinct plan in mind.  Random purchases and haphazard room  arrangements will not achieve the result we desire. . .  tasteful, understated, sophisticated, and inviting.

8) Keep all cabinet, cupboard, and closet doors closed when you are not actually retrieving or putting something away.  It costs nothing.

9) If at all possible, figure out a way to hide or disguise that flat-screen TV when you are not watching it.  I'll risk stepping on some toes here, but fewer things look worse than a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall.  And above a fireplace??!!  Puh-leeze.  It's right up there with that pile of shoes in the front hall.

10) Run the ol' Hoover vacuum cleaner over any heavily trafficked areas once a week where carpeting and areas rugs are concerned, and wipe up any spills or drips from floors, kitchen counters, or table surfaces when they happen.

11) When it comes to the bathroom, boys, several points come to mind.  First, if your parents somehow never told you, make sure your pee IN the toilet, not on the floor around it.  The number of guy out there who can't seem to master this very basic skill is astounding.  Why do the women in their lives put up with that nonsense?  On a related note, wipe off the rim of the toilet with a tissue or a few sheets of toilet paper before your flush after urinating.  And I hope you've remembered to put up the seat!  Third, when you have finished using the toilet, put the lid down and keep it that way when not in use rather than leave it up all the time like a great, gaping maw just waiting for someone to rush in at the last possible minute to do his or her business.  Fourth, if you insist on camping out with magazines while using the facilities, pick these up and put them away out of sight when you finish.  Don't leave them scattered all over the bathroom floor around the throne.  Finally, leave the counter around the sink -- as well as the shower or bathtub for that matter -- clutter-free and wiped clean for the next person.  That means no stray hairs, whiskers, toothpaste, soap scum, drops of water, or whatever.  Clean up after yourself, Gilligan!  It helps to keep a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle of Windex or similar beneath the sink or in the bathroom linen closet.

12) Finally, if you have pets, are a smoker, use Axe products, or a you are a fan of Patchouli oil, be aware that the aromas you no longer notice might be extremely unpleasant (and even offensive) to others forced into close contact with you.  Take the necessary steps to make ding-dang sure that these odors, and others like them, do not build up over time.  That might be as simple as walking Fido more often, changing the ferret cage in your living room more than once a week, emptying your overflowing ashtrays, or realizing that just because a bit of something smells good (to you) that somehow dousing yourself in it is an even better ideaIt ain't so, Beaver.  Just ask Wally.

There we are.  Almost all of the dozen suggestions above cost nothing, but they go a long way toward helping to make your living space, regardless of size, more stylish and invitingRemember, it's all about self-respect plus showing a little forethought and consideration for those around you.  Addressing these all-too-common issues will make your apartment, flat, condominium, or house a little bit nicer for you, your family, and those occasional guests.  Even if they can't quite work out what is different about your particular residence versus many others.  

And I hope our little carpet cleaning adventure eradicates all evidence of THE DOG.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Wayne Shorter - Speak No Evil

Lee Morgan - The Sidewinder

Sonny Rollins - Alfie's Theme

Saturday Breakfast. . .

Forget the flat-pack furniture for a moment. . .  Let's think about breakfast.

The state of the world notwithstanding, a quiet Saturday breakfast helps keep one from slipping into total despair and anguish over yet more news of the ongoing violence and tragedy both here at home and abroad.  Lingonberry preserves spread over fresh bread along with large mugs of fresh, strong coffee made in a French press make things seem somewhat less terrible when viewed from the relative safety of Totleigh-in-the-Wold.    

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Classic Summertime Double-Breasted Combos. . .

Three lovely old Laurence Fellows illustrations, the one at the top from the 1940s and the latter two from the 1930s, showing double-breasted sports jackets worn with odd pants in summertime settings.  Not sure that I would don a DB jacket or suit in the summer, unless it was unseasonably chilly, or I found myself by the breezy seaside aboard a large cabin cruiser, but a guy can dream, right?  

I dropped off that recently purchased  Belvest DB suit (procured for a song via Ebay) at the tailor's yesterday for the usual minor alterations well in advance of the new university semester that begins in late August.  Can't beleive I'm letting it prey on my mind already, but we still have some time before syllabi revision and related tasks become pressing.

Anyway, the lady who marked up the necessary work with her tailor's chalk once I tried on the suit mentioned that her husband also likes double-breasted suits and has a couple of them.  Heartening to learn that there is someone else, somewhere in my small corner of the universe who enjoys trotting these out from time to time.  Happy Sunday everyone!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Lazy Days of Summer. . .

Another great old Laurence Fellows illustration, but with a caveat.

A lazy Thursday mid-summer morning here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold.  What better way to spend it than to take a few minutes to enjoy another mug of coffee and peruse a folder of vintage menswear illustrations like this one?

While I generally enjoy most of the work by Laurence Fellows that I have seen online, this particular double-breasted example, to my eyes, is a bit too studied.  Note the matchy-matchy quality of the socks, tie, and shirt.  The effect, were this an actual man, is that a bit too much thought has gone into his attire.  I too sometimes fall prey to this trap, but I'm learning.  Darker, or plainer socks, a light blue or white shirt, and a different bow tie would make this particular ensemble more attractive.  As I say, though, that's just me.  What are your thoughts?

On a similar note, I was recently able to score a couple of Polo Ralph Lauren double-breasted houndstooth suits in wool flannel via Ebay.  One is a brown and tan, and the other is  charcoal and cream with a mid-blue windowpane overlay.  The latter is deadstock (new old stock).  Both suits are a tad roomy in the shoulders for Ivy League/Trad enthusiasts (I know, I know), but their overall silhouettes are great when I try them on.  They drape nicely with slight waist suppression, and need only a bit of shortening in the sleeves and inseams.  After these relatively minor alterations, the suits will be fun to trot out now and then once the weather cools off in mid-October, or so.  I'll wait to drop 'em off with my tailor until mid-September. 

Otherwise, the boy is playing happily with dinosaurs upstairs, there is a cat in my lap here in my den, a short-sleeve madras shirt on my back, Norwegian jazz online courtesy of NRK Jazz, and all is, more or less right with my small corner of the world this morning.  I hope the same is true for you.

-- Heinz-Ulrich