The Apartment, After 2 Years of Living: The Living Room

The house is in all-out chaos mode. Ripping out the dining room ceiling sort of had a snowball effect of more and more demo, which has not only created an enormous mess but also brought the number of ongoing projects up to a semi-crazy, semi-overwhelming, basically-unmanagaeble tally. It’s kind of at the point where I just look around and find myself completely incapable of even prioritizing tasks anymore, so I’m just chipping away at all of them randomly and hoping that if I keep on like this, everything will meet some kind of happy resolution. Totally good strategy? I guess we’ll find out.

Even though I like the idea of moving along one room at a time, in practical application that’s just not really how it works with a house in need of this much work. It doesn’t make much sense to just do a little drywall work without just doing most of the drywall work or update a little of the electrical without updating a lot of the electrical. My hope is that if we can get a lot of this stuff taken care of at once, we can go back to the room-by-room strategy and just do the fun stuff like skim-coating* and painting** and making things pretty***.

*not fun at all.
**also not very fun.
***maybe moderately fun, but not that fun either.

So that’s pretty much where things stand. Chaos. Confusion. Too many things. It makes me feel so ALIVE.

throughbedroom

So, to distract both me and you from the fact that I’ve become a perma-dusty garbage person living constantly in filth and despair, I figured maybe let’s talk about things that are currently pretty and clean? Instead of things that I promise will one day be pretty, even if everyone thinks I’ve lost my mind at this current moment?

I posted a little 2-year update on our bedroom at the Brooklyn apartment back in October and intended to complete the series by posting about each of the rooms every week or so, but that didn’t happen. Why? I don’t know. I get distracted.

before2

My goodness, those walls. Sometimes I forget about the red walls when we moved in, and then I remember the red walls, and I become so grateful for good primer all over again.

Probably the biggest question I get from people about this apartment is how in the world I finagled my landlord into letting me make all these changes to my rental, and the answer is more or less contained in this picture (bearing in mind that this low-quality iPhone shot is actually very forgiving). When we moved into this apartment, it was kind of a wreck. It’s a beautiful 1890 building, sure, but it hasn’t been well-maintained (trust, the public areas of the building are horrendous). I think most standard New York City lease agreements either allow painting only with permission or stipulate that walls must be returned to white upon move-out, but that clearly did not happen here. It’s probably best practice to not have missing pieces of flooring, either, and maybe making sure that electrical outlets are operable and covered is also a good plan. Bathroom doors that close are nice, too. As for that legally-required smoke detector? HAHAHA. LOLZ.

before1

The point is, while I did volunteer to paint the apartment myself if our landlord agreed to cover 1/2 of the cost (I would have done it anyway, because…red walls), that was pretty much the start and end of it. And in our building, I think that’s 100% OK. I’m pretty confident that all the things I’ve done are objective improvements, and it just seems silly (and, frankly, unwise) for me to ask permission every time I want to help improve their property. I think this kind of landlord-tenant relationship is pretty standard in Brooklyn, but all I can really say is that you have to evaluate your own individual situation as objectively and honestly as possible when considering altering a rental, and just because I did something doesn’t mean that you should also do that something. My (lack of) consequences might be very different from yours!

livingroom

Anyway! I love this room now. It’s gone through lots and lots of iterations in between that “before” picture and this one, and if we hadn’t bought the house, I’d probably keep messing with it until the end of time. But there is zero extra time, money, or effort in my life anymore that I’m willing or able to devote to futzing with this space, so it’s done enough! I like it.

Clockwise: lucite tables are vintage. Couch is IKEA. Pillows are CB2 (discontinued). Desk is vintage. Wall lamp is OneFortyThree. Tree is a Fiddle Leaf Fig. Pot is Target (discontinued). Ceiling light is the Cartell FL/Y Suspension Lamp. Chair is a vintage Eames Lounge. String light is Patrick Townsend for Areaware. Basket is West Elm Market (discontinued). Mirror and pottery on mantel are vintage. Credenza is vintage. Eames shell chair is vintage, base is from Modern Conscience (quality is terrific, btw). Coffee table is vintage. Rug is vintage.

desk

I don’t know, stuff and things on top of the desk. I still love that Christopher Gray print from Erie Drive.

livingroom2

OK, time to fess up…we got a huge TV. Over a year ago. My little 26″ TV wasn’t cutting it anymore, and at some point we decided that our next TV purchase should be approximately 400 times larger. I know the chic blogger thing to do is have, like, some modestly-sized TV covered with a curtain wall of cotton-velvet panels underneath which is a gallery wall of some fake art surrounding the TV and painted dark to minimize the presence of the TV and pretend like TV isn’t something they do while they continue to try to invent an invisibility forcefield for said TV, but that’s dumb. A TV is a TV, and TV is pretty great these days, so who cares? Despite that I know on a cognitive level that this enormous television is tacky and huge, I’ve also successfully deluded myself into thinking that because it’s mounted and scaled kind of like a piece of art, it isn’t so conspicuous. Ha.

We’re boys. Leave me alone.

We got a good deal on this very slim LED LG model (I think maybe they were phasing it out…I can’t seem to find it for sale anymore), and I have to say it’s super nice. I don’t know lots about this stuff, but I guess LG isn’t considered one of the high-quality brands, but the picture quality (and even sound quality!) on this TV are amazing, and I remember it being slimmer than the nicer Sony and Samsung counterparts. No regrets! I mounted it to the wall with a TV mount from Amazon, which I remember being fairly challenging (this wall is plaster over brick, so I used huge lag-bolts to secure it). Then I wrapped the cords together with a rubber band and stacked some books in front of them “temporarily” while I figured out a better solution. Then I completely stopped caring because my shows were on.

blocklight

Pretty much my most successful NYC thrift score of the last year was that I found a Design House Stockholm Block Lamp at Salvation army for $6. SIX. DOLLARS. It was missing the cord and light socket, but those parts were super simple to wire up DIY-style with stuff from one of the lighting stores in Chinatown. I’ve wanted one of these things for a longgggg time, so the whole event was incredibly exciting.

vases

The collection of amateur studio pottery on the mantel continues to grow, but I can’t help myself! Max’s younger sister, Ana, made that little green bowl as part of a ceramics class to fulfill a studio art requirement in college. Evidently she almost failed the class because her pottery was so elementary and unrefined, but that’s what I love about it! I think she could make a career out of making lousy bowls and selling them for $95 in Williamsburg, but I guess maybe she has other priorities. I’m glad we got one of her pieces before she retired from the ceramics game.

Want to see how this room has progressed over the years? Here are some posts listed chronologically that follow the progress. You know, if you’re having a super boring workday or whatever.

1. The New Nest
2. Settling In
3. I Like All Colors that are Black or White
4. Credenza
5. Slow and Steady but Mostly Just Slow
6. Rocker
7. Radiator: Painted!
8. Fiddle!
9. Shambles
10. Mantel Things
11. 65.
12. New Desk!
13. Adventures in Vignetting.

 


67 Comments

  1. Daniel, all your frame molding is killing me. What a soothing space! I don’t know what I love more – this or the Kingston house!

    Elizabeth

  2. Gorgeous! Sorry about the house projects being both expensive and unfun. It seems like the most expensive house projects are often the least exciting.

    New $5000 sewer line?! Yippee!

    I’ve found that it’s those $4 decor solutions that balance everything out. (I’m thinking of how I took a can of hammerite spray paint to all my rusted out and mismatched heat register covers.)

    Hang in there. You’ll get past the unpleasant stuff, and then you’ll be able to have some creative and inexpensive fun again.

    • New sewer line = OUCH. I remember your horror story about that!! Yikes yikes yikes.

      Luckily, the uber-expensive stuff is mostly taken care of. The big things were the roof and the boiler replacement (we knew both of them would have to be done when we bought, and our loan covered both), and the roof is almost completed and the boiler is done. So that’s a big relief. Luckily the drywall shouldn’t be TOO bad (somewhere around 1K) and the electrical isn’t even so bad either, now that so much of it is exposed and easy to swap out. But yes…excited to be moving past that stuff a bit and toward the fun things!

  3. The apartment looks great. What paint colour did you use on the living room walls? I want to paint our living room white but it is so hard to figure out which white is the right one.

    • Our living room is Benjamin Moore’s Paper White. White’s are tough! The best thing I can tell you is to paint large samples and see how you like them at various times of day and lighting conditions. I’ve never loved this color…it’s a very pale grey that skews too blue in my opinion, but I never had the motivation to repaint it. But the same white can look completely different in different spaces, so there’s not really a one-size-fits-all perfect solution, unfortunately!

  4. Are you friendly with the other garbage person, Matt Damon? That line made me chuckle (which I turned into a cough, because I pretend to be a professional while browing the internet for all but fifteen minutes to an hour of my “workday”). I seriously only tuned into the intro of the golden globes because I love Tina and Amy, and they did not disappoint. In similar fashion, it seems that no matter what you’re posting about (home or apartment, crazy demo or random thrift super score), you, too, do not disappoint.

    • Thank you, Lauren! I forgot that Matt was also a garbage person now! I guess I’m basically Matt Damon! That’s OK with me…

  5. You´ve done amazing work!!!!

  6. Oh good god I love your apartment. I mean I love your house, but your apartment. Swoon.

  7. Beautiful! Those windows and walls… what an incredible space.
    Daniel, we used this as a cord cover for our similarly-sized and also wall-mounted TV – you paint it the same colour as your wall colour, and it blends so well into the space that you can’t even see or notice it … (or at least, that’s what I tell myself!)
    http://www.amazon.com/Legrand-CMK30-Flat-Screen-Cover/dp/B0015EA3NO/ref=pd_sxp_grid_i_0_0

    • Thank you, Kate! I was planning to buy something like that, but then the cord thing didn’t really bother me. The type of mount we have also swings and swivels out so the TV can angle toward the couch, and I wasn’t sure how a cord solution like that would interface with the cords having to move with the TV, if that makes sense. It’s still something I might do down the line, though.

  8. The fiddle leaf fig looks like it’s really taking off!

    Also, how did you mount the string lights? Just a hook and extension cord down the side? It’s sort of hard to tell.

    • Thanks! The fiddle just keeps growing…I hope it never stops! I feel like I’m always mistreating it but apparently it doesn’t care…

      The String light is mounted to the ceiling with a little hook thing (like the black S-ish shaped things in this picture, except mine is white) that’s just screwed into the ceiling. I used little cable staple things to hold it to the corner, and the cord just goes down the corner of the room and over to the outlet between the windows.

  9. Ah, the TV. Ours is a 55inch and takes up its own wall. So be it.

    Love your mix and your overall vibe-collected, relaxed, sophisticated.

    We recently sold our gorgeous OR home and are in a rental here in San Diego ( where we WANT to live). The “forgiveness is easier to ask for than permission” rule works for me. I’ve already painted kitchen cabs and the laundry area in the garage, and ripped out much too old and much too crowded plants in the front. I’m giving my landlord free labor, IMHO. Yours should be beyond happy at all you’ve done to make that place so awesome!

    Your upstate house is simply in its teen years-all spindly limbs and zits and slamming doors. Soon, that will be in the past, and a gorgeous young thing will emerge. It’s the parenting in the meantime that’s a pain-but it will be so worth it. Fingers crossed you get to do more fun stuff than no-one-can-see-what-we-did reworking in the near future.

  10. Ya know what? If you grew up anytime before the present, TV’s are actually quite good-looking. I mean, we had a floor-sitting cabinet model when I was a kid. Horrible. TV’s now are quite innocuous. If I had to open a velvet-upholstered curtain wall every time I wanted to watch TV it’d never be closed so suck it hipsters.

    xo

    • Ha! True. It took me a longgg time to enjoy watching newfangled flatscreen TVs (I’ve found that if you turn the brightness, clarity, and sharpness settings wayyyyyy down, it really helps!), but I’m really glad that flat screens have gotten so flat and plain. This one is only like 1.5″ thick, so it’s worlds better than stuff that was sold even a couple years ago. It doesn’t bother me at all!

  11. Yay for apartment updates! I’m in a rental that slowly fixing up too and my landlord has been totally onboard with any and all changes I’ve wanted to make/made…he’s even paid for some of them and help split cost for others! I think he knows that the changes are all “good” changes and that they’re much needed…he just doesn’t have the time or energy to do them himself. (I secretly think he’s actually thrilled that I’m willing to take it all on.

    • That’s great, Kisha! Your place is looking so good! Good on you for being open with him and knowing when asking permission would work in your favor. Considering our landlord wouldn’t even cover the full cost of a new refrigerator WHEN OURS WAS COMPLETELY INOPERABLE AND BROKEN (yeah, grrrr), I don’t think he would have been so amenable to my desire to add a bunch of extraneous tile to the kitchen or new cabinets…but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do to fix up your living space! I’m sure it feels better to be open, though, and feel like you BOTH care about his property!

      • oh i agree with you! sometimes you just gotta take that calculated risk (of not asking) and wait and see what happens. i can’t see how your landlord could see anything other than a massive improvement in what you’ve done! (for what it’s worth, before deciding to paint my lower kitchen cabinets black i debated whether i should “ask for permission” or potentially have to “beg for forgiveness”…what if he didn’t see my vision???? but I ended up asking and he was totally cool with it. so ya, from here on out no more asking, i’m just gonna do because if black cabinets doesn’t scare a landlord, nothing will?) (& thank you for your kind words! still a work in progress but i’m cool with that!) now, to get him to replant a mature tree outside of my window where the recent ice storm took one down……..

  12. I think I love you guys. Weird right? Keep up the friggin’ amazing work!

    xx

  13. whoa, that fig tree has really grown! :)

  14. You must love having such a beautiful place to retreat to when the house gets too crazy. I love this room.

  15. Hi, Daniel!
    This is my first time commenting, but I’ve truly enjoyed following your blog over the past year and reading about both your apartment and your house. Your writing is awesomely detailed and funny; thank you for taking us along on your home renovation and decor adventures! Your living room at the apartment is beautiful.

    A quick question for you: How do you like your KARLSTAD couch? I’m long overdue in purchasing a couch/sofa for my apartment, and have kept an eye on the KARLSTAD, since I like the simple, clean lines of it so much. How long have you had yours, how has it held up, and is it comfy for lying around while reading or while watching your awesome shows on that massive (totally not tacky) TV? =)

    • Thank you, Yasmine! :)

      I love my KARLSTAD! I’ve had it for about 4 years, and it’s held up really well and is SO comfortable. I’ve washed the cushion covers several times (I’ve never taken apart the sofa to wash the rest of the slipcover, but I do vacuum it) and they’re still in great shape. I really can’t recommend it enough…it really is a great sofa, especially for the price. If I had a few thousand dollars I’m sure I’d buy something else, but for about $500? Can’t beat it.

  16. So cool to see how many changes this room has gone through over the years. Looks great as always!

  17. Oooh, shiny! This post made my decision for me, my entire downstairs is going white. Immediately. They;re currently a shiny(!) sort of tan/beige that seems innocuous at first, but then at some point you realize it’s eating your soul, it’s so terrible. Even my husband hates it now, and he liked it when we moved in. God, I HATE painting, and prepping for painting. It must be done.

  18. Six dollars?! SIX of them. Amazing score. I must like you since I’m just plain happy for you and not murderously jealous. Well played.

  19. We bought a 60 in LG flatscreen this Christmas and LOVE that darn thing. It also could be that we’ve been watching tv for the past 10 years on a 32 inch 10 year old TV.

    We bought a Legrand Cord Kit from Home Depot for $30 to hide the cords behind the wall and its been great. Not sure if it would work in your rental, considering your walls are probably plaster but for drywall it worked perfect and even included a saw for the hole. A lot of the kits were $80 or more and the wall plates were huge. So we were happy with the one we got from HD. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Wiremold-Legrand-Flat-Screen-TV-Cord-and-Cable-Power-Kit-White-CMK70/203227289#

    • Thanks, Tamara! I think something like that would probably work in a normal plaster wall (assuming the cords wouldn’t run into any fire stops), but this wall is plaster right on top of brick, so there isn’t any way to bury the wires. Definitely a great solution for regular drywall walls, though!

  20. I so appreciate that you’re able and willing to just admit it’s a TV! I grew up super duper hippie (like officially, four different communes, one of which was a nudist colony) so I’m very accustomed to bumper stickers that say annoying if admirable things about random acts of kindness and slogans like “Kill Your TV!” And I’m like, hippies, have you SEEN TV lately? Did you see Weeds?” (I’m trying to be relatable to the hippies here.) Hippies be crazy, TVs are inevitable and kind of wonderful for, you know, watching your stories.

    I got inspired by Jenny over at Little Green Notebook to write my own TV above the fireplace blog post, and I’m constantly futzing with the little tchotchkes under it but I don’t have any aspirations to hide it anymore. But I do still have a Pinterest board of TV disguises, in case anyone who reads your blog post and many comments feels like checking out their options.

  21. Y’know what? It’s okay to have shit in your house that’s not curated or tweaked or otherwise precioused up to within an inch of its life. Sometimes a TV is just a TV.

  22. Hi Daniel! I was wondering if you scored any of that discounted Marimekko fabric that I saw at the Crate & Barrel outlet when you came home for the holidays? Or should I be asking.. Is there any left at the store? ;)

    • Ha! I did go!! I bought a small end piece (maybe a little more than a yard?) of oversized yellow/gray Unikko (why not!), but I didn’t really want anything else! Most of the patterns in the outlet were ones that I didn’t really like, which is really a good thing…my fabric hoard is absurd.

      We got a couple other scores there too, though, including a couple of the discontinued Dansk Kobenstyle cookware pieces and something else I’m spacing right now. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention! I can’t believe I never knew about it.

      • No problem! Glad you found some good stuff. The last time I went there I stopped in on my way to a work meeting and was almost late… I left with a trunk full of stuff including a couple of pretty mustard and grey rag rugs for my kitchen :)

  23. even though i read your blog all the time, i never comment. but now i feel like i want to say I’M SO GLAD YOU DIDN’T “HIDE” YOUR TV IN A GALLERY WALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HATE THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  24. Don’t you love homes that already have walls and ceilings and you can “just” paint? Sigh.

    Also, I simply must know: WHERE did you get the fabulous (vintage) rug? Thank you!

    • Yes!! It’s so funny to me how much I used to DREAD painting. I had NO IDEA how good I had it!

      I got the rug from my uncle, actually! He’s been collecting vintage and antique oriental rugs for something like 60 years at this point, and it’s a real passion of his. Every once in a while he passes off a piece of his collection to me (I have 3 now, as of yesterday actually!), which is VERY lucky. I think he likes that somebody else in the family appreciates his affinity for these rugs so he’s willing to share. (the ones in his house would make. you. cry.)

  25. As someone who owns rental properties I would KILL to have a tenant like you. Not only would I have paid 100% of the cost of materials I also would have compensated you for labor.

  26. In the middle of redoing the electrical, installing new floors, putting on a new roof, new siding, exterior paint job, repairing an HVAC unit, unnamed sheetrock repairs, replacing and repainting nearly all the trim and most of the walls, converting a weird sunroom to a half bath/mudroom/laundry, and rescuing a completely black pool, complete with turtle eggs and bullfrogs, we are now in the middle of quoting to totally redo the duct work in our nasty (1995!?!) foreclosure. So, yeah. Not on our original list of to do’s.
    This house is going to kick ass one day. As I live and breathe.
    Also, I love you.
    Robin <3

    • WOW, Robin! OK, I’ll shut up now. That’s intense. 1995?! That house sounds like it’s lived a tough life!

      Good luck with it all!!

  27. I think I’ve finally found my new dining room light. I love that FL/Y suspension light in your living room. Does it put off good light?

    • It puts off…not bad light? We actually vary rarely use it since there are so many other lighting options in this room. I think there’s just a single 100W bulb in it, and it’s fairly dim as a singular light source, which I actually think would make it well-suited to a dining room. I’ve considered moving it to our dining room at the house!

  28. Man, I’d be totally overwhelmed with everything going on at the house as well. We have some plaster damage from a leaky roof and that’s enough to drive me close to the edge. I don’t know how I’d keep it together with all of the projects that are on your plate. I’m sure it will end up looking great when finished though.

    I’ve always loved your apartment living room as well. Very classy and understated. I wish that we had pieces like that floating around in our market.

    Keep up the good work.

    -Nick from midcenturymidwest.blogspot.com

    • Oh, and before any adventurous apartment dwellers unilaterally decide to make permanent updates to their living spaces, ALWAYS GET PERMISSION FROM YOUR LANDLORD FIRST. They’ll probably be pretty enthused about somebody else putting in the time to increase their property values. If they don’t consent, well, it isn’t your building, so tough titties. Their place, their rules.

  29. I think the TV looks well suited for the spot you chose. I am often not impressed by people’s TV concealment ideas, which often look much more awkward than simply having the visible and well located, especially with the nice thin current TVs.

  30. I think I actually gasped at the fiddle, I wish my plants would grow like that. Maybe I give them too much attention? The living room has come together in such fantastic style, it’s hard to believe that it was that sad red color with inoperable doors and the saggy Billy. Thanks for being a style inspiration to all of us who watch, envious, from afar!

  31. someone could give you a shoebox and you’d make it look good.
    I think you are a wizard, there’s no other explanation.

  32. I love her little bowl! Can’t believe she nearly failed!

  33. wow i absolutely love this living room. those vintage finds are amazing btw – where did you find the coffee table?

  34. Wow! What a fantastic transformation! It’s modern, yet homey – my favorite kind of space.
    I second demoing as much as you can in one go. We gutted our most of our ground floor but left a few areas that I’m now regretting but have no desire to deal with the plaster dust and heavy garbage that comes with opening things back up…
    Enjoy the have that your lovely apartment provides!

  35. I remember seeing an episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in which Thom Filicia made a similar pronouncement about the ridiculousness of hiding televisions, and I’ve lived by that rule ever since. Your TV looks great, particularly with the console styling. The whole room is stellar, really.

  36. On Remodelista I read about recessed outlets, but that won’t be possible with your wall as you pointed out. The wires are well “hidden” as they are now, as I didn’t notice them as “disturbing the eye” in the picture, so, fair enough!
    Those deep red walls! If a landlord obviously has nothing against the former tenants leaving it like that, I’d feel free to do whatever pleases me. Couldn’t be worse.
    And I also like the Nearly Failed Bowl. What’s wrong with not looking like mass production!

  37. The TV looks brilliant just as it is. Most “disguises” just draw attention anyhow, and the mere mention of a camouflaging curtain reminded me of this Apartment Therapy “how-to”, which I still suspect must have been a joke of some kind:
    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-hide-you-1-108795
    :-)

  38. What did you do about the missing flooring pieces? I currently have an apartment with a few missing parquet floor pieces. They were missing when I moved in, and no one seems interested in fixing them.

    • I just patched them with 1/4″ thick boards from the hardware store that were fairly easy to cut to size with a utility knife. They’re decidedly not fancy and the stain doesn’t match at all (I just threw on a mix of a couple stains I had on hand), but at least stuff doesn’t get caught on the gaps anymore and it isn’t something I always have to vacuum and clean. It’s good enough!

  39. Thank you for Apartment Therapy! Your website is amazing and inspiring. I cant wait to binge read your posts. So happy I found this. Your home looks absolutely beautiful!

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