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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Lisa Congdon is made of magic.

First of all, thank you for all of the well-wishes and supportive comments, e-mails, and tweets over the last few days regarding the hurricane. Max, Mekko, Linus, and I are all totally fine—we didn’t even lose power and aside from a few downed trees, our neighborhood was largely unaffected by the storm. Right now we’re just feeling very lucky to live where we do, and our thoughts are with those who weren’t nearly as lucky. If you feel so inclined, you can easily text REDCROSS to 90999 to immediately give $10 to the disaster relief. 

On to slightly lighter matters…my internet-friend Lisa Congdon is made of magic. I don’t even remember how I found Lisa originally, but not only is she one very talented artist, she’s also an incredible person. I love keeping up with her, her fiancé, Clay, and their adorable Chihuahua, Wilfredo (she even got a tattoo of him!) via Instagram and Twitter, and I love following her blog and her current 365 Days of Hand Lettering Project. From illustrating for the Obama campaign to biking 545 miles in 7 days for the AIDS Lifecycle, Lisa is just one of those people who seems to have boundless energy and enthusiasm for whatever she’s doing—which usually seems to be about 10,000 things at once. Even though we’ve never actually met (we’ll fix that someday!), I just think she’s incredibly inspirational and, well, super awesome.

Today, Lisa’s three new wallpaper patterns (each of which come in a few color ways) launched at Hygge and West and holy shit, they are goooood. I pretty much want to buy all of them and wrap my life in them and live forever in a wonderful little world engulfed by Lisa’s whackadoo amazingness.

I love this Bohemian pattern (it also comes in a very pretty light grey!) and totally want to use it somewhere. It’s gold. It’s glam. It’s great.

Also, ferns. Give me the ferns. In gold, black, or green. Gimme.

Not surprisingly, this is my favorite. Amazing, right? I’m very probably definitely going to need a roll of this charcoal/gold Triangles pattern somewhere in my life. Or maybe in black? Or maybe in grey and pink? I’m not picky.

Guh. It’s all so good. I’m so proud of Lisa and so happy to see her work presented in yet another beautiful format. Congrats, Lisa!

(this post was in no way sponsored, I just think Lisa is the bee’s knees and this wallpaper is the hotness.)

I Like This
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Sandy

You might have heard that we’re having some extreme weather in New York, what with Hurricane Sandy barreling up the coast and wreaking general havoc and inconvenience in her path. Yesterday, both NYU and Parsons announced cancellations for today, and today they’ve already announced for tomorrow. While our hearts go out to anybody and everybody who might actually be affected by the storm in any way, I’m privately and very selfishly thrilled to get a couple days to lounge around and pretend I’m a rich housewife or an agoraphobe, both long-held aspirations of mine.

Yesterday we went to the grocery store and battled huge crowds and very long lines to stock up on “the essentials.” The great (or horrifying) thing about Brooklyn is that nobody really has any idea what the essentials are, so a pretty standard shopping basket tends to hold some combination of frozen pizza, ice cream, a six-pack of beer (or more), and maybe a can of soup and a gallon of water, just because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing. People basically treat this stuff like a city-wide mandate to just stay inside and smoke pot for a couple days, which is pretty cute. Brooklynites would probably be the first to perish in a zombie apocalypse, but they’d do it with style and probably while working on a puzzle, eating kale chips, and watching Twin Peaks.

Like the rest of the borough, we have no fucking idea what to buy. For non-perishables, we basically picked up a couple cans of beans and called it a day before turning our attention to something more important/delicious: baking. We very rarely bake but something about being stuck inside has gotten us into the spirit.

We started with the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie (the recipe is just on the back of the chocolate chip package, or here). A delicious classic.

While Max was making Toll House magic, I moved on to my grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookie recipe! Max isn’t a fan of these cookies, but I love them. It’s a family recipe so I’d need to get permission before posting it, but I love me some oatmeal raisin.

I also tried my hand at Post Punk Kitchen’s vegan Marbled Banana Bread, which Anna made once while we were hanging out about two years ago. It’s a super delicious recipe and very, very easy to make.

I might need to make another batch, since one slice just really isn’t enough.

Otherwise, we’ve been hanging out, getting some work done, making popcorn and watching some trashy TV. Long Island Medium is my new very favorite thing in the world, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is really shitty, and we’re considering buying Safety Not Guaranteed on iTunes because Aubry Plaza. <3.

We bought the dogs their own little matching American Apparel hoodies yesterday (they’re only $16!) so they could get their cozy on, and it’s pretty adorable. They are not at all concerned or anxious about the storm and I think are just enjoying having us all hang out together for a couple days.

Be safe, everybody!

 

Dresser

You have rented a Zipcar and conned your boyfriend into accompanying you on a great schlep out to Long Island. You were supposed to meet Crystal, let’s call her, at 7 pm. But now it’s two hours later, it’s dark, it’s pouring rain, and Crystal is very, very late. You’re sitting in said Zipcar on a pitch-black residential street in front of the closest approximation of the address you’ve been given, which doesn’t actually exist. Crystal has been 10 minutes away for the last hour and a half, and the sneaking suspicion that you are being pranked is overshadowed only by the worry that you are about to be brutally murdered. You consider just leaving, just calling the whole thing off, just saying fuck it and hitting the road, back to Brooklyn, back to safety, but you’ve already come all this way. And waited this long. And rented a fucking mini-van. So you sit, the engine stalled, waiting for the phone to ring.

Crystal finally shows up with her “asshole husband,” as she referred to him an hour earlier by telephone. The sleeves of his shirt are cut off and he sports a modest though distinctive mullet. They pull up in front of a dark house and get out of their station wagon—a small Chihuahua, we’ll call him Rocco, in tow. Crystal looks exhausted. Her husband looks pissed. Rocco looks nervous. You make introductions quickly—it’s dark and raining and late and everyone wants to get this over with—before Crystal and her man lead the way to a dark front porch and open the front door of the house to a completely dark foyer. You stand on the porch, exchanging nervous glances with your boyfriend, who stands three steps behind you. Crystal and her husband cannot find a light switch and begin arguing with each other, then suggesting you join in the cause. Ain’t no fucking way, you think. I is smart, I is kind, I is important, and I is not about to walk into this fucking house and be blindsided by a couple of Long Island serial killers. Fuck no. Not tonight. Not for this.

They finally find the light switch and the house is revealed—sensible, polite, carpeted, nearly empty. The walls are the color of custard. It smells like the 1970s but looks like the 1990s. “This way,” they say, moving toward a set of stairs on the left. Against your better judgement, you follow them. They hadn’t mentioned anything about stairs. You get to the top, turn right, and enter the first room on your right. A switch is thrown, the room illuminates, and there they are, exactly as they looked in the pictures.

Welcome to Craigslist.

This all started when my awesome friend Maya, who is a genie of all things thrift, dug up this unassuming ad on Craigslist. She knew that I’d been looking for a dresser for a while (after we moved my desk out of the bedroom and into the living room), but New York City is pretty much the worst place to buy nice furniture if you can’t pay for nice furniture, and I’d been coming up completely dry. We really needed a dresser—with one small closet between the two of us, we were both completely tired of trying to maintain the “organization” of clothes shoved in a hanging shoe bags and cumbersome bins. I was *this close* to just buying the IKEA TARVA 6-drawer dresser and trying to make it semi-pretty (I have no idea how), but Maya caught me in the knick of time.

I obviously don’t have room for two huge mid-century dressers, but it turned out that if I could go get them, Maya would take one off my hands. So by buying both, we were already down to $200 a piece, and when I got there I haggled down another $100 because of some flaws in the condition (veneer chips, cigarette burns, standard vintage fare) but mostly because these wacky consignment folks made me wait for so long that I knew they’d agree and I would feel better for my struggle. For a $150 gorgeous dresser (which was really more like $250, once the cost of the Zipcar was factored in, in fairness), I’ll wait a good long time.

(Plus, I got to go see Maya’s house, which is like a magical wonderland of awesome. I never wanted to leave.)

As soon as we hauled this beast up to our 5th floor walk-up at around 2 in the morning, I had to go return the Zipcar and by the time I got home, Max had already somehow dragged it into place and covered the top with piles of books and other…stuff. I have been so busy that I haven’t even taken the time to give the thing a proper cleaning and TLC, but come on—that’s a good looking hunk of wood. And it’s going to look amazing once I get around to cleaning off all the old layers of furniture polish and crap. I’ll make this thing so happy it came to live with me, it’ll never want to leave.

It’s pretty large (and deeper than the desk was), and looked totally crazy to us at first. But now that I’m used to it, I’m so into it. I think I’m going to try to polish up those little amazing brass handles while I’m working on the wood—they’ll never look brand new, but that’s what I like about the idea. I just want a little more brass. Love me some brass.

Ignore the crap on top and just look at that sexy sexy dresser. We have too much crap.

So, I’m just going to call it: SHELVING FAIL. I hate those shelves so very much.

They have to go. It’s not super high on the list of priorities and I’m still tossing around ideas about what to do with all of the many many books (kindling?), but this just isn’t working. I hate how the shelves are all crooked and how the L-brackets can’t stand up to the weight and how there isn’t enough room and…I made a mistake. These were kind of thrown up in a moment of desperation and panic (Max moved in –> 34,765,234,238,754,973 books moved in), but my dislike has only grown in the intervening months and something’s got to give. I’ll fix it.

But dresser. At least we have a dresser.

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