New Hallway Light!

When I set about redoing the hallway a while ago, the biggest point of uncertainty was always the lighting. We started out with matching boob lights throughout, and that just wasn’t going to work in the long haul. The ceilings are nine feet high and the hallway is only a couple feet wide, so having flush-mount overhead fixtures just made the whole space feel really tall and narrow and goofy. I knew I wanted to drop the lighting a bit with pendant fixtures, but I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money or have a bunch of mismatched vintage fixtures. So, for a total of about $60 for all four, I crafted up these guys and called it a day.

hallwaylights

These lights are great, but after a while I wanted something a little bigger in the entryway by the front door. It’s the first space you see when you walk into the apartment, and this type of light just felt a little too understated and dinky.

lightsba

It’s REALLY hard to take attractive photos of a space with zero natural light, but trust: this thing looks great. I found this big globe fixture at Salvation Army for $15 (brand new, with all its parts!), and the huge scale is totally perfect. I have a thing for big lighting.

lightclose

I love that it’s still simple and plays well with my DIY’d fixtures, but satisfies my  need to have something a little bigger and bolder here.

ceramics

In other news, I’m finally putting some concerted effort into making the top of the fauxdenza nice. I guess. I don’t like when surfaces get cluttered up with stuff or look over-styled, but a little grouping of oh-so-amateur studio pottery never hurt anyone. Plus some billy balls.

pinecones

Last year, I kvetched about Max’s obsession with all things seasonal and all things scented. Since I convinced him to forego his seasonal gourds nightmare this fall and he finally stopped buying plug-ins, I had high hopes for this holiday season. That was until shortly after Thanksgiving, when Max came home with a sack of fucking pinecones from the grocery store and threw them into bowl by the entry before I had a chance to light them on fire.

Is this what I get for dating goyim? I was NOT warned about this at my Bar Mitzvah.

PINE. CONES. I don’t know what the hell these things are scented with (cancer, probably), but they stink of some weird mix of spices that I guess translates to “Christmas!” in the pathway between Max’s shiksa nose and brain? I can report that they have been persistently smelly for almost two months now and show no signs of letting up. They’ve really rained on the new-light-fixture-parade.

candlesticks

My failed attempt at a counter-attack was putting these brass pinecone candlesticks out. Max thinks they’re tacky (he’s right), but I pledged to leave them as long as the real pinecones are polluting my air and assaulting my nostrils and…it appears we’re locked in a horrible pinecone-y stalemate of doom from which there is no escape or hope. One of us must cave.

light3

I will never cave.

Stopgap Measures in the Kitchen

lightcloseup

I’ve never really been a fan of stopgap measures when it comes to renovating and decorating. If I have some sort of grand vision for a space that will take a while to accomplish, it’s just not in my nature to spend any additional time, money, or effort to do anything makeshift of half-assed, or anything that I’ll eventually have to undo, thereby creating more work for myself down the road. If it isn’t directly in the service of the final goal, you can usually count me out.

This is why I’m more or less OK with living in squalor, as long as there’s a bright beacon of hope somewhere in the distance. As long as I get from Point A to Point B at some point, what does it matter how things look in the interim?

But what I’ve found in the kitchen is that it does matter. Each additional thing I’ve decided to do to it requires hours of work, not to mention added expenses, and after a year and a half, I just got totally tired of cooking and living in a space that just felt so rag-tag and unfinished, particularly after all the work I had put into making it better (like replacing and adding cabinets).

So, one weekend several weeks ago (camera troubles delayed this post a while, sorry!), I just decided to pull my shit together and do everything that I could do for the kitchen without dropping a bunch of money. I knew that some of the work would only make an appreciable difference in the short term and I’d be spending a little extra money and effort, but it just got to a point where that felt very worth it.

wallbefore

The biggest issue, aesthetically, was this back wall behind the stove. After removing and replacing the upper cabinets, the wall had this big unpainted section and tons of holes, and it didn’t help that at some point I decided to tack stuff to the wall just to…fill the space? I don’t know why I did that. Also, when I painted the rest of the kitchen, I left this wall unpainted because I ran out of paint and figured that some of it would eventually be covered in tile, anyway, so there wasn’t too much point in worrying about it. But one can only live with greasy seafoam green paint for so long before it starts to wear on you. This kitchen has been through some seriously sad times under my care.

The first order of business was removing the crap on the wall, patching the holes, and finally finishing the painting. I did have to buy a new gallon of paint (Benjamin Moore’s Dove White in matte, from the Aura Bath and Spa line) to make this happen, but FINALLY eliminating the last of the previous tenants’ paint was such a relief. Seriously, I cannot recommend this enough: even if I’d done nothing else, just whiting everything out made the space feel so much bigger, cleaner, and fresher, and it really only took a couple hours from start to finish. Paint really is the easiest and cheapest way to refresh a room.

The other thing was lighting. I had a plan for the lighting AND the lights themselves, so I figured I might as well hang them already and stop moping about how bad the lighting was in the kitchen. Having a good lighting plan goes a really long way toward making a kitchen feel more functional and finished, and I was tired of the two existing overhead lights that were super unflattering and made the kitchen feel overly sterile and prison-like.

overheadlights

First, I replaced both of the overhead fixtures with these vintage lights that I bought in Buffalo over the summer at a weird yard sale. They were only $5 each, and I liked that they were kind of boring and understated, but a style that would play well with the dramatic pendants. Since the pendants are such a big presence in the room, I didn’t want anything that might compete.

lights

And then there were these lights. You might remember them from this post a while back. I bought them when Max and I were up in Buffalo in June, 2011 (OMG, SHAME), with absolutely zero plan of where I’d use them. They were $50 a piece, but even underneath all the dirt and grime, I could tell they were super amazing and something I’d keep for a long time, so I went for it. I love the detail work and substantial nature of the vintage hardware, and you can’t really go wrong with vintage industrial enamel. Right?

Only one of the lights had its original cage, which was a little bit too industrial and creepy for my taste, so I opted to discard it. After a good cleaning, both lights basically looked brand new, so all that was left to do was rewire and hang! Easy! So I put them in an awkward pile on top of the fridge for the time being.

And there they sat for a good year and a half (give or take a couple months), which I spent waffling over exactly where and how to hang them. There was something very intimidating about deciding on mounting hardware, the mechanics of rewiring (and wiring into the existing ceiling boxes), and picking the chain to suspend them from, so I just avoided it altogether. Eventually, I talked the whole thing out with an Ace Hardware employee and MADE. IT. HAPPEN.

lights-installed

I was a little worried that the scale would be totally out of control in the space, but I LOVE them. They’re a little unexpected and make a huge visual impact, and I think they’re just really beautiful as objects.

chains

The chain is a basic thick steel chain from Ace, which I was able to cut to size using my little Dremel tool after figuring out exactly how low I wanted the lights to hang. I probably could have figured this out before going to the hardware store and saved myself some work (and waste), but I’m dumb.

Mountinghardware

Because these lights are super heavy and I wasn’t able to screw them into studs, I bought these heavy-duty 1/4″ toggle anchors. The anchor is inserted through a hole I drilled in the ceiling, which a big washer covers, and then a nut keeps it in place. (Here’s a really good video on how toggle bolts work if that’s confusing!)

chainshung

After hanging the lights, I just threaded the clear plastic wire up the chain and across the ceiling to the ceiling box. These flush-mount fixtures happen to have a hole in them for cord to run through already, so this part was pretty simple. I’m still not totally sure how to deal with the exposed wire running across the ceiling, but I think I’ll probably end up using some kind of cord channel and just painting it with ceiling paint.

lighttiein

Again, the whole thing took an hour or two, and all the hardware only cost me about $20.

after1

After replacing all the lighting, I figured I might as well go whole-hog and hang this 4′ steel ledge I ordered from CB2 a while ago. Even though I’ll have to take it down when I get around to tiling the backsplash, it was really nice to finally get it out of its box and throw it on the wall to get an idea of how it would look and function when the kitchen is done. Originally, I’d planned to do a wood shelf here (and maybe a bit deeper), but according to code, nothing flammable can be within 30″ above the stove, so steel was really the only safe option. The ledge has been awesome for getting some stuff off the counter, and I think it looks pretty good, too!

after5

I have a second ledge, too, but it needs to be cut down before it can be hung (and an even surface to hang on), so that’ll have to wait. It’s going to be so awesome though.

The pendants have 40W bulbs in them, which are beautiful and bright and light up this whole prep/stove area super well.

And oh look! I also finally got my ass over to IKEA to buy two lousy hinges so that I could finally hang the last door on the new cabinets.

hook

Oh, and I finally hung up this little porcelain hook I bought a year ago. It’s so cute! It took no work! I don’t think this is where it will be in the long run, but it’s nice to have it up and  serving a purpose.

after6

I’m by no means done with the kitchen, but getting it to this point was really exciting. I finally don’t feel like I have to apologize for it when people come over, and it just feels so much happier and more efficient and pulled together. It’s finally actually nice to cook in, and consequently we’ve been cooking more (and better!) food.

Now I just need to finish it. GULP.

Winter Times

Remember that stuff I said about tons of things getting done around the apartment while I was on break from school and work? Which has been for the last two weeks?

Yeah.

That hasn’t really happened yet.

BUT I CAN EXPLAIN.

Buffalo

Max and I took our caravan of dogs to Buffalo for Christmas, but a four day trip turned into a 6 day trip when we got snowed in! I guess it snowed a bit down in NYC, too, but hot holy damn, Buffalo. You know how to do a snowstorm up right.

Buffalo is really beautiful, by the way. I’ll admit that it took me a few trips to warm up to the city itself, but now I really enjoy going up there to visit. Max’s family is super great, too.

The dogs were not as pleased as we were about the snow, but one thing that made them a little more content were their fancy jackets! After Linus got his adorable little mug on Cute Overload, a really sweet company called D-fa Dogs in New Zealand e-mailed me out of the blue, asked if the dogs needed coats for winter, and offered to send them matching Ice Barkers.* So nice! I took them up on it and the dogs have both been getting a lot of wear out of them all winter. The merino wool is deceptively warm, and if it’s really cold we’ll layer their American Apparel hoodies underneath for extra cuteness points.

*Note: D-fa Dogs didn’t pay me to post about them or even ask for a post in exchange for the jackets. They just wanted my dogs to be warm!

Linus has the black coat, by the way. He’s impossible to take pictures of because he doesn’t sit still unless he’s sleeping, and his paws got too cold to walk so he hitched a ride inside Max’s coat…but I’ll try to get a picture soon. Dogs in jackets are really cute and you deserve to see that FYI.

kingston

After we got back from Buffalo, we made a quick turnaround in Brooklyn before heading up to Kingston, NY for a couple of days. A couple of our friends got together and rented a cute house, so we spent two days drinking and eating and drinking and antiquing and drinking, and the whole thing was super fun and relaxing and awesome. Kingston is cute town on the Hudson River Valley, and now I have delusions and yearnings in my loins to find a way to buy a cheap historic house somewhere in that vicinity and make it beautiful and perfect. For the weekends and holidays? It would be so fancy and beautiful? Hashtag goals.

Since nobody seemed to know what they wanted to do while we were up there, I just did what I do best and dragged everyone out thrifting for a few hungover hours of fun times digging through weird old crap. Totally everyone’s idea of a good time by which I mean nobody’s by which I mean my friends probably hate me now and I’m alone and destitute and could really use some new friends?

tray1

Whatever. I bought this ENORMOUS enamel tray, which was covered in dirt and rust but totally looks way better now that I cleaned it up. What do I even do with this thing? It’s about 20×30 inches and looks completely dumb on my credenza or dresser. But it’s pretty and I love it and I love trays and it’ll work out.

tray2

Oh look, I bought another enamel tray, too! This one is a more reasonable size and cute and good for corralling all the things?

Trays are good because you can group your shit on them and then it looks like maybe you have a reasonable amount of shit instead of too much. They don’t call this a design blog for nothing?

Oh yeah I actually bought two of those trays because they were there and they were cheap and I love all the enamel.

amberglass

I also bought this tiny little amber glass jar. I don’t know. Exciting fucking stuff. I’m rocking your world right now.

mekko

Here’s Mekko to take you through the weekend until we get some real updates happening up in here next week.

Look at her tongue. Look at her nose. Look deep into her eyes. Keep looking. See your future.

Merry Christmas!

OK, so I know I’m Jewish but I love Christmas. This year, Max and the dogs and I are keeping warm in the snowy ice tundra wilderness that is Buffalo, New York. We’ve spent the last few days getting into the spirit by sitting around doing next to nothing, shopping, eating too much, drinking too much, and cooking, so I’m pretty sure I’m getting the full Christmas experience? I don’t know how this works.

hatsupplies

We aren’t tackling any crazy major projects in Buffalo this time around, but I needed something to keep my hands busy, so I threw some supplies in my bag before we left so that I could make Linus a Santa hat. This was important/essential because Linus is 1) old and 2) sleepy and 3) he looks like Santa’s disembodied beard with eyes and four legs.

SUPPLIES:

1. Red felt
2. White felt
3. Hot glue gun/extra glue
4. Scissors
5. White pom poms
6. Elastic

STEP 1: Gather all your supplies.

linus

Step 2. Figure it the fuck out.

Merrychristmas

Have a great Christmas, everybody.

Dresser Restoration

Sometimes, I can’t explain why I do the things I do and why I choose a particular moment to do them in, particularly when drugs or alcohol are not contributing factors. Why did I put in that late-night ASOS order last week? Beats me. Why do I NEED to reorganize my kitchen cabinets at 2 in the morning? Can’t say. Why did I up and decide to restore a whole dresser on a Saturday afternoon while Max’s lovely mother was staying at our apartment? No reason that I can think of.

But I did, and I’m lucky that when Max and his mom got home from an exhausting day of non-stop exciting action to find me covered in grime with dresser drawers strewn about the apartment and the air reeking of furniture wax, they took the whole thing in stride. Those close to me have mostly developed a certain tolerance for this sort of thing by now. “Oh, there he goes again,” they say, rolling their eyes. “I guess we’ll just come back in a few hours when he comes down.”

dresser-before

So Max and I bought this dresser a few months ago, and I’ve just been too busy with school and work and procrastinating to devote any time to fixing it up. I mean, it’s a nice dresser—totally looks pretty nice and there’s nothing functionally wrong with it, so it wasn’t exactly first on my list of priorities. All I really did was wipe out the drawers before we started loading clothes into it, and Max threw a bunch of art books on top before I even had a chance to clean it off.

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but it had a bunch of little nicks and scratches and bumps and bruises and chipped veneer and little bits of paint and cigarette burns and rings on the top. We did buy it for cheaps from a dead person’s house in Long Island, so.

Also, every time I did wipe it with any cleaning product, the towel would turn a shade of dark brown, which was a bit disconcerting. I love some nice rosewood, for sure, but decades of smoke and tinted furniture polish and wax and crap probably weren’t doing the wood a lot of favors at this point.

supplies

Here was the restoration supply kit, which is a little modified from how Morgan originally taught me at The Brick House, but using the same basic principles. Since there wasn’t any existing finish on it like varnish or polyurethane, I didn’t want to touch it with sandpaper, since it’s easy to get carried away and remove more than necessary. Since the drawer-fronts are veneer, that’s definitely something to think about. Instead, I opted for some fine steel wool and soapy water, which did double-duty of scrubbing the shit out of this thing and smoothing out some problem areas where the solid wood had noticeably chipped or scuffed.

progress1

That top image is the top of the dresser before, which kind of shows the surface damage and general sadness going on with this dresser. I started by unscrewing all the hardware, which I’ll get to shortly.

Then all I did was fill a bowl with a few tablespoons of Murphy’s Oil Soap and some hot water and went to work with the steel wool. This thing required a LOT of scrubbing to liberate the wood from so many years of general grime and horror, so I just kept dumping out and refilling my bowl so that I wasn’t totally just moving gross water around. It’s important to only scrub the wood WITH the grain (duhz), and I followed up with a few rags after scrubbing so that water wouldn’t sit on the surfaces long enough to penetrate and ruin anything. As all the old crap came off of the wood, it got noticeably lighter and the beautiful grain really started to show through, which was all very exciting. So I just rubbed my wood until it felt nice and soft and it didn’t seem like any more weird stuff was coming out of it. That came out all wrong.

(by the way, I’m basically making this up, but it worked for me so I guess it’s a good method totally worth emulating and basing your furniture restoration and entire life around)

Fast-forward a few hours, and my arm felt like it was going to fall off, a symptom that should persist no more than a few days. If it does, call your doctor.

Before I moved forward with messing around with my wood any more, I wanted to give my hand, wrist, and forearm a break. Damn it!

handleprogress

This is the part where this post might get controversial because I showed no mercy on the old brass hardware. This is a personal decision I made in a fit of “OMG SHINYYY!!!!!” but in retrospect it might have been better to use a less intense product and keep some of the patina on the brass. Brasso probably would have done the trick nicely, but I went all-out and scrubbed these things with Barkeeper’s Friend (also known as EVERYBODY’S GODSEND) and the rough side of a sponge until all the tarnish was gone and the brass glimmered like melted sunshine. I used an old toothbrush on the tricky inside-bits.

Yeah, I like my furniture to look its age and whatever, but brasssssssy. I couldn’t stop. I just couldn’t.

Diverting attention away from the wood to the hardware also gave the wood a chance to dry out, which is what you want before applying any type of finishing product. Trapping water in wood is not a good plan FYI.

drawersprogress

So I went back to the dresser and the whole thing looked more or less like this. If you’re doing this sort of thing, this is the part where you might be tempted to panic because your wood will be so dry and hazy and sad looking that it seems like nothing will ever save it and you’ve ruined vintage rosewood and you should be put to death immediately. You are a very dramatic person and possibly need medication to get a handle on your feelings.

This is where the Danish Oil comes in. After using Danish oil, Teak oil, Tung oil, and Restore-a-Finish in the past, my favorites are definitely Danish and Teak. Tung tends to darken wood a bit (I think), and I don’t really trust Restore-a-Finish for a project like this because all you really want is the natural color of the wood to come out. There’s a time and a place for Restore-a-Finish, I’m sure, but it’s not when you’re dealing with rosewood or teak because it’s pigmented and that freaks me out.

After the oil (leave on about 15-20 minutes, wipe off excess, repeat if necessary), I finished off the whole thing with Howard’s Feed-N-Wax. This stuff is magic and smells terrific. Then I just screwed the hardware back on and…

dresserdrawerdetail

Hello.

dresserafter2

What’s your name? Can I get your number?

So I was kind of lukewarm on this dresser before because the drawers are kind of annoyingly shallow and it isn’t the most functional thing on four legs, but now I love it? I can never get rid of it?

topafter

dresserradiatordetail

A couple people have pointed out that this dresser sits verrrrry close to the old radiator, which is not generally a good idea. However, it’s probably an OK idea if your landlords are cheap and turn the boiler on about twice every winter, and your boyfriend keeps all the radiators turned off (and a window open, and a fan on) year-round anyway. You are also probably cold all the time and worry for the life of your plants.

At the very least, I’d like to paint this radiator white like the other one, but I also have fantasies of just removing the whole thing and capping the pipe. This project sounds difficult and scary and heavy, but it would open up an alternate room layout that I’ll admit to finding very exciting and enticing. I should be restrained is what I’m saying.

dresserafter3

I’m out of things to say about this dresser.

dresserafter1

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