All posts in: Freelance Projects

Plans for Olivebridge Cottage!

Hey, remember that other house I’ve been working on? That vacation cottage? The one out in Olivebridge? That we called Olivebridge Cottage? For those nice sweet clients from the big city? That one that I wrote a blog post “introducing” and then never spoke of again?

Well, it’s done!

PSYCH. LOL. GOTCHA.

Oh, Olivebridge Cottage. Spoiler: you are so much more than we bargained for. Like, so much more. Like, an unthinkable, unreasonable, unfathomable amount more. I hope you guys like whatever the house version of blood and guts and gore is, because it is what Olivebridge Cottage has been serving up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday for the past two months.

Honestly, I haven’t been sure how to even blog about this renovation because it’s just been total insanity. Plans and budgets and timelines have had to change on what feels like a daily basis, and I haven’t been totally certain of what the appropriate time is to jump into writing about it with some semblance of certainty or authority or professionalism. Thus are the hazards of trying to live-blog a renovation. Or at least this renovation. This little house is bananas.

Last time I posted about the house, it was a bunch of before pictures and some vague ideas about what the big plans were (I’d recommend going back to that post and just looking at the pictures if you need a refresher). That was only a few days into the job…back in the days when my heart was full of naive optimism and my brain still full of the understanding that this was more or less a kitchen renovation. We’ll get into how and why everything has changed since then, but for now maybe it makes the most sense to just start with…where we started? The overall aesthetic direction for the renovation hasn’t really changed, so before we dive into demo and all the lunacy that’s come with it, let’s all get an understanding of the basic layout and stuff…

 

olivebridgebefore1olivebridgeproposal1

Is it even worth apologizing for my Sketch-Up renderings at this point? Probably not. I really don’t enjoy doing them (to say the least…I might be the least tech-inclined blogger ever) but it’s helpful when clients and/or contractors are involved so everyone can be more or less on the same page with stuff.

Anyway, here’s a side-by-side of the overall layout. Before is above, proposed after is below. It’s oriented this way because the top is the side that faces the street, but the right side is where the entryway is. So you walk into this little vestibule space, and turning left brings you into the 2nd bedroom (which is an old enclosed porch) and turning right brings you into the living room space. The plan for the vestibule and second bedroom has always primarily just been some paint and a few other cosmetic upgrades, but there’s since been talk of bringing the new flooring into those two spaces as well. It’s a small house, so cutting down on the number of different materials all over the place would probably be a very nice thing. It’s mostly a question of budget at this point.

The living room is sort of an odd space because of the dimensions of the room and the location of the wood stove and size of the hearth. It’s all a bit wonky. At only about 12 feet wide (and having to function as a pass-through to the dining/kitchen area, the entryway, and the bedroom/bathroom area), it’s a REALLY difficult space to lay out with regular furniture in any kind of conventional set-up. Then off the living room is this sunken area, which is also an enclosed porch and sits about 6″ lower than the living room. It’s about 6 feet wide and is supported by a beam and four posts, so even though the area is wide open to the living room, it feels kind of closed off.

The proposed plan didn’t call for altering anything really with the wood stove, but that’s probably changing due to safety issues and code compliance and all that fun stuff that includes the house not burning to the ground. The proposed plan also called for at least putting a structural support beam between the living room and the sunken section so that we could lose the vertical supports, and there was a lot of talk of just leveling out the floor (which, yes, would leave sort of an odd ceiling height when you got way up to the front of the house, but would have still been OK…just kind of quirky?). If the living room were even a foot or two wider, I think leaving the sunken section as-is would have been the obvious answer (and building some kind of great bench or shelving or something below the windows), but the narrowness of the room more or less precludes the placement of even a normal-size sofa. So that was the thinking.

Spoiler: none of that stuff is happening because now very different things are probably happening.

olivebridgebefore2olivebridge2

ANYWAY. Up a couple of stairs, you’re in the dining room/half bath/utilities/kitchen area. You can really see here how enormous that half-bath is, especially relative to the size of this house, so I’m glad it’s going away! That funny-shaped wall inside the half-bath shows more or less where the hot water tank was and the guts of the big propane-powered heater.

In the proposed plan (which was actually the second proposed kitchen concept—the first didn’t have the breakfast bar part), the half-bath goes away and the kitchen gets a lot more space and a lot more storage. It’s still not a huge space but there’s enough for a couple of people to comfortably maneuver in the center of it, and opening up the kitchen/dining space is going to make the whole house feel much roomier and brighter and all those nice things.

That thing next to the refrigerator represents some kind of utility closet that we thought might be necessary, but luckily it’s been nixed because the plumber confirmed that we could put the new tankless hot water heater (which will be more efficient and much, much smaller!) in the closet across from the bathroom (where the washer/dryer will also live), and we’re doing away with the propane-powered heating tower thing altogether in favor of a new ventless mini-split system that will ALSO have A/C. Color me jealous! I’m not a fan of the way those things look in old houses, but it’ll be just fine in an all-new and modern space.

Spoiler: we’re now on to kitchen design #23478904587 so the kitchen probably won’t actually look much like this, at least layout-wise. So feel free to tear it apart or whatever because it’s not getting built anyway.

moodboard1kitchen

After we’d figured out the overall layout and more major decisions about the renovation plan, I sent Adriana and Barry this “mood board” do-dad to help sort of visualize the overall aesthetic direction and a few specific products I had rolling around in my head! If you’ll recall, the goal of this renovation is for everything to be very inexpensive without looking cheap, so I tried to keep things as budget-friendly as possible. The overall concept this is trying to communicate is that Scandi-mod vibe with lots of blacks and whites, but also throwing in some nice natural textures and some bright colors so it never feels to sterile or boring. Ya dig?

1. We weren’t really sure what was going to be lurking behind the bumped-out wall in the kitchen and the soffit above the bumped-out wall, so in case we needed to maintain a soffit of some kind, I thought a few fun-colored lights like the Alabax fixture (medium size) from Schoolhouse Electric would be so cute! I love the Marigold color. Adriana nixed this particular fixture because she doesn’t like exposed bulbs (I tend to agree, honestly, since I’ve been trying to transition as much as I can to LED and those bulbs aren’t all that cute to look at), but they both liked the idea of adding that element of color.

2. Range hood, sink, faucet, and cabinets are all IKEA. We’re keeping the existing stainless steel stove and refrigerator, so the plan is to use the LUFTIG exhaust hood and the DOMSJO double-bowl sink, which will be set in the new line of SEKTION cabinets! As I am a huge IKEA nerd, I’m excited to try out the new cabinets and see how they compare to the old AKURUM system. I’ve checked them out in the showroom and they seem really great. I pitched the RINGSKAR faucet but that was nixed due to lack of spray function and concerns about quality, so I’m on the hunt for something else. Anyone have a modern faucet they love that didn’t cost a billion dollars? Spill.

3. TILE! I was sure this backsplash tile would get nixed immediately, but Adriana and Barry were on board! I love a tumbling blocks pattern. This tile is made to look like nice cement encaustic tile that would usually cost all the money, but NOPE—this stuff is from Home Depot, of all places! Each tile is 7.75″ square, so at $1.97/tile you can cover a LOT of territory with it without breaking the bank. I ordered this a while ago (it tends to go out of stock every now and then, so I wanted to make sure we’d have it ready to go) and I have to say it’s quite nice in person. The whole line of these vintage-repro Merola Tiles is pretty great. A lot of it is made to mix and match and it’s a great alternative if you can’t spend the money on the real deal.

4. Since budget is so slim, we need the countertops to be super cheap. Adriana very specifically did not want butcherblock, which is my first instinct for inexpensive countertops, and we all agreed that the laminate options I found were kind of blah. As I am a blogger, it looks like I will be joining the ranks of many bloggers who have come before me in trying out Ardex Feather Finish for cheap, DIY-friendly, faux concrete countertops! Just google it and you’ll find lots of blog posts about people using this stuff right over their old laminate counters or even just over plywood if they’re starting from scratch. It can look pretty great! For this house, though, I really like what Jenny over at Little Green Notebook did by adding black concrete tint to the mix—I think it just takes it up a few notches and makes the whole application look really luxe. I’m psyched to try it! It seems kind of hard to screw up and I’m relatively good at stuff, so it should be OK. Right?

5. The two globe pendant lights are from Cedar & Moss. We’re still sort of playing around with lighting—kind of a challenge since things are so open, so the kitchen lighting has to play well with whatever’s going on above the dining room table and the living room, too. The thinking behind the globes was that we might have more of a “statement piece” above the dining room table so we’d just want something simple above the peninsula. I’m not sure if these or anything even like them are going to happen, but holy guacamole…Cedar & Moss makes some good looking lights.

6. I’m into these Roadhouse Leather Counter Stools from CB2, especially as a way to introduce some warmth into this business and balance out the colder, harder materials and textures. Like a lot of things, not sure if they’re going to happen, but I’d like to use them and they’re a good chair to know about regardless as they’re nice looking and fairly budget-friendly. They come in chair height, counter height, and bar height. I wish I could…refine the bases a little bit? But overall that’s a good-lookin’ chair.

OK, now that we’re finished with this whole thing, we can finally really get into renovating this sucker! Much like Bluestone Cottage (I’ll get back to you soon, I promise…), I’ve been keeping a daily diary of the insanity and have lots and lots of pictures of the progress/disaster unfolding before my eyes and taking over my life, so I hope you’re into all that. This one’s a doozy!

New Season, New Project!

It’s SPRINGGGGGGGGG! This might be old news to some of you but it just happened in the past couple of weeks up in the Hudson Valley. I’ve been blissfully popping Claritin-D and huffing prescription nasal spray and I don’t even care about these sinus headaches because it’s finally warm and sunny and not horrible outside.

You might be thinking to yourself: “since it’s finally warm, isn’t it high time Daniel got back to the cottage renovation?”.

You’d be correct.

Except it’s a different cottage. Not mine. I need another house like I need hole in my head. Bluestone Cottage is on hold for a minute while I attend to some more pressing matters that pay better than working for myself. Matters that look like this:

exterior1

Here we have a whacky little 1,100 square foot cottage out in Olivebridge, which is a whacky little town near the Ashokan Reservoir, about 30 minutes from Kingston. We’ll call it Olivebridge Cottage, as it’s a cottage in Olivebridge. I know. You probably can’t even handle my creativity.

This is a client gig and I am stoked. This house is one crazy mo’fo’ and I can’t wait to get my grubby little paws on it.

The clients are actually a couple of friends who I’ve known for a few years now, Adriana and Barry. Adriana and I met when I went to Sweden a few years ago (Max and she were in the same program at Parson’s), and my love for her was intense and immediate. She’s a lunatic ex-attorney Texan-Brazilian-Jew-Unicorn hybrid with possibly the most energy of any person I’ve ever known. I met Barry sometime after that and he’s equally lovely, though slightly less frenetic, which is such a groovy balance. They live in Manhattan but got the upstate itch a while back and closed on this lil’ fixer baby a few months ago. It’ll be a place for them to escape to on the weekends and a vacation rental for visitors (yeah, you can stay here when it’s all done!), so pressure’s on to make it amazing.

The budget on this project is small and the timeline is short and the expectations are high and the challenges are numerous, so what could go wrong, right? Let’s take a little trip inside…

entryway2

This is a funny house. Looks are deceiving here…it’s actually a pretty old house (maybe 1920s?) that’s been added onto at least 5 times, so there’s a lot going on and some weird spaces to contend with. The previous owner was a contractor of some sort who did some pretty heavy renovations in the 80s/90s—some of them good, some of them not so good. My job is basically to go in and fix what’s broken, do a big ole kitchen renovation, and refine all the small little details that just weren’t done so well the first time around. They’re not living there while this is going on, so I basically have the freedom to tear it all apart and put it back together again. Let me at it!

ANYWAY, above is the little entryway/vestibule thingy. It’s cute, but definitely needs some TLC in the form of paint, some better hooks, and maybe a lighting upgrade. I actually happen to kind of like that light but maybe not for this house. We’ll see how far the budget takes us…

guestbedroom

To the left of the entryway is this little enclosed porch, which can technically be called a second bedroom. It’s small but full of windows, which makes it feel super bright and pretty. The plan in here is to remove the closet (it just takes up too much space, isn’t necessary for this house, and doesn’t need to be there for this to qualify as a bedroom—I checked). Then it’ll mostly be a lot of paint, probably replacing that fan, and decking it out all cute-like with a little daybed and a rug and all that fun stuff. I have a feeling I’m going to want to crash here by the end…

entryway3

To the right of the entryway is the rest of the house! I’ll post a floor plan next time so you can get a better sense of how these spaces connect—it’s definitely a little unorthodox and bizarre, but totally workable.

entryway1

Inside the living room, there’s a wood stove on a big bluestone pad and lots and lots of beadboard panelling. The beadboard is the nice tongue-in-groove solid pine variety, but we all agree that painting it out is going to be the best plan here. The previous owners did a sort of white-washed finish on it, but pine tends to go kind of pink unless you compensate with some yellow/brown tint, which is what’s gone down here. The pink tone combined with the major wood bleed on all the knots is just not a good look, although admittedly these pictures are pretty flattering despite what it looks like in real life. It’s not cute. The subtle texture of the beadboard painted white will be nice, though.

LivingRoom1

Here’s that area from another angle, so you can get a better sense of the space! It’s so good, right? Or, like, it will be. The vaulted ceilings are great, and all the windows give the whole house such beautiful light and views. Not every window has a great view, but most of them are all forest and lichen-covered boulders and upstate NY magic. It’s already such a nice place to spend my days working!

My immediate reaction to this house is that it really wants to have a fun, bright, casual, minimal Scandinavian cottage kind of vibe, which is almost too appropriate considering a big basis of my friendship with Adriana is our time in Sweden and Finland. She and Barry are totally on board with this, which is so exciting for me. I’ve kind of been lost in old-house-restoration-mode for the past couple of years, so I’m excited to flex some modernist/minimalist muscle in here and whip it into the kind of house it’s aspiring to be.

sunkenlivingroom

One side of the living room houses this really odd sunken space, which I’m sure used to be a porch and was also enclosed at some point. The ribbon windows along the long wall and side let in a great amount of light, but the vintage corbels in the corners and that weird trim piece in the middle between the posts are just all wrong for this place. This area is part of the fun and part of the challenge of this house. I have a plan and I think it’s gonna be great.

TVcabetc

On the other side of the living room is this funny/terrible TV cabinet set-up, which is going to get demo’d and replaced with something much cleaner and better looking that’s flush with the wall. I’m assuming this was constructed in the olden days of the 90s when tube TVs were still a thing, but it doesn’t need to be this deep anymore.

Hallway1

Up those couple of stairs is this little hallway, with a closet on the left and a full bathroom on the right. The flooring in this hallway is kind of a mess and will probably get replaced. A big challenge of this house is using the budget to not only fully renovate the space, but also unify all of these additions that hail from different eras and make use of all these different materials—right now there are six different types of flooring in the house, which just makes it feel choppy and disconnected.

MasterBedroom1

The main bedroom is sweet but needs some work. The maple flooring runs into this room, too, and should look great with refinishing. The room is a nice size for a queen bed, a couple little side tables, and a dresser, but is going to take a deceptive amount of work to bring up to speed. The walls are in bad shape, the electrical is weirdly placed, that fan is driving me bonkers, and we have got to refine the moldings throughout the house. The 1×4 is just way too chunky for this modernist minimalist escape. That’s a lot of the work here…it’s like everything was done decently well until the last 10-20% of the last remodel and then things kind of fell apart. Nothing that can’t be fixed, though.

livingdining

Back in the living room space, we have a few steps leading up into the dining room and kitchen area. The folding table and chairs are not permanent.

To the right of the stairs is this big propane-powered heater, which functions as the main heat source for the living/dining/kitchen space when the wood stove isn’t burning and keeps the pipes from freezing when nobody’s home. It’s kind of a beast and pretty unattractive, so we’re looking into possible replacements or at the very least relocating it. One of the goals here is to extend the stairs and open up that wall where the propane heater is sitting as much as we can, so I’m meeting with my HVAC dude today to brainstorm what we can do about it.

dining3

The dining room is nice, though! We’ll need to sort out the moldings, electrical, a new light fixture, flooring, paint, and obviously furniture! Can’t you just see a nice round dining table with some great chairs and an amazing pendant light? OK, well, you don’t have to. That’s my job.

halfbath

On the other side of the dining room is the biggest issue with the whole house…this wall! Behind that door is a half-bathroom, which also houses a small utility closet for the hot water tank. We’re trying to figure out the best option for replacing it with an on-demand tankless hot water heater, which can hopefully move much more out of the way than where it is now—maybe even into the crawlspace below. And the half bath? It’s gotta go.

I KNOW. I know the classic wisdom is that more bathrooms add value to houses, but in this case, it’s just stupid. It takes up an ENORMOUS amount of space, and let’s just remember that this house is 1,100 square feet and really a one-bedroom but technically a two-bedroom. It does not need a half-bathroom like ten steps away from the full bath, and it certainly doesn’t need one practically in the dining room. I mean, excuse my french, but who wants to be eating dinner while someone is taking a shit right there? Nobody.

kitchen4

All that space could be put to much better use by giving it over to the kitchen, though! So that’s the plan. The existing galley kitchen is just small and cramped and worse for wear, so the bulk of this renovation is blowing out that half-bath, gutting the existing kitchen, and putting in a new fancy kitchen that’s open to the dining space and much better suited to entertaining and socializing and not having a poop-center right in the middle of it all.

kitchen3

The existing kitchen looks to be from about the 1950s and updated with a little paint and new countertops whenever the house was renovated last. Unfortunately the cabinets are mostly built in place and pretty much shot, so everything except the fridge and stove are getting replaced. The floor has a pretty significant slant going on, too, so we’ll probably have to take everything down to the studs and joists to get it all level and ready for new flooring and cabinets and everything else. Hopefully the structural issues aren’t too big of a deal, but unfortunately it’s one of those things that’s hard to figure out how extensive the problems are until things are opened up a bit.

kitchen1

Currently the kitchen also houses a washer/dryer unit, which we’re planning to relocate to the hall closet with new stacked units. It’s not super ideal to lose that much closet space to a washer and dryer, but it’ll free up the kitchen and because this is primarily a vacation house, it really doesn’t need a lot of closet space. We’ll need to add a little storage to compensate but that shouldn’t be a problem considering all the space we’re gaining back from losing the half-bath.

kitchen2

Anyway, tearing into this space is going to be fun fun fun. There are some things we don’t really know, like why the window sill is so deep or what’s contained in the soffit above the upper cabinets or why the sink isn’t centered under the window or how they got the checkerboard patterned curtains to match the backsplash tile so exactly, but I guess we’ll find out! Curtains might remain a mystery, though.

I can’t wait to get this project going! We’ve been talking and planning for a couple of months now and while the budget and timeline make me a little nervous, it’s all going to be great and so worth it. Adriana and Barry have been amazing to work with and I think we’re all totally on the same page with this place, which is just so much fun. Next time we’ll dig into the plans!

Yay for Olivebridge Cottage! This is going to be a fun one.

Ana Gasteyer’s Bathroom Makeover!

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

I’ve mentioned this vaguely a couple of times on Instagram and Twitter, but I’ve been doing some design work for a pretty awesome client—the super-duper-multi-talented Ana Gasteyer! Ana’s pretty amazing: she was on SNL for six seasons, has been in a bazillion TV shows and movies (most recently Suburgatory), played Elphaba in Wicked both in Chicago and on Broadway (along with a bunch of other theater work)…she’s exceptionally cool. Aside from that, Ana is totally fun and funny and laid-back and has great taste and is just an all-around pleasure to work and play with. This job has been so much fun.

I met Ana initially through Grace about a year and a half ago, and since then we’ve pretty much been working our way through overhauling her whole apartment. We started in the master bedroom and bathroom, and have since moved on to the living room and dining room (kitchen, I’m looking at you next!).  There are still some loose ends to be tied up (as these things go…) in the more major areas, but they should be share-ready soon. But today: the bathroom! It is done! It is glam!

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover (Before)

Here are some before shots of the bathroom, just to get an idea of where we started. Ana and her husband, Charlie, and their two kids live in an old warehouse building in Brooklyn, which was completely rehabbed about 15 years and turned into a bunch of really great loft apartments. While certain things about the renovation are really nice—like the marble basket-weave floors, the sinks, the tub, and the plumbing fixtures—the builders sort of skimped-out on other stuff. All of the walls were totally naked (aside from the cow triptych courtesy of IKEA), the light fixtures were all contractor-grade and totally sad, and despite being a master bathroom, it had almost no permanent storage—just two small medicine cabinets on either side of the sink and that glass shelf underneath the mirror. Not cool, builders. The bathroom is also situated in the middle of the apartment, meaning it has no windows or natural light, which also contributed to it feeling a little cramped and not as nice as it could be (also, disclaimer: hard to photograph). So basically the bathroom had these really nice elements but desperately needed more storage and a big shot of style. So in I came with my storage ideas and style.

Ana really wanted the bathroom to feel glam and a little glitzy and fun, so we tried to go a little over-the-top with some design elements while still keeping it grown-up and pretty.  Aside from more storage overall, Ana also desperately wanted a vanity where she could sit and do her makeup, which was a tall order! This bathroom really isn’t very large—definitely no space for a normal piece of furniture—so it required some creative thinking to get from Point A to Point B.

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

Anddddd, here it is!

OK, so obviously I just have to just skip all the details and lead with this: DAT WALLPAPER!!! It is amazing, no? It’s from the new Rifle Paper Company collection from Hygge & West, designed by Anna Bond, and it is absolutely scrumptious. Going super dark and dramatic with paint is always a tough sell, but wallpaper takes it up about 20 notches since it’s definitely not something you want to get wrong. I’m so glad Ana loved this pattern as much as I did, though, and gave me the go-ahead to have it installed here. The pattern is screen-printed and has an amazing hand-painted feel to it, and I love how glamorous and luxe it feels while also having a super fun vintage vibe. The gold in the pattern is just perfection in real life, which has been my experience with all Hygge & West papers with metallics: never too much, always just enough. Just how I like it. OOMPH. I love it. Ana loves it. Everyone loves it. It’s that good.

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

Believe it or not, the black really does make the whole room feel SO much bigger and more expansive—it’s sort of unbelievable. Dark colors work so well in spaces without a lot of natural light, whereas whites and other light colors can often feel really flat and lifeless. It adds so much dimension to the room.

The wallpaper was installed by Sarah Merenda, who is fabulously talented (both as an installer and an artist!) and amazing to work with. We were a little concerned about how wallpaper would fair in a bathroom, but Sarah assured us that using a good wallpaper primer and a strong paste would keep it adhered to the walls, particularly if everything was allowed to set for a couple of weeks before being exposed to steam or moisture. Ideally you’d also have a fan to vent the moisture—unfortunately this bathroom doesn’t have one, but Sarah said it should still be OK as long as the glue had a couple weeks to harden up.

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

OK, I’ll stop gabbing about the wallpaper now. Other stuff! To add some more architectural interest to the space without spending a ton of cash, we opted to put up a chair rail and this paneling detail on the lower half of the walls, all with stock pieces of molding from Lowe’s.

The chair rail is actually three different pieces that I put together, and then our fabulous painter/carpenter, Ryan, installed everything all fancy-like. He did such a great job! The lower half of the walls and the chair rail are painted All White by Farrow & Ball, which is delicious quality paint. It’s so pretty.

before2

cabinet2

To address the storage and vanity issue, the only way to really go was custom. I designed this piece (and then had it fabricated by a cabinet builder) to be about as big as it could be without totally overwhelming the space or blocking something important like the shower door or the toilet, since Ana and Charlie will probably need to use that stuff. Even though it’s much bigger than the little dresser that was there before, the shallower depth actually makes it feel less intrusive while still providing a ton more storage space. Success!

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

Also, vanity! Since there wasn’t room for a ton of storage and a vanity, I made the middle section of the built-in a drop-down desk and picked up an adjustable DALFRED stool at IKEA that Ana can move to the front of the vanity when it’s in use. There’s a mirror mounted to the back of this section and a cut-out for an electrical outlet, so it’s super functional and fits all of her lady potions and tools. Success!

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

One of my favorite improvements to the space was framing out the existing mirror. This was done by our carpenter (and inspired by the molding in my house!), and it makes the mirror look so much more finished. It just conceals the frosted border (which you can kind of see in the first before pic), which we all thought looked a little dated and out of place, and I think it ties in really nicely with the molding work and with the custom cabinet now. Success!

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

I also love the light fixtures! We went from the blandest of the bland to the glam-est of the glam, basically. The two boring flushmount fixtures over the sink got replaced with these reasonably-priced flush-mount crystal chandeliers from Overstock, which I love in a weird way? They’re a pretty far cry from my normal taste, and on their own they’re a little…questionable, but I feel like they really work in this room. Glitzy! And I have to say, the crystals really do cast some nice light and subtle patterns onto the walls. Success!

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

The light over the tub was definitely calling out for a chandelier, so we hooked it up! I found this guy vintage on eBay, and I think it’s so cute! It’s just the right scale for the space. And look what’s at the top there—a pineapple! We bought and installed this light fixture longggg before the wallpaper came into the picture, but I love how they ended up tying together. Success!

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

Between having a crazy busy career, a husband with a crazy busy career, and two kids, Ana wanted the bathroom to be as easy and low-maintenance as possible. I’ve long been an advocate of the ease of towel hooks as opposed to formality of bars—lest you wondered where I stood on bathroom towel politics—so we removed the original bars (which were sort of oddly located anyway) and installed new hooks. It was a little challenging to find ones that were inexpensive and reasonably matched the existing plumbing fixtures, but I finally found these at Home Depot for the sweet price of $14. Easy towel hanging! Success!

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

Manhattan Nest | Ana Gasteyer's Bathroom Makeover

I loved working on this bathroom SO MUCH and I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I know Ana loves it too—which I guess is the important part. I can’t wait to share the other stuff we’ve done! It’s so fun to see all the elements come together in real life after rolling around in your head for so long—as soon as the wallpaper went up, we all kind of went from feeling so-so about things to SUPER HAPPY ABOUT EVERYTHING. True story. Wallpaper = happiness.

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Maybe you want to get in on the fabulous new collection from Hygge & West by Rifle Paper Company, too? I want to help you. Hygge & West wants to help you. We all want to help you. But you have to help yourself—go get it with this 20% off discount code! Make yourself feel happy, too.

This post is in partnership with Hygge & West!

Impromptu Thanksgiving Makeover!

For the first time in my life, I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving this year. Instead, Max and I both went to his much-adored hometown of Buffalo, the kooky city that I credit, in part, with making him the nutball that he is today.

About two days before we left, Max floated the idea of giving his childhood bedroom a “quick and easy” makeover while we were going to be there. Trying not to act too excited, I accepted the assignment with grace and class, as I had rehearsed many times whilst daydreaming about this moment. And then I assembled my emergency DIY-superhero traveling toolkit.

I have a lot of tools and bits and bobs I’ve accumulated over the past couple of years, but this is the stuff I see as essential when embarking on a quick-n-dirty DIY job. From left to right: all my assorted drill bits, two types of pliers, lightweight quick-drying spackling compound, the best screwdriver ever with a million different heads, coarse-grit sandpaper, E-Z anchors, my drill, and two spackle knives.

I need to give a serious shout-out to those E-Z anchors, by the way. They are the shit. I only really like the metal ones (they also come in plastic, but I’ve had mixed results with those), but they hold a ton of weight and are just all-around phenomenally easy to use and strong and awesome. Basically you just screw the big metal piece into the wall, then screw a screw into the metal piece. Done! No drilling, nothing. These things are seriously lifesavers for crumbly plaster walls and basically hold my entire apartment together and I trust them with my life.

Anyway.

Max is perhaps the most nostalgic, sentimental person I know, so the suggestion of even touching or moving a single thing in his largely unchanged shrine to angsty adolescence is more than a little out of character. But a combination of getting older, maturing, and—I like to think—living with the controlling lunatic nightmare that is myself, has changed his taste a little, and I think he was ready to appreciate his former bedroom as a thing preserved more in memory and photographs than something that needs to actually exist in real life. It also helps that we stay in this room when we visit, and a twin bed pretty much sucks when occupied by two boys and a 12 pound muppet named Linus.

Additionally, Max’s wonderful mother, Sue, wanted to use the space as a comfortable guest bedroom for the 49 (give or take a few) weeks a year when we’re not staying in it, but not every guest wants to be transported back to Max’s worldview circa 2000-2006.

Twin bed: check. Beaded floor pillows: check. Beaded floor lamp: check. Beaded table lamp: check. Second beaded floor lamp (out of frame): check. Tapestry thing: check. Tiny plastic busts of famous composers: check. Martha Stewart Living casually laying on the floor like it’s an accident: CHECK.

Even though I’ll admit to hating staying in this room, there’s something so adorable about these pictures that I feel a little nostalgic, myself. All those magazine boxes on the shelves are full of Martha Stewart Livings, the little woven basket next to it is full of knitting supplies, and the bottom shelf is occupied by about a dozen Harry Potter books—American and Canadian editions. I mean, come on. 

Up above, this weird candelabra chandelier number from IKEA hung from the ceiling, as well as an artsy photo wall of mostly naked people. There are SUNGLASSES HANGING FROM THAT CHANDELIER THING, PEOPLE. 2006 Max is so weird and cute.

The less cute side of this makeover is this wall of graffiti that Max had all of his friends contribute to with Sharpie over the years. Mostly, it is composed of penises, vaginas, things that look vaguely like penises and vaginas, angsty lines of poetry, drug references, and penises. There are also some penises.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Ani DiFranco lyrics GLITTER PUFFY-PAINTED to the closet moldings, and more glitter puffy paint ON THE CEILING that has something to do with eggs and some dude named Ernie?

Interestingly, Max has never been into drugs.

I always thought that my parents allowed us to be pretty free-spirited when it came to our rooms: we got to pick all our own furniture, paint colors, layouts, and how big of a mess we lived in. But Max’s parents kind of took this to the next level and basically let tiny crazy angsty Max run wild and this is what happened. Take heed, people.

All I can say after sanding glitter puffy paint off a ceiling is that if I ever have children who try to pull shit like that, I will drown them.

As you can see in the above floor plan, this room is really tiny, which made our single-day-makeover plan seem pretty feasible on the surface. In the morning, we cleared out the entire room, then went to do a little shopping. Then I got dropped at the house to commence with the painting, while Max and his mom went to buy a mattress and a few other things we’d need to finish the space. It was some crazy Trading Spaces madness, which is how I like things. Once I get in to projects like this, I’m the sort of person who will basically forego food, sleep, water, and bathroom breaks until it’s done. I get into a zone, push through pain, and annoy every single person around me with demands that they work harder.

Imagine me as a werewolf. Then imagine that a big DIY project is a full moon. It’s like that.

So here is the paint arsenal, in case you’re curious. I started off by prepping the walls, which basically meant scraping old sticky-tack, sanding glitter puffy paint, and spackling about a thousand nail holes. In some areas, the plaster was in really rough shape, which normally I’d get all anal about and repair properly with joint compound and mesh tape and whatnot, but I had to learn to let go and just paint over everything. It was oddly liberating, and matte paint has a way of making uneven fucked up plaster look kind of awesome, anyway.

PSA: never write on your walls with Sharpie. Just don’t do it. If you do, someday your boyfriend will have to come in, paint over all of it with shellac-based primer, which is both expensive and very smelly. He will have to do it twice, all the while losing brain cells and going crazy. Sharpie bleeds through, like, ALL PAINT IN THE WORLD EVER in the most amazing/annoying way, so it really all has to be sealed in with a serious primer. The good thing about the shellac primer is that it dries REALLY fast, but it smells terrible and is super thin, so you have to be extra careful of drips and off-spray.

Max wanted a really dark black/navy color for the walls, and after seeing it both on the outside of Chezerbey and at Anna’s house, I demanded that we use Benjamin Moore’s “Soot.” We used the Aura paint in matte, which is pricey but is basically like painting with velvet and covers completely and easily in two coats. For the ceiling, we just used standard off-the-rack flat white ceiling paint, and for the trim we used off-the-rack white in pearl finish. Usually I do trim in semi-gloss, but I’ve been leaning more toward something a bit less shiny and pearl is a really beautiful, slightly more subtle alternative. All of this action happened so fast, I literally have ZERO process pictures…but really, we all just want to get to the afters, right?

BOOM. Hello super dark, super cozy, super awesome tiny bedroom that I totally love. With cute dog.

So obviously this isn’t really my normal taste, but I really do love this room. It was so much fun to wake up in on that first morning, and I actually didn’t want to leave Buffalo because I loved sleeping in it so much. Maybe it makes me want a black bedroom?

I’m sorry for the low-quality pictures, by the way. The one thing I didn’t pack in my emergency DIY-superhero traveling toolkit was a decent camera, so unfortunately I had to document with my iPhone. This room gets basically no natural light, so a very dark space combined with very dark paint combined with an iPhone camera makes for some subpar photos. Sorry!

Part of the fun of creating this room was reusing things that were already around in the house, including this lamp, the bedside table, the rug, the bed, the flag, and that amazing vintage Hudson Bay blanket. The bed belonged to Max’s mom’s parents (also known as Max’s grandparents), and I believe was a wedding gift in the late 40s-early 50s. It’s mahogany colonial-revival, which is usually not my thing, but I love it for this space. It was sitting in the attic, broken in a few joints, but I was able to repair the whole thing in about half an hour with some J-B Wood Weld, which is an amazing epoxy that cures really quickly and is SUPER strong and awesome. Max’s mom was really excited to see the bed all put back together and looking amazing, which was really fun for me. Aside from repairing the bed, we also got new pieces of 1 x 4 cut at Home Depot to replace the old slats (we got ten new slats for under the mattress, which was perfect).

Also, the flag is pretty amazing. Normally, I’m not a fan of using American flags in home decor, but this flag is old (it only has 48 stars!) and has just the right amount of wear to be super cool and perfectly vintage without straying into hit-you-over-the-head-patriotic territory. It’s being held up by E-Z anchors. Duh.

The vintage Hudson Bay blanket is also from Max’s mom’s parents, and it totally makes the room. I mean, of course it does. I’m a huge sucker for a point blanket.

One of the other projects I really loved in this room was the curtain, which I just made out of a canvas drop-cloth that was inexplicably sitting in the trunk of my car. I hung the curtain rod (this cheap-o one from Target) about 7″ from the ceiling, and made the curtain all the way to the floor, using iron-on hem tape for the side and top (I used existing hems for the side facing the room and the bottom). The iron-on tape worked surprisingly well, and the canvas was a perfect warm neutral color and texture to balance out the bright whites in the room and was also FREE. Free is always good. The curtain rod is hanging with E-Z anchors.

Another HUGE, HUGE improvement in this room was finding and re-hanging the closet door! The closet just had a curtain hanging on a tension rod before, but Max and I managed to find the original door hiding in the attic (it had been removed at some point, I have no idea why), harvest a black porcelain knob from another outcast door in the basement, and hang and repaint the thing like it never left the room. Love me an old door with a couple fresh coats of paint.

Again, normally I’d get a bit more detail-crazy and strip all the old hardware, but there was no time for that. Instead, I just coated everything with a fresh coat of white, and guess what? Nobody died, which makes me question my entire worldview, basically. Sometimes its OK to just take the easy route. Huh.

Along the wall between the entry door and the closet, I hung three plain cheap brass hooks (also held up by—you guessed it!—E-Z anchors), which might be my favorite thing about this room, oddly. Hooks are perfect for small spaces, and we used them for everything from bags to shirts to our jeans at the end of the day. The hooks keep clutter off the small amount of floor space, and the little bits of brass make a really nice complement to the deep blue paint color. And the E-Z anchors mean they have no trouble holding a ton of weight.

One thing we didn’t do anything about was the floor (except scrub it). It’s the only original wood floor in the house, which I think is oak but was painted a rusty red at some point. About half of the old paint has worn off and the wood is in really rough shape, which I’m pretty sure means it needs to just be painted white? I’m looking at you, Christmas break…

OK, I take it back about the dumb hooks because my favorite thing about the room is definitely this amazing art deco pendant light that we picked up at The Antique Man. It was kind of a steal at $75 and is just…so beautiful. There’s no electrical in the ceiling in this room, so I converted it into a plug-in fixture, which is pretty easy to do with the teeniest, tiniest bit of electrical know-how or advice from that old guy at the hardware store who knows what’s up. Basically you can just cut the end of an extension cord off, wire it into the original socket, and it’s a plug-in light. One of the electrical outlets in the room is circuited to a light switch, so we just ran the cord down to the outlet as neatly as possible and now it turns on and off like a real light and everything. This room was in dire need of a good main light source (with no real natural light, a few little lamps just don’t cut it sometimes!), and I can’t really think of a better-looking solution than this sexy vintage 20s thang.

So where did the money go in this space? Here’s how it broke down:

Mattress/comforter/duvet/sheets/pillows: $676
Bed repair/new slats: $56
Paint/paint supplies: $215
Light Fixture/new wire: $78
Curtain Rod: $10
Hooks: $15

TOTAL: $1,050

Realistically, we probably spent about $50 or so more than that on various supplies and little things that aren’t springing to mind, but in any case—an entire top-to-bottom  room makeover for right around $1,000 including a new mattress? Not bad.

As Mekko clearly demonstrates, this room is super comfortable and a great place for guests (and us!) to stay. Aside from getting to enjoy the final product, I can honestly say that this was one of the most fun, satisfying vacations I’ve ever had, which is pretty much all you need to know to understand that I’m sick in the head and need professional help and guidance.

A big thanks to Max’s mom for letting us have our way with this space. I hope you love it, Sue!

The Daniel/Daniel Project: The Colossus

There comes a moment in every DIY-er’s life, no matter how sure of their abilities or cavalier they’ve been in the past, when they spit out a project idea in a fit of over-confidence. They then spend every second until its completion shitting their pants over whether they had been fools, anticipating the moment when the crushing wave of reality would swiftly render them and their undertaking a failure. Not that this happened to me or anything.

One of the first things Daniel Vosovic (read more about this here) wanted to address in his studio was this wall. He wanted tons of storage space for all the fun accoutrements that come along with a growing company and a nice place for the interns to work and prosper.

This wall is about 17 feet long. It is also 10 feet high. It is huge. It is brick.

Daniel had mentioned loving the industrial-ish feeling of the pipe and wood bookshelf I made for my bedroom. Having only built a teensy little wall-mounted version of the ridiculously awesome and legendary Ace Hotel-inspired shelves that Morgan made at The Brick House, I might have been undermining my better judgment when I pompously suggested that we do something like that here. Except bigger. Lots bigger. Oh, and we had about three weeks to design and build the whole thing.

I thought it could be done in a weekend. I was wrong. I am obviously not right in the head.

But we did it. Oh, did we ever feel manly. Weighing in at a mammoth 15.5 feet long by 9 feet high, this shit ain’t playing around. Here, let me tell you about our struggles.

First we had to buy all of our 1/2″ black pipe. Because I designed the unit around the different functions Daniel and I had discussed, we needed pretty specific lengths of pipe for everything to come together correctly. I thought this would be easy, seeing as Home Depot sells a nice selection of pre-cut pipe (they call them “nipples,” but I refuse to) and can cut and thread pipes to size as if by magic upon request.

Of course I was wrong about this, because Home Depot stores in NYC are ten kinds of useless. Turns out that while other parts of the country might be more privileged, Home Depot in good old New York can’t cut a pipe for you. They can’t cut a piece of wood for you. They can’t tell you where to find anything or help you in any way. They are evil hellholes.

After calling about 30 different hardware and plumbing supply places, I finally found a shop in Brooklyn that was willing and able to cut pipes. It was called TMB plumbing. It was charmingly sketchy and the employees were endearingly frightening, but they did the job.

After washing all the pipes down in some soapy water, we went about spray painting them on the roof like a bunch of rowdy rebellious teenagers except with less vandalism. Ignore those lights, they’re for something else. We used matte black Rustoleum, about three cans all told.

Next we got all of the wood cut and delivered by Prince Lumber. Even though I had drawn the thing so many times and checked and rechecked the measurements, a continuous 11-foot board of pine is still terrifying when you’re actually faced with it and compelled to think about suspending it eight feet in the air on top of something you built.

We decided to go with 1.25″ thick x 12″ wide boards, which keeps the whole thing looking and feeling pretty substantial since the thicker boards allow the shelves to span for longer distances without bowing.

Since the shelves are knotty pine and the desktop is made of Canadian birch plywood (the lumber yard didn’t have pine in wide enough boards for a desktop),  it took some fiddling to get the stains to match. Eventually it was decided that all the pipe would be stained in Minwax “Dark Walnut” and the birch ply would be a mix of “Dark Walnut” and “Yellow Pine.”

Even with 2-3 people, staining all that wood took several days and a generous helping of boredom. Here, Daniel presides over our setup and clutches the playbill of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, wistfully recalling Daniel Radcliffe’s performance.

After we’d done all of the prep work of sourcing the pipe and wood, spray painting, sanding, staining, and pre-drilling all the holes, the actual construction really only took a couple hours and the helpful hands of four people. Here, Daniel double-checks measurements while his lovely and incessantly-harrassed interns provide physical and emotional support.

A good time was had by all. The top of the unit is attached to the wall with some super heavy duty metal masonry anchors and screws. It’s not going anywhere, don’t worry. But still knock on wood for me, cool?

The whole thing ended up taking about three weeks and many many hours. But it’s kind of awesome, am I right? Check out that floating 7 feet of desktop! The back of the desk is held on with short pipes and endcaps, keeping it from tipping forward, and it’s supported underneath by a couple of 14″ cheap wall brackets in the middle that keep it from bowing. Intern workspace, check!

So shelfy!

What’s that, you say? Cute industrial drawers that hold a bunch of magical fashion-building supplies? Daniel picked these up for a song at a flea market right before we built this thing, so the width of the central section of the unit was dictated by fitting these snuggly into it. All custom n’ stuff.

The left side of the unit was all about creating a manageable storage situation for bolts of fabric, so the shelves are more narrowly spaced and exactly 60″ long (the length of the longest bolts). In case, er, you couldn’t see that.

There she is. Take it in.

In other news, I’ve finished my sophomore year of college! Huzzah! Posting on the ole bloggity can now resume to a more frequent rate. Thank you for your patience and distressed comments and emails over the last few weeks regarding whether or not I had died. Your concern flatters me more than I should probably admit.

By the way, new featured blogs in the sidebar! They’re super cool this time around, I swear, so you’d better go check them out.

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