All posts tagged: Bathroom

Black Doors!

There are moments in a relationship when you realize you’ve gone and found yourself a good thing. Max came home from work one day back in August to a sweltering apartment and my small, crouched figure slumped on the floor. The trouble was that somebody had stuffed wads of newsprint inside the walls that conceal our pocket doors, thereby blocking their ability to open all the way. Because this was during my it’s-hotter-than-hell-outside-fuck-it-I’m-a-nudist phase, I was unshowered and wearing only underwear. And maybe socks, for modesty’s sake. Strewn about on the floor surrounding me was a collection of our household items—a set of tongs, a broom handle, an umbrella I’d broken—and the pile of old newspapers I had slowly persuaded out of the walls over the course of what was, realistically, a several hour long effort. This is behavior that I have come to recognize as the norm for Single-Daniel, but is probably better avoided during the fragile first six months of a relationship. Yet there I sat, dirty and frustrated, reappropriating our spatula as a sort of primitive tool, much like an ape.

While alone it’s easier to focus exclusively on the task at hand, but the presence of another person inspires a sort of quick self-inspection, followed by an assessment, followed by shame. Alright, you might think, he’s seen me. Play it cool. Do you look ridiculous? Yes. Do you have a compelling reason? Certainly. And when he opens his mouth to say something like “What in the fuck are you doing down there?” you need to explain yourself. Hurriedly, you try to come up with a reason why the doors sticking out a couple of inches instead of receding nicely into the walls is a pressing problem riddled with threatening functional implications. Further, one that can only be addressed while sweaty, dirty, and mostly naked. You decide to bypass the accusatorial interrogation and just skip to the explanation.

“Some asshole past tenant stuffed about a million newspapers into our walls, and that’s why the pocket doors won’t open all the way, which looks all weird and is probably why they keep skipping off their tracks and I’ve been trying to fish them out but they’re really stuck and I lost track of time and I’m really sorry but I broke your umbrella.”

“Which newspaper?” he replied. And there it was. Not angered, nor shocked and appalled, nor even slightly surprised that he might come home to find me in such a state, there was something immensely comforting about his apathy.

“Oh, just a bunch of horse racing schedules and statistics and stuff, from the mid-70s. Nothing interesting.”

“Oh, bummer.”

And then I went back to sticking my arms into the wall and he told me about his day at work. And it was good.

Aside from what is now obvious (that Eugene Tombs was nesting in our apartment), all of our doors had an exciting laundry list of things wrong with them. The paint was chipping off the pocket doors. The bedroom and bathroom doors didn’t close. All the hardware had been painted over by careless landlords and tenants for years, and was not only ugly but also didn’t work. Poor doors. So abused.

When I first moved into this apartment, during the brief period that it was still technically just my apartment and I could be as big of an asswipe as I wanted to be, I told Max that I was going to paint all the doors black. I told other people this, too, all of whom expressed deep concern. “Really? Black? Like, black-black?” FUCK YES, BLACK. But let me just say:

Before:

After:

Yeah. They’re rad. I love my black doors. The color is Onyx by Benjamin Moore, in Pearl finish. It’s basically the perfect, perfect black. I want to live in a world of Benjamin Moore Onyx.

All the doors in the apartment (there are only three other ones, including the front door) are getting the Onyx treatment too, and I love it. Bedroom door before:

And AFTER!

I love them. Love them. You can tell me anything. Tell me they’re ugly. See if I care. I do not care. You know why? Because I love them.

LOVE.

My affection isn’t just a paint fetish thing, though. It’s also the hardware. I’m so happy with how the hardware turned out. Because it had been painted over so many, many times, it all had to be carefully cut and scraped and stripped away from the doors. Here’s a fancy close-up image I made by cropping a much wider image I had, because I took no proper before pictures. My blogging fanciness knows no bounds.

Stripping paint off stuff is one of those intensely tedious, endlessly satisfying tasks that just keeps you coming back for more. Once I got it all detached from the doors, I stuck it in a pot of boiling water (and a little dish soap), and let it simmer like a delicious hardware stew for a while. Like so:

No, I do not still cook food in that pot. Luckily, it was from a thrift store and I don’t feel too bad about it.

After a bunch of the paint has boiled off, it’s time to move this party to the sink, where you’ll scrub and pick at the stragglers while burning your hands through latex gloves beneath scalding running water. It’s fun! Let your kid do it, he/she will have a phenomenal time.

All kidding aside, it’s really kind of amazing to restore something like this—probably well over a century old—to an original, functioning condition. Hearing that door click! closed for the first time was super rewarding, and using the doorknob everyday feels like such an awesome privilege that I totally fucking deserve. 

Aside from that, I think we can all agree that the mix of the black door, the white trim, and the brass/pewter-y hardware is pretty dope. It’s all J.Crew-Men’s-Shop-Yale-Club-Old-New-England-Classic-Fancy up in here. All of those associations make perfect sense to me.

The pocket door hardware was slightly more challenging because it’s not actually very old, so the brass was super shiny and new and weird looking when I stripped the paint off them. I found something online that told me to wet them with vinegar and stick them in a hot oven for a few minutes, which would help age the brass. Usually I’m not a fan of trying to obtain faux-old finishes, but this was tiny and subtle and totally worked and I love them now.

Best for last? Okay. Best for last.

The bathroom door was a whole crazy mess of gloppy old paint and filthy and sadness.

Like, gag me with a spoon, as my father would say. But you know I’m all about that black porcelain knob.

Insert some boiling water, some taking the door off its hinges, sanding and sanding and sanding down the bottom so it would close, a few coats of paint later, and…

Here’s the outside. The wood handle makes my heart sing. I just rubbed on a couple coats of Danish oil after it dried out from the boiling and it’s so pretty.

On the inside of the door, under all the paint was this super cool lock. In case you can’t make it out, it reads: “New York City 1883 Make.” EIGHTEEN FUCKING EIGHTY THREE. That shit is old, and awesome. It had a petrified cockroach carcass inside of it. That’s history. I think it was painted black originally but the boiling took off all the paint and I ended up liking the raw metal, so I spray painted it with a matte clear coat protection so it wouldn’t rust in a steamy bathroom.

Wider angles to come, when I get my act together and photograph the bathroom. Things are looking a little different in there! (See what I did there? I love to play the tease.)

Settling In

In the last month and a half, I have been to:

1. Las Vegas
2. Chicago
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Buffalo
5. Washington, D.C. (again)
6. Pittsburgh

Oh yeah, I also moved. As you well know. And I’ve also had an abnormally heavy stream of house guests. And I’m getting on another plane tomorrow.

It’s been busy times around here, folks, what with all the planes, trains, and automobiles. All of these little jaunts have been fun, really, but between them all getting this apartment in order has been slow-goings at best.

First, this place had to go through an extensive cleansing process—to say that it was dirty would really be doing my hard work a disservice. Think filth. Think grime. Think… this monstrosity lurking beneath the stove.

When time is tight and the days are short, you switch into survival mode. The goal becomes not one of beautification, but instead a strained task, geared towards minimizing your houseguests’ impression that you’re a squatter.

Which is all to explain that not much has been done here. And everything’s looking a little crappy. Every room is bursting at the seams. There is so much to be done that my head spins, and yet nary a paint brush has hit the walls. It’s kind of intimidating, but really just annoying that I’ve technically been here a month and things still look like this. Let’s do a run-down, shall we?

This is my hot mess of a bedroom. The desk is covered in miscellany, I hung up the Calder litho on an existing screw left in the wall, and the upholstery on my bed needs some repairs after it had to be taken apart in the move.

This is the sorry state of the bathroom. The walls are still lavender. The medicine cabinet is packed. I had to move two existing shelves from the bedroom into the bathroom to replace that tiny ledge. Trust, all this is temporary.

The kitchen. Oh, the poor kitchen. It’s packed to the gills and crying out for more storage. I haven’t been able to get the oven to work, the refrigerator leaks, something’s wrong with the window. And it’s still super fug.

The living room looks the most moderately-okay. Taking down those weird little shelves between the windows and the horrifically dusty venetian blinds went a long way towards making me feel better, but the red paint and the stacks of art and the half-assed vignetting are making me crazy.

The only thing I’ve really accomplished are these milk-crate bookshelves, which I think we can all agree is a good example of what happens when DIY goes awry.In the right space, executed well, I can actually see some version of this looking pretty good. Not here. A coffee shop around the corner gives these crates away for free, so in a fit of omg-what-do-I-do-with-all-these-books, I grabbed nine of them (including the three in the kitchen) …

…and drilled some holes around the edges and stitched them together with kitchen twine.

Yeah, they’re glamorous. No, they’re not staying any longer than they have to.

I know I’m a whining, complaining disaster, but I’m actually loving living here—when I’ve actually been here. The neighborhood is great and the apartment has so much potential. I can’t wait to really get going.

For those of you wondering, I got my security deposit from my old apartment yesterday. They knocked off $100. I’m okay with that. 

The New Nest

Like many people familiar with the process of finding suitable dwelling in New York, I prepared myself for the worst shortly after I started apartment hunting. I probably looked at about 20 apartments total, during which a few common themes emerged. Tiny spaces. Weird locations. Bad renovations. Mostly, these spaces were small, ugly, awkward studios in Manhattan. In this sense, they were a lot like me circa 8th grade. With better skin. Which is to say, with no skin.

I’ll admit, I got myself a little excited in a sort of fucked up, masochistic way about working with something like that. I accepted that my square footage would be drastically decreased in the move, and all at once the task would fall to me to purge most of my things and devise innovative storage solutions for what remained. I’d edit down my stuff to include only the best of what I own, ultimately achieving a miniature, flawlessly curated version of my former glory on the Upper East Side. Slowly, I began to envision myself, dressed in a well-tailored, neutral palette, a veritable human embodiment of the existenzminimum. I would want for nothing. Finding myself thus transformed, my unencumbered, immaculately efficient lifestyle would be perpetually thrilling. Daniel 2.0 would spend long hours sitting in a single, awesome chair, thinking great thoughts. When the hours were late and my mind tired, I’d stand up, walk three inches to the left, retire to my bed, and succumb to the unclouded vista of my unconscious. Imagine the glamor! Imagine the fun!

Then this place popped up on Craigslist, and all that bullshit went out the window. I called immediately. I made an appointment for early the next morning. I put a deposit down and signed a lease the next day.

At heart, I’m not a minimalist. I try not to keep much excess around, either, so as a consequence I really love the things I have. Luckily, instead of downsizing, I’m actually picking up somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 more square feet than my last place, significantly more pre-war charm, and, well, a lot more work. That last bit is probably why this place fell within my price range at all. It needs some help. You’re just going to have to believe me when I say that the following terrible point-n-shoot pictures are actually incredibly flattering.

Upon entry, you’re greeted with one of the most hilariously long hallways ever. It just goes on, and on, and on. This is the view from the front door. Note the awkward shelf placement, if you can see anything past the paint job. Speaking of, the overlapping-quadrilateral scheme seen here is based on a technique borrowed from the ancient Egyptians, intended to confuse bandits who sought to ransack the royal pyramids. It was thought that the squares would cause confusion by inducing a dizzy spell, resulting in either an epileptic seizure or a lasting case of vertigo. True facts, people. Well, I’m guessing they’re true since why the fuck else would somebody do something like that to a bunch of innocent walls?

Once you turn that corner, look! More hallway! More squares, punctuated with squares of cork! Also, a window that’s all rotted and broken and painted over and filthy. I’m envisioning trying to replicate Anna from Door Sixteen’s window restoration prowess before winter comes and the temperature of the interior of my apartment matches the exterior. Good thing I’ve hoarded an unreasonable amount of blankets (5? 6? I’ve lost count.).

See that open door? That’s the bathroom door. I love the doors in this apartment—huge, solid wood, paneled things… that don’t actually close. Add it to the list.

Here’s the bathroom. Not a whole lot to love or hate in here; I think it was renovated in the mid-90s, and luckily the landlords chose super-duper generic everything, which is much more workable than some of the bathrooms I saw that looked like they were paying homage to the interior design of Olive Garden. The walls are a sort of light lavender, which I hate. There is no storage beyond that ridiculous ledge and that ridiculously tiny medicine cabinet. As much as I might begrudge the former tenant’s taste, I guess I’m glad they left stuff like that faux-crown-molding-ledge number, since—once scrubbed clean—it’s a useful thing to have around until I tackle the bathroom.

In here, there’s another painty, rotting wood window. God give me strength.

Across from the bathroom door is the bedroom door. Another room, another bad paint color, another door that doesn’t close. But! It’s going to look great. I love the floors. The closet, though an ugly add-on, is spacious and I’m glad it’s there.

It’s a pretty big room. The previous tenants also generously left this super-fug lighting/ledge setup above where their bed was. So sexy.

What do I love most? These pocket doors between the living room and the bedroom! They make my heart go all aflutter. Who cares that the transom above it has no glass? Who cares that currently the doors are really hard to open and close (I’m hopeful that I can fix them)? They’re badass, big, and beautiful.

Which brings us to the living room. Which is also big. And is also red. Very red. Blood red, painted so, so badly (you can’t tell from the pictures, so just trust me. The paint job is a damn mess). But check out them sweet moldings! Check out my snazzy tin ceiling! Check out my fancy-ass floor! Check out my motherfucking non-working fireplace! I’m toying with the idea of just putting a grand piano in the middle of the room, hanging a gaudy chandelier, and roping off the room with polite signs that say “for looking only.” I’ll let you know what I decide, though.

Look! Big windows! The most awkward shelf placement you’ve ever seen!

Look! A big wall! The saddest IKEA Billy Bookcase you’ve ever seen!

And then, the kitchen. You’ll notice that it is ugly. It’s also oddly arranged, what with everything just sort of packed into that one corner…

…even though there’s, like, six feet of space to the side of the fridge. Things are going to get a little… “rearranged” in here to hopefully achieve a little bit more storage and prep space, but I’m still working out what the best way to go about that is without going crazy and just tearing everything to pieces as my crazy person instincts are telling me to. It’s hard living with these demo-happy voices in my head, let me tell you.

Obviously, I love this place, warts and all. I’m still a little giddy and shocked that I’m going to be living here, and I can’t wait to start fixing things up. This is going to be fun.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: welcome to my home!

Undoing the Nest

One of the things I preferred not to think about over the course of the 13-months I lived in my apartment was the process of undoing the work I did. I knew all along, of course, that I’d eventually have to return the apartment to something resembling its original condition for my security deposit’s sake, yet still I went about things like I owned the damn place. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, I decided early on, and forged ahead with doing basically whatever the hell I wanted in the meantime. So, in spite of rational logic and often my better judgment, I painted and nailed holes in walls and changed light fixtures, among many other offenses. I had a running mental list entitled “THINGS TO DO WHEN I MOVE OUT” filed somewhere in a back corner of my brain, because I’m responsible like that.

Finally, I sat down and committed said list to paper while I was in Las Vegas, freaked out a little, and went about performing each task. This, while also cleaning, packing, and purging all my shit and disassembling most of my furniture, of course. I’ll admit there was a moment of brief paralysis and a short temper tantrum was had over making my apartment all ugly again, but as soon as I got going it’s actually been kind of fun in its own sickening little way. Some of the things below I’ve done already and some are still left to do before I officially have to be out on Tuesday! Please, gentle stranger, give me strength:

BATHROOM:
-Remove hooks from door
-Rehang towel rod
-Remove roller blind
-Patch, sand, and paint holes in door
-Prime and paint walls white

KITCHEN:
-Remove spice racks, baking sheet holders, and shopping bag holder from inside of cabinets
-Remove Orange Glow light, rehang old light fixture
-Rehang old cabinet door hardware
-Remove curtain and curtain rod
-Patch, sand, and paint walls white

LIVING ROOM:
-Patch, sand, and touch-up paint on walls
-Remove roller blind from window
-Remove fabric from doors, clean glass (this was SUPER EASY, in case you were wondering. The fabric peeled right off and a little Windex got rid of any lingering cornstarch paste!)

BEDROOM:
-Take down roller blinds
-Rehang security gate on window leading to fire escape (Yes, I took it down. No, I never got robbed. Success!)
-Patch, sand, and touch-up paint on walls
-Remove Bubble Lamp
-Spray paint old light fixture gold and rehang

SECOND BEDROOM:
-Rehang closet doors
-Prime and paint interior of closet white

Phew. I think that basically covers it? Maybe I’ll get extra special lucky and discover that I actually created more work for myself that’s slipped my mind? Dare to dream.

Worth it, I still say.

Bathroom Updates

Oy vey, apologies for my radio silence recently. Things have been B-U-S-Y. So, both to kick things back off for this poor neglected blog AND to spice up the tail end of your Valentine’s Day, I figured I’d present some moderate improvements that have taken place in my lilliputian-sized bathroom. Because that’s some sexy shit right there.

After far too many months with one of those little IKEA SIGNE rugs folded up into thirds to fit in the tiny gap between the wall and the tub (see that stylishness here), I stumbled upon this little Navajo weaving in the College Park, Maryland Value Village. Never one to pass up little Navajo weavings that I have no use for, particularly ones priced at $1.29, I brought it back only to realize that it’s the perfect width in here. So it’s not really a bathmat. Deal with it.

See, perfect width. I know it’s all a little crazy with the tile, but it’s so small that I think it’s okay. I like it. I also switched up the art above the toilet to something simpler (since the bathroom couldn’t really handle that rug AND that psycho needlepoint, as much as I love it). Though I’m personally against all forms of guns that don’t shoot out flowers, unicorns, or rainbows, a little framed target never hurt anybody.

I also finally decided to change out my shitty shower head. My showers used to be terrible experiences. Sad, lazy little spurts of water, shooting out at my poor naked flesh without conviction or purpose. It didn’t believe in itself, and I didn’t believe in it.

Looking back, I’m not even sure what I had was a shower head. It more closely resembles those little nozzles that periodically mist the produce in your local grocery store. I would have done this sooner, but I’ll admit I’d been operating under two flawed assumptions:

1. My showers were so crappy because the water pressure in the building was bad. It’s not. It was all the shower head’s fault.
2. Plumbing is something you just don’t touch. Ever. Fuck around with wires and lighting, paint walls, spray paint until you asphyxiate, but if you mess with plumbing you’re messing with your life.

You guys. Worth it. SO very worth it. It was packaged in such a way that I didn’t actually realize it had that whole crazy hose thing happening, but it makes for a really nice microphone for my one-man shower concerts (Ferris Bueller-style). What? I live alone.

I think it has six or seven different settings, so I can have a new exciting cleansing experience for everyday of the week. And guess what? It literally takes about three minutes and a wrench to change a shower head. It’s so easy, it’s one of those project you can assign to your kid or one of your pets.

p.s.- It’s official. I’m on the Twitter now. Do what you will with this glimmering piece of news.

p.p.s- There are new Featured Blogs! Check them out! If I could hug blogs, I’d hug these and never let go.

p.p.p.s- In case you didn’t manage to nab a Valentine today, be mine. Or, I have a more attractive offer for you. Be SCOOTER’S. Chandler introduced me to this and I highly encourage that you watch it all the way through:

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