Fjallraven Polar: Packing List

April 3, 2014 | Alex

Want to hear something wild? I leave for Sweden on Sunday! My head is spinning. Can you believe it's been 5 months since I submitted my entry video? And 4 months since I found out I was Fjallraven's Jury Pick? If you want to follow the adventure live, check out the official Fjallraven Polar 2014 site. They'll be posting photos and video along the way.

In the final days leading up to my flight, the #1 question from friends and family is "what are you bringing?" I haven't technically packed yet, but I've done a lot of pre-packing strategizing and cogitating. And a lot of consulting with my fellow Polar-ists.

If I felt any anxiety about the adventure that lies ahead (which, naturally, I did. because I am anxious about all things.), it dissipated completely in conversation with my Polar companions. We've been in near constant contact via What's App and Facebook. I am so lucky! How did Fjallraven manage to attract the 19 of the most hilarious, intrepid and kind-spirited people on the globe? If you think I'm exaggerating (ok, maybe I am a little), watch this video! Danish participant Peter created the video, inspired by a weird and wonderful thread about what to pack...which led to a joke about developing a new swimsuit line for Fjallraven.

Thanks, Peter! But back to the question at hand-- what will I bring? Fjallraven encourages us to pack light. Very light. They provide all the apparel, gear and supplies we need for the adventure itself. We only need to supplement with toiletries, camera equipment, passport, and mufti for the plane and party on the final night. Plus a swimsuit for our celebratory sauna on the final night! (Well, at least the Americans will be wearing swim suits. In the proud nudity-averse tradition of our puritan forebears.)

Here's my complete packing list:


Fjallraven Polar 2014 | Packing List

1. Personal Hygiene

Neutrogena Face Sunblock | Featherweight Camping Mirror | 1-day Contact Lenses | Action Body Wipes | Burt's Bees Lip Balm | Hand Sanitizer | Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Castille Soap | Baby Powder | Toothbrush | Travel Pill Case (Ibuprofin, Tylenol, Decongestant) | Personal Pack Towel (Mini)

2. Socks + Undies

Icebreaker Merino Wool Hiking Socks (x2) | Icebreaker Merino Racerback Bra | Icebreaker Merino Undies | Uniqlo Undies

*Fjallraven is providing everything for the adventure-- down to our unmentionables. But if I'm going to wind up with extras of anything, I'd like it to be undies.

3. Mufti

Madewell Cotton T-Shirts (x2) | Uniqlo Long-Sleeve HeatTech Tee | Jeans | Fjallraven Ovik Roll-Neck Sweater | Converse Sneakers | Malia Mills Bikini | Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket

* It may seem like a lot, but with my trusty packing pods (see "luggage" below), I can keep these items very compact. Also, we won't need much other than what Fjallraven provides, on the trail-- but I want to make sure I'm covered for an overnight flight, 2 days of orientation/travel to the North and the party at the end. 

4. Snacks

Luna Bars | Almonds

5. Personal Electronics + Passport

Canon Powershot S110 | Extra Camera Battery | iPhone 4s | iPhone charger | Passport

6. Luggage

Fjallraven Kanken Backpack | Fjallraven Duffel No.4 | eBags Packing Cubes | American Flag!

That's everything. Wish me luck! I'll be back stateside on April 20th-- a changed woman, no doubt. And at the very least, a woman with 19 new best friends.

Top Picks from the 2014 Architectural Digest Home Design Show

March 25, 2014 | Alex

Sunday marked the close of the 2014 Architectural Digest Home Design Show. Man, am I glad I went. I was fighting lingering jet lag and brain-fatigue from two days of Blogshop, but the westward trek to Pier 94 was WORTH IT. 

I discovered so many talented new designers. I had a chance to see (and touch!) products I'd previously only checked out online. For example, Hygge & West's collaboration with Laundry was even more compelling in real life. Those metallics! And Hudson-based Hawkins NY displayed their wares in a booth so pretty I lost all resolve to temper my instagram'ing. If only I could snap my fingers and transfer the color palette of their booth to my apartment.

The exhibitors at ADHDS are divided into three blocks-- reFresh, MADE and Home Furnishings. The appliance, fixture and fitting-oriented reFresh is always an education for the industry goers, but I won't dwell here, because how much do you guys want to hear about gas grills and door hardware (maybe a lot? I'm thinking not so much. But if I'm off-base, comment away!) Likewise, Home Furnishings is practical for designers or home owners looking to discover go-to sources and build relationships with vendors. For example, thanks to ADHDS, I begin any search for antique and vintage rugs at Lavender Oriental Carpets. When I'm sourcing wallpaper for a client next month, I'll keep Michele Varian's beautiful line in mind. And although we have a wonderful and highly accomplished art consultant (a former curator at the Met!), I'm happy to know that iLevel offers art hanging services in NYC. (Where and how to hang art is perhaps the most frequent questions I'm asked by clients and friends alike.)

But ADHDS's biggest draw for me is the MADE section, where AD showcases one-of-kind and limited edition goods by jury-selected artisans. Quality is consistently high. And the booths themselves are so imaginative! In Allied Maker's booth, Sonia Scarr of Love Dart channelled the spring weather outside the convention center with leather-wrapped terracotta planters. Erin Trine whipped up a small powder-coated shelf to display his planters, and added a hook to hang his coat! It wasn't just professionally illuminating-- it was really fun too! I loved chatting with all the fascinating and quirky people that are contributing to the rebirth of the craft culture in the U.S. 

Pier 94 was packed with talent, but a few exhibitors stick out in my mind:


Textile pattern behind "Top Picks" is Alyson Fox's Landscape Area Rug for Hawkins NY.


  1. Once Upon a Time in the West (Twin Falls, ID), Photograph by Travis Schneider, via Tappan Collective - price varies based on print size.
  2. Leather Extension Cord - Red + White, Allied Maker - $79
  3. Strut Shelving System, Souda
  4. Rod + Weave Chair, Eric Trine - $1,200
  5. RS Ceramics, Reinaldo Sanguino
  6. Standing Bowl - Small, Fort Standard - $84
  7. The DJ Stand, Atocha Design - $1,475
  8. Genus Chair (Bloom) by Phillip Estlund, via Grey Area - $3,600

And one more! Kith & Kin Shop. The husband-and-wife team from VA makes an awesome patchwork console. Fingers crossed I can find a spot for it in a clients' home.

PS What do you guys think about the new template? Snazzy new photoshop skills courtesy of Blogshop!

What to Pack for a Short-Term Vacation Rental

March 13, 2014 | Alex

Hi from Palm Springs! My parents rented a house here for a week to be near my extended family and escape the brutal NYC winter. I hopped on the band wagon to squeeze in some desert hiking before leaving for the arctic in less than a month. Our rental house here is in a Wexler complex, built in 1960-- very funky and retro to the max. Quintessential Palm Springs.

Now that they're traveling more in their semi-retirement, my parents are big fans of short-term rentals. On longer trips, it's particularly nice to have access to a full kitchen. I love a good hotel room, but any longer than 3 days and I miss fixing my own breakfast. And when traveling as a group, I like to have a living space for family movie nights.

My parents have perfected the art of packing for a vacation rental. My dad is in charge of food items and my mom covers electronics and decor. I asked them to share their "must-bring" list for a vacation rental property. Granted, their list does assume that you're checking baggage. And they do take things to an extreme. (I imagine some people would go ahead and take the risk that they won't have access to decent olive oil while on vacation. Not my dad.)

But, nevertheless, it's a helpful list if you're planning to go away for a week or more. Here are their recommendations for what to pack when renting a vacation home for an extended amount of time:

  1. The Mobile Foodie Survival Kit- $26 | Trudeau Microfiber Salad Bag - $14.95 | Farm Animal Chip Clips - $8/set of 3
  2. Voluspa Candle - $8 | Convertible Silicon Vase - $24.99 (similar to pictured)
  3. ArteOliva Extra Virgin Olive Oil | Travel Balsamic Vinegar | Empire Mayo - $8
  4. Jawbone Mini Jambox $179.99 | Muji Compact Alarm Clock - $16.50 | ChromeCast - $35
  5. Cashmere Duster - $295 | a&R Cashmere Slippers - $99 | Blowpro Perfect Shower Cap - $18*
  6. Stumptown Coffee - $16.50 | Aerolatte Milk Frother - $14.99 | Marimekko Pieni Unikko Apron - $45

*ok, $18 is a lot for a shower cap. then again, it is "the perfect" shower cap...

If you're renting a home from someone who lives there full time (like through Airbnb), you can probably slim down on the kitchen items. Presumably, they'll have basic spices on hand and won't mind if a pinch of cayenne goes missing. But if you're staying on a property that's maintained strictly for rental purposes (which we are), then there are certain kitchen basics that tend to be absent. Chief among these: chip clips, a decent apron, a well-stocked spice rack and a salad spinner. Since a salad spinner is a bit bulky to pack, my Dad turns to microfiber salad drying bags. You can always purchase condiments at a local grocery, but a) in can be a drag to buy a whole bottle of olive oil when you're not likely to make a dent in it during your stay; and b) if you have strong preferences for a favorite brand of, say, mayo, you could be S.O.L. My dad swears by these travel-friendly ArteOliva cartoons of Olive Oil (available at Despana in SoHo). At home, my parents make cappuccinos with a Nespresso Aeroccino (heaven!), but on the road they rely on their trusty aerolatte portable foamer.

My mom's picks may not "essential" strictly speaking, but I cannot tell you how much she added to the ambiance of our rental within the first 20 minutes of arriving. Rental properties have a habit of feeling cold. That was certainly true of ours. Stylish and comfortable? Yes. Would you think for even a second that someone actually lived there? Nope. But once she scattered a few votives around, streamed pandora to her jambox jawbone, and put a bouquet of trader joe's parrot tulips in a portable vase, I could swear I was in their NYC apartment. Different surroundings, definitely, (and uh sorta the point of a vacation), but the same comfy vibe that I love so much about my childhood home. We could even stream House of Cards via ChromeCast! 

The other thing to remember with rentals is that you can't rely on the standard amenities of a hotel, i.e. bathrobe, slippers, shower cap, alarm clock, etc. I don't mind not having a terry robe, but when you're hanging out around the house with family, it's nice to have something cozy to slip over your PJs. (And if your PJs are as "weathered" as mine, it's beneficial to have something presentable to wear to breakfast.) My mom came up with the brilliant idea of packing a duster that could do double duty as a robe or cardigan. While most people in my generation use their phone as alarm clocks, if you're really trying to disconnect, an alarm clock's not a bad idea. I like this light and quiet alarm clock from Muji.

Did I miss anything? Thanks, Mom and Dad, for this great list! Hope you find it helpful.

Shop: Nate Berkus for Target 2014 | Black, White + Wood

February 11, 2014 | Alex

Nate Berkus never disappoints with his Target collections. But this year's black, white + wood theme is deeply compelling. Lately, I can't get this image of a simple and stunning Danish home out of my head:


Berkus seems to be suffering from the same affliction. Here are a few of my favorite thematic additions to his Target line:


  1. Earthenware Bowl (White) - $17.99
  2. Earthenware Vase (White) - $9.99
  3. Wood Tray (in Black and White - $19.99
  4. Bath Mat - $18.99
  5. Hexagonal Wood and Resin Tray - $34.99
  6. Arrowhead Bath Collection - $6.99 - 16.99

Common Bond Design is an affiliate of Target. Read more about our affiliate relationships here.