It’s no secret that I’m a big-city girl. I love everything about a booming metropolis: the people crowding the streets, the buses and subways, the public green spaces, the village-like feel of the neighborhoods. So I’d always been a little sad that the only trip I’d ever made to New York City was on my high school’s band and choir bus trip when I was a freshman–just fourteen years old. I didn’t exactly get to live New York City life that time around, which is why, when I found out that my dad and my brother and sister-in-law were spending Memorial Day weekend in the Big Apple, I immediately made plans to crash their party.

It was a three-day trip: Ben, Quinn, and I flew into LaGuardia on Thursday morning and out on Sunday morning. It was an unusually cold and rainy weekend, which meant that there were a lot fewer people out and about than normal. So we missed out on some of the bustling big-city experience, but on the plus side, it was a lot easier to get around.

Speaking of “easier to get around,” I was like a packing Jedi for this trip, if I do say so myself. I managed to get all of our things into just one suitcase and one carry-on (Quinn’s diaper bag). But then when it came time to pack my camera, I realized that I was out of space. If I wanted to bring my DSLR, I was going to have to pack an extra bag to hold my camera, a couple lenses, extra batteries, and memory cards–not an insignificant piece of luggage to carry around. Plus, then I’d have to haul that bag around New York CIty with me while simultaneously wrangling Quinn, his diaper bag, and his umbrella stroller. And the weather forecast was calling for rain, which meant wrestling with actual umbrellas too. So it was undoubtedly going to be inconvenient to bring my DSLR on this trip, but dared I leave it at home?? I’d never done that before! It was very, very scary, but after a lot of hemming and hawing, I finally decided that I would forego my DSLR and rely solely on my iPhone to document the trip.

And you know what? It was a great decision. I’m so glad I did it. For one thing, it felt very liberating to not be weighed down by a bunch of heavy camera equipment. And its absence made me a lot less conspicuous too. Everyone’s always taking pictures with their phones, so I didn’t stand out as a tourist quite so much–which was nice for a change.

But the benefits weren’t just travel-related; there were some nice photography benefits too. One was that shooting everything on my iPhone forced me to concentrate more on composition and lighting than I usually do. It can be easy to get lazy with a great piece of glass on my DSLR because its ability to shoot at a shallow depth of field (rendering just a few things in sharp focus and turning the rest into a pleasing blur) often does the lion’s share of making my photos look good. Not so with the iPhone: without the ability to control its aperture, I have to rely on composition and light to create an interesting image–which makes me work a lot harder. It was actually a fun challenge.

But the iPhone also helped me to be a little bit lazy too. Usually when I get home from a trip I have gobs and gobs of images on multiple memory cards that I have to transfer to my computer, cull down, and then edit before I can share them. To be honest, it’s a daunting prospect. But when I shoot on my iPhone, I just spend a little time while lying in bed every night choosing the day’s best photos and editing them in AfterLight. Then I can post them immediately on Instagram and Facebook, giving my friends and family a real-time look at what we’re up to on vacation. Plus, I’m not faced with an overwhelming photo-processing project when I get home. Win–win!

Before I show you the results of my great iPhone experiment, I also wanted to point out that this post may give you some ideas for things to do with your babies or toddlers in NYC. Quinn had just turned a year old a few weeks before our trip, so we obviously didn’t get to go to any shows or fancy dinners, but we still managed to have a lot of fun. He was at a slightly awkward age–extremely interested in everything going on around him but not yet walking–so we stuck to places where (a) we could take his stroller, and (b) other people wouldn’t be bothered by a little noise. It worked like a charm.

And now for the photo dump. First, the view from the apartment where we stayed. I love a good city scene:

And I have an obsession with those yellow cabs, as you will soon see. Here’s Rockefeller Center:
And me standing on a subway grate:
Grand Central Terminal:
And Times Square on a rainy Thursday evening:
New York City is just so darn pretty:
(I’ve been obsessed with Dean & Deluca ever since “Felicity.”) And oh yeah, here’s another yellow cab:
My homage to the New York CIty subway:
Man, I love public transportation! More pretty city stuff:
We ate breakfast one morning at The Standard Grill, which was absolutely delicious and gorgeous and maybe my favorite part of the trip:
Yes, that is a penny-tile floor made of real pennies!
Then we walked through the beautiful High Line park for bit:
before heading over to Washington Square:
Then I got to cross something off my bucket list: shopping at ABC Carpet and Home. Why didn’t anyone tell me how enormous that place is?? Six floors and a basement! I needed to spend a week there. (And win the lottery first.) Here’s the view when you walk off the elevator on the second floor:
Gah! We also hit up a lovely children’s bookstore called Books of Wonder, and then found this awesome blue wall on our walk back to the subway:
Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the MoMA on this trip (and missed the Rain Room, which I really regret), but we did hit up the MoMA Design Store across the street. It didn’t occur to me beforehand that everything inside would look like a toy to Quinn, but luckily we were able to get out of there without incident.
The only thing we stood in line for all weekend was to go to the Top of the Rock observation deck for the very best views of New York City. Doesn’t Central Park look amazing??
And the beautiful Empire State Building:
Back down on the ground again:
We ended the evening with some Famous Original Ray’s pizza:
The next morning we went to Brooklyn:
We saw the iconic Brooklyn Bridge:
And Quinn rode the carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park:
We caught a glimpse of the Midtown Bridge from DUMBO:
And then we went back to Manhattan for lunch at Momofuku (Ben’s choice):
Quinn’s restaurant! Next time we’re eating there:
Then we capped off our visit to New York City with a walk through Central Park:
Such a fun trip, and I love having these images to remember it by. I hope my positive experience shooting this trip on my iPhone inspires you to perhaps push yourself out of your comfort zone and see what kind of art you’re capable of creating!

  • Stephanie Cleveland

    Beautiful photos! Loved seeing this! The Clevelands are headed to NYC in October. We will be taking several of your great recommendations!ReplyCancel

    • Oh Stephanie, I hope y’all have the best time!! I’d love to visit NYC in the fall…ReplyCancel

Every time I’m reading a design magazine or blog and I see an image of an interior that I love (not infrequently, I assure you), I save it. These days I usually pin it on Pinterest, but back in the dark ages I just saved it to my computer’s hard drive. A bit hoarder-ish? Perhaps. But the upshot of my borderline-OCD tendency is that whenever I feel the need for some inspiration, I can just browse through my very own design catalog–thousands upon thousands of my favorite pretty images. It’s a surefire way to kick the creative side of my brain into gear.

So before I share any more progress updates on our master bathroom makeover, I thought it would be fun to show you some of the inspiration behind the design. For me, black, white, and wood is usually where it’s at. I bring in color through textiles and art and accessories, which I like to change up from time to time–but I never tire of a neutral foundation. So to get some ideas for our bathroom, I pulled some of my favorites images in this color scheme. Let’s dream big, shall we??

via Style Files | Giampaolo Benedini

Richard Powers | Sköna Hem

Karel Balas for Milk Magazine | Inga Powilleit

Aidlin Darling Design | David Duncan Livingston

Katie Quinn Davies | Clare Cousins

Living Inside | Dezeen

Now there’s certainly no way we could afford to recreate any of these amazing bathrooms, but that really isn’t the point. Instead I draw on their neutral color schemes, clean lines, and minimalist aesthetics, and get inspiration for fixtures and materials. I then try to adapt some of my favorite elements to our space and budget limitations.

As I collected inspiration images for this project, I noticed a recurring theme: white tiled walls and black floors.

Sean Slattery for Elizabeth Roberts Design | Horrigan O’Malley Architects

Bolig Magasinet | Stadsem

See that raised rubber floor, above right? Yeah, I’m digging that. And I’m really digging the straight-set rectangular white tile in these two bathrooms:

Hus & Hem | CCS Architecture

So here’s what I’m thinking for our bathroom:

1: US Ceramic 4.25-inch x 10-inch wall tile in Matte White Ice, stacked in a straight-set pattern, which looks a bit more modern than the traditional offset pattern. I would have preferred a shorter, wider tile–2-inches x 8-inches would actually have been perfect–but those were prohibitively expensive. So instead I went with the tile that had the highest length/width ratio I could find that was within my budget.

2: Normann Copenhagen Dropit Wall Hooks for holding bath towels, to bring in a little bit of wood. Plus, these are modern and fun.

3: Vanity light fixtures similar to these General Store porcelain light sockets, but I’m actually cooking up a DIY version in black. I just hope they provide enough light; there’s no ceiling light in the bathroom so the vanity lights will be the primary light source.

4: Yellow Turkish bath towels will be a nice dollop of color. I’ve heard really great things about peshtemals–I hope we like them!

5: Sleek, modern Hansgrohe Focus S sink faucets in chrome for the vanity.

6: A pair of IKEA GODMORGON mirrored medicine cabinets to provide some much needed storage out of reach of curious toddlers.

7: Two black porcelain wall hooks for holding hand towels on either side of the vanity. These will tie in with the black porcelain vanity lights.

8: Black raised rubber flooring. I was looking for a unique material for the bathroom floor–something other than porcelain tile. And after considering cork and VCT tile, I became obsessed with rubber flooring. I priced out the offerings from just about every rubber flooring manufacturer I could find, but thankfully didn’t pull the trigger until I read about Daniel Kanter’s amazingly inexpensive rubber flooring solution. Just $250 for a roll of rubber so big that it would cover our bathroom floor twice! I always love Daniel’s blog, but I’m pretty sure he wrote that particular post especially for me. Well maybe not, but it did come at the perfect time to solve my flooring conundrum.

9: A white step trash can while I dream of splurging on a handsome little Vipp.

10: IKEA GODMORGON/ODENSVIK 48-inch vanity in high gloss white. You can read about the vanity saga here.

So that’s the plan! I’m sure that in the end the completed bathroom will look a bit different than this vision, but that’s typical. It’s just nice to know that when I run into a design issue–like OMIGOSH WHAT COLOR GROUT SHOULD I USE???–I can look back at my inspiration photos for guidance. And then all my obsessive photo-cataloging will have been worth it. Probably.

For the full story of our master bathroom makeover, check out:
Part 1: Tackling the master bathroom
Part 2: Bathroom inspiration
Part 3: Prep work
Part 4: Rubber flooring
Part 5: Wall tile
Part 6: The bathroom is finished!

  • Hi Emily, I’m becoming a huge fan of your blog and naturally I love everything you picked out for your master bath, except the rubber thang. I get it, I do(!) and I’m really curious how everything is going to come out. But it seems to me that the rubber floor is not a very functional and permanent solution, or is it? Can’t wait for the reveal (and to see the Dropit hooks in action!)ReplyCancel

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Mirela! I know absolutely what you mean about the rubber floor, it’s definitely not for everyone. And many people use rubber as just a temporary rental solution. But I just love the look of the rubber and have seen photos of it done really well in a number of interiors–maybe I’ll share them in a follow-up floor post. From personal experience I can report that it looks great installed in our bathroom, and that thus far it cleans up quite easily, but only time will tell how functional and permanent it is. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!ReplyCancel

  • Well now that I have seen it in Daniel’s kitchen, I definitely can picture it in the bathroom! Can’t wait to see it!!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • These are some amazing ideas. I love the colors, fixtures, floors and just the over all look of these bathrooms. Thank you for post.ReplyCancel

I absolutely love having a little boy to dress, but it can sometimes be challenging to find the sort of clothes I like–cute, comfortable, not too cheesy, not too Bieber-like. Basically, if it has stripes or a sophisticated graphic, I’m all over it.

I try very hard not to go overboard buying clothes for Quinn, though to be honest I’m not always successful. My goal each season is to splurge on just 2-4 pieces that I really love, and then fill in the rest of his wardrobe with less expensive things, usually from Target or Old Navy. I like to buy pieces individually, rather than as part of a set, because (a) the clothes are usually less “cutesy” that way, and (b) I can mix and match pieces to create multiple outfits. I order all of Quinn’s clothes online except for those I pick up at our local Target, and I try to watch for sales, especially in the stores that carry the more expensive stuff, like Tea Collection and Sweet William.

It’s a bit late in the season, but in case it helps any of you other moms out there who struggle to dress their little boys, I thought I’d share what Quinn’s wearing this summer and where I got it:


1 and 5: atsuyo et akiko and ketiketa from Sweet William Ltd. These were a couple of my summer splurges because I just couldn’t resist those cute animal graphics. A moose who says “bisou” (kiss)?? Come on! These shirts are really soft and well-made too. Sweet William is a children’s boutique that carries a lot of designers I love, so my splurges are often made there.

2 and 3: Winter Water Factory. I adore the amazing prints on these organic, made-in-the-USA lap tees. In fact, pretty much everything at WWF is this cute. These two shirts were also splurges, but I managed to get them both on great sales.

4, 6, 8, 13, 15, and 17: Zara Kids. Zara is a good place to find kids’ clothes that are more stylish than average, but aren’t nearly as expensive as the boutique-y designers’. I’d say they’re priced pretty comparably to the Gap. A lot of Q’s summer basics are from Zara: a couple of solid tanks, a couple of pairs of shorts (denim and khaki bermudas, both of which ran a little large), a light-weight white tee with cute denim details, and those to-die-for baby gladiator sandals (which also ran quite large).

7: Gap. This neon-striped tank was actually a birthday gift from Quinn’s aunt, uncle, and cousins, and you know I love me some neon. Plus, STRIPES!

9, 10, and 12: Target. Q and I go to my beloved Target a least once or twice a week, so if a cute shirt happens to occasionally find its way into my shopping cart, am I really to be blamed?? These incremental additions to Quinn’s wardrobe have contributed some much-needed color.

11: American Apparel. Quinn obviously needed a t-shirt with his initial on it! And in addition to this, American Apparel actually supplied quite a bit of Q’s spring wardrobe last season–I love their striped onesies and their awesome cotton leggings. All very affordable.

14 and 16: Tea Collection. My favorite thing in Quinn’s wardrobe last winter was a pair of Tea Collection “denim-look” cotton pants (similar to these) because they looked stylish but were super comfortable for him–much more so than wearing real jeans. So when I wanted to find Q some comfortable play shorts for the summer, Tea Collection was where I went. They have some great cotton and terry pieces that feel as good as sweats but look a whole lot nicer. And their clothes just fit my long-and-lean baby really well.

18: Tiny Toms. These adorable little green Biminis get compliments wherever we go. I just wish they stayed on his feet better….

19: NoZone swimsuit from Amazon. This is Q’s primary swimsuit, which I love because it’s one piece and provides great sun protection. He’s also got a cute rash guard and pair of skull board shorts from–where else?–Target.

So now you know what my little dude is wearing this summer. If you’d like some more inspiration, you can follow my Pinterest board where I save all my clothing ideas for Quinn. And if you have any other good sources for little boy clothes, please let me know in the comments!