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The Wake Up

Kayla Dalle Molle

Brooklyn, NY

At first glance, the most exciting details in Kayla Dalle Molle’s 19’th century Brooklyn bathroom were the iconic, mid-century accessories in place of “bathroom furniture” (Kartell & Vitra make so much sense in this space, why didn’t we think of that sooner?) Kayla is a modern art historical researcher and those influences are everywhere in her home. But like I said, this was only my first impression. The more we talked, the more I realized Kayla applied her research skills to every detail of her life. Take her medicine cabinet: Italian floss, Syrian soap, a British hairbrush, Australian deodorant... It seems like wherever Kayla goes, there is a bit of discovery. The international pharmacy score was just a lucky break. My original reason for visiting was to scope out a bathroom for a D.I.Y. design contest we hosted with Remodelista & Clare paint. We hoped to transform Kayla's bathroom with fresh paint and some new Quiet Town accessories. 

Hey Kayla, thanks so much for letting us dig around in your bathroom! But most of all, thanks for volunteering to be our very first Bathroom Makeover! I’d love to know why you chose Clare’s “Wing It” paint color and Quiet Town’s Beacon shower curtain in Pine? 
My bathroom has one north-facing window with frosted glass, so considering the diffuse source of natural light was important when choosing the paint color. “Wing It” reminded me of Calamine Lotion and felt nostalgic and warm. Sweet but not cloying. I live in an 1892 brownstone, and my bathroom still has a band of original hand-painted tiles, so I wanted to refer to that palette elsewhere. The clean geometric forms in the Beacon were a nice counterpoint to the Victorian fixtures and all the frilly decoration in the wainscoting.

You have so many non-bathroom’y, bathroom accessories in here--it’s really inspiring! I’m already thinking about all of the furniture and accessories I’ve overlooked in my home for this space! I was wondering if you could tell me the stories behind some of them?
In terms of design objects, I think of the bathroom as I would any other room in the home. You can find aesthetically interesting objects for the bathroom that also uphold whatever utilitarian expectations you have of them. It’s the privacy of bathrooms that make them so special—the bathroom floor was my favorite place to read books as a little girl. 

The wall unit is an original Dorothee Becker Uten.Silo unit that I purchased at auction several years ago. Becker designed it in 1969 and it’s made of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic, which is comparatively harder and lighter than PP.  That’s just a convoluted way of saying that it was built to age well, which it has (so far). I also don’t mind the idea of a little patina on it—a little post-Atomic Age wabi-sabi.

This Componobili storage unit was designed by Anna Castelli Ferrieri, an architect and designer whom I admire very much. Castelli Ferrieri was one of the first women to graduate from the Politecnico di Milano and co-founded the design company, Kartell, with her husband. I spent my formative years living in Milan and her designs are very emblematic of that moment for me.

I love this mid-century mirror you found for me for the bathroom makeover.  I’m debating whether I want to tend to the flaws in the wood or rough it up even further.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? What’s the last thing you do before bed?
Several snoozes followed by breakfast and coffee. I usually bookend my days with NPR: BBC Newshour every morning and reruns of The Brian Lehrer Show at night. My parents gave me their vintage Grundig radio as a housewarming gia, which I cherish (static and all).

Are you the friend everyone takes with them to Sephora? What's your favorite source for makeup and skin care info? And if there’s one thing that everyone needs in their skin care routine, what would it be?
I wish that my friends and I would go to Sephora together! I am incredibly reliant on the advice of my friends who work in the industry, especially when it comes to makeup--my friend Sydney Utendahl conceives of the most amazing looks. But sunscreen has always been an important part of my life, especially with my family history of melanoma. I’ve been a mineral sunscreen evangelist for decades and I force everyone in my life to try MyChelle—I wear their Sun Shield Liquid Tint SPF 50 every day. I’m also very clumsy, so I couldn't exist without Biafine, a topical emulsion that I buy in French pharmacies to use on cuts and bruises. You can also buy it at Thompson Chemists, but it’s criminally expensive there. Biafine is a hydrating cream with a slightly tacky texture, and the mechanism of action is very cool--it contains trolamine, which recruits increased numbers of macrophages to the wound site.

Tell me about those Korean wash cloths. I have a feeling they are a necessity. Am I right?
Completely right! I’ve heard people call them Korea-Italy Towels. It’s Salux-adjacent, in that it’s a woven viscose material. But the weave is much finer and tighter, so you get a deeper scrub.

You have some really pretty vessels in your bathroom. Are they there for decor or are they serving a function?
The ceramic vessels on my window sill are stoneware liquor bottles from the now defunct Mohawk Liqueur Corporation, Detroit, Michigan. Mohawk was formed at the end of Prohibition in the United States, and operated through 1966. I use these liquor bottles to hold carrier oils, which they do a good job protecting from heat, oxygen, and light. My porcelain “Fish Family” is actually a vintage drinking set from the Soviet Union. In its first life it was probably used to serve vodka or nastoyka, but I’ve repurposed it as a mouthwash decanter. You can find different versions of these sets all over the former Eastern Bloc, but I bought mine from an Etsy seller in Ukraine.

I’ve never seen such an extensive collection of floss and deodorant. Coincidentally these are my two bathroom passions. Please tell me everything.
What can I say? Variety is the spice of life. The absolute best floss is COOP’s filo interdentale cerato elastic. COOP is an Italian supermarket chain, but they’ve somehow designed the perfect floss for tight teeth. I also like the Oral-B Super Floss.
Regarding my deodorant collection… If you want a “natural” deodorant that works, I’d argue that the first (and only) thing that matters is the pH. And with antiperspirants, there is a disproportionate amount of scare-mongering going on about aluminum-based compounds. Where is the science that says your Old Spice will give you breast cancer? The American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute have found no conclusive evidence that ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants can cause breast cancer, and I’m inclined to trust them. My feeling is that if you can find a suitable natural product, that’s great, but in the absence of that, please just use whatever works. Frankly, we should all be more concerned about limiting our exposure to endocrine disruptors than aluminum salts.

TMI Lightning Round

Favorite Toothpaste
Favorite Toothbrush
Favorite Deodorant
Currently, the Méharées Crema Deodorante from Erbolario di Lodi, the Fresh Cream Deodorant from MooGoo, and the Amber Scent Invisible Solid Antiperspirant from Old Spice. The labels of the last two are very ugly, so I ripped them off.
Favorite Bath products
Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) Magnesium Chloride (bath salts/flakes), and Savon d’Alep (traditional Aleppo castile soap).
What do you clean your bathroom with?
A mixture of water, Borax, Distilled White Vinegar and essential oils with a Kamenoko Tawashi Sponge
Toilet paper, Eco or the Plush Stuff?
Eco
Book, phone or deep thoughts?
Deep thoughts.
Courtesy flush or candle?
There’s always a Carrière Frères candle or Cinnamon Projects incense on at my house!
Toilet Plunger: what do you do with it after you’ve used it? and where does yours “live”?
Thank you for reminding me to buy one! Haven't had to cross this bridge yet, thankfully.
Soap Receptacle: hand, wash cloth, loofah?
A Salux or a "Korean Italy" Towel.
Any grooming or self-care tools you love?
How long do I have? Shortlist of tools includes my Acca Kappa Beech Wood Comb, Mason Pearson Boar Bristle Brush, Muji Tweezers & Japanese Steel Shears (I cut my own hair).
How often do you switch out your bath towel?
2x/week
Terry, waffle or Turkish?
Terry, with an impending move to waffle
Bath towels: color or crisp white?
Crisp white (thank you, Borax)!
Favorite body part?
Manicurists frequently compliment my nails, but with gratuity on the line who’s to say how credible they are?
Favorite hand soap?
Aesop is definitely my most aspirational hand soap, but I purchased it in Australia where it's more affordable. YOPE makes excellent hand soaps with a friendlier QPR.
Bathroom pet peeve
Gnarly bathtub caulk situations.
Bath or Shower
Sometimes both in the same day, although I am a bather at heart. Give me a hammam, a jjimjilbang, an onsen—I love the ritual of it all. Although Jim Gaffigan’s bit about bathers is brilliant and totally fair.
When you travel, what do you make sure to bring with you and what can you just wing-ding?
Thankfully, MUJI sells TSA-friendly versions of all the products in their Sensitive Skin Series. Otherwise, I decant some of the oil blends I make at home and wing-ding the rest. There's this one plant-based facial oil that I make, which I call “Anubis Oil” and it works well in virtually all climates.
Favorite bathroom of all time?
The recently renovated Hotel Warszawa in Warsaw, Poland has the most unbelievable bathrooms--we're talking dramatic veined marble everywhere. I felt like a Bond villain when I stayed there in March.
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