All posts tagged: Bathroom

The Downstairs Bathroom.

After a couple months of stalking the listing online, the price on our house finally dropped and a few days later I worked up the nerve to call the listing agent to inquire about it. “It’s a great house,” she told me, “it needs some work, and the one big thing is that it does need a new furnace, but otherwise it’s a great, solid old house!” It was a nice chat. I set up an appointment to view it a few days later, and we were about to hang up when I asked. There isn’t really a delicate way to initiate these kinds of conversations, but I had a hunch that had been building for a while. “So,” I said, “did somebody die there or something?”

She paused, and then sighed. “Well, yes, the previous owner did die in the house, but it was of natural causes. He was old—it wasn’t anything violent or anything like that, I can assure you. It’s a really great house—I think you’ll like it.”

I suppose it’s possible that the death might have scared off a particularly superstitious potential buyer or two, but it seems rather unlikely. By today’s standards it might be a little alarming, but before the 1950s or so it was very common for people to both start and end their lives in their own homes. More than likely, he wasn’t the first person to die here—just the most recent. Sad? Sure. A little eery? I guess. But hardly cause for alarm. It was one of those details that stayed in the back of my mind, but I didn’t really fixate on it.

It was clear from our first walk-through that the house needed just a tad more work than the listing agent had let on during that first conversation. Little things like the roof and the unusable kitchen had apparently not been worth mentioning, not to mention the downstairs bathroom, which appeared to have had some kind of plumbing issue that left it literally crumbling, the tiles shedding from the walls like concrete from the Tappan Zee Bridge. For some reason it looked like the door, which was lying its side in the living room, had been ripped from the frame and forcibly removed.


“You’d want to redo this bathroom anyway,” she told us. “That back wall is shared with the laundry room, so you could knock it out and double the size. You’d have room for a walk-in shower or whatever you wanted!”

Obvious plumbing issues and cosmetic details notwithstanding, I loved this bathroom just as it was. It’s teeny-tiny—which I think is perfect especially for a downstairs bathroom—and the 1930s tub, sink, and toilet were all in relatively good shape, especially given their age and the condition of the rest of the room. It’s one of the spaces that I couldn’t wait to renovate and make usable again. It’s going to be so beautiful someday. Really. I promise.

One day the real estate agent called me with some good news. “I found out that the plumbing in that downstairs bathroom is fine, as far as we know. I spoke to someone from the clean-up crew and it turns out that the missing tiles were removed by them because they were unsightly.” Unsightly. I’ll never forget that choice of words.

“Is unsightly a euphemism for, like, covered in blood and human remains?”

She only laughed.

“OK, that bathtub has got to go,” Max announced when I told him about the conversation.

“Well, we don’t know that he died in the tub,” I explained. “He could have just, I don’t know, fallen in the tub, but managed to make his way back out again, or, well…we weren’t there. Anything could have happened. It’s a nice tub. I like that tub. They don’t make tubs like that anymore.”

“Yeah, but he probably died in the tub. We can buy a different old tub that someone didn’t die in.”

“But you’d never really know that nobody died in that tub, either. Somebody could have died in pretty much any used tub. How about we get it re-glazed and call it a day? It’s really the perfect size for that bathroom. We can’t just stick any tub in there.”

“I swear, I will never use that bathroom.”

“Fine. It’ll be my bathroom.”

“We’re not keeping that tub in the house.”

“We’ll see.”

This, by the way, is a fight that we haven’t stopped having for a year.

Knowing about the tub bothered me only slightly more than knowing about the death in the first place—which is to say, not very much. As far as causes of death go, dying in a bathtub is relatively unremarkable. The bathtub came up again once or twice more with our plumber during inspections, but otherwise nobody really mentioned it again until after we’d bought and moved into the house.

That’s when our neighbors began to introduce themselves. Apparently lots of people knew about the bathtub, or at least about the death, and Max was quick to forge fast alliances with whomever would listen about my plans to keep the tub. With the exception of maybe 2 people that I can think of, this news has been met unanimously with shock and disgust. “Well, it’s too small to really take a nice bath in, so it’ll really just be for showers,” is my general refrain. Historically, this has helped a total of nobody feel more comfortable with the idea.

“I’ve been an EMT for coming on thirty years, and I’ll tell you—when they opened up all the windows to your house, well, I’ve never smelled anything like that in my life. I’ll never forget it.” This was our neighbor Karen, who came by shortly after we moved in. According to her, the body had been there for a while. Maybe a month, by her professional estimation.

Once, as a teenager, at the height of the popularity of the CSI franchise, my twin sister and I attended a two-week summer class on forensic science. It was there that we learned about the Body Farm, a 2.5 acre plot of land in Tennessee dedicated to the study of the decomposition of human remains. Depending on the conditions and circumstances, lots of different things can happen to corpses over time: in hot and arid climates, for instance, a body left outside will essentially dry up and mummify, but in general they tend to decompose pretty much the same way. In essence, they liquify. In the case of our particular corpse, some percentage probably evacuated itself through the plumbing while the rest stuck around and marinated, waiting to be discovered—by who, we still don’t know.

When we first got to the house, my idea of a significant and readily available improvement to the downstairs bathroom was re-hanging the door, so that we could more effectively ignore it over the ensuing months and possibly years. We have a functioning bathroom upstairs, so there wasn’t any major rush to get it up and running.

Remember what I said about this bathroom sharing a wall with the laundry room, though? Well, that’s thrown kind of a kink in the plans. While we don’t particularly need a second bathroom, we really want a laundry room. The extent of our renovations elsewhere means a whole lot of dust and debris and general filth, and not being able to do laundry in our own house has quickly become incredibly annoying. We generally show up to the laundromat once every couple of weeks with four IKEA bags stuffed to the gills with dirty laundry, and the whole affair is just a big, moderately expensive hassle (those machines aren’t cheap!). The house came with a busted-up washing machine attached to some leaky exposed copper supply lines, but it wasn’t terribly useful since we didn’t have a hot water supply on the main floor until the installation of our boiler in November. Then, of course, the machine promptly died. There was never a dryer, and lacking the necessary electrical circuit and receptacle to install one (not to mention a dryer vent), we’re pretty much starting from scratch. Including having to run new electrical and plumbing through this bathroom wall. “Easy,” I told the plumbers. “I’ll just demo out this bathroom wall and we can get on with things.”


This got me more excited about renovating the bathroom someday, because there’s already so much great stuff in it! Check out that hook! Check out that toilet paper dispenser! The sink is also really cute (it’s a little rusty in spots, so we’ll probably have it re-glazed). Normally I wouldn’t really think twice about replacing an old toilet with a new, modern, efficient one, but this one is so pretty that I even want to clean it up and keep it. There’s a painted-over transom window over the door, which I can’t wait to strip. I even love the medicine cabinet! I don’t know if I’ll keep it as a whole cabinet or just harvest the mirror, but I do quite like it. I think the radiator will probably go just because the room is so extremely small and I’d rather do something wall-mounted that could double as a towel warmer and free up the floor space just a little. The window is small but works in the room and has really beautiful textured glass that I didn’t take a picture of. And, of course, the corpse tub. Having all of this beautiful old stuff already here, combined with the tiny size (small room = fewer materials!), makes me feel like we could probably renovate this room fairly inexpensively, even with new plumbing and electric.


Picking up where the Crime and Trauma Scene Contamination crew left off, I donned some work gloves and a respirator and started to peel back and dispose of the old tiles surrounding the bathtub and the drywall underneath.


Whats that now? Clapboard? Peekaboo!

So, apparently this used to be an exterior wall. Which made very little sense to me, considering where this room is located. Here I will refer to my floor plan:


The bathroom to which I am referring is #10 and highlighted in pink for ease of identification. The laundry room is #9. The wall I am talking about is what divides the two.

At first I thought the laundry room was just a later addition, but then I realized that didn’t make any sense because the clapboard I was uncovering was the exterior, not the interior. Huh.


Further excavation revealed that the wall was definitely clapboard. The walls—which were partially drywall but mostly the same lightweight “beaverboard” used elsewhere in the 20th century “improvements”—were hanging on old 1×2 furring strips which were nailed to the clapboard. Well. Isn’t that special.

Something tells me that this will not be a great strategy when we renovate this bathroom for real. Old furring strips nailed to really old clapboard is probably not going to be so great or so safe for holding up hundreds of pounds of cement backerboard and tile. I kept moving…


Turns out, the whole room is clapboard, except for the actual exterior wall that the window and sink are on. Underneath the beaverboard ceiling is a tongue-and-groove beadboard ceiling!

I have deduced, therefore, that this bathroom used to be a small porch. Nifty! It occurs to me that this is probably why the upstairs bathroom actually has older fixtures (like that amazing sink, and the toilet that we unfortunately had to tear out on our 3rd day in the house)  than the downstairs one—because it’s older! The top of the toilet tank has a date stamp from 1935, which makes a lot of sense. We know that the house was originally split up into two units in the mid-30s (the Great Depression did that to a lot of houses, and we’ve found newspaper listings for the second floor apartment from 1938), so it was then that they enclosed the porch, then basically built a whole room inside the porch, and BOOM—bathroom.

You can’t really tell from these pictures, but all of this was also covering up an old doorway opening from the kitchen onto the porch. Crazy! Obviously, I think all of this is super cool. Like uncovering a time capsule.



Unfortunately, because these are originally exterior walls and this is my house, it also means that underneath the clapboard, the walls are stuffed full of bricks and mortar. Yep. This is called “nogging” and is how our whole house is “insulated”—I put it in quotations because it has an R-value of less than 1. It was done in a lot of houses especially in the northeast in the 19th century, both as a primitive form of insulation and as a way to keep mice and rats from getting into houses. Normally nogging is composed of “garbage bricks”—like ones that were broken or misshapen or not fired at the correct temperatures. It fell out of practice toward the end of the 19th century. It’s not structural, so it can be removed, but obviously access is pretty much impossible without ripping down all the plaster on interior walls or all of the clapboard off the exterior walls. This is why I just laugh when people try to talk to me about doing blown-in insulation, like I’ve never heard of the concept. I KNOW IT’S A THING. IT IS NOT A THING FOR US. 


Obviously, this also makes it impossible to run new electrical or plumbing through the walls, which is sort of important in modern bathrooms. So basically this means that all of the stuff nailed to the clapboard has to come out, then the clapboard has to come down, and then the wall cavities have to be emptied out. Yikes! I’m not sure I can totally wrap my mind around carrying and transporting this literal ton of bricks, but at least I am young and strapping and willing to pretend that my home renovation doubles as an acceptable exercise routine, since I can’t seem to make it to the gym.

Before anyone tries to get in my face about preserving the clapboard, ask yourself this: do you want a clapboard-covered bathroom? Like, really, in real life? No you do not. We will, however, save the salvageable clapboard, which may come in handy when we get to work on the exterior and rip off the vinyl siding. We’ll also save salvageable bricks, which I have lofty ideas about repurposing when we get to work on landscaping. It’ll be great.


Oh! And I pulled up the hideous faux-terrazo linoleum and the plywood underneath it, and look! The same hardwood flooring (which we think is fir! not oak, as I had originally thought…) runs into the bathroom, too! I wasn’t really expecting that, but it’s kind of cool. I have no idea if this floor will end up being worth salvaging (there are some areas of rot and holes from old plumbing and a million nail holes from the plywood, and the total floor area is super small anyway…), but it does make me think about putting a wood floor in the bathroom instead of tile when we eventually renovate. Stained black? I like the idea of that. It feels a little less sterile than tile, which I think is nice for the main floor.


This has to be the most grueling bathroom demo in the history of mankind. It’s gutted, and now it essentially has to be gutted AGAIN. And then the BRICKS. MADNESS.

It’ll be worth it if we get laundry, though. Eyes on the prize.

Bathroom Light


So remember back in November when we did a super quick, super intense, super kick-ass makeover of Max’s childhood bedroom? And we bought that rad 1920s light fixture that totally made the room?

Yeah. Well. I might have omitted some important info that I have now chosen this moment to reveal.

That light was actually one of a PAIR. They were only being sold as a set, but at $150 for both, it wasn’t exactly a huge investment to just go for it even if we only really wanted one.  Surely we could figure out a place to put another gorgeous light fixture, right?

I’ve been down this road before. A few times. Hence this post, where I explain all the times I’ve charmingly rationalizationed and ended up with an absurd lighting hoard that I’m slowly trying to whittle down by just hanging lights all over the place. This strategy is working moderately well, so I’m sticking with it.


But I decided without even that much waffling (look at me! making decisions with ease!) that this light would be awesome in the bathroom, and it totally is. It works for a lot of the same reasons it worked in Max’s bedroom. The small size of the room matches well with the scale of the fixture, making a small-ish light look like a big, substantial, amazing light. Additionally, super dark walls make the white glass pop like BLAM. Chrome-y bits be shiny like WOAH. These are all technical design terms that are helpful to know FYI.


The best thing about the light in the bathroom is that our medicine cabinet is so tall that the light fixture reflects off the mirror and almost gives the illusion that we have TWO great lights. That is, if you’re easily confused by mirrors or otherwise just kind of dumb. Luckily, I am both of these things.


Just check out that glass situation on the bottom! I kind of get lost in how pretty it is sometimes. I know that this art deco style isn’t really in line with the style of the rest of my apartment, but that doesn’t bother me. I always think bathrooms are perfect places to let loose a little bit and make choices that are a little different from the rest of your home. It’s nice to walk into a tiny bathroom and be pleasantly surprised by an element of the space, and I think that’s totally what this fixture does. The DIY’d fixture that was there before was totally cute and fine, but it just wasn’t very interesting or exciting.

Before hanging this fixture, I took the whole thing apart and washed all of the pieces individually in the sink. For the metal bits, I used Barkeeper’s Friend, which made the chrome look absolutely incredible and shiny and new. For the glass, I just used regular dish soap and water, and it was really worth it. Nothing looked that dirty to begin with, but it’s always amazing how a little cleaning can take something to the next level of amazing. I experience the same general revelation whenever I decide to take a shower.

I’ll shut up about the light fixture. It’s beautiful, I’m very happy with it, and I have a very weak spot for art deco and I maybe need more deco pieces in my life.


Max bought some flowers for the bathroom because on Sunday they aired a Beyonce concert on TV and we had a bunch of people over to watch it. So weird because the concert was super short and then this football game broke out and I totally lost interest. At least we had flowers?


In case you follow the central dramas of my relationship as closely as I do, I figure it’s pertinent to note that I HAVE WON THE BATHMAT DEBATE. After about a year with no bathmat, we went several months with this wooden bathmat before it got moldy and smelly and weird and put in the garbage. Max has, historically, hated bathmats and found them to be gross and in poor taste, whereas I associate having no bathmat with, like, lazy douchebag bros who can’t enjoy the finer things in life, such as smelling OK or clothing made of natural fibers or not stepping out of a shower directly onto cold tile.

This war raged for so very long and was so hard-fought and just when I thought I had no life left in me and I would be forced to accept a bathmat-less existence, Max came around. Angels sang. It was all very dramatic and theatrical, as you can imagine.

Ultimately, my victory was hard-won, and I absolutely deserve all the joy that this plush, sufficient-looking bathmat from Target can offer. It really feels great underfoot and it’s nice to finally feel like a civilized human again after this relationship has turned me into such a goddamned monster.

Turns out it’s very washable and dries nicely in the dryer, too. I know this because Linus took the liberty of testing out its wee-wee pad potential right after I took the photos. I always thought Linus was on my side here (more plush surfaces = more places to nap), but I guess the proof is in the piss, as it were.


Little traitorous bastard. Now the internet knows your shame.

ps—you can find my last Design*Sponge post here, if you’re interested: Cleaning Vintage Enamelware
pps—oh, shit, it’s Homies time again. you can vote for me if you want, I won’t stop you or try to get in the way or anything.

Going Rogue: A Story of Betrayal and Componibili.

First of all——PHEW, my first giveaway ever for Ferm Living Shop took in 734 comments! Lunacy! The winner was chosen at random and a big congratulations to Nancy M. is in order! Yay, Nancy!

Now, if you didn’t win the giveaway, maybe you are sad and bitterly disappointed? Maybe I was worried you would be sad so I had a chat with Ferm Living Shop about how sad you would be? Maybe Ferm Living Shop agreed you might be sad and a 10% off promo code was offered to soften the blow of being a poor, pathetic loser? That’s right: use the code MANHATTANNEST at checkout to get 10% off your order at Ferm Living Shop through Sunday, December 9th at 9 PM! This would be a good time to go ahead and buy that Remix Blanket you wanted before—the offer doesn’t last long!

Go ahead. You have my blessing. Treat yo’self. (just use MANHATTANNEST at check-out!)

Onto other matters. I’ll admit I had a bit more of an exciting post planned for today but——True Life: It’s Exam Week and I am Pooped. Like, more than pooped. Somewhere between dead and pooped.

So last week I was emailing back and forth with a reader named Alicia about the usual (fauxdenzas, wood, anchors, sofas) and she just had to mention that she was putting up an ad on Craigslist for two 3-tier white Kartell Componibili units for the price of one new one. They were only a couple years old, great condition——did I know anybody who might want them?

Um, hello Alicia. I want them. Duhzville. Gimme those Componibilis and we can talk fauxdenzas til my jaw detaches itself from my face.

Only problem? Convincing a certain someone who might also have an opinion on the matter. And I’m not talking about Linus, because he’d never be able to understand complex concepts like wonderful mod Italian plastic storage. He can’t even understand “sit.”

God, Linus is so stupid. But his love language is cuddles and that’s all I care about, so he’s perfect.

I’d been talking up a Componibili for the bathroom pretty much as long as we’ve lived in this apartment, and Max has always been ardently against them. He “doesn’t like plastic” (?) and doesn’t like the way they look (?) and some other hogwash that I probably would have remembered if I had been listening in the first place instead of worrying about my future?

So when this talk of Craigslist posts and Componibilis was happening, Max was at work. I tried to be considerate by sending him this series of text messages, which pretty much gives you an accurate picture of what it’s like to be in a relationship with me.

It pretty much went on like that, but you get the picture.

So I’m the devil, more or less. Whatever. True Life: I’m a Control Freak.

Obviously, the problem here is that if I had waited for a response, at least one of two things would have happened: by the time I could give the green light to the seller (a.k.a. Alicia), they’d be gone,* or Max would say no and I’d have to be both selfish and blatantly disobedient and disrespectful when I went and did it anyway.**

*maybe not that likely to happen so quickly, but work with me.
**very likely to happen very quickly.

Rock, meet Hard Place.

So, much like somebody who is mentally unbalanced and likes a good deal (not me, just somebody like that person), I think I was at the seller’s apartment in less than an hour and carrying Componibilis into our apartment like 10 minutes after Max came home from work. True Life: My Boyfriend Wanted to Kill Me.

He was not pleased, but I am pleased enough for the both of us. This thing is obviously good-looking and pretty adorable and it looks good in the bathroom. More importantly, it HOLDS THINGS. The bathroom’s ONLY storage is that big medicine cabinet. Don’t get it twisted, that thing is huge, but not huge enough to maintain this much beauty. For example, the blowdryer used to sit in the cabinet. Of course, it was too big for the cabinet, so it fell out ALL THE TIME, usually on my face, usually carrying a bunch of other stuff down with it. This went on for like a year and a half, so don’t even try to tell me I don’t know struggle.

The Componibili is great because it holds toilet paper, the blowdryer, and various other excess toiletries that used to sit in a box in our kitchen. It’s nice to have all the bathroom stuff IN the bathroom. Max is getting used to it?

FYI, the bathmat is a bamboo (I think) mat from Target. Another huge point of contention in the bathroom has been getting a bathmat——Max hates bathmats and thinks they’re dirty, vile things, and I don’t understand life without them? I’d be down for a normal bathmat, but eventually we had to settle on this wood thing and…it’s fine. I don’t really understand what function it holds, but I guess it’s nice that it’s there and that I don’t have to wash it all the time? I don’t know.

The soap pump is from West Elm and I love it. It’s soapstone, so it’s nice and substantial and the pump part is actually really nice and sturdy, which I like. I wish I felt the same way about the sink and the floor, but there isn’t a whole lot I can do about either of those.

But Componibili!! I’m so glad this dream came true and that it wasn’t the end of my relationship. You really can have your cake and eat it too, you know?

Sweet Victory, at Last.

One of life’s biggest hardships and greatest injustices over the last three years or so is that I’ve been stuck with the above setup for dispensing salt and pepper onto my food. I’m not a terribly fabulous chef, so I rely heavily on these two basic seasonings to render my meals edible, and I have long dreamt of a pairing that could do the job with a bit more panache. That salt shaker has a matching pepper shaker, and while they’re cute and vintage and cost me all of a couple dollars at Salvation Army, what am I supposed to do with pre-ground pepper? What do you take me for, some kind of goddamn animal? The little plastic “temporary” pepper grinder is way too small and has to be refilled constantly and just makes me generally sad with its apathy and mediocrity.

Walking through IKEA with my pal, Anna, we both totally plotzed over these new salt and pepper mills from the new ÄDELSTEN line of kitchen products. Made from black and white marble, the texture in real life is kind of super amazing (the lighter looking parts of the pepper mill will darken with use over time), and at 7 inches high and about 3 pounds each, they just feel nice to use. Like things that fancy people with fancy pepper would own. People who buy kosher organically-produced cage-free fair-traded artisanal salt and exotic gourmet free-range peppercorns raised on a diet of human breast milk and diamond dust. From Fiji.

The bottoms even double as cute little salt and pepper cellars, which is just all-around smart and adorable. I LOVE THEM. The whole line is beautiful, by the way, and includes probably the most amazing rolling pin I’ve ever seen that I was SO tempted to buy before realizing I’m about as likely to roll out some dough as I am to eat my own toes. Read: I’d have to be very hungry and out of hummus.

Of course, they were also $15 a pop, making them super cheap for the materials, design, and quality of construction. People talk smack about the quality of IKEA products all the time, but here’s the thing: their best stuff is really nice, and usually cheaper that their competitors’ worst stuff. They definitely make some crap that falls apart, too, but nobody’s forcing anyone to buy that. IKEA4LIFE.

Naturally, it just so happens that the very next day, Chandler was in town for the weekend and we took a little jaunt out to the Design Within Reach Annex store in Secaucus, where damaged goods and floor models go to die before people like me come along to buy them (my very damaged but mostly-fixable bubble lamp came from there, negotiated down to $65!). I know what you’re thinking: Daniel is the greatest host ever! “Here, come to Brooklyn for the weekend! We’ll spend an hour and a half driving to New Jersey and you can watch me shop!” I really know how to show people a good time.

I’ve been pining after these Muuto “Plus” salt and pepper mills designed by Norway Says for a couple years, but the $70 price tag for each one always stopped me from buying them. It always went like this:

Beautiful? Yes. Am I in a place in my life where I can justify spending $150 on salt and pepper mills? Fuck you, stupid.

But the price on this lone pepper mill was slashed in half and had no visible damage, so it kind of had to be. So what if I found perfect salt and pepper mills just the day before? I can use those for cooking, and this for eating? Like it can sit on the table and make me happy while the others sit five feet away on the counter? Sure. Why not. Let’s do this. You see my lack of options, here.

Also in the category of things I’ve wanted to happen finally happening, we found a shower curtain! Max had an idea that he wanted a black ticking stripe shower curtain to bring a sort of vintage old-school barbershop vibe to our bathroom. It wouldn’t have necessarily been my first choice (being a super-boring-white-linens-only type of asshole), but he had my support with the caveat that it be extra-long. “Go forth, my child,” I said. “Make your dreams come true. While you’re at it, work on mine too.” And it was so.

The problem was that our old shower curtain (plain white waffle, like $10 from Target) seemed awfully short once the bathroom was “done” and made the huge medicine cabinet look even more huge, towering above the curtain rod like it was. That the shower head spout is abnormally high in this bathroom wasn’t really helping matters since it was so visible above the shower curtain.

The new curtain was custom-made by Alison Daniel at the Modern Folk Shop on Etsy. The fabric is really nice and heavy, and the whole thing is really well constructed. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to just DIY an extra-long shower curtain, but it would need to be wider than a standard roll of fabric, meaning that a seam has to be sewn down the entire thing. And sewing a really neat 8-foot seam into a patterned fabric was just way more than my sewing skills are up for. I’m only human. This Alison Daniel lady is apparently more than human though, since her seam is perfect.

Of course, we still (still!) need to find a bathmat and I still (still!) need to finish re-caulking and I still (still!) need to fix up the super painty, inoperable bathroom window. The window thing feels the most pressing, since now it’s summer and the lack of bathroom ventilation will quickly go from being kind of irritating to kind of disgusting. That’s one of those projects that sounds easy and fun in my mind but I know will leave me crying and possibly regretful and shaken to my very core. Sounds like my kind of summer activity.



My prizes.

All my sweet prizes.

Apple Store Gift Cards. Big Money. It’s not everyday this happens. In fact, this has only happened once. And it was yesterday.

Oh yeah. Now I have no excuses to pull my shit together with this kitchen thing.**

**I might still have some excuses. Like fear.

The Bathroom

Full disclosure: this post has been a long time coming. A LONG time. I usually don’t hold out for too much time between doing projects and mustering the energy to post about them, but for some reason I lost all enthusiasm for posting about my bathroom back when I gave it the first round of love way back in the summer. I think I needed some emotional distance with this room before I could discuss it openly? Maybe it’s because there are still several things I need to deal with in there, so it still doesn’t feel finished?

Who am I kidding, nothing is ever finished. Ever. I will futz forever. Don’t tell Max.

In actuality, the bathroom was basically the first thing I tackled when I moved into this apartment. It’s a difficult room to photograph and, like most rental bathrooms, the amount of things I can easily and realistically change in there are few. Luckily, the more permanent fixtures are fairly plain an inoffensive, so I’m not overly fixated on wanting to change things that I can’t. I’m happy with how far it’s come thus far though, and maybe finally posting about it will light a necessary fire under my ass to get going on tying up some of the loose ends I’ve been avoiding.

I know, I have shocked and appalled you with my entirely unexpected and unprecedented decision to paint the walls black. I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself.

When I moved into this apartment, the bathroom was no exception to the horrible paint choices that the rest of the place endured sometime around the late 1990s, nor the subsequent 15 give-or-take years in which the tenants evidently owned multiple cats and gave up cleaning. The walls were painted a shade of lavender, one of those colors that’s supposed to be cheery and whimsical but only succeeds in making you feel like you’re taking a shit in a nursing home filled with broken dreams and unrealized ambitions. If I took shits. I don’t. I’m bionic.

Functionally, the biggest problem was a complete lack of storage, as there is no sink cabinet and the medicine cabinet was sized to accommodate only about three aspirin tablets and a travel-sized tube of toothpaste. Now, I wouldn’t say we’re overly vain or maintain complicated beauty regimens—I would classify our gorgeousness more as a natural occurrence than the product of extraordinary effort, if you must know. However, in the service of maintaining Max’s fancy hairdo and our general hygiene, we needed a bit more space to put the things that make achieving this goal possible. Out of necessity, I actually mounted those shelves (harvested from the bedroom) as a temporary measure until we could find something more permanent.

I toyed with the idea of some combination of vintage cabinet/mirror/shelving, but we really wanted to get this done and ultimately, for a bathroom, I can’t think of very much I’d really want out in the open. Enter the deliciously massive and endlessly reflective (the insides of both of those doors are mirrored, as is the back of the unit) GODMORGON medicine cabinet from IKEA. It is huge, it is wonderful, it holds everything. I will not show you the inside because I am ashamed that it is completely full.

Yes, in fact it does drive me crazy that the cabinet is not centered over the little stupid soap dish and toothbrush holder things. Yes, it does drive me crazy that those stupid things are not centered over the sink. I hope we can all get past it.

I will never get past it.

If you’re super observant, you’ll notice that the new medicine cabinet also covers the only outlet in the room, so I just cut a small  hole in back so we can still plug all our do-dads in and anything that needs to charge can just be stored completely out of sight.

The old light was that super basic fixture that all NYC landlords favor for everything. Ignore the fact that it looks like the ceiling once caught fire around it. I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical and benign explanation, like that the ceiling once caught fire around it.

I have to say, I’m pretty annoyingly smug about the new light fixture, which cost all of about $10 and 15 minutes to make. It’s just some leftover red cloth-wrapped cord I had from my bedside FRÄCK hack lights, a basic ceramic socket, and a plain ceiling canopy that I spray-painted high-gloss black (but left the little nuts brass). The bulb is a big round frosted 100 W incandescent, and that’s it! I also changed out the light switch for a dimmer, and the light this thing gives off is really nice and deceptively flattering, and instantly made the room cozier.

Not unlike the other doors in my apartment, the bathroom door had seen its share of use and abuse over the years, leaving both the door and the frame scarred from old shoddy hinge repairs and replacements. The door actually didn’t even close all the way, so I had to take the whole thing down and shave down the bottom. While I was at it, I used Morgan from The Brick House’s genius suggestion to use paint stir-sticks to fill in all the old hinge holes. Of course it worked, because it came from Morgan and she is made of magic.

I went back and forth on what kind of hinges to use, but ultimately just went with the same size that was already there (so I wouldn’t have to do more chiseling or thinking) in an oil-rubbed bronze finish. New brass hardware seemed too flashy and since the size of the hinge was already different than the other bedroom door, I just decided to keep things as inconspicuous as possible.

OMG, this picture terrifies me. Can you believe this is actually pretty flattering? Yeah, things were bad. Real bad. Let’s break it down.

Horrible grimy door/trim. Rusty nasty pipe. That fucking window. The black part at the top was insulating foam that somebody stuck in because the window is too gunked up from paint and grime to open or close, and I guess it got stuck open at the top. Note that the top pane of glass is inexplicably painted. More on that in a second. The only good thing here is the screen print on the wall, which our friend Shannon made and gave to us. It’s been moved into the bedroom now, don’t worry.

Even though there’s a towel bar in the room, it’s directly across from the shower, weirdly close to the side of the toilet, and hovers over the toilet paper roll, which is really odd when there’s actually towels hanging on it. Since I prefer to just hang my towels on hooks anyway because I am lazy like that, I mounted them to the door instead, which is significantly less awkward.

Aside from removing the foam and persuading the window to close, I still haven’t touched the window and instead hung an IKEA ENJE shade in front of it (reused and re-cut from my last apartment) so that I could more effectively ignore its heinousness. So far, I have done this well for a full 8 months, but I’m excited to try my hand at some window restoration and see if I can get the thing gliding open and closed like it’s not 120 years old. Out of the 6 windows in our apartment, this is one of two that are original (or super old, at least), and I want to take special care and attention with making them feel less betrayed by the world. In any case, stripping the paint off the glass will at least bring more light into the room.

How is the light with the dark paint, you ask? I KNOW these pictures aren’t very convincing (partly a function of the actual weather outside), but the dark paint definitely does not make the room feel small or dungeon-like, even though it’s on the walls and the ceiling! I promise! There’s still quite a lot of white going on with the wall tiles, and I think the dark walls actually make the walls recede, which makes the room feel more spacious and taller. Or something like that.

If you are dating Max (which, if you are, and you are not me, just know that I will find you and destroy everything you hold dear), you quickly learn that the boy sees penises in many everyday objects, which has begun to taint how I view the world. Not that I necessarily see penises in everyday objects, but that I now wonder if Max would. So it was with great care that I finally felt comfortable in purchasing these particular hooks for the bathroom door, specifically because they did not look like penises.

Luckily, when Max saw them, the first thing he said was that he liked them. Then he told me they looked like penises.


Vintage paint-by-numbers tickle me, too. I sprayed them with a coat of matte varnish to prevent them from peeling in the moisture, which seems to be working perfectly.

I like my crappy sun faded amateur thrift store art. Deal.

I hate my supposedly lucky money tree plant thing. We’ve been together for about three years and it seems to thrive on neglect and bad vibes, because I do not like it and would very much like it to just die so I can replace it with another plant that I do like. Occasionally I’ll give in to guilt and give it a little water. I have some kind of caretaker complex I’m really trying to work through.

There are a few things I still want to deal with in here, including that I think we really need an extra-long shower curtain, mostly because they’re fancy and luxurious, but also because the super-tall medicine cabinet just feels weird towering over the standard curtain like that. It’s like it makes both things look ridiculous. I also really need to scrape and replace all the caulk, because no matter how much I clean it, it is still poorly applied and gross. And fix up that janky window. And find a good bathmat that we can both agree on, which I am anticipating will be one of the harder decision-making processes I’ve ever negotiated. Wish me luck.


Walls/Ceiling- Benjamin Moore “Graphite,” Matte, Aura Bath & Spa formula, $40
Trim- Benjamin Moore “Super White,” Semi-gloss, already owned
Door- Benjamin Moore “Onyx,” Pearl finish, already owned
Medicine Cabinet: IKEA GODMORGON, $180
Window: IKEA ENJE shade, already owned
Hooks: Vintage, $10
Light Fixture: DIY, $10
Shower Curtain: Target, $10
Trashcan: Simple Human, already owned
Bathmat: IKEA SIGNE, $4 (did they stop making these? wtf.)
Plastic Deer Figurine- Vintage, $1
Paint By Numbers horses- Vintage, $10
Woman Portrait- Vintage, already owned
Plant- Fiery Depths of Hell, already owned

TOTAL: $265-ish.

OH YEAH. So you might already know that the Apartment Therapy Homie Awards are going on right now, but if you don’t, I just told you! I don’t honestly, truly, seriously care about my blog competing in any competition (especially against a few good friends!), but I saw that I’ve been nominated (thanks dudes!) and now I am shamelessly giving in to temptation to campaign ruthlessly for votes. Because there is nothing better than winning. NOTHING. GIVE ME PRIZES AND ACCOLADES. VOTE.

Think of all the fun things in the world. Now put them on the internet. Now make them into a single website about home design. Now turn that website into a blog. If that blog is called Manhattan Nest, you are a superior kind of human being and also my friend. VOTE.

So let’s win this mo’fo’ this year. You and me. Me and you. Mostly me. A little bit you, if you vote for me. No one likes to be on the wrong side of history. VOTE.

Do it for Mekko. She wants you to.



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