City Chic: The Modern Girl's Guide to Living Large on Less

City Chic: The Modern Girl's Guide to Living Large on Less

by Nina Willdorf

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Live the luxe life on less

You're a Modern Girl embarking on a fabulous life in the city, working hard and playing even harder. Money may be an object, but you refuse to let it be an obstacle. That's because what you may lack in funds you make up for in daring and desire. Completely revised with more tips and tricks than ever, City Chic is your practical insiders' primer on how to creatively cheat at being chic. From food and drink to personal maintenance, and from fashion to home décor, City Chic covers everything a Modern Girl needs to know.

  • Big idea decoratingfor small spaces
  • Cash-saving culinary tips
  • The best websites for scoringdeals
  • Go green: save the environment and your checking account
  • Maximize your iPod for fullparty potential
  • Establish your perfectsignature cocktail


'City Chic is constantly inventive, amazingly granular, and a blast to read.'
Dany Levy, founder/chairman | Daily Candy, Inc.

'I love the book. If only I'd had it for the past ten years—it would've saved me lots of heartache, bad furniture, and most importantly, money… It gives you license to scrimp and pinch—and makes you feel more empowered to do so.'
Gigi Guerra, brand marketing director of Madewell | former editor of Lucky magazine

'City chicks no longer need to turn tricks or sell dope in order to have a glamorous lifestyle— just read Nina's brilliant book.'
Simon Doonan, creative director for Barneys New York | author of Confessions of a Window Dresser

'Being an ‘it' girl has never been about how much cash you had in the bank, and now is the time to embrace your inner recessionista. Willdorf's book proves that being frugal and being fabulous are not mutually exclusive.'
Lara Cohen, news director | Us Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402247835
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 03/01/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Nina Willdorf is the editor in chief of Budget Travel magazine. She has worked at Travel + Leisure and Worth, and has served as an on-air expert on E!, CNN, and Inside Edition. In addition to City Chic, Nina is the author of Wedding Chic: The Savvy Bride's Guide to Getting More while Spending Less (Penguin, 2005). She lives with her husband, Michael Endelman, in New York. Her website is

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter One: Lighten Up

"There is no such thing as an ugly color. There is such a thing as an ugly color combination." —Douglas Fitch, artist

I went to college in New York City, where a shoe-box-sized room is considered ample space. Housing in college anywhere in the country is already a less-than-luxurious affair, with twin beds and utilitarian design. But in converted New York apartment buildings, dusty and musty and crumbling and full of—ahem—character, the dorms I lived in required some seriously savvy decorating skills. Each year, as I crossed the threshold into my new space, depositing boxes of books and bedding, I surveyed the design challenges, the many limitations, and the even more bountiful options to make things fabulous. New year, new apartment, new creative challenges.

First was a modernist cube cinderblock room I shared with my roommate, Adrianne. We had two twin beds, an elaborate shelving unit occupying one wall, and a floor of cold linoleum. We lay down rugs, placed disguising wall hangings over the oppressively drab cinderblock, used soft lamps, and formed an ahhh…nest.

Later, I shared a studio apartment with Julia. It was also dorm housing but in a converted prewar apartment building. When I moved in, there was a bunk bed hugging one wall, two dressers in the middle of the room, and a kitchen that could fit one person (as long as she sucked in and angled in sideways). Things looked bleak. But we went to work. The first thing we did was separate the bunk bed—I mean, really, how old were we? Then we pushed a worn-out couch below the windows at the head of the room, which we covered in a beautiful, purple-hued Indian spread. Candles and lighting touches clinched the transition from drab dorm to cozy casa.

Over the course of the next few years, I cultivated essential skills, such as sprucing up a room with a perfectly placed plant, devising slipcovers for well-worn furniture, and hanging just the right number of pictures on the wall to create cozy without getting claustrophobic.

I saw: a crevice of a foyer. It became: an "office."

I saw: a blank wall. It became: a shelving unit for kitchenwares that didn't fit in the two cabinets.

I saw: a window that faced something more than a brick wall. It became: a focal point of the apartment, enhanced by a hanging plant.

I saw: a doorframe. It became: the ideal spot to hang hooks for coats.

Everything has multiple functions, and anything that's not a problem
becomes a potential asset.

As a Modern Girl, you find yourself in similar decorating predicaments. Small apartments and shares are bursting with creative challenges; you rise to them with gusto, rubbing your hands in anticipation, your eyes darting around to scope out all the ins and outs of your space. Everything—everything—has potential. A folding screen becomes a door between a convertible two bedroom. Stacks of books act as a makeshift coffee table. A step stool doubles as a pedestal for a droopy plant. You can make something out of anything. Hit the ground running.

First and foremost in your apartment transformation is painting. There's no better way to transform your space, to make it yours, than to throw some color on the walls. And as far as apartment renovations go, painting is an affordable way to make your space better—especially if you do it yourself. You're not ripping out walls (please), you're not installing appliances (1-800-HELP-MOI), but be completely comfortable taking on a good paint job. All you have to invest in are a few cans of paint, some brushes and rollers, and a six-pack of beer to lure your friends over to make a day of it.

Word to the wise: If your landlord doesn't allow painting, don't worry. Every apartment I've ever lived in has a clause in the lease that you're not allowed to paint. Ignore it. It's likely that the next tenant will be stunned by your impeccable taste and choose to keep the color anyway. And if not, in many states, your landlord is required to slap on another coat of white before the new tenant moves in anyway. The worst-case scenario is that you have to paint over your color. In that case, meet Kilz, a primer that covers up even the brightest bordello red. Consider your color dead.

Chances are, when you first move in, your apartment will be white. If you're lucky, you may have started off with something a little spicier, like eggshell or a very pale cream. But none of those will do as the sole color for your entire home. All-white walls, like an all-white wardrobe, are too easy, and they waste precious creative space. You should leave no more than one room in your home in plain old white. That room will act as a pause between your other rooms. While wild color combinations (yellow and green and red, all at once!) may be a bad idea, having every single room in white does nothing for you. At the very least, brush on an eggshell white or a pale gray.

Identify your room needs
Before you go slapping up a shocking shade of orange in your bedroom, you need to figure out exactly what you require from each room. Does your bedroom double as a study? Do you enjoy reading the newspaper at your kitchen table in the mornings? Is your bathroom a beautifying space? All of the colors you choose will help make your home well suited to your exact housing needs.

Separating space
Most Modern Girls are still in situations that are, generously speaking, a
little humble: sharing apartments or living in cramped studios or one bedrooms.
Paint can work wonderfully in small starter apartments by clearly delineating space and creating the illusion of vastness.

My husband, Michael, and I moved into a very small railroad-style onebedroom in Cambridge several years ago; one room led to another, without a hallway. There were no doors between the rooms, and, well, even using the word room could be considered generous. A very tall person lying down could probably have a limb in three rooms at once. Needless to say, we had to find a way to make the space seem larger. It was the first time that we had lived together, and it was the first time either of us had shacked up with a significant other. We were both nervous about having enough personal space and personal time. So making our small apartment seem larger was key.

To that end, we painted the bedroom and the living room a pale blue gray, keeping the door frames white, and we painted the kitchen and bathroom a sunny shade of yellow, leaving the study white. Walking from room to room after we'd painted really felt like transitioning from one space to another, just because of the color. We could be in different rooms, and even though there weren't doors, we could still feel like we were in another part of the house.

In a small apartment, use different colors in different rooms to make each its own space and to make the apartment seem more spacious.

Table of Contents

introduction xiii
section one: home

chapter one: lighten up
Small apartment color choices • Room-by-room wise color guide •
Thinking beyond the four walls in paint • Big ideas for small spaces •
Basic lighting primer • Room-by-room lighting vibe guide

chapter two: furnish for less
Settling on a scheme • Know when to negotiate • Honing in on
deals • Quality furniture markers • Already-in-place furnishing
alternatives • Furniture garnishes

chapter three: free finds you can pick up on the street
Reimagining trash as treasure • Knowing when to pass and when
to pounce • Seasonal curbside shopping • Room-by-room free
furnishing options • Found art • Sprucing up found furniture

chapter four: final touches with flowers and plants
Flora and fauna for the fast-paced lifestyle • Low-maintenance
high-yield options • Picking the plant most likely to succeed •
Problem-free potting and watering • Last-ditch deathbed plant
rescue • Hardy flowers • Coaxing the longest life out of cut flowers

section two: body

chapter five: toning down your fitness budget
Financially sound fitness methods • Anywhere exercises • Everyday
chores = extreme exercise • Squeezing savings when joining gyms

chapter six: snip your hair care budget
Selecting the right salon • Long-lasting looks • Bottom line
on bangs • Hair color expenses • Lowering highlighting costs

chapter seven: makeup myths
Bare bones makeup bag • Worthwhile splurges • Drugstore scores •
When to replenish and replace • Best budget beauty buys • Fridge
to face beauty recipes • Multitasking makeup

section three: eat & drink

chapter eight: drink your way into a savings stupor
Selecting a signature drink • Bargain booze hounds • E-Z Wine
primer • Storage solutions • Coffee conundrum

chapter nine: price-saving pantries
Savvy grocery shopping schedules • Special deals in shopping for
food • Seasonal savings • Pantry staples • Fast recipes for one • What
to buy generic • Long-lasting storage secrets

chapter ten: the only five spices you really need
Five spices you really need • Spice substitution charts • When bad
meals happen to good people • Modern Girl cooking maxims

chapter eleven: entertaining for less
Avoiding the unequal restaurant bill-split scenario • Ordering tips • Downsizing your diet •Dinner party prize-winning recipes • Cash-saving co-op dinners

section four: wear

chapter twelve: the Modern Girl's look
Glam, ghetto-fabulous, or genteel—who is the Modern Girl? • On
not getting hemmed in • Essential items • Unlikely inspiration

chapter thirteen: weeding in your closet
Ditch the nostalgia • Fashion face-lifts • When more isn't better •
Style signatures and spicy accents

chapter fourteen: behind the seams
Lengthen clothing lifespan • Dry-cleaning dos and don'ts • Stain
removal solutions • Supermarket stain removal recipes • Laundry
mishaps and saving solutions • Piecemeal maintenance

chapter fifteen: shop 'n save
Cozy up to the calculator • Price-per-item values • Speed shopping
and coy one-liners • Reasonable measures • Clothes inspection 101 •
General shopping strategies • Shopping by calendar—season, month,
day • Sample sales • Thrift scores

chapter sixteen: style staples
Itemizing what's important • Piecemeal shopping • Splurges •
Trends: Invest in the best • Looks that last

chapter seventeen: satisfy without spending
Walletless shopping • Clothing swap parties • Share 'n care •
Dare to do it yourself • Ode to malls

the books
the index
the author

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