Our apartment was still occupied when Max and I came to view it for the first time with the broker. He led us up to the fifth floor (although I later swore with certainty that it was the fourth—wishful thinking!) and knocked loudly on the door. When no response came, he banged louder. “There’s kind of a long hallway,” he explained, so Max and I nodded and waited for a response. No dice.
The banging escalated from obnoxious to violent before somebody finally came, a bleary-eyed man who we’d evidently woken up. He mumbled an apology about not being able to hear the knocking before letting us into what was, indeed, kind of a long hallway. The broker led the way to the end and turned, but where I expected to walk into a real room was just…more hallway. When we got to the end of that section, where surely there would be the living space, there was yet more hallway, yet finally some doorways became visible—the first indication that the whole apartment was not actually just a labyrinth of hallway.
That shoddy floorplan above, by the way, is to scale. In case you were curious.
So basically my first impression of our apartment was that it had a laughably awkward layout, needed a ton of work, and smelled like cat piss. Luckily I’ve managed to solve the cat piss problem.
This was the first thing you saw when you walked in the door. It is hideous, yes? Yes. The most hideous.
To break it down: Bad overhead “nipple light,” chipped up moldings, yellow walls with overlapping rectangle “paint treatment,” hooks everywhere, weird overhead shelf situation. It’s a horror show, basically.
This is looking back at the door from the other end of that curve in the first picture. I’m sure that overhead shelving was super practical and awesome for storing a ton of crap, but…no. Even though the ceilings are 9 feet high, the shelves really closed in the space even more and just pretty much 100% sucked visually. It’s like all the bad things I can imagine in the world crammed into one very small very weird space.
Oh, and did I mention squares of cork sticky-tacked to the walls at random? Because that also happened. You can see one on the floor in this picture.
Now before we get to all the before and afters, I need to point out that this hallway is terrible. Our building was built in 1890, and I think the original apartments would have been “classic 6” layouts—kitchen, living room, bathroom, dining room, 2 bedrooms, and a maid’s room. I’m guessing around the 1920s or so, everything was split up and the weird long hallways were the lowest-impact way to divide the spaces. They were also the stupidest way because WTF. I mean seriously, what the what.
At its widest, the hallways is only a little over 3 feet wide, and around some of the corners, it squeezes down to a pretty cozy 28 inches or so. That makes it really narrow and awkward to try to squeeze any storage into, even though it’s very tempting to just use the whole thing to stockpile stuff. There just isn’t enough room to make that dream a reality. It’s a super weird, very long, very strange space that needs a goal and a purpose in life and didn’t really have either. Luckily, I love to give things goals and purposes, like when I told my dogs that their one and only job was cuddling.
I really applaud whoever made the hallway look this ridiculous. I mean, this curious paint explosion of bad taste and crazy took some serious effort, planning, and commitment. It’s a really tempting space to just totally neglect, but these fine artists chose to unleash a firestorm of pizzaz up in this mother and express themselves. Hat tip.
Also, just prepping it was, and I mean this, THE WORST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Worried that the outlines of the squares underneath would be visible through a new layer of paint, I hatched a plan that would make me miserable for days and probably shave years off my life. “Easy!” I thought, “I’ll just sand them all!”
Hellish nightmare like I can’t even describe. So much trauma that it has literally taken me over a year to write about all of this. Also I’m bad at pictures and editing and things and I still want to fix stuff and change things around, but what else is new? I used an electric sander and everything, but still…not recommended. If I were going to do it again, I might try to just skim coat the walls with a roller and watered-down joint compound or maybe just rent a different apartment.
Maybe all of the sanding made me a little insane because I think by day 3 or so, I decided, “hey, you know what would be pretty cool and groovy? If I painted the ceiling black.”
Why did I do that? I don’t know. But I did, the whole thing, before deciding about an hour later that I’d made a huge mistake and I needed to start over. I snapped the above picture, probably while sobbing tears of great disappointment and regret. You’ll notice that the edges of that picture are all shaded and closing in, which is not something I did in photoshop. I’m blaming spirits.
But I fixed it? Here’s the same angle today—weird shelves and hooks removed, walls patched and painted (BM White Dove), new light, fauxdenza, art, hang-it-all. BOOM. Clock is from IKEA. The door is black like the rest of the doors in the apartment, Benjamin Moore Onyx (which I maintain is the best black ever).
Because this is the widest part of the hallway, I decided to add a fauxdenza in the great tradition of Anna Dorfman and Morgan Satterfield and many others who like slim, wall-mounted, stylish storage for cheaps. We have SO little storage in this apartment, and after tons and tons of thinking, I decided this was the only way I could be happy putting storage in the hallway.
The whole thing is just 3 IKEA AKURUM kitchen cabinets affixed to the wall and wrapped with wood. These cabinets are SUPER easy to put together and hang and the whole project is pretty simple and fast. Any dimension cabinet works, but I chose three 30″ x 18″ cabinets with Applåd white doors, which I think came to a total of about $220.
I didn’t really take a lot of process pictures, but we used a sheet of plywood to cover the top and two sides. These cabinets jut out about 13″ from the wall, and I couldn’t figure out where to buy a plank of wood wide enough to cover it. Instead, we bought a piece of 4’x8′ “Sandeply,” which was cheap—$44, if I remember correctly. It’s really lightweight, but it’s sort of weird cheap soft wood that didn’t stain evenly, so I wouldn’t really recommend it. It’s fine for now and the price was good, but maybe not so great for long-term durability or for feeling “fancy” or “competent at life.”
I basically just cut the wood to size with my circular saw, sanded, stained, and screwed it into place from inside the cabinet. I tried to get really fancy and miter the corners, which doesn’t look great close-up because I cut the whole top about 1/8″ too short. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but I probably shouldn’t have tried to miter edges with a circular saw. Lesson learned—I make mistakes, I’m not perfect, in fact I’m a total failure who can’t measure or do anything, really, I’m completely useless and I hate myself, don’t worry about it.
I want nicer wood someday anyway, so I’m going to try to forgive myself for the small mistake that people probably don’t notice anyway.
I love this fauxdenza thing though, for real. It gives us a great amount of storage space in a way that looks great and is totally custom to the space, without making it feel totally crowded or like anything is teetering precariously over our heads. We keep keys in that little thrifted enamel thing, and I’m always changing around whatever’s on top of it. And obviously because it floats off the ground and only sticks out a little over a foot, it looks pretty visually light and still allows for enough space to comfortably walk past everyday. Consider me an all-around fauxdenza fan.
The chair at the end is a little original Fritz Hansen 3-legged Jacobsen Ant chair that I found in a pile of junk near the roof exit of the building. After it sat there for a couple of months, I figured it was trash and stole it one night, when we needed an extra chair to host some friends for dinner. I later found out that it belonged to my neighbors and offered to give it back, but they insisted that we should keep it. I feel bad, but it’s cute? I’m a dirty rotten thief and also a hoarder of chairs.
The art over the fauxdenza are two lithos by Gregory Gummersall. The print hanging at the end is something I stole from my parents’ basement, turns out its a backgammon board? Whatever. I think it’s very pretty.
So that’s the first section of the hallway, which seems like enough for one post. Back with the rest later in the week.