One of the more perpetually hilarious/depressing things about looking at apartments in New York is seeing the ways that landlords try to get creative when renovating and preparing a unit for the next tenant. I recently got an email from a reader who was looking for a recommendation on where to hire a french polishing expert after she uncovered a beautiful original hardwood door in her Harlem apartment, which at some point had been covered with a piece of 70s wood paneling. When my friend moved into her apartment near me, the trim had all been painted alternating shades of fleshy pink-beige and baby-poop-brown. Of course, there was my last apartment with the pink laminate cabinets and the pink-ish laminate countertops and the pink-ish faux-marble ceramic floor, but that wasn’t so bad. At least it was all pink?
It’s cute, when you think about it. Why not just go the easy route and pick stuff that’s totally neutral? Because landlords are people, too, with creative impulses that cannot be tamed by worrying about what any other sane person might possibly want to live with. They like to experiment. They like having some room to play. It’s very adorable and very frustrating to live with the consequences.
Pretty much my single biggest gripe with my apartment has always been the kitchen floor. What a terrible piece of shit.
Let me count the ways:
1. Stupid design with the black edge and big black square in the middle. Why? Just because.
2. White ceramic in a kitchen. You guys, I’m a clean dude. But a white ceramic floor in a small kitchen is just not a great idea if you don’t want to be mopping every 4 seconds. No matter how often I cleaned this floor, it ALWAYS looked filthy.
3. Cracked and chipped tiles. Everywhere. ‘nuf said.
4. So, so uneven. Yes, the floors all over our apartment are uneven, and that’s OK. But this kitchen floor was so bad because this tiling job is so terrible that none of the tiles themselves are at all level. This means that cleaning the floor essentially amounted to all the gunk getting stuck on protruding edges of errant tiles. Pretty traumatic stuff.
5. Grout. I actually always assumed these huge grout lines were dark grey, but once I started really scrubbing some of the lines, I realized it was actually originally white. I think. EW. But there’s only SO MUCH bleach and baking soda and a toothbrush and my willpower can accomplish, so it never really cleaned up beyond a piss yellow. Which was worse than the “dark grey” (dirt), in my opinion.
I thought maybe I would just live with this tile because I otherwise love my apartment and could maybe just concede on this one thing. It could probably be worse, right? And besides, what do you do about a tile floor? There is just no way that I’m going to demo and replace a ceramic floor in a rental apartment. As this blog has proven many times over, I’m a lunatic, but I’m not, like, completely unhinged. Give me some credit.
Then, I had an epiphany. I didn’t actually have to alter the floor in any major way to get rid of it. What Dean at My Little Apartment did in her bathroom years ago popped up in my mind (holy cow, that was back in 2007. am I the Rain Man of home blogs?), so I thought maybe I could do something similar. Rubber was the answer to my prayers (/incessant whining).
I ended up buying my rubber from a company with the catchy name of Rubber Flooring Inc. Most of the companies I found only sold this style of rubber in 4-foot wide sheets, but I was nervous about how a big seam running up the middle of my floor would look/function over time. I really just wanted one BIG sheet, like a beautiful black sea of gorgeous hospital-y rubber. Luckily, the Rubber Flooring Inc. roll is 7.5 feet by 17 feet, which is almost the exact dimensions of my kitchen.
I love you, Rubber Flooring Inc. I love you and your straightforward, no-nonsense, branding and your sale that allowed me to get free shipping and a brand new kitchen floor for $250. It’s not chump change, but after living with this floor for a year and a half and figuring I might well live with it for another 5 or 10, this seemed like my best option.
I accidentally deleted the process photos off of my camera, but here are a couple I snapped with my iPhone. The whole thing was very straightforward, I just drew up a diagram of my floor plan and where I needed to make the cuts, unrolled the whole thing in my living room, and hacked it up accordingly.
I should probably take a moment to note that this roll of rubber, which looked fairly modest in size, was very literally the heaviest thing I have ever attempted to carry in my life. I still have no idea how Max and I manhandled it up to the 5th floor, but I do recall almost breaking an arm in the process.
SHAZAM, new floor.
I love this floor. It’s so, so easy to keep clean, it feels nice underfoot, and it magically evens out the whole wonky tile business underneath. I can forget about the bad tile situation and move on with my new life. I’m very happy with it.
As per the manufacturer’s instructions, I stuck down the edges with double-sided carpet tape. For a few days, this worked great, but it soon became unstuck from the tile underneath. The rubber is heavy enough that it’s till OK, but I really want to find a solution to keep it stuck down better. I tried hot glue, which was a massive fail, and now I’m thinking maybe rubber cement? I don’t know. I don’t want to damage the tile floor, but I want this thing to sit as flat as humanly possible. This would have been a non-issue if I had had the foresight to do this BEFORE installing new cabinets and baseboards, but I didn’t, and now I must suffer the consequences.
ANYWAY. Enough about that.
Hey, look! I installed new white toe-kicks on the old wood cabinets. Doors and drawer fronts to follow, finally, if it kills me. I will have matching cabinets it it’s the last thing I do on this earth.
The DAY after I put down the new floor, I was hanging out and thrifting with my friend on the Upper West Side and we went in this little tiny very fancy looking antiques store, filled with gorgeous expensive furniture. Now, I usually don’t even go in places like this, and when I do, I immediately look at the ceiling and the floor. That’s where the bargains are. Sometimes. Maybe.
“Is this for sale?” I asked, pointing at a very dirty, perfectly beat-up oriental rug under a bunch of stuff.
“I don’t know, I guess it could be? You really don’t want that rug though, it’s filthy. We’ve just been using it in the store forever.”
“OK, so how much could it be for sale for?”
“Could you do $100?”
We took the rug outside and laid it on the sidewalk, where the owner proceeded to tell me how much I did not want to buy this ratty piece of crap rug. Assuring him I did, he assured me it wasn’t worth that much, and decided without further urging to sell it to me for $45. Then he put it in a garbage bag and I was on my way.
Like magic! I love this rug. It’s the perfect size for the space, and I love having a rug like this in the kitchen. Antique orientals aren’t too precious because they’ve already taken a lot of wear and abuse, so it’s perfect. Upper West Side. Who would have thought?
A sale’s a sale, folks. It never hurts to ask.
Mekko also seems to appreciate the transformation, which is really all that counts anyway.