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!

Ducks in a Row

As I alluded to a couple of months ago now, I’m now accepting some sponsorship on this blog. It’s been an exciting couple of months of figuring stuff out, getting a lot of advice from a lot of people, and getting all the details hammered into place – all of it with an even bigger learning curve than I was anticipating. The good news is, now I really feel like I have my ducks in a row to get this thing going for real!

If you want to get the word out about your amazing shop, business, goods, services, and anything else, you can go ahead and purchase and upload an ad right now at a few different positions, sizes, and prices on my sponsorship page. There’s even a very cool budget option. The whole thing is simple, easy, and super duper fun. Just ask one of the few AWESOME, AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL, and VERY SEXY sponsors who have already taken the leap (look to your right!). Better yet, check them out — they’re really great folks. Maybe you want to be an awesome, amazing, beautiful, very sexy, really great folk, too? Well, you know where it’s at. The sponsor page, that’s where.

All the incoming ads have to be approved by me, so I can’t promise your ad will get placed on the site (if it doesn’t, any money is refunded immediately). If you need help designing your flashy amazing earth-shaking sidebar ad, drop me a line and I’ll help you out.

I’m excited about this. I’m excited to be introduced to brands, to connect those brands to readers, and make Manhattan Nest just an all-around awesome place to be. My basic motto for myself moving forward is this: don’t be a doofus. I’m not going to say anything I wouldn’t say otherwise and I will always do everything with an eye toward transparency and honesty. Promise.

So anyway. Christmas is just around the corner. Treat yo’self to a sidebar ad.

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Hallway: Part 2

As we have previously established:

1. We have a ridiculously long and narrow hallway in our apartment. It has many weird twists, turns, and angles.
2. This hallway was very ugly and very smelly and kind of falling apart when we moved in.
3. I made the front “entry” section look pretty good, added some storage, and generally beautified. Success!
4. Refer to this post if you need to review any of the above.

This is what you saw when turning that corner at the end of the first long section. Crazy square action continues, plus a nice shot of the cork square motif in action. If this picture doesn’t make your eyes bleed and your heart hurt, you’re probably not human and/or should see a doctor.

That window—UGH, that window. It’s one of two original (or old and wood, at least) windows in the apartment, and it’s a mess. The panes are super grimy and disgusting, the top part is all painted over (WHY WOULD SOMEONE DO THAT??), and the bottom sash is rotting and I’m pretty sure the panes are going to fall out. Oh also there are mysteriously (cat pee/water damage) stained floors and a generally very scary amount of grime and sadness. Did I miss anything?

Much better, right? Amazing what a coat of matte white paint can do for some old plaster walls. Since the rest of the hallway is so narrow, I decided that the best course of action would be to just treat it as kind of a gallery space instead of trying to force any more storage into it. This keeps it from feeling completely like the walls are closing in, which is a nice thing to feel? Additionally, it makes for a very good repository for some of the art I hoard.

I’ve had that little Eames wire chair for like a year and a half now, from the wonderful Maya. I STILL haven’t gotten around to having the broken wires spot-welded, which makes me feel like a dipshit every time I walk past it. But it’s also so cute and pretty? I really need to do right by this chair at some point.

The rug on the floor is the one I brought back from Jordan, which turned out to be the perfect dimensions for this section.

I also basically decided to just hang an ENJE shade in front of the window and indefinitely postpone the task of fixing it. Would it be nice to have the window open more than about two inches? Yes and hell yes. Would it be nice for it not to be rotting and totally falling apart? Also yes. But…work. Ugh. So for now I just made it really easy to ignore, which has turned out to be a winning strategy that’s working out great. And by great I mean not so great.

The art was made by Max in college—black and white digital photomontages that are fun and fierce and stuff. I found them hiding under his bed in a bunch of broken frames back in Buffalo, so we took six of my favorites back to New York, reframed them in IKEA RIBBA frames, and put them up as a series. Since the frames themselves are $20 a piece, the project ended up adding up (to the tune of about $130, including tax), but I think that’s totally worth it. I love walking past them everyday.

Looking back from the other side, this wall was the perfect size to plop a huge, glorious HOVET mirror from IKEA. I’d been wanting a HOVET for a long time and was determined to put one in this apartment somewhere, and let me tell you—this thing does not disappoint. It is super huge and super awesome and a good price for the magnificent size (which is about 2.5′ x 6.5′). I’ve never lived with a full-length mirror before and I can basically report that owning one is simultaneously awesome and wildly upsetting and depressing, depending on your mood, but at least you always know more or less what you look like. Which apparently is a good thing, even if it just means knowing with certainty that you look a mess instead of just suspecting it.

Not that I would know anything about that.

Also, somehow people ALWAYS miss that there’s an enormous mirror when they’re walking into the apartment, and then are totally horrified by the shock of their reflection when they go to leave. Which is always fun to witness.

Extra points if you spotted the dog, by the way. Linus is SUCH an attention-whore.

Before, there was this mess…the door on the right is the door to the bedroom, and the open door on the left is the bathroom door. The squares never end, much like my lingering PTSD about removing them.

I moved those two prints from this Etsy store out of the kitchen and put them here. I’m always moving the art around and it drives Max C R A Z Y.

Looking back down the hall, I also moved Matt Uebbing‘s painting into the hallway (meaning it’s to the left of the bathroom door).

From the kitchen, things look like this. Bedroom door on the left, bathroom on the right. I hope this isn’t all horribly disorienting.

That fun weaving I got in Sweden is hanging up between the door to the bedroom and the doorway to the living room, which I love. I gotta get my fiber art in there somewhere.

The lighting, by the way, is the same cheap and easy DIY I did in the bathroom, except with different wire. All I needed were 4 ceramic sockets ($3.50 each), 4 plain black canopies ($7 each), and about 6 feet of cobalt blue cloth-covered wire (about $10). All the items were bought at a couple different lighting stores in Soho and Chinatown, not because they’re hard to find, just because I’m disorganized.

All it took was about 20 minutes to get from the supplies to the final product, and maybe an hour to hang them all and get everything working all proper like.

Maybe I should do a tutorial for these at some point, but they’re so easy. Like seriously beyond simple. I don’t know, I’m scared to do DIY’s on the blog involving electrical crap because everybody will always scream “FIRE!!!!” but these have been hanging for a while and nobody’s dead, so…just saying.

The easiest, simplest pendant light ever, and I love my little bright blue cords (though if I call them “pops of color,” brutally stab me 47 times and throw my corpse off the Brooklyn Bridge). The bulbs are just 100-watt incandescent bulbs, which I’m realizing is a problem now that they aren’t legal in the States and are becoming next to impossible to find in hardware stores. Basically the last thing I want is an exposed CFL, and I really wish they just made these same bulbs as halogens or something, since now I’ll inevitably be forced to reevaluate my lighting decisions. I was considering replacing them with Plumen bulbs, but I keep hearing very mixed things about the amount of brightness/quality of light they actually give off, and I really don’t want a dim hallway. I should really just buy one and test it out already, but I am so cheap.

I guess I’d be OK with replacing the fixtures altogether at some point down the line, but I really do want them all to match and finding FOUR matching pendant lights that are very beautiful and very cheap is basically impossible.

Anyway, I’ll enjoy these cheap suckers while they last. They have served admirably and hopefully will continue to do so at least until I come up with a plan.

So that’s the hallway.

Hallway: Part 1

Our apartment was still occupied when Max and I came to view it for the first time with the broker. He led us up to the fifth floor (although I later swore with certainty that it was the fourth—wishful thinking!) and knocked loudly on the door. When no response came, he banged louder. “There’s kind of a long hallway,” he explained, so Max and I nodded and waited for a response. No dice.

The banging escalated from obnoxious to violent before somebody finally came, a bleary-eyed man who we’d evidently woken up. He mumbled an apology about not being able to hear the knocking before letting us into what was, indeed, kind of a long hallway. The broker led the way to the end and turned, but where I expected to walk into a real room was just…more hallway. When we got to the end of that section, where surely there would be the living space, there was yet more hallway, yet finally some doorways became visible—the first indication that the whole apartment was not actually just a labyrinth of hallway.

That shoddy floorplan above, by the way, is to scale. In case you were curious.

So basically my first impression of our apartment was that it had a laughably awkward layout, needed a ton of work, and smelled like cat piss. Luckily I’ve managed to solve the cat piss problem.

This was the first thing you saw when you walked in the door. It is hideous, yes? Yes. The most hideous.

To break it down: Bad overhead “nipple light,” chipped up moldings, yellow walls with overlapping rectangle “paint treatment,” hooks everywhere, weird overhead shelf situation. It’s a horror show, basically.

This is looking back at the door from the other end of that curve in the first picture. I’m sure that overhead shelving was super practical and awesome for storing a ton of crap, but…no. Even though the ceilings are 9 feet high, the shelves really closed in the space even more and just pretty much 100% sucked visually. It’s like all the bad things I can imagine in the world crammed into one very small very weird space.

Oh, and did I mention squares of cork sticky-tacked to the walls at random? Because that also happened. You can see one on the floor in this picture.

Now before we get to all the before and afters, I need to point out that this hallway is terrible. Our building was built in 1890, and I think the original apartments would have been “classic 6″ layouts—kitchen, living room, bathroom, dining room, 2 bedrooms, and a maid’s room. I’m guessing around the 1920s or so, everything was split up and the weird long hallways were the lowest-impact way to divide the spaces. They were also the stupidest way because WTF. I mean seriously, what the what.

At its widest, the hallways is only a little over 3 feet wide, and around some of the corners, it squeezes down to a pretty cozy 28 inches or so. That makes it really narrow and awkward to try to squeeze any storage into, even though it’s very tempting to just use the whole thing to stockpile stuff. There just isn’t enough room to make that dream a reality.  It’s a super weird, very long, very strange space that needs a goal and a purpose in life and didn’t really have either. Luckily, I love to give things goals and purposes, like when I told my dogs that their one and only job was cuddling.

I really applaud whoever made the hallway look this ridiculous. I mean, this curious paint explosion of bad taste and crazy took some serious effort, planning, and commitment. It’s a really tempting space to just totally neglect, but these fine artists chose to unleash a firestorm of pizzaz up in this mother and express themselves. Hat tip.

Also, just prepping it was, and I mean this, THE WORST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Worried that the outlines of the squares underneath would be visible through a new layer of paint, I hatched a plan that would make me miserable for days and probably shave years off my life. “Easy!” I thought, “I’ll just sand them all!”

Hellish nightmare like I can’t even describe. So much trauma that it has literally taken me over a year to write about all of this. Also I’m bad at pictures and editing and things and I still want to fix stuff and change things around, but what else is new? I used an electric sander and everything, but still…not recommended. If I were going to do it again, I might try to just skim coat the walls with a roller and watered-down joint compound or maybe just rent a different apartment.

Maybe all of the sanding made me a little insane because I think by day 3 or so, I decided, “hey, you know what would be pretty cool and groovy? If I painted the ceiling black.”

Why did I do that? I don’t know. But I did, the whole thing, before deciding about an hour later that I’d made a huge mistake and I needed to start over. I snapped the above picture, probably while sobbing tears of great disappointment and regret. You’ll notice that the edges of that picture are all shaded and closing in, which is not something I did in photoshop. I’m blaming spirits.

But I fixed it? Here’s the same angle today—weird shelves and hooks removed, walls patched and painted (BM White Dove), new light, fauxdenza, art, hang-it-all. BOOM. Clock is from IKEA. The door is black like the rest of the doors in the apartment, Benjamin Moore Onyx (which I maintain is the best black ever).

Because this is the widest part of the hallway, I decided to add a fauxdenza in the great tradition of Anna Dorfman and Morgan Satterfield and many others who like slim, wall-mounted, stylish storage for cheaps. We have SO little storage in this apartment, and after tons and tons of thinking, I decided this was the only way I could be happy putting storage in the hallway.

The whole thing is just 3 IKEA AKURUM kitchen cabinets affixed to the wall and wrapped with wood. These cabinets are SUPER easy to put together and hang and the whole project is pretty simple and fast. Any dimension cabinet works, but I chose three 30″ x 18″ cabinets with Applåd white doors, which I think came to a total of about $220.

I didn’t really take a lot of process pictures, but we used a sheet of plywood to cover the top and two sides. These cabinets jut out about 13″ from the wall, and I couldn’t figure out where to buy a plank of wood wide enough to cover it. Instead, we bought a piece of 4’x8′ “Sandeply,” which was cheap—$44, if I remember correctly. It’s really lightweight, but it’s sort of weird cheap soft wood that didn’t stain evenly, so I wouldn’t really recommend it. It’s fine for now and the price was good, but maybe not so great for long-term durability or for feeling “fancy” or “competent at life.”

I basically just cut the wood to size with my circular saw, sanded, stained, and screwed it into place from inside the cabinet. I tried to get really fancy and miter the corners, which doesn’t look great close-up because I cut the whole top about 1/8″ too short. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but I probably shouldn’t have tried to miter edges with a circular saw. Lesson learned—I make mistakes, I’m not perfect, in fact I’m a total failure who can’t measure or do anything, really, I’m completely useless and I hate myself, don’t worry about it.

I want nicer wood someday anyway, so I’m going to try to forgive myself for the small mistake that people probably don’t notice anyway.

I love this fauxdenza thing though, for real. It gives us a great amount of storage space in a way that looks great and is totally custom to the space, without making it feel totally crowded or like anything is teetering precariously over our heads. We keep keys in that little thrifted enamel thing, and I’m always changing around whatever’s on top of it. And obviously because it floats off the ground and only sticks out a little over a foot, it looks pretty visually light and still allows for enough space to comfortably walk past everyday. Consider me an all-around fauxdenza fan.

The chair at the end is a little original Fritz Hansen 3-legged Jacobsen Ant chair that I found in a pile of junk near the roof exit of the building. After it sat there for a couple of months, I figured it was trash and stole it one night, when we needed an extra chair to host some friends for dinner. I later found out that it belonged to my neighbors and offered to give it back, but they insisted that we should keep it. I feel bad, but it’s cute? I’m a dirty rotten thief and also a hoarder of chairs.

The art over the fauxdenza are two lithos by Gregory Gummersall. The print hanging at the end is something I stole from my parents’ basement, turns out its a backgammon board? Whatever. I think it’s very pretty.

So that’s the first section of the hallway, which seems like enough for one post. Back with the rest later in the week.

No Freedom ’til We’re Equal.

A slightly terrifying fact has recently come to my attention: I am now the same age that my father was when he proposed to my mother. They met and fell in love while attending college in Louisiana. Afterward, my mother moved back to her home state of Florida to attend law school while my father commuted to a job on Capitol Hill from his new home in Virginia. They were married in Tampa Bay, Florida on May 31st, 1981. After my mother graduated, they settled down in Virginia, where they raised three (gorgeous, talented, intelligent, awesome) kids and have remained in all the years since. They’ve been married for almost 32 years, and, if all goes according to plan, will remain that way until they die. They’ll be able to visit each other in the hospital, inherit what is legally due to them, and will have benefited for decades from hundreds of rights, privileges, and benefits afforded to them by virtue of being a married couple in the eyes of both their state and their country. They’ll have had rights that they never took advantage of and maybe some that they never even knew or thought about, like most married couples. Because that’s how this country’s government works.

When my dad proposed to my mom all those years ago, I doubt either of them thought much about the possibility of having a kid who would someday be their age, over three decades later in the year 2012, and that he would be a second class citizen of the country in which he was born and raised. I don’t think it occurred to them that they would have a son who, through no fault of his own, would be denied the same rights that they had taken for granted. But that’s exactly what’s happened.

I remember vividly the night that New York passed The Marriage Equality Act in June 2011. Max and I took the subway into the West Village and joined the celebration outside of the Stonewall Inn. We shook hands, hugged strangers, took pictures, bought a polyester rainbow flag (or was it given to us?), and let ourselves feel the weight of what New York had accomplished. Neither of us had ever been close to getting married ourselves—had never personally felt the sting of being told we couldn’t—but still I remember the feeling on the subway ride back home. There was a certain lightness, an indescribable feeling of knowing that our city—our state—regarded us as equals. We were finally granted the same respect that had always been reserved only for our straight peers. It meant that we weren’t outliers, that we weren’t hated, or disparaged, or better off hiding who we were. We were—we are—people, just like everybody else.

I want everybody in this country to have the same feeling I felt that night, and continue to feel as a person lucky enough to live in New York. Unfortunately, it only takes a trip to my home in Virginia, or down to visit my grandmother in Florida, or to any of the 43 states that have legislated away my access to basic civil rights to be reminded of how far we have to go as a nation.

I have yet to hear an argument against gay marriage that is not steeped in bigotry, hate, or often masked by religion. As much as Republicans would like to rewrite history, as often as their vice presidential nominee wants to say “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or their faith,” this is not a Christian nation. Our laws and institutions are pointedly and purposefully separate from religion. Nobody is suggesting that your place of worship or religious leader has to perform a gay marriage. The request is simple: to have the same rights under the law. Separate is not equal, and anything less will not do.

I know people who are voting for Republicans. Some of these people I even count as friends. When I talk to them about it, the general response seems to be that they don’t “personally” support discrimination, even if discrimination is central to Republican social policy. Let me be clear: there is nothing more personal than a vote. By voting for Mitt Romney, you are casting a vote for discrimination. You are casting a vote against me, against my family, against equality, against fairness, against love, against freedom, against the promise of liberty and justice for all. A vote for this Republican party, as it stands in 2012, is a vote for discrimination. You are complicit in it, you are supporting it, you are perpetuating it. There is no other way to look at it, and it’s truly heartbreaking to see people I otherwise respect blind to this fact.

The choice in this election couldn’t be clearer, and not just on this issue. It’s the difference between a president who cares about the future of our education system, our public sector workers, and the social programs that attempt to keep those in need afloat, versus a party who doesn’t. It’s the difference between a president who has regained much of our respect in the world and has a proven record of successful foreign policy experience, versus a candidate with no experience, Bush’s foreign policy advisors, and reckless and wildly inconsistent ideas about the rest of the world. It’s the difference between a president who supports rights for women to receive equal pay for equal work, to have access to contraception, and to seek a safe and legal abortion if necessary, versus a party who would deny all of these rights. It’s a choice between a President who has dug this economy out of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression versus a party who wants to return to the policies that caused the collapse in the first place. It’s the choice between a president who regards global warming as a real and tangible threat versus a party who thinks the climate change is a hoax, a joke, or both. It’s the difference between a president who doesn’t think you should go broke or die because of medical costs, versus a party that sees only the bottom line for the insurance industry. It’s the choice between a president who believes in equality versus a party who believes so profoundly in discrimination that they would amend our Constitution to reflect their extreme ideology. And that’s just off the top of my head.

To be clear, President Obama still supports states in legislating their own marriage laws, as ridiculous as that proposition is. His personal support for marriage equality does not actually represent a tangible shift in policy positions. Still, I’m not sure I can describe to a straight person how invaluable it is to have somebody in the White House who acknowledges me, who respects me, who stands in support of my rights where so many others have sat down or gone on the attack. Obama is an advocate and an ally for the gay community, and I am proud to call him my president as a gay American. An Obama presidency is not the answer, but it’s a pretty damn good place to start.

So please, go vote on Tuesday. Even if you think your vote doesn’t matter, if you don’t live in a swing state or you’ve never voted before, please vote. If you live in Washington or Maine or Maryland or Minnesota, please vote. Vote for me. Vote for my family—present and future. Vote for me to someday have the same rights as my parents. To have the same rights as you. Stand up against inequality, and stand with a president who has done the same.

Please.

OK, this video made me weepy. If you would like to donate for Washington state’s Referendum 74 for marriage equality, please go here.

If you would like to make a difference in this presidential election, here’s a pretty awesome, fun, and free way to do it.

Back to regularly scheduled programming next week.

Life
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