Looking Back (and Forward!) on the Bedroom

First off, thank you guys for all of the feedback on my kitchen renovation post last week! I’ve read all the comments but am still working my way through responding, so bear with me if you’re waiting on a response! I love how much people care about this stuff, and I genuinely appreciate having so much helpful feedback as I pull this plan together. It challenges me to keep playing around and refining and trying different options, and that’s very helpful at this stage! I’m sure I’ll be changing things up until the moment I actually do them (and then probably after—let’s be honest here), so we’re totally still in the playing around phase. Fun times!

ANYWAY. I’ve been working on finishing my bedroom. We know this, right? I’m sitting in it right now (what’s a desk?) and there’s still a fairly long hit-list of little things to wrap up, but even now it’s functional and comfortable and I just love it! It’s a wonderful room. But even though I know exactly how it all went down, I’ve still been thinking a lot about what the hell took so long. It feels like I’ve been working forever on this room. Just a few weeks ago I was standing around, surveying the mess, and genuinely wondering if this bedroom would ever be a space I could actually to sleep in. It’s always darkest before the dawn, I guess.

There’s this yet-unnamed phenomenon that I’ve experienced with each room in my house, where it feels like the renovated space betrays the wild and wooly and exceedingly messy process of getting it there. What’s that thing they say, about the start of a relationship being the most exciting part? That’s how I feel about rooms in my house, I think. Every un-renovated space feels like some sexy stranger, like an acquaintance I can’t wait to get to know better. I see all of the good—the possibilities! the potential!—and very little of the bad. But then I really dive in. And if I’ve done my job well, by the time I’m done I’ve spent so long overturning each stone, investigating every flaw, pouring some level of TLC into every single feature, that it all becomes old hat. That old romantic spark gets replaced with familiarity, and by the end it all feels kind of ordinary.

Not to be too self-congratulatory, but I think maybe that’s how it should feel. Despite the many, many hours of work that I’ve put into this space, even forget what it really took when I look around the almost-complete room. I sit there trying to reconstruct the whole long process and all the moving parts in my mind to justify the amount of time I feel I’ve spent on it, because it kind of looks like I just painted the walls, ceiling, and trim and put up a new light fixture, and it’s hard to not feel like something is terribly wrong if it really takes me almost four years to get around to that relatively small amount of work.

But that’s the illusion, not the reality. Cognitively, I know this. I was there! I did the work! And even though that feeling can almost be deflating, I try to look at it as an indicator of success in this mission of restora-vating an old house. The room doesn’t look or feel like it underwent a big renovation—rather, it pretty much just looks how I think it should. It doesn’t look like it endured years of neglect and mistreatment only to be revived and altered by some lunatic blogger guy. It kind of just looks like it’s been nicely maintained over the years, and just got a fresh paint job. When you work really hard on something, I think there’s a natural inclination to want that work to be evident in the final result, but I’ve learned that the best kind of work when it comes to old houses is the kind that you hardly notice when all is said and done.

So what am I going on about? Well, let’s take a trip. Through TIME.

closingpick

It’s May 31, 2013, and I had just done a final walk-through and signed the most daunting set of papers I’ve ever signed because they granted me the legal ownership of an entire fucking house. I’m 23 and have no idea what the hell I’ve just done, but it’s all very exciting. Here’s the bedroom, which at this point is the most bedroom-y room of the second floor apartment. The same second floor apartment that’s had its electrical panel disconnected, so there are no working lights or outlets. The best thing about the second floor is that its attending hot water heater in the basement works, which is more than I can say for the first floor. It still has no working toilet—that doesn’t get fixed until a few days later.

The grainy-ness of this photo isn’t helping my case, but right off the bat the bedroom had some issues beyond a light and easy refresh. The walls had been painted many, many times over possibly multiple layers of old wallpaper, which was now separating from the original plaster beneath, and would fall off in small chips or larger pieces with little provocation. That cheap little sconce next to the closet door was the only light source in the room, the baseboards sustained a tangle of old phone lines and jacks, and I think the entire room had 3 electrical outlets. Which actually isn’t bad, considering some of my other rooms.

caulkmess

Every part of this room needed some attention that wasn’t necessarily immediately obvious from a quick glance, but became more evident upon closer inspection. It looks like the whole wallpaper-separating-from-the-plaster thing had been a long-term problem, “fixed” with generous smearings of caulk and, in many places, some combination of caulk, masking tape, joint compound, and what appears to be cement.

wallstripping1

Oh hi, Max and Mekko! By late October of that year, Max had hosted one of his friends for a weekend and they went rogue and started stripping the paint and wallpaper off the original plaster. I’d been good about just leaving everything alone up until this point, but seeing them making such a big mess armed with only a couple spackle knives immediately weakened my resolve and I joined in the fun. “Don’t start this unless you intend to finish it!” I remember telling him and the friend, which even I can admit is pretty rich coming from me.

corner1

Naturally that friend, that night, and the booze involved with it came and went, and left a little less than half the room stripped down to the plaster. And that’s how it sat for the next several months, because my house-related work was still reserved for more pressing projects and Max was over it.

wallstripping2

By March of 2014, I’d had enough of the half-stripped walls and resolved to make some progress on the bedroom again.

It’s tempting for me to think of this as a project that got way too spread out over way too much time, which maybe is the case, but it’s not like I was sitting around in between! This is 10 months into home ownership, and I’d renovated the kitchen, the laundry room, and had just wrapped up work on the little office. We’d had the roof replaced (which ended up being very time-consuming on my part due to the issues with the box gutters—trying to fix them myself and then dealing with 3 or 4 roofing contractors to finally get it resolved), some necessary plumbing/heating work including a boiler replacement, and the two electrical panels upgraded to one large one. We’d worked to restore the original single-family layout of the house, opening up blocked doorways and demolishing non-original walls. I’d demo’d the fixtures and cabinets out of the upstairs kitchen, done some major clean-up work in the backyard, stripped wallpaper from the hallway walls, demo’d out the living room and dining room ceilings, removed a non-original closet from the dining room, moved a bunch of radiators around, built a fence, planted a garden, watched all the asphalt get removed from the backyard and a large shallow pond develop in its stead, done most of the demo in the downstairs bathroom, replaced the countertops from the earlier kitchen renovation, did round 1 of restoration on the front doors, and saw Beyonce in concert. All of this felt like such a slow slog at the time, but going over my photos and writing it down here actually makes me feel pretty good about the pace. We were also splitting time between Brooklyn and Kingston at this point, so it was a pretty busy period in my life.

wallstripping3

ANYWAY. Stripping the walls was basically a two-part process that entailed an initial scraping and then going back with a vinegar-water mixture to get that sticky brown paper underlayment stuff off the plaster. Messy but not particularly difficult.

radiatorpipes

During the great radiator shuffle/exposed pipe removal effort, these exposed heat pipes in the living room—which ran right in front of the window moldings!—got removed and exchanged for new Pex lines that run up the wall that divides the living room from the hall and across along the ceiling joists. The bedroom radiator’s location didn’t change but that’s the kind of “invisible” work that affected more than one space, including the bedroom. This was done while the living room ceiling was completely demo’d.

electrical

Also while the ceilings downstairs were removed, it was a good time to run some new electrical to the bedroom. We added two outlets, a cable jack, a central ceiling fixture with a light switch next to the door (how fancy and modern!), and replaced the wiring that powered the existing outlets, including one line that ran through an unsightly conduit on the exterior of the house from the basement to the second floor. That conduit got removed this past summer, so I’m giving myself a retroactive pat on the back for good planning.

The electrical is actually my biggest regret about the bedroom. This house was built before electricity, but when electrical outlets were originally added, they put them in the baseboards rather than on the walls. I had thought that this no longer satisfied modern electrical code, and I think in some places maybe it doesn’t, but my electrician assured me that it actually was permissible here if it was something I wanted to do for consistency. I opted to go with the modern convention—placing them on the wall, about a foot from the floor—and now I really wish I hadn’t! I love the baseboard outlets in old houses and, as long as I’m legally allowed, would like to stick with that and relocate outlets to the baseboards where possible moving forward. In most cases it’s very easy to do myself, so not a huge deal.

mekko

God, that dog color-coordinated really well into that phase of the bedroom. Maybe I shoulda left it!

Then, once again, the bedroom sat totally on the back burner while other projects both in and out of my own house took over my life. If you’ve ever retrofitted old plaster walls with new electrical, you know it’s difficult/impossible to get the box installed very cleanly without the surrounding plaster sustaining some damage. So there I slept, in this room with the mostly raw plaster walls, portions of it crumbling and creating a small but very noticeably endless supply of dust (terrific for allergies!), one of those small plastic utility lights mounted to the new ceiling box with a single exposed bulb. Talk about a retreat!

So anyway. That went on for about 2 and a half years.

windowframing1

The bedroom still didn’t feel all that pressing until it just got totally blown up this summer, when I up and decided to add an additional window to the room. It’s a decision I stand by, but also one that I didn’t totally appreciate the ramifications of until the room had been reduced to THIS mess:

gutted1

If you’ve been following along in recent weeks and months, you know the rest. I installed the window, sheathed and re-sided that elevation of the house, insulated the wall, put up new drywall, patched in some of the hardwood flooring, replicated the original window casing to trim out the new window, repaired and skim-coated the three remaining walls, restored the original window in the photo above, spent hours prepping all of the original moldings for caulk and paint, and—finally—got to the point of actually PAINTING.

And it’s still not done! But now the list feels much more manageable and less pressing. The doors need to be painted and the hardware restored. Two windows need to be restored. One window just needs paint. The other window just needs a sash lock. The dresser needs new knobs. The bed needs a mattress (hey, a full-size mattress fits on a queen size frame, just not very nicely!). I have to patch and paint the hole in the wall where the sconce was, because now the electric has been completely and safely removed. I need to figure out window treatments and get them ordered and installed, and then spend the next few years moving furniture around and in and out until it stops feeling like a nice thrift store display up in here.

So. Ya know. Still some doing.

And THAT, my friends, is why this shit takes forever! But progress still feels good.

Planning My New Kitchen!

In only a few months, I’ll have owned my house for four years! That’s pretty wild. Which also means it’s been about four years since I started thinking about how I’d like to someday renovate the kitchen…you know, after that time when I kind of already renovated the kitchen. That’s a long time to design a kitchen! Yet somehow I keep changing the plan again and again—waking up one morning certain about something and then going to bed roughly 16 hours later absolutely sure about the exact opposite decision. It’s vicious and at some point very soon I need to just make up my mind once and for all so I can get on with things like roughing in my plumbing and electric.

Granted, the house has changed a lot in those almost four years! I drew the above floor plan on some weird software back when I bought the house. It’s like a different place today!

So yes—I’ve definitely lost some square footage, but that loss is totally outweighed by what I’ve gained in natural light, structural integrity, and—I’d argue—giving this house much more of an architectural identity. Just looking at that 2013 plan makes me feel kind of anxious! But the clarity and simplicity of 2017 makes it feel better.

ANYWAY. The area highlighted in yellow. It’s ALL CHANGING. Bear with me and let’s see if I can stumble through this.

Cool? Just pretend you zoomed in on the bright yellow part, and then changed all the things.

Ah, memories! One thing I always hated about the kitchen was the sink location. If you look back at the first floor plan, you can see how the doorways align—meaning you can be standing in the living room at the front of the house with a perfect view of the kitchen sink! Blech. I also hated the huge soffit overhead and the lack of countertop adjacent to the sink. The sink itself is really not in good shape—the enamel chipped and rusting in some places, and just very worn down overall—and the base cabinet below it basically started disintegrating several months ago. So that was all pretty cute.

Also, the stove location. It sucks! That little kitchen cart was the only thing that made it OK, but still. No prep space and no room to add any. See what I mean? I feel like I made the kitchen as cute and functional as I could without doing anything major, but ultimately there’s only so much you can do to turn a bunch of rotting lemons into something resembling lemonade.

Blam! That grey mass on the left is meant to represent that antique hutch that currently lives in the dining room, by the way. This one:

I’ve always felt like it was more of a kitchen piece, and so I really wanted to work it in. I think it’ll hold the majority of my everyday dishes and stuff, which I’m really excited about!

The original radiator stays, but changes locations to be where the sink used to be. I don’t mind being able to see a nice black radiator from across the house, but not a big sink full of dirty dishes. Of course, the soffit is gone, and both the window and exterior door get replaced with windows that match the ones that got installed on the side of the house this summer. It’ll all feel so uniform you won’t even know what to do with yourself.

Also, I’d like to put a little wood stove in the fireplace! That’s what it’s there for, I love burning things, and can you even imagine how cozy?? This kitchen has historically been VERY VERY cold. Hopefully a lot of that will be resolved with new insulation and less house than there used to be (I think the solarium/”side porch” was a major culprit), but I love the idea of that option for some supplementary heat.

Also, burning things.

Confession: when Max and I broke up, I went a little nuts one night and ripped out the upper cabinets and the soffit in this picture, started work on repairing the wall, and that’s as far as I got. I never repainted and it looked like total shit for about a year. Adorable.

But who cares now because it’s all gonneeee. So you might be wondering…if I remove the exterior door, how am I going to get outside?? Good question. The door moves to the current laundry room, basically right where that funny little window is now.

And no, I can’t actually believe I’m messing with my laundry room. I love that laundry room! BUT, let’s think of it this way: I have a better idea, and basically all the value in that room is the machines themselves, which of course will be saved. The entire rest of the space cost me about $350 and a few weeks of part-time work three years ago, so I can get over it.

Want to talk about that island? It’s a concept I’m digging. As much as I’d really love to just put a nice old table in the middle of the room (which might end up being a short-term solution that ends up lasting a very long time), I think I’m going to want more storage. My biggest anxiety with the kitchen is that I DON’T want it to look super new and…suburban? I grew up in the ‘burbs and got nothing but love for the 90s granite-countered kitchen that raised me, but that’s kind of my biggest fear here. So I like this middle-ground, where the island is still a piece of cabinetry but doesn’t match all the other base cabinets and end up feeling like a huge mass in the middle of the room. Ya dig?

YIKES. I do not miss this.

Now about where that doorway to the solarium used to be, there’s a stove! But not just any stove! A 36″ gas range! I haven’t picked one out yet (omg, so many options, so many reviews, so much money), but I’m really excited. I think it’ll feel like a big upgrade over the 1960s bottom-of-the-line Sears-Kenmore electric stove I’ve been rocking all this time! I’ve given a lot of thought to doing an induction cooktop at the encouragement of several commenters—everyone who has induction seems to love it, and I’ll admit they are very very cool!—but I just can’t see it in here! I can’t! I’ll do induction in the super mod lake house that I’m building (someday, no formal plans).

I know these images look really….blah…but try to imagine this as a real space. The back of the island can hold cookbooks and pretty bowls and whatever, and that shelf over the sink will be styled out all pretty with bowls and cutting boards and shit, and the room will have color and texture and a rug and…ya know. It’ll look like a real space and not a computer drawing.

I couldn’t bring myself to install a range hood in the SketchUp rendering. I know. I know. I know. I’m trying really hard to convince myself that this is something I need or want since I know the rest of the universe has decided they are necessary.

I don’t want one. The thought of drilling a 4″ hole and installing a vent cap outside on the newly restored side of my house is giving me agita.

Have I lost you? Is this making any sense? I feel like I need a focus group for this post.

SO. I wanted badly to sort of isolate the laundry room from the whole kitchen and first floor bathroom renovations, but no. It will not be spared, because I’m moving the laundry! I’m moving the laundry upstairs! I’m PSYCHED. It’s an option I wrote off long ago but then reconsidered just this past weekend and I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out sooner.

This means that the current laundry room, above, becomes a small mudroom kind of space but also an extension of the kitchen. On this wall, I see doing a nice big built-in, with shallow cabinets below and open shelves above. Hey, new pantry! At some point I had to stop obsessing over SketchUp and just put up this dumb post, so use your imagination. It’ll look great.

I’m toying with the idea of widening and heightening the doorway into the current laundry room and adding a transom window above. YES THIS IS THE SAME DOORWAY THAT I NARROWED AND SHORTENED A FEW YEARS AGO TO FIT A DOOR I NEVER INSTALLED. Oy vey.

I can’t stand me either.

New exterior door goes essentially where the window is and that’s how we’ll get to the backyard. Washer and dryer move on up to their new glamorous second floor life. The wall behind the machines gets demo’d. I steal about 3′ of space from the downstairs bathroom.

And that makes enough space for the fridge and a closet! I haven’t really sorted out quite how this build-out will go, so the drawing shows a location but nothing else really.

And yes, I know as a blogger that putting the fridge here might actually get me murdered because people are SUPER INTO their working triangles and stuff, but…well, find me a better spot where I don’t lose countertop, storage, or a window, and I’ll eat all my words and do that. In all seriousness, though, refrigerators are hideous and counter-depth panel-ready ones are WAY out of my price range. THIS WAY, I feel like I can have the huge honker of a fridge (switching to a cute designer-y fridge or under-counter both seem super impractical), but it’s out of sight while still being right there.

You don’t seem convinced. Please calm down it’s going to be OK.

Anyway, the original plan was to stack the washer and dryer and put them in the space next to the fridge, but now that the laundry is going upstairs I have a nice big closet! I usually want to rip closets out much more than I want to put them in, but in this case I’m really excited to have a space to actually store the vacuum cleaner, the mop bucket, I guess even winter coats and boots and stuff, conceivably! The options feel endless.

LASTLY. Downstairs bathroom becomes a powder room.

Toilet and sink locations swap, window moves over and down a little, and that’s basically it. Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.

For those of you who were horrified at my plans to reuse that tub-turned-temporary-human-grave, YOU WIN. FOR NOW. I still have the tub and I’d still like to find a home for it, but not here. I decided having a full bath on the main floor kind of felt like a carry-over from the house’s past as a two-family (in fact, this bathroom was installed when the house was split up originally in the 30s), and the whole fridge/closet thing just made so much more sense.

So that’s where I’m at! I know this is not the kitchen that everyone would install, but I’m feeling really good about it! We’ll talk all about specific materials and fixtures and stuff soon, but I just wanted to put the basic strokes out there.

Let’s do this thing, kitchen!

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.

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