The Apartment, After 2 Years of Living: The Bedroom

bedroom1

I never really intended to stop posting about our apartment entirely, but in the excitement and stress and overwhelming magnitude of projects that our crazy fixer-upper house has to offer, I guess that’s kind of what happened. Max and I both still have to be on the ground in NYC for various reasons, and while we can work remotely from Kingston some of the time, it’s a bit too far out of range to really make for a practical regular commute. Consequently, we still spend about half of our lives in the same Brooklyn apartment we’ve been renting for a little over 2 years now——and as much as I love Kingston, our house, and how happy the dogs are there, I do still love the apartment. This is the place where I became a Brooklyn resident and fell in love with the better borough. It’s the first place that I really got to share with my boyfriend——now future-husband——and it’s the place where we made a little family with a couple of fur-babies. It’s seen us through school and a weird collection of jobs, ups and downs, highs and lows; it’s been the backdrop of parties and good times with so many people we care deeply about. I’ll concede that I develop deep attachments to spaces and places, but this one will probably always rank as one of the most important.

Aside from that, there’s no way Max and I would have gone for it with the house if it weren’t for this apartment. I fell hard for this place as soon as Max and I saw it for the first time, and I don’t think that feeling ever really went away. It wasn’t because it was the most beautiful place, but it was the most beautiful place to me. If it’s not  plainly obvious, I might have kind of a weakness for trying to fix up busted up things (apartments, houses, furniture, dogs, you know), and I just remember being obsessed with how special this apartment could be with some love and care. Plenty of people think I’m crazy for spending a dime of my money or a minute of my time——as a renter——fixing up someone else’s property, and my answer to that is usually something like “well, I want to like where I live.” And that’s part of it, of course. But it goes deeper than that, too: I immediately felt a kind of weird responsibility and visceral drive to get this apartment back on track and set it on a better path. If my landlords don’t care that the cornices are rotting and the roof leaks and the hallways and stairs are filthy and there’s the occasional rat in the basement, that’s their prerogative. But for my part, the least I can do is care for my little section of this place that I love so much.

And so I cared. A lot. And I learned how to do all sorts of things, which gave me the confidence to take on something much more involved when I felt that same feeling all over again when we stumbled upon our house in Kingston. These approximately 450 square feet of living space became not only a crash course in renovation, but also a place to experiment, and try things out, and find a happy middle-ground between Max’s taste and my own. And in the process, it probably brought a lot of you here. And I wouldn’t trade any of that.

I tend to be very process-driven with my life and my blog content, and the apartment has always felt——and continues to feel——like a place in progress. Because of that, I always felt a little funny about writing before-and-after posts about it. And while things still aren’t really done (and I’m not so sure they ever will be, which is OK too), they’re in a pretty good place. The apartment is cute and comfortable, the big stuff is taken care of, and while there are still things I really want to do, they aren’t terribly pressing and will probably happen verrrrry slowly. Renovating a house doesn’t really leave tons of time or energy for the kind of pace I kept up when we were living in Brooklyn full-time.

So! Anyway! The apartment bedroom! I apologize that the photo angles between the before and after pictures don’t really match up, but all the before pictures are just quick snaps I took on move-in day. I wasn’t thinking!

beforebedwall

As you can see, the wall color was not exactly something I would have chosen, and everything was desperately crying out for a fresh coat of paint. The ceiling and moldings probably hadn’t been painted for at least a couple decades and were super chipped up and dirty and yellowed.

bedroom2

I love the bedroom in the apartment now——clean and simple and comfy. The white paint (Benjamin Moore’s White Dove) made the room feel totally refreshed and MUCH bigger. The bed is still the same IKEA hack I did a longgggg time ago——an upholstered $50 FJELLSE bed frame, which has held up really well even after over 3 years of use. The bedside lights are also an IKEA hack, and the side tables are vintage Danish shelves that my friend Maya sold me. The shelves aren’t as deep as I’d prefer for bedside tables and don’t offer any closed storage, but the wall-mounted design keeps the room feeling more open and easier to clean, so they’ve stuck around! The art was inherited from my grandparents’ home——it hung in their bedroom, too, and feels really special to have here.

beforedoor

Oh man, those red walls in the distance!

When we moved in, the bedroom door (kind of out of frame on the left) was falling off the frame, and the pocket doors didn’t open and close (turned out there were mounds of newspapers from the 70s and 80s stuffed into the wall cavity behind them!). All the hardware was hidden under layers of paint, the overhead light was awful, and while those little shelves were helpful at the beginning and a good idea for making use of that corner, I wasn’t really a fan of how they looked and they didn’t really fulfill our storage needs.

doors

Yay white walls! Yay black doors! Yay doors that open and close! Lots better, yes?

Bedroomshelves

I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times that my parents are moving out of the home I grew up in, which I’m more or less OK with because it means I get to take stuff! These Elfa shelves from the Container Store used to hang in my bedroom. The great thing about Elfa and similar systems is that it’s totally modular, so it was easy to rearrange the parts to fit the dimensions of this little wall (they used to hang in a long, horizontal formation, so all I had to do was buy two new vertical tracks). There aren’t really too many other options for non-awkward book storage in the apartment, so tucking the books in this corner feels like a good use of space. I also really like the way the Elfa shelves look!

beforedresserwall

shelves

So, this looks terrible. Those shelves went up in a fit of panic when Max moved in and brought a whole library with him, and I’ve basically regretted it ever since (the shelves, not Max moving in). They used to be COMPLETELY full, but we’ve been bringing an IKEA bag full of books with us to Kingston almost every time we go back, so this is all we’re left with right now. It’s still a lot of books, admittedly (and it’s not like there’s really anywhere to put them there, either!), but I’m very excited to take these shelves DOWN, finally. The new shelves in the opposite corner are all we really need here (maybe more than we really need, but whatever), and it’ll be nice to finally not be looking at this DIY-gone-wrong. Also, it’s a good wall for a piece of art (which, at a better scale, will in turn make the dresser look nicer), so that’s exciting. Of course I used CRAZY toggle anchors to hold those shelves up, so I’ll have to spend some time doing a bunch of plaster patching and repainting this wall before that can happen. But it’ll be worth it, because this picture makes me mad.

bedroomcorner

I hung up those little pieces of art a while ago, but I just like the way they look together and in those cheap IKEA RIBBA frames. The drawing on the bottom was found in my grandparents’ house, too (not signed, no idea where it came from or who the artist is!), and the one on top was made by my mommy! I found it years ago while snooping in old boxes in my basement and stole it immediately, and have somehow carried it around with me to every place I’ve lived for the past five years but never hung it up! I FINALLY stuck it in a frame and asked her about it last time she visited—I guess she made it as a young teenager during a brief phase when she enjoyed making art and experimenting with India ink? My mom is not the most artistically-inclined person, so the whole idea of that really tickles me.

The brass slanted candle holders were originally from Dwell Studio, but I bought them from Jennifer at A Merry Mishap at some kind of amazing discount on her instagram account, @ammextras, where she sometimes sells amazing things she doesn’t want anymore. Which is a totally brilliant concept, and also got me these totally brilliant brassy things I love so much. Thanks, Jennifer! The little vases were like 10 bucks at a stoop sale, and the coaster was thrifted.

shelves3

So that’s my room! I’m pretty happy with how it’s evolved in two years. Once those shelves over the dresser are down and the wall is fixed and there’s something arty hanging there, I think I’ll be happy with just calling it DONE.


70 Comments

  1. I love the art over the headboard – just beautiful! It always cracks me up when bloggers show their styled nightstands…where’s the Vicks Vaporub, the eye wrinkle remover, my husbands nightguard to keep him from grinding? Hello, the Ikea catalogue?

  2. I get that “make it yours” thing-I too have some really picky ways about organization and art and entrances and color and whatnot that just have to be addressed, no matter where I live.

    We are moving next month to our hopefully-forever locale of San Diego (YEA!), and we know that we will be renting until we can find that broken little house that will beg us to make him/her shiny and happy again-and while renting, I’m sure we will have to do just a “few things” to make it work for us ( um…ok-make that me).

    I’m fairly new here, so seeing your apt is fun! Thanks for sharing your design/places/life. Best blog I read, hands down.

  3. You’re room looks great, I’ve been reading since you were in your Manhattan apt. I can’t believe how the time has flown. I’ve been in my apartment two years too 10/31… and am still not done unpacking. I’m shameful! We have tons of unloved apartments here in Stockton for super super cheap rent. Sometimes I’m tempted to move into one but I’m afraid of drive-bys :o(

  4. I love your apt!! Could you tell where did you get those two wooden people standing on one nightstand? I love them verrry much!

  5. Are y’all still in school? Do I sound too much like a mother asking that? Sorry!

  6. So nice to have a visit back at the “old homestead”. Daniel, When I found you (with this apartment) I had to go back and read every.past.blog.post. So inspired. I love this apartment. You have done a remarkable job with this space. It is fun seeing a few things in the house now from here. I agree with your plan to remove those bookshelves and add art. Speaking of art, I ADORE the found painting in your living room near the radiator.
    Till your next posting…

  7. Just keep posting! You deserve it with your gorgeous apartment

  8. Daniel, I really enjoyed reading this post: Brooklyn Revisited. And that’s how I got to know of your existence, so I’m feeling a bit nostalgic here.

    I love the new shelves in the corner, they’re great. Agree with you on taking the other ones down.

    I really like your art collection, I think this is what makes whatever space you’re living in more personal, and I love all the stories of how your things came to be in your hands. Just really nice to hear.

  9. Those corner shelves are awesome. I think we have a bit of a scale difference, book-wise…I’ve got four 8×3 shelving units crammed full with more coming in weekly. If only I could display them as nicely as yours.

    It’s hard to believe it’s been two years, isn’t it? You’ve done an absolutely marvelous job. Also, I have a hankering to break out my ink and copy your mother’s drawing, I have the perfect place for one like that. Thanks for letting us into your home(s), you’re an inspiration.

  10. I’m thinking of using White Dove for our main floor. Does it have an undertone of grey to it? I’m wondering if I need something with more brown in it than grey, as we have a brown couch and lots of wood (kitchen, dining room furniture). Would appreciate your advice.

    • Well, white is so hard because it REALLY depends on your light (natural and artificial). In totally natural light, at least in our spaces, it does have a verrrrry slight grey undertone, which is what I wanted in a white. Under artificial light, though, it’s super warm. It’s hard to describe! Overall it’s a very neutral color, so it adapts to the light conditions its in. My best advice is to just paint samples on a wall (as big as you can!) to get a sense of whether you like it in your space.

      • I have White Dove in my house and I’ve decided that it has a tiny hint of yellow ochre to it and a drop of black. You may disagree!

      • Along these lines, did you do your trim in White Dove as well?

  11. Those brass candlesticks are so sexy! Your credenza deserve to breathe easier! The shelves over it just overpower the mojo of the credenza! Those other shelves though are sweet! Was happy to see your flat, like an old friend I haven’t seen in a while cause I got a new boyfriend!!!
    Everytime I read you I am thinking what a a very fine man, and then I think when is he going to be a dad?!! Max and you would be such great parents, I know you got a lot in your plates and you are still so young, but I wonder if this is one of your plan someday.Anyway, I love you guys!!!

    • Oh gosh, haha!! I don’t think I’m quite as together as you think I am! Although I know that SOMEDAY, IN THE DISTANT FUTURE that would make my mom really happy (she has already started hinting!), I have no idea if parenthood with human babies is something we’ll pursue. I honestly can’t even think about it!

      But thank you, I appreciate your vote of confidence. :)

      • LOL, I keep thinking that too, but you’re super young, aren’t you? A decade at least before you should be thinking about kids.

      • My Daniel, the questions people ask.
        Anyhow, here’s mine: what is the story behind the DCM? Good use for it this way I think because I always feel they are too heavy for the moving around needed at the dinnertable. But it sure is pretty.
        I am so glad you changed your mind about the shelves above the credenza, it will make such a difference -I think- when they are gone. I have experienced myself how one can get caught up in making something and forget to check if it “works”.
        Thank you for sharing, it looks lovely, have a wonderful day.

      • Sorry, I have no idea how that became a reply to another question.

      • Simone——the DCM was a Craigslist find…$75, just some guy nearby looking to get rid of it. We move it around between this corner and to use as a desk chair in the living room!

      • Wow, lucky you. Was it as terrifying as when you went to get the dresser? Since we are not allowed to own guns over here, stuff like buying things from strangers is not so risky over here ;-D
        Kind regards.

  12. That looks really awesome! I am glad to hear about the Fjellse doing so well – I was googling IKEA hacking when I found your blog, since I was thinking of buying one back in February and doing something similar to it (I ended up building this instead: http://ana-white.com/2012/01/plans/hailey-platform-bed and the end product is this: http://i44.tinypic.com/25iua75.jpg. My tastes run to eclectic/hippie.) I have been addicted to your blog ever since! That sheepskin looks great over it, and I love the art hanging overhead! You have such a great sense of style.

  13. Also please excuse the clutter in that picture. I’m still attempting to get organized.

  14. The shelves were actually pretty much the only time when I didn’t like what you had done, so I am glad they come down & the new ones look great! The whole room looks really good. So, when is the apartment kitchen post coming?;-)

    • I have to take pictures of it!! It’s STILL NOT DONE, which is ridiculous, but the time and motivation are so slim these days. The finishing details are so small, too…it’s dumb.

  15. The transformation is just magic. You have major talent. When did you graduate from college?? I guess I missed that!

  16. It’s nice to see how you and your apartment have evolved over the years. It feels like I’ve grown up with you! Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)

  17. Damn I wish I’d done stuff to my rental spaces, rather than putting up a huge stoner tapestry over some of the ugly and calling it a day. Nice job! I also like your collection of objects, you have a lot of cute things.

    I know they’re going down, and the wall is going to look fantastic with art up on it… but do you think those shelves would look less overbearing if they had white brackets instead of black?

    • I think that would help, yes, but the size and scale is just way too big! I also really don’t like the dark wood, and the shelves don’t really hang level (I think because the wall is so old and curvy)…they’re a mess!

      • Yeah fair call! Fixing up that wall is really gonna make your lovely rosewood drawers shine, too.

  18. You’re an amazing young man Daniel! If you don’t mind me asking, holidays will be where this year since you have the apt. And house?

    • I wish I knew, haha! The closing on my parents’ house is right after thanksgiving, so I think the whole family is going down there for one last hurrah (I tried to get everyone to come to kingston, but no dice this year…). Hoping to be at the house around Christmas, but we might be in buffalo for part of that time. It’s too far away for me to think about!

  19. How exactly did you paint the pocket doors? Did you have to take them out to fully paint around the corners? Although I think I remember you struggled to get the newspaper out so I don’t think that was an option.

    • They slide all the way across, so I painted them one at a time by moving one to the middle at a time so I could access all sides, if that makes sense!

  20. Second on the comment about styling the nightstands. What, no alarm clocks? Someday you need to show us the REAL nightstand situation. Having said that, I have to add that your bedroom looks lovely.

    • This is pretty real, haha!! I don’t know what the problem is? Max has an alarm clock (first picture!) but we really just both use our phones (the cords hang out under the bed and out of sight). I don’t know, sometimes there are two books instead of one? Sometimes there’s a glass of water? I obviously clean up before photos (you know, nobody wants to see my dirty laundry…), but I tend to avoid trying to “style” things in a way they don’t look in real life. It’s too much work, haha.

  21. The art over the headboard is wonderful: neutral, textured, striking. The sentimental value: priceless. Been thinking about this and wanted to say it: I read your original post about your grandparents’ house and just reread it from the link here. It reminded me forcefully that you have a rare gift for connecting with people. Sure, we all know and love your light humor. (I owe a lot of guffaws to this blog.) More uncommon is your ability to speak with honesty and depth about what’s meaningful to you and to do that without the ick factor of mawkishness. Some of us would be here for the pictures (love your style!), some for the words, but I’d wager that most of us are here for you–the Daniel that comes out in the combination of words and pictures and story-telling. I’m old enough to be your bubbe, and I feel pretty darned sure she’d be tickled to see the way you and your life are unfolding.

    • Gillianne, you expressed exactly how I feel about Daniel and his talents/creations/style/personality. His appeal is universal and ageless.

      From another Bubbe/Babuschka/Grandma.

  22. Can you tell me any more about the art work above your bed? The texture and design is fabulous from what I can see. What materials were used? Is it something I could see and purchase somewhere? And your moms artwork… priceless!!!

    • They’re lithographs by Louise Nevelson–not worth much because they’re very sun-bleached, which is why I got to take them! They look like some kind of pressed paper, like made with a mold? I’m really not sure!

  23. Is the collage above the bed made from wood, then painted?

  24. Stunning as always! Maybe you can help me decide what do to with my new apartment. I want to paint the walls and trim white but don’t know if it would look strange. Did you paint your walls exactly the same color as the trim or are they slightly different? If they’re the same does it seem too sterile?

    • No, the trim is “super white” by Benjamin Moore in semi-gloss (walls are white dove in matte), so the trim is brighter and shinier than the walls. With white, I think a little contrast is nice at least with the finish–you really don’t want moldings that aren’t at least a satin finish! I guess it depends a little on the architecture of the space…we’re lucky to have great moldings, so the brighter white offsets that in a good way. If you want to minimize that, a more monochrome looks might work nicely? I’ve seen that kind of thing done with grays and blacks a lot and it looks amazing…I usually don’t love high contrast trim work, especially for a big space.

  25. Your landlord should worship you at this point. You’ve tripled the value of that apartment.

  26. For all those interested, the info on the wall art is here : http://manhattan-nest.com/2013/03/13/65/

    Daniel! This looks great, and getting it so great in two years is impressive!
    I’ve been in my place for ten years (at least!) and just got bedside tables!

    Great work!

    • Aha, lithographs, I forgot about the earlier post. It’s hard to tell from the photo, will examine it more.

      Thanks Jack

  27. Man, those floors are amazing.
    Also, love your eye for sort of simple design. Just beautiful.

  28. Did the herman miller chair come to you as black or did your paint or stain it? I have one of these chairs and can’t quite figure out what to do with it. Painting or staining it just might be the answer!

    • Oops, I forgot to respond to your comment! In the chance you see this…the chair came to us already black! It has some wearing to the finish, which actually makes me like it more. The Herman Miller finish is like an opaque black stain with a semi-gloss kind of sealant, I think.

  29. Nice evolution Daniel! Every time I read a blog post here I get a takeaway. For this one I have three: painting will end, white paint is lovely, and family art needs to be dug up and put on the walls.

    These things are on my mind because my husband and I have hired contractors to do a bunch of things in the main living room of our house built in 1882 and which has suffered from years of being a cheap rental property. We are slowly fixing old stuff and crappy past fixes and the contractors also found some code violations and fixed them too, yah! I envision a white, clean, airy space when all the dust settles.

    The last step is painting and I wanted to hire someone but my husband wants us to paint it ourselves. Your perseverance and humor will see me through the 2am freakouts, I’m sure! And somewhere in the attic I have some family art that I’ve saved … time to dig it out, right?

  30. You know what, I LOVE the shelves, in the sense it was a Grand Gesture for someone you love…really, what a way to make him feel welcome! But yes, do understand you want to rethink and do that in a different way now as well. Love the apartment!

  31. Beautiful! I love the art the most, especially since it has sentimental value.

  32. looks amazing. what beautiful homes you have together!
    did you make your night stands? did i miss this in a previous post?
    really nice work!

  33. I love your sense of style! Everything feels very fresh and airy, but still personal and just really cool. Great job! Are you by chance in the market for any new art? My husband is a professional illustrator and I’m going to shamelessly promote his work now, but only because I really think it would fit with your fun decor style. Feel free to ignore this of course, but in case you’re interested: http://etsy.me/19f0iat

  34. Gorg apartment… gives me hope in my rental and future ones. Not sure a house will be in the equation for a few years. Do you have to repaint and remove parts that you altered before you leave (like the doors?). Although, I’m sure your landlord will agree it’s an improvement! :)

    • Thanks, Taylor! Judging from the “before” pictures, I’m sure it’s understandable that I don’t really plan to change a thing! Our landlords really aren’t precious about the building or the condition of the apartments at all, and I think I’ve made some pretty significant improvements in our time here. Undoing them would make me too sad, and I think our landlords will appreciate (or at least be indifferent to!) the work. :)

  35. Lovely!
    What black did you use on the doors?
    I am trying to decide if I should go for a pure black or the next tone up in a super deep gray or blue-black for our hallway to cut the contrast a bit.

  36. I’ve been lurking (and admiring) for awhile now, but this post dragged me out of the woodwork to comment. We’re also those crazy NYC renters who love making improvements and we get asked the same questions, so you perfectly summed up how you can love a space so much and want it to improve. We just moved to a new place back in August and like you, we fell so hard for it right from the start.

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been enjoying reading about the new house as well.

    -Laura

  37. Your bed looks so comfy. Mind sharing the source of your sheets (the duvet cover in particular) and size? Full/queen bed with king duvet? I can’t figure out a good ratio!

    • Thanks, Karen! It’s a full-sized bed with a full/queen comforter, nothing tricky! I think the comforter might look a bit oversized because the bed is quite low. The sheets are just plain white sheets from IKEA or Target (I tend to like kind of crappy, low thread-count sheets, honestly), and the duvet cover is from Muji!

      • All other things being equal, IMNSHO, low thread count sheets breathe better than their higher-density brethren. That would often make them the opposite of crappy, especially in the summer. But – and I wouldn’t say this to just anyone – YOUR bed deserves linen linens. Given how your mind works, I have no doubt that you’ll one day find some heirloom linens for the price of a song (or a tweet), once you bend your thoughts in that direction. Your Random lamp score for Anna would make a more genius X-Files plot even than Priscilla’s “gift” of your birthday credenza.

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