All posts tagged: Bathroom

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:

Conquer Your Vanity

Let’s talk about vanity. Mine specifically, but maybe this chat will affect your vanity as well. I had a big problem with mine. You might too– don’t feel bad, it happens to a lot of people. I’m going to show you how to make it all better.

Vanity. What a dumb word for that janky cabinet under your sink.

If you didn’t catch the big bathroom makeover a couple days ago, you’re really missing out. I’d encourage you to scroll your ass down the page and peruse. Because *spoiler,* we’re totally gonna learn how to do this now.

Now, given that we’re renters and I have a strong-held policy of not asking permission for anything, I was serious about doing this right. The biggest obstacle was figuring out how to deal with those doors– I mean, even after a coat of paint, they’d still be pretty… blah. And the goal isn’t really “less ugly,” now is it? Let’s shoot for the stars. Can I hear an AMEN?!

Then I stumbled upon these in the hardware store:

These are 4 inch wide, 4 foot long, 1/4 inch thick planks. Only $5.99. They’re just wide enough to cover that ubiquitous carved detail that was haunting me. Perfect. Note: I’m not sure if most hardware stores or that hellhole, Home Depot, sells these babies, but craft and hobby stores probably do. If you’re desperate, you could get Home Depot to cut down some luan for the same effect, but you probably don’t want to go thicker than a quarter inch.

Now, THE TOOLS:

You’re gonna need:

  • small foam roller
  • small foam brush
  • handsaw (a miter box is quite helpful, not completely necessary).
  • wood glue
  • finishing nails
  • nail set ($5)
  • spackle
  • spackle knife
  • sandpaper (medium grit)
  • caulk
  • 1 quart oil-based primer (about $13)
  • 2 cans high-gloss white spray paint ($12)

I honestly thought I took a LOT more photos of the process– evidently they’ve gone missing or I imagined taking them. So numbered steps will have to suffice.

1. Remove any existing hardware and wipe everything down with rubbing alcohol, which will make the primer adhere better. Take off the doors and save them for later.

2. Apply your primer to the vanity, sans doors. I used Zinsser oil-based primer, using a small foam roller and a small foam brush. I prefer brush-painted furniture, but the roller will help you achieve that mass-produced look that your landlord is less likely to notice. Now, I’d never used oil-based-anything because I was scared of the cleanup, so I just used supplies I could throw away. But it’s AWESOME. It adheres so much better than latex, it’s kind of unbelievable. I’d recommend thinning it out a bit with some Penetrol, which will help smooth out the brush stroke/roller texture.

2. Lightly sand after your first coat with a medium or fine grit paper to help smooth things out even more. Then wipe it down with a damp cloth, you don’t want that dust in your paint.

3. Paint a second coat of primer, let dry, and sand again.

4. This is where it gets crazy and I WISH I had a picture. I used high-gloss Krylon white spray paint as the final coating. This was purely a personal choice and experiment, but to my knowledge not a lot of finishes will be much smoother or even than spray paint. You could definitely use paint and polyurethane, too, but I wanted to get everything as absolutely smooth as humanly possible. Since I couldn’t move the vanity, I put newspaper and tape over EVERYTHING nearby, then did a bunch of layers of spray paint (many light, even passes are much better than trying to get it done in a couple heavy coats).

5.  Now, the doors! Measure your wood planks and cut them to size using a handsaw or a chop saw if you’re a lucky bastard. Sand the cut edges, they’ll be a bit rough.

6. Glue the wood planks to your doors and use finishing nails to affix them. I used about four nails on each plank, one near each corner (don’t get too close, you don’t want your wood to split!).

Excuse the crap iPhone pic, part of a secret texting correspondence between Eva and I.

7. Use a nail-set to sink the heads of your nails below the surface of the wood. I can’t stress how important this step is, nothing would ruin your finish like a bunch of little bumps where your nail heads are.

8. Spackle over the nail holes and the transitions between the wood planks. You can still kind of see the seams on my finished doors, but it’s subtle. Sand your spackle, repeat the process if it doesn’t seem smooth.

9. Caulk the interior of the new central cutout on the doors and around the edges where the new wood planks meet the original face of the cabinet (make sure you’re done spackling since you can’t sand caulk!). Prime the doors as you did the rest of the cabinet, remembering to sand between coats. Pay special attention to the new cutout so that primer doesn’t pool in the corners.

10. Spray paint the doors a ton of times. I only spray painted the door fronts and painted the back of the doors and the interior of the cabinet with Benjamin Moore semi-gloss white latex trim paint. Remember, it’s okay to paint latex over oil, just not the other way around.

11. Replace the doors and attach your new hardware! I saved a few bucks by reusing the old hinges, spray painted silver. Usually I hate silver spray paint, but for small applications like this it doesn’t bother me. I stuck with 3-inch door pulls (Home Depot), but since the old screw holes are only visible from behind (since you’ve covered the fronts), it might be a nice opportunity to switch things up with knobs or wider pulls. The knobs are the ATTEST from IKEA. I wanted to hang the knobs directly above the middle of the cutouts on the doors, so I used a level  and tape measure to get everything spaced correctly and level. A little anal but, well, it’s the little things, right?

Scrubadub

I’m a dirty, rotten little tease. Over a month ago I got to talking about the bathroom. I made it sound like an exciting before-and-after was just around the corner. Understandably, you were on the edge of your seat. Or at least you should have been.

Well, all those little details I wanted to wrap up before the bathroom’s blog debut just took a while, that’s all. But it’s about as done as it’s going to get, so find a comfy spot to plant yourself, there’s a lot to look at. Let’s start by taking a trip back in time to reacquaint ourselves with the old john, shall we?

View from the outside, from May (you can see a current incarnation of that wall here).

This is a really, really small bathroom. The longest wall measures just over 6 feet and the wall with the window is just over 3.5 feet. The door is on a 45 degree angle, so it’s not even a rectangular 6′ x 3.5′. I’m pretty sure this makes our bathroom about this much bigger than a coffin. Consequently, it’s difficult to take good photos. Basically, this off-white/beige tile wraps around the entire room until about 2 feet below the ceiling, where it was thoughtfully contrasted with off-white/beige paint.

The window casing made me want to cry. I mean, that’s just a sad, spackly mess.

The light fixture had been painted over tons of times and also looked like it might fall down. I assume it once had a glass globe that some careless previous tenant broke. Oh, and that towel rod was a problem because fluffy towels made a narrow space even narrower (the toilet sits in the cozy 19 inches between the tub and the wall) and nobody likes a towel all up in their space when they’re trying to… finish their crossword puzzle.

Yeah, we have some funky tiles happening on the floor, and even though they’re horribly uneven, cracked, and nestled among disgusting grout, I think they’re sort of special. Like a tribute to our landlord’s Italian heritage. You know what’s not special? The hollow-core door all weathered from years of moisture, that clunky wood vanity, the ugly hardware, or the peeling silver-painted pipe. Or our landlord’s apparent love of putting grout where caulk ought to be.

So. Y’ALL READY FOR THIS?!

The walls are painted Benjamin Moore’s “Raccoon Fur” in eggshell. I LOVE this color– it’s somewhere in between a black, a charcoal grey, and a navy without being too blue. It works really well with the tiles on the floor, makes the ceiling feel taller, and just generally makes the bathroom less bland, which is hard to do when you have all that wall tile working against you. The ceiling is Benjamin Moore’s “Simply White” in eggshell, and the trim is all off-the-rack BM white in semi-gloss. I added that little bit of trim around the window to cover up the spackle craziness using a 1/4″ x 2″ x 4′ “project board” I purchased at the hardware store for $4 and cut with a hand saw. I’m not a huge fan of the amount of overhang of the top piece on each side (one of those things that looked better in my head), but I do like the way it cleans up that area.

I’ve yet to find a bathmat small enough (and not for lack of effort), so right now we’re working the Ikea Signe rug, folded into thirds.

Yes, you saw that right. I PAINTED THE MOTHAFUCKIN VANITY. No, I did not ask the landlord. No, I don’t feel bad. I’ll let you know how much of the security deposit I get back when that time comes, but I’m (foolishly, probably) not too worried. That drawer isn’t real, but I picked up some Ikea Attest knobs (brushed finish) anyway with the intention of hanging a nice little tea towel off one of them when I find a cute one. The door pulls are 3-inch stainless steel from Home Depot. I’ll do up a little how-to post about the vanity makeover (yes, they’re the same doors!) since this post is already super long, so get psyched for that.

The pipe got painted, too!

Purely for the sake of luxury and glamor, I splurged and bought this $39 shower curtain from Bed Bath and Beyond. It’s a bamboo-cotton blend that’s nice and heavy and soft without an ugly or overwhelming texture.

I also painted the crappy hollow-core door. I also did not ask first. I used an oil-based primer (it adheres better and is more durable) and finished with more of the off-the-rack BM white trim paint in semi-gloss (2 coats). I also replaced the crappy old doorknob. The door never closed properly before, and then the plastic-and-brass knob broke entirely (a spring came flying out of it once! boy, that was exciting.), so this was necessary. Turns out it’s really nice to shut the door with confidence that it won’t go drifting open when you’re trying to rinse the shampoo out of your hair.

I opted to take the towel rod out altogether (I kept it so it can be replaced when we move) and use these Ikea folding hooks on the door instead. I hate folding towels and I actually like the more casual look of hanging them, so this works out well. And it definitely makes things seem bigger having them more out of the way.

Lastly, I replaced the light with a $15 vintage specimen from Green Village in Brooklyn and another one of those little Westinghouse ceiling medallions ($6).

I didn’t keep super careful track of every little thing that went into this little less-than-20-square-feet room, but here’s my best attempt at a detailed budget breakdown. Let me know if it looks like I missed anything!

BM “Raccoon Fur,” quart: $15.

BM off-the-rack white semigloss, quart: $13

Window Trim: $4

Vanity Makeover: $53

Shower Curtain: $39

Doorknob: $15

Ikea Enje Roller Shade: $20

Light fixture and medallion: $21

Towel folding hooks: $10

TOTAL: $190

So it’s certainly not perfect (hey, we’re still renters after all), but the bathroom is actually sort of pleasant now! And it’s not just that dazzling needlepoint full of friendly woodland creatures, but that doesn’t hurt either.

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