I Want to Live in The Knick.

Remember how my kitchen is completely gutted right now and I’ll soon be embarking on the wild ride of rebuilding it myself from scratch? I’m very excited about it. I’ve been trying to pull together a post telling you all about my plans, but it’s taking me forever! It’ll have to be next week. On the bright side, there are some dazzlingly basic SketchUp renderings coming your way, and on the BRIGHTER side, today we get to talk about my favorite thing in the world: TV.

I swear this is pertinent.

Have you watched The Knick? I feel like not many people have, because it airs on Cinemax and who knew that was even a thing. It premiered almost 3 years ago and has two seasons under its belt, so I’m really ahead of the curve on this one. The point is, you should watch The Knick. It’s a period drama beginning in 1900 about the Knickerbocker hospital in New York City, at a time when medical science was fucking crazy and everyone died from everything all the time. If you thought Victorians were insane with their woodwork and furniture, you should see what they were up to with surgical medicine. It’s nutso.

Anyway, The Knick is a good show. At least I think it is? It’s really well-acted, beautifully shot, nicely scored, and well-written. I’m mostly guessing about the last one, because honestly I have a difficult time paying attention to anything other than the sets. Oh-em-gee it is beautiful. I find myself constantly pausing and rewinding it to get a better look at the interiors. Ideally where this is headed is that I’ll just give the production director Howard Cummings and set decorator Regina Graves the keys to my house and just let them finish it up while I go on vacation. Or at least the kitchen. Somehow I’m guessing I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

The lobby and main corridors of The Knick…can you handle it? Look at that floor tile!! These and similar styles of brass light fixtures populate many of the interiors on the show and I am obsessed with them.

I mean, look at this. Shoot me full of typhoid and let me die here! I love how the wood floor is echoed with the beadboard ceiling, and I really love the simpler version of those sconces and ceiling fixtures. It’s all so good.

Those built-ins! Love love love love love love love. I love the sliding doors and the monochrome scheme. I feel like that sick lady isn’t appreciating it enough. You gonna die, sick lady. Better enjoy the view while you can.

One of the major players on the show is the surgical theater, which has an attached room for the doctors to scrub up before they operate. Again, I am all about this built-in situation, with the inset doors and the bead detail around the glass and whatever that caning situation is on the taller doors? I also love the marble slab wainscoting and, of course, the sconce above it. I pay a lot of attention to the different wall treatments on this show—plaster, natural stone, tile, beadboard, and other types wood paneling—and try to figure out how high up the wall they’re going and how high the sconces are in relation, and how tall the ceilings are supposed to be in relation to that, because it all just looks so fucking good. 

Also, if my doctor looked like Clive Owen, I’d be totally fine with him being a heroin addict and sewing my arm to my syphilitic face. Why not.

SORRY MY HEART JUST STOPPED HOLD ON. Guh. GUH! The floor. The lights. The beadboard wainscoting. It’s like, yeah, this is the room where patients basically all go to die, but the last thing they see is that light fixture! Lucky bastards.

I think my favorite space on the show is Dr. Thackery’s office/lab place. I want to just pick up this room and re-install it in my kitchen and make no more decisions. I love the black hex floor with the light grout. I love that table. I love the lighting. I love the black cabinets and moldings, and the subway tile, and the beadboard wall mixed in over there on the left. It’s all just so good. I’m a huge fan of the color palette in general on the show—a lot of black, white, wood, and brass, yes, but also a lot of light greys and beiges and earthier, more subdued tones I wouldn’t necessarily think I liked. It’s all just perfect.

You could go a million different ways with my kitchen considering everything from the floor to the ceiling will be brand new, but at the end of the day I want it to look like a turn-of-the-century hospital as imagined by some really talented set designer people in 2014. I don’t understand why this is too much to ask. I’m stoked about this traditional-modern-utilitarian vibe, which I think will feel at home in this house while also being simple and modest and unfussy.

OH AND ALSO! The kitchen is one step closer to becoming reality thanks to ALL THE AMAZINGLY BADASS MANHATTAN NEST READERS who voted for that laundry room makeover on Angie’s List! I won! You won! You made me win! I don’t know! I’m so grateful and flattered and full of warm fuzzies! So now I have $2,000 in winnings to immediately blow on the plumbing for my kitchen, which is an enormous help. Thank you, thank you, thank you. #tooblessed

P.S.—This article + interview with production director Howard Cummings and set decorator Regina Graves is cool, if you want to read more about the design of the show!

P.P.S—The Knick is currently available to watch on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Max Go!

Painting the Bedroom Radiator!

Renovating an old house eats your weekends. Always. I speak for myself, but I think it’s kind of universally true. There’s always a to-do list a mile long and more projects than you can reasonably be expected to complete. Then at the end of the weekend, the to-do list is still a mile long and it’s hard to feel like you’ve made much forward momentum even though somehow you felt so busy the whole time. That’s just how it is.

The big project of this weekend: a reset. Not a mental or physical one, because who has the time, but a house reset. With the bedroom renovation wrapping up and remaining wreckage (YES. STILL.) from the summer/fall exterior project (not quite finished, but the rest will have to wait until the weather improves in the spring), every single space in the house is crying out for some attention. Everything is filthy. Everything is out of order. Tools and supplies are all over the place. Before I dive into anything else, I’ve promised myself that I’ll put everything away, mop the floors, and feel less like a crazy person. It’s honestly possible that this process will go on for weeks—that’s the extent of it! So bad. But it’s starting to feel better.

ANYWAY, I did manage to do one real renovation thing that wasn’t just cleaning and sorting and tossing junk and carrying IKEA bags full of tools and stuff down to the basement.

I painted the bedroom radiator! And it looks so…handsome. Mmmmmm, mmmm.

Going back in time, this picture is from the very first night in the house, coming up on four years ago! Look at that sweet baby. We were all feeling very confused and disoriented, sleeping on an air mattress on the second floor—which had no working electricity or plumbing at the time—in a house where the last major thing to happen was the previous owner dying in the bathroom downstairs. Welcome home! We thought for sure we were all going to get murdered, either by an intruder or a ghost.

This is neither here nor there, but Mekko’s adopt-a-versary was this Saturday! Five whole years of Mekko! Where does the time go? I love that girl so much. She’s been such a champ through all the changes our lives have seen together, including renovating this house. Easy breezy beautiful perfection of a dog.

It wasn’t until I started working in earnest on the bedroom that I ever really paid too much attention to the condition of the radiator, which was less than stellar. I think because the second floor of the house was a separate apartment, the whole floor seems to have gotten a lot more attention than anything downstairs—most of the walls seem to have been sloppily repainted many times over the year, floors were (somewhat poorly) refinished at some point, that kind of thing. Over the course of time, it looks like this radiator has been painted a few different times, but I think they were always using the wall paint which is generally NOT a good plan. Regular wall paint might be OK for a while, but it isn’t made to bond with metal so after some time it all starts flaking.

In this case, much of the paint was not well-adhered and could be pretty easily chipped off with a collection of scrapers and picks and steel wool and the like, right down to the bare case iron! Which is very cool, in theory. I spent several hours over the course of a few days doing just that before I realized that I could probably spend the rest of my life manually scraping this thing. I tried some Peel Away paint remover on one fin as a test, which didn’t work super well and was a mess to clean up, and then I just said…NOPE. Enough of this. Sometimes you have to aim for perfection but then accept something less in the interest of not being stuck on one thing forever.

Enter, Valspar latex enamel*! After I felt confident that I’d scraped off what was clearly lifting and peeling from the original radiator, I used a dryer vent brush to clean between all the fins and stuff and then wiped everything I could down with some TSP substitute. Then, paint time! I LOVE this paint**. I used in on the radiator in the living room too without really knowing how it would perform, and it’s been FLAWLESS. No chipping, no peeling, dries very quickly and very hard, and can frequently be wiped down with a damp cloth to clean off dust. Since it’s interior/exterior, this is also what I plan to begin using on the exterior of my window sashes. It seems to perform very similarly to oil-based paint, but dries WAY faster and is easier to work with and clean up and more environmentally friendly than oil paint and all that good stuff.

*Consulting the can (just now, haha), they recommend this paint over primed metal—oops! Most of the radiator was still painted already so I’m just going to go with calling that the primer. It seems to have adhered perfectly to the bare metal, but it’s only been a couple days so who knows. I’d be really surprised if it peels. In any case, there are specific metal primers that are readily available that couldn’t have hurt.

**I have hot water radiators that never get THAT hot, so I know from past experience that I don’t need paints that are made specifically for high-heat applications. Steam radiators tend to get hotter and some hot water systems heat up more than this one, so if you’re in doubt it’s probably wise to use a high-heat paint. You should be able to find both spray paints and regular canned paints for this. Spray paint is great for radiators, but I’m too sloppy to do the proper prep to avoid overspray on walls/moldings/windows/floors/my body.

(Also I didn’t notice that my iPhone camera lens had some schmutz on it, so forgive the dramatic airbrush effect).

Ugh, this is so hard to photograph, but after my first coat I noticed there were some inner nooks and crannies that I couldn’t seem to really reach with a brush but you could still see when looking at the radiator. Especially going from white to black, this kind of thing can make the whole project look kind of sloppy.

The answer turned out to basically be finger-painting! Fun! For those inner crevices, you don’t have to worry so much about getting perfect coverage—just good enough that the old paint isn’t visible. I used to have this kind of painter’s mitt thing that works well for things like this, but I’m not sure I would have been able to reach the really tight spaces with it.

Then I followed up with a second coat with the brush, and that was pretty much it!

Isn’t that just gorgeous?! You might think that all of the details would get lost in the black paint, but it’s really the opposite. Especially because of the gloss factor, the details are now so beautiful and clear! I also LOVE how the black looks combined with the wall and trim colors. It’s all just making me very happy.

Radiators work best when they’re sitting nice and level, which doesn’t always agree with the floors in an old house! I love vintage glass furniture coasters to prop things like this up. You have to be careful not to break them as you’re putting them in because the weight of the radiator can obviously easily break the edges and stuff, but once they’re in they hold the weight just fine. I tend to find these around junk shops and antique stores, and usually they’re not more than a couple bucks a piece.

That’s it! I need to pick up some escutcheons for where the supply and return pipes go into the floor, but otherwise I’m calling it done! MAYBE someday I’ll be feeling really flush and decide to have the radiators sandblasted and powdercoated, but in the meantime I’m more than satisfied with how this looks and happy that I don’t have to worry about the paint continuing to flake off all over the place.

And look, I remembered I have a big rug! It’s not what I picture in here long-term and the size is a little weird (an 8×10 would be ideal, and this is like 7.5’x12′), but having something down immediately makes the room feel much more complete. Rug hoarding for the win!

Two Things

THING 1:

Here’s some high-level Blog Trivia for you: what do the following three pictures have in common?

They’re all the products of last year’s rounds of Lowe’s Spring Makeovers! The first one is Chris Loves Julia’s project, the second is Yellow Brick Home’s, and the third is mine. To jog your memory, the three of us plus a few other bloggers teamed up with Lowe’s and each took on a big makeover project in the home (or outside it, as the case may be) of a reader in a fast-paced whirlwind of DIY madness. It was one of those things where we were all independently freaking out during our respective makeovers, and then after it was over couldn’t stop talking about how much fun we had and how we’d totally do it again.

WELL WE’RE DOING IT AGAIN! BUT THIS TIME WITH A MAJOR TWIST! LIFE IS SO CRAZY I CAN’T HANDLE IT OMG.

This year, we’re a TEAM. Julia. Chris. Kim. Scott. Me. Joining forces for one epic super fast makeover. AND to make things extra high-stakes and insane, we’re looking for a specific kind of makeover: a kitchen or a bathroom! We all got a fair number of kitchen/bath applications last year that were a little beyond the scope of what we could do given the time constraints, but this year? We’re coming for ya. Chris and Julia are taking the lead on this one, but we’ll all be working together on one project which of course includes all five of us showing up on YOUR doorstep. Afterwards we’ll be launching our very own cult! Stay tuned for deets on that.

Applications are still being accepted through midnight tonight, so hop on it! We’re gonna have so much fun.

THING 2:

There’s still time to vote for this little laundry makeover that I told you about earlier this week! The part of me with some shame wouldn’t be bugging you about it again, but the part of me that would be so hella super stoked to win $2,000 will totally bug you about it again.

This is the last day to vote, and it’s dramatic! Yesterday I pulled into first place (whaaatttttttt you guys are amazing and I love it so much) but today I’m back in second and it’s SO SUPER CLOSE! A real blog nail-biter if I’ve ever seen one. So if you appreciate this project and this blog gives you some pleasure and, I don’t know, you want me to get so rich, feel free to VOTE! You can vote once a day on each device (so if you’ve already voted, you can vote again! don’t hate the player hate the game), so whip out those phones and iPads and that first generation iMac in your attic and do it!

Or don’t do it. You do you. You’re your own person and we love you just the way you are.

Unless you’re a jerk.

Have the BEST weekend, everyone.

Quick and Easy(ish) Laundry Room Makeover!

Here’s a thing about me, because the real problem with this blog is that there just isn’t enough about me: I sometimes have a difficult time differentiating between all the things that should, in a perfect world, be done to a given space and what’s practical and reasonable to do to a given space. If I can’t do it all, I often don’t want to do anything at all. This is why my bathroom still looks exactly as horrible—nay, worse—than the day I moved in. I could scrape the peeling walls and throw up a coat of paint. I could patch the big hole I made when trying to install an electrical outlet but kept finding studs and then the cast iron vent pipe. I could do something—anything—to the vinyl tile floor, much of which has lifted from the subfloor and some of which has broken away. Hey, I could even get really crazy and spend an hour or two re-caulking the bathtub. But I’d rather live in squalor than do any of these things, because I’m disgusting and I know the majority of it will all get ripped out eventually. Someday.

I think part of it is that I don’t want to get complacent with an improved-but-still-kinda-bad space, which is stupid because I’m not like that. I WISH I was like that. It’d free up a ton of time. Another part of it is that sometimes half-assed renovation efforts can actually make the restoration effort down the line more challenging, and I don’t want that. More than anything, though? I LIKE THE DRAMA. I like going from “yuck!” to “beautiful!” not “yuck!” to “acceptable!” and I will put up with all sorts of bullshit in the interim as a result.

I think because of this personal shortcoming, sometimes the makeovers that I’m most attracted to are the ones that effectively make use of simple, low-impact solutions. The ones that actually favor the coat of paint over the huge demolition and replacement. When I was confronted with a non-original, unwanted doorway, I removed the whole thing, framed in the opening, patched it with drywall, skim-coated the whole wall, and still have to get my molding replicated to finish the baseboard. My friend, in a similar situation, put a large armoire in front of the offending doorway and called it a day. Is my solution actually better? Maybe, maybe not, but I do know his was much faster and easier and had the same effect.

I think I was slightly better at executing stuff like this as a renter—although I was still kinda nuts, let’s be honest—but being a homeowner has made me feel like every project has to address all the problems at once or it’s not even worth undertaking. I’m working on it.

All of this to say, I’m actually proud of this laundry room makeover I did recently. I started it on a Saturday night (hell yeah, my life is wild AF) and was completely finished with it by Sunday night, with a good night’s sleep in between!

This was the laundry space at my boo thang’s house, and you can see there’s not a lot of pretty (or function) going on here. I hesitate to call it a laundry room, because it’s also a guest bedroom, storage space, and general pit of despair. The whole house is a huge renovation project, which will hopefully one day see this room almost completely demo’d, the laundry relocated to a dedicated space on the second floor with the bedrooms, and this room and the adjacent bathroom turning into a big kitchen. All of that is a long ways away and a huge undertaking, though, and this situation was so sad. Enter Angie’s List, who offered 500 bucks to refresh and reorganize the space. I couldn’t really make it worse, so I figured I’d gladly take their money and give it my best shot.

What you can’t see in these pictures is that there’s actually a small built-in closet to the right of the dryer, but at some point somebody decided to build a whole additional closet in front of the original closet, meaning there’s a an opening (though, strangely, not a doorway) into the new closet, at the back of which is a doorway for the original closet. It’s so stupid. And THEN, they extended the wall that separates the original/new closet from the laundry space out into the room another foot or so, and then built another wall in front of the machines with those faux-wood accordion doors. Talk about chopped up!

There’s some electrical cable running through those dumb newer walls, though, and having it re-routed would have been too large of an expense and taken too much time. I was able to easily just tear out the wall with the dumb accordion doors, though, and that made a bigger difference than I expected!

But back to being chill and smart instead of crazy and over-ambitious! The wall-to-wall carpeting in this room is lousy but not in bad condition, and the hardwood underneath is pretty severely damaged. In a perfect world the hardwood would have been treated better and the room never would have been carpeted, and in a less-perfect-but-still-preferable world I would have been able to rip up the carpeting and found easily rejuvenated hardwood underneath. Absent those options, though, I made the courageous and somewhat out-of-character decision to just leave it alone.

Same goes for the ceiling. It’s a drop ceiling with acoustic tiles, like you might find in a corporate office, which obviously would not be my preference. Sometimes drop ceilings can be removed with relative ease, but in this case it’s masking a profusion of electrical wiring and plumbing for the bathroom upstairs. Instead of burying this stuff in the actual ceiling, it was much easier for the previous owners to do it all below the ceiling and then install the drop ceiling two feet to conceal it. BOO. Don’t do that. Luckily the real ceilings are 10′, so even with the ceilings dropped to 8′ the room feels OK.

Oh yeah, and the wood paneling! The plaster wall behind it appears to be in pretty solid condition, but the paneling is held up with both panel nails and adhesive so any way I cut it, removing the paneling would necessitate some potentially serious plaster repair. Even the little pieces of trim used to cover corners and seams were so bad that I wanted to pry it all off and try again, but I totally held myself back, made liberal use of caulk, and you know what? It looks fine. 

And look! Not half bad for some minimal demo, a little paint, a good storage cabinet above the machines, a few accessories and little functional things (like that cheap little drying rack from Target, which I love!), and a semi-relaxing weekend of DIY, amiright? I can tell you it’s made both of our lives immediately better, and has me giving my own horrendous bathroom some serious side-eye.

You can read more detail and see more pictures over at Angie’s List! 9 other blog people took on this laundry room challenge too, and there’s a contest with a $2,000(!) prize if you want to vote. The contest ends on Friday! Currently it looks like I’m in 4th place. I’d appreciate a vote for me, but, ya know, vote your conscience.

Also vote for me.

Byeeeee!

Wrapping up the Bedroom Renovation!

It’s getting there! It’s really getting there!

newcasingpried

One of the most gratifying moments of working on my bedroom lately has been finally priming, caulking, and painting the brand-new-but-supposed-to-look-original window casing. I worked hard on that! It was a little difficult to judge how successful I’d been at matching the original moldings when this was a mix of painted, unpainted, and almost entirely reclaimed wood, but now I can confidently say that yeah, I pretty much nailed it. Even though the window itself isn’t a flawless match, it’s very close, and the casing is nearly indistinguishable.

I’m amazing basically is what I’m saying. I’m pretty proud of it. It’s hard to remember that there was just a wall here before! I’ll have to install new base shoe when the floors get refinished. Maybe in year 7? Sure, let’s make that a goal.

I still have to paint the new sashes, but I find that’s easier to do when I can take them out of the jamb. These tilt out and remove easily, but it’s the middle of winter so prob not the best time.

medallion

Once the room was starting to really come together, the prospect of “finishing” it without a ceiling medallion started to make me feel so sad! I put “finishing” in quotation marks because I’d like to eventually remove and restore this bad-drywall-job-over-furring-strips-over-original-plaster ceiling. I know! But it could be better, and I like better. This is on a list with a number of other “hopefully someday” kinds of ideas for this room. But a ceiling medallion is no big thing: there’s a great selection out there online of foam ceiling medallions that, once caulked and painted to match a ceiling, look like the real-deal plaster ones they’re meant to imitate.

Usually I use construction adhesive and a couple screws (which I can spackle over before painting) to install them onto the ceiling, but in this case I used regular latex caulk on the back and secured it with some finishing nails—the idea being that if the whole bedroom ceiling thing ever happens, I might be able to pry the medallion off prior to demo and reuse it. Of course by that point I’ll probably have decided it’s the wrong size and style and want to replace it anyway, but I’m leaving the option open for future-me to be less of a pain in the ass than current-me.

Then it was just a matter of spackling over the little nail holes and caulking around the perimeter. The caulk is by FAR the most important step in making it look authentic. I’ve seen people skip this step, and then it kinda does look like you stuck a piece of foam to your ceiling. So, caulk! Smooth the edges with a wet rag-covered finger to really blend the edges of the caulk so it all looks totally seamless. After a couple coats of ceiling paint, nobody will know you’re faking it. Or your ceiling is, anyway.

lightinstalled

Yesterday I got the light hung up, electrical outlets and covers installed, plus a new dimmer switch!

I know, I know, I’m so boring with my Nelson bubble lamp—I had the same one in my last two apartment bedrooms! Those with freakish memories who have been here a longggg time might remember that I found a bubble lamp years ago for $65 at the Design Within Reach Annex because it was damaged and missing its ceiling canopy, but I fixed it and hung that bad boy up in my Manhattan apartment bedroom and felt like a fucking king. Then I moved to Brooklyn and the bubble lamp traveled to that bedroom, where it remains. At some point, I think shortly after buying the house, I found myself in the exact same situation again at the DWR Annex and scooped up another medium-size saucer bubble lamp—this one at $89, a little less damaged and with its canopy included. I had to! Again I spent some time bending the inner wires back into place-ish and had myself another imperfect-but-close-enough bubble lamp.

Point is…do I have a point? DO I NEED A POINT? I’m a person who loves changing stuff up all the time and wouldn’t normally use the same light fixture over and over again like this, but bubble lights cast SUCH a warm, nicely diffused light that I couldn’t resist its siren call for my bedroom again. I ain’t sorry.

SO THAT’S WHERE WE AT. Definitely in the home stretch, which means I have to think about how I’m gonna make this room pretty!

bedroommoodboard

Here’s a kinda underdeveloped “mood board” because why not!

  1. Paint! Benjamin Moore “Oil Cloth” (matte) on the walls, Benjamin Moore “Simply White” (satin) on trim, and Benjamin Moore “Onyx” (satin) on the doors and, probably, the radiator. Elsewhere I’ve used Simply White on the ceiling as well, but I had a gallon of “White Dove” squirreled away in the basement that saved me the cost of another can of paint. I find that the more stark off-the-shelf ceiling whites look a little too intense in old houses.
  2. This ceiling medallion from Lowe’s, $40.45. It’s smaller and much simpler than what I used downstairs, which seems appropriate.
  3. Nelson Bubble Lamp Saucer, medium size.
  4. CB2 Alchemy Bed in Bronze, Queen size. I decided a king is just too big for this room. They didn’t make beds nearly that big when this house was built! I’ve never owned a bed bigger than a full size, though, so this is about to feel really fancy!
  5. A nice big rug! This is just a rando aspirational one from the internet, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the foreseeable future for a nice 8×10-ish vintage/antique one that won’t break the bank.
  6. I like the look of these bed linens from CB2. I wonder how the quality is but at the price I’d expect them to be pretty nice.
  7. Jens Risom armchair. I have a vintage one that I bought at auction a couple years ago! It needs a new set of straps (which I think are pretty easy to get directly from Knoll) and I’m guessing they’ll be black.
  8. My antique dresser, which needs new knobs (those ones aren’t original and a couple have broken since that picture).

I gotta admit, this room is kind of tough! Four windows, three doors, and a radiator is a lot to take into account for a room that isn’t that big. I’m feeling a little stuck on a few things (window treatments! bedside tables! will I survive without a TV in there?!) but I’ll just feel it out over time. It always takes me a while to really settle into a room after the renovation part. That’s the fun, relaxing stuff though! Let me move furniture and art around all day and I’m a happy camper.

Back to Top