There are moments in a relationship when you realize you’ve gone and found yourself a good thing. Max came home from work one day back in August to a sweltering apartment and my small, crouched figure slumped on the floor. The trouble was that somebody had stuffed wads of newsprint inside the walls that conceal our pocket doors, thereby blocking their ability to open all the way. Because this was during my it’s-hotter-than-hell-outside-fuck-it-I’m-a-nudist phase, I was unshowered and wearing only underwear. And maybe socks, for modesty’s sake. Strewn about on the floor surrounding me was a collection of our household items—a set of tongs, a broom handle, an umbrella I’d broken—and the pile of old newspapers I had slowly persuaded out of the walls over the course of what was, realistically, a several hour long effort. This is behavior that I have come to recognize as the norm for Single-Daniel, but is probably better avoided during the fragile first six months of a relationship. Yet there I sat, dirty and frustrated, reappropriating our spatula as a sort of primitive tool, much like an ape.
While alone it’s easier to focus exclusively on the task at hand, but the presence of another person inspires a sort of quick self-inspection, followed by an assessment, followed by shame. Alright, you might think, he’s seen me. Play it cool. Do you look ridiculous? Yes. Do you have a compelling reason? Certainly. And when he opens his mouth to say something like “What in the fuck are you doing down there?” you need to explain yourself. Hurriedly, you try to come up with a reason why the doors sticking out a couple of inches instead of receding nicely into the walls is a pressing problem riddled with threatening functional implications. Further, one that can only be addressed while sweaty, dirty, and mostly naked. You decide to bypass the accusatorial interrogation and just skip to the explanation.
“Some asshole past tenant stuffed about a million newspapers into our walls, and that’s why the pocket doors won’t open all the way, which looks all weird and is probably why they keep skipping off their tracks and I’ve been trying to fish them out but they’re really stuck and I lost track of time and I’m really sorry but I broke your umbrella.”
“Which newspaper?” he replied. And there it was. Not angered, nor shocked and appalled, nor even slightly surprised that he might come home to find me in such a state, there was something immensely comforting about his apathy.
“Oh, just a bunch of horse racing schedules and statistics and stuff, from the mid-70s. Nothing interesting.”
And then I went back to sticking my arms into the wall and he told me about his day at work. And it was good.
Aside from what is now obvious (that Eugene Tombs was nesting in our apartment), all of our doors had an exciting laundry list of things wrong with them. The paint was chipping off the pocket doors. The bedroom and bathroom doors didn’t close. All the hardware had been painted over by careless landlords and tenants for years, and was not only ugly but also didn’t work. Poor doors. So abused.
When I first moved into this apartment, during the brief period that it was still technically just my apartment and I could be as big of an asswipe as I wanted to be, I told Max that I was going to paint all the doors black. I told other people this, too, all of whom expressed deep concern. “Really? Black? Like, black-black?” FUCK YES, BLACK. But let me just say:
Yeah. They’re rad. I love my black doors. The color is Onyx by Benjamin Moore, in Pearl finish. It’s basically the perfect, perfect black. I want to live in a world of Benjamin Moore Onyx.
All the doors in the apartment (there are only three other ones, including the front door) are getting the Onyx treatment too, and I love it. Bedroom door before:
I love them. Love them. You can tell me anything. Tell me they’re ugly. See if I care. I do not care. You know why? Because I love them.
My affection isn’t just a paint fetish thing, though. It’s also the hardware. I’m so happy with how the hardware turned out. Because it had been painted over so many, many times, it all had to be carefully cut and scraped and stripped away from the doors. Here’s a fancy close-up image I made by cropping a much wider image I had, because I took no proper before pictures. My blogging fanciness knows no bounds.
Stripping paint off stuff is one of those intensely tedious, endlessly satisfying tasks that just keeps you coming back for more. Once I got it all detached from the doors, I stuck it in a pot of boiling water (and a little dish soap), and let it simmer like a delicious hardware stew for a while. Like so:
No, I do not still cook food in that pot. Luckily, it was from a thrift store and I don’t feel too bad about it.
After a bunch of the paint has boiled off, it’s time to move this party to the sink, where you’ll scrub and pick at the stragglers while burning your hands through latex gloves beneath scalding running water. It’s fun! Let your kid do it, he/she will have a phenomenal time.
All kidding aside, it’s really kind of amazing to restore something like this—probably well over a century old—to an original, functioning condition. Hearing that door click! closed for the first time was super rewarding, and using the doorknob everyday feels like such an awesome privilege that I totally fucking deserve.
Aside from that, I think we can all agree that the mix of the black door, the white trim, and the brass/pewter-y hardware is pretty dope. It’s all J.Crew-Men’s-Shop-Yale-Club-Old-New-England-Classic-Fancy up in here. All of those associations make perfect sense to me.
The pocket door hardware was slightly more challenging because it’s not actually very old, so the brass was super shiny and new and weird looking when I stripped the paint off them. I found something online that told me to wet them with vinegar and stick them in a hot oven for a few minutes, which would help age the brass. Usually I’m not a fan of trying to obtain faux-old finishes, but this was tiny and subtle and totally worked and I love them now.
Best for last? Okay. Best for last.
The bathroom door was a whole crazy mess of gloppy old paint and filthy and sadness.
Like, gag me with a spoon, as my father would say. But you know I’m all about that black porcelain knob.
Insert some boiling water, some taking the door off its hinges, sanding and sanding and sanding down the bottom so it would close, a few coats of paint later, and…
Here’s the outside. The wood handle makes my heart sing. I just rubbed on a couple coats of Danish oil after it dried out from the boiling and it’s so pretty.
On the inside of the door, under all the paint was this super cool lock. In case you can’t make it out, it reads: “New York City 1883 Make.” EIGHTEEN FUCKING EIGHTY THREE. That shit is old, and awesome. It had a petrified cockroach carcass inside of it. That’s history. I think it was painted black originally but the boiling took off all the paint and I ended up liking the raw metal, so I spray painted it with a matte clear coat protection so it wouldn’t rust in a steamy bathroom.
Wider angles to come, when I get my act together and photograph the bathroom. Things are looking a little different in there! (See what I did there? I love to play the tease.)