All posts tagged: Bedroom Renovation

The Bedroom is…a Bedroom!

For the past couple of months, my bedroom has been in that “almost done” state, which is where that last 5-10% of finishing work often goes to die. Once the walls were painted and a bed was assembled, I was honestly kind of sick of working on it…and so…I didn’t. I got distracted with something else. Sometimes you gotta move on to something that feels exciting, and then circle back when the spirit moves you.

I’ve also been traveling a bit so time at my house has been stretched thin, but last week I finally circled back around to the bedroom! Over the course of a few hours, I used Rejuvenate on the beat-up and heavily scratched floors (I don’t know what to expect in terms of longevity, but at least for now it’s made a HUGE difference! It’s also extremely easy to use and dries quickly! I’ll refinish the floors for real someday, but not today), sanded a couple little patch jobs, touched up paint, hung stuff on the walls, and…now it actually feels like a room! There’s still work to do on a few important things, and lots I’d like to change, but that’s how I roll. When it comes to my own spaces, it usually takes me a year or two after the renovation part is done to feel good about the decorating part. I’ll keep ya posted.

For some reason I seem to have neglected to take much in the way of real “before” photos of this room, which makes me want to go back in time and kick myself! Obviously this is poor blogger form, but I think at the time it felt like the room wasn’t likely to look very different after renovation than it did before renovation.

Then shit got real.

We’ve been through this, but all the walls got stripped down to bare plaster, then that wall to the right in the photo above got demo’d out entirely, then a new window got installed as part of restoring the side of the house (a project that I can finally finish now that the weather is getting nice!), plumbing and electric and insulation got upgraded, and then it was a matter of drywalling, skim-coating the plaster, and trying to replicate the original moldings for the new window!

Of course then there was a ton of scraping and prepping and patching and caulking and priming and finally painting and cleaning (what a concept!) and then I was pooped.

SEE?! It’s a room! A real room!

I love this picture because if you had shown me this four years ago when I was in the process of buying this house…I don’t even know. I would have cried? I would have run? This room seemed like such a straightforward renovation, but the decision to add a fourth window made it a significantly larger undertaking.

But a few months later and it’s hard to even remember that crazy day when you could walk through my wall and plummet to the ground outside. YAY!

The new window sashes still need the interiors painted (and the exteriors cleaned up—I painted them but didn’t scrape the paint off the top sash before it got too cold to remove the sashes and deal with it!), but this fourth window! It changes the room SO MUCH and I’m so glad I did it. It might be hard to appreciate in photos, but it just adds so much balance to a room that felt nice before, but awkward to arrange furniture in. When I’ve had the bed on this wall before, it looked so strange because you wouldn’t really want it overlapping the window on one side to get it more centered in the room, but shoving it over looked weird too and left this space on the side of the bed really narrow. And that was a full bed, which as a grown-ass man I’m happy to leave behind for a larger queen size. Since this is the nicest bedroom in the house, the fact that it can now even gracefully accept a king-sized bed feels like a huge deal. Now, it’s a master.

Speaking of beds, I got the alchemy bronze queen bed from CB2! I loved this glamfabulous thing as soon as it was introduced, and now it’s mine. My thinking was that it would work well with this situation, where the best placement for a bed overlaps the windows a bit—it’s there, but light and transparent enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s dominating or covering up all my hard work. I…think? It’s tricky and I’m not sure I made the right call, but I do really love the bed and I’ll figure it out! I will say that the quality of the bed is really great—I was worried that it might be a little flimsy, but the metal is thick and weighty and the construction is super sturdy. Assembly was really easy—two people are suggested but I got by on my own no problem.

I’m NOT showing off the bed very well because…I don’t have a mattress yet! This is my old full-size mattress which I plopped on there in the meantime. LIKE I SAID, GLAMFABULOUS. I’ll very likely go with one of those newfangled mattress-in-a-box-Internet-miracle companies. I know I love a Leesa, but I’ve never tried any of the others and now there are so many options that it almost defeats the purpose of making mattress shopping simple! Traditional mattress shopping is the actual worst thing in the world, though, so…not complaining.

As for what I don’t love…

  1. I’ve tried to love this rug for years after I bought it off Craigslist back when I lived in Brooklyn, and I just…don’t. I love old oriental rugs, but this particular style has never been my favorite. So I’ll be keeping my eye out for a good 8×10-ish perfectly old rug for the foreseeable future!
  2. I love Bubble lamps but the right light fixture could easy persuade me to swap this out and move it elsewhere. That’s always a fun game.
  3. I like that IKEA floor lamp (discontinued now, sorry!) but not here. Also once I figure out my bedside lighting situation, I won’t need a lamp there. But I will need a plant. I killed mine.
  4. Speaking of bedside lighting, I’d like some.
  5. And they need something to sit on top of, so I need bedside tables. I bought these little Scandinavian numbers a few years ago from a lady on Craigslist and threw them in here for now, but I’m a person who likes to have a drawer or two next to the bed. And also a person who’s never felt good about a mismatched set of end tables—I like a pair. Incidentally good nightstands, at the right size, with storage, and within my price range is potentially impossible? We shall see.
  6. Shades! This one I actually already figured out—I hope! I ended up ordering simple solar shades (I’m predictable!) from Blindsmax.com in a color called “bone,” which is sort of a warm off-white, a bit darker than the trim. Blindsmax seems to be the least expensive option around for simple, customizable solar shades (along with a ton of other window treatment options!). At about $120 per window (for my sizes + custom options—it varies a lot depending!) they certainly add up, but considering most everywhere else seems to be about double that, it’s OK. I currently have some very busted IKEA shades (the predecessors to these, I believe, but mine appear to be discontinued to which I say GOOD RIDDANCE) on two of the four windows, so I’m excited for those leave the premises. I love IKEA but those shades are such garbage.

Back to what I do love…my dresser with its new set of matching repro glass knobs! Also the little concrete and brass table lamp by Menu, which I also loved at first sight and then received from my mommy for my birthday. Thank you, Mommy! The brass knob dims the light up and down, and it lets off such a nice warm glow. I live in terror of breaking it.  It might end up living somewhere else in the house, but ya know. Having something there is nice.

I still have to paint all three of the doors in this room, which I’ll get around to…at some point. It’s not like it’s a huge deal to paint a door, but I like to take them down and strip down the hinges and knobs and stuff, and these all hang a little funny so getting them to open all the way and actually close ends up making it kind of an ordeal.

Also, my mirror! You might recognize this mirror from my old kitchen—I bought it at a junk shop shortly after buying the house, and it’s still one of my favorite things. I have such a problem with old mirrors. It goes without saying, but AS IF this room needed more natural light (it can get VERY bright in here!), it bounces light around nicely. And now it’s hung at a normal height, so it also reflects my face back to me when I look at it! Isn’t that something.

Over the newly-painted radiator (which is holding up perfectly!), I hung a print from my friend Anna‘s Society 6 shop, K is for Black! This is the “Watermelon” print which I just love, in a simple RIBBA frame from IKEA. The print itself has that white border, so you don’t even need to mat it. The paper/print quality of Society 6 stuff is really excellent and I’m so pleased to FINALLY have one of Anna’s pieces hanging up in my house!

That’s kinda it! Even though this room underwent a big renovation, doing the vast majority of the work myself and using stuff I already had kept costs really low. If you discount the cost of the new window ($350) and the installation (maybe another $300, since Edwin helped me with that part—but I’d factor those costs into the exterior renovation), there’s basically no money in here! The insulation and drywall was leftover from other projects, all of the wood used for the window casing was salvage, I bought exactly one gallon of paint for the walls (Benjamin Moore Oil Cloth—matte!) but already had ceiling and trim paint…there’s maybe $100 dollars or so of materials here, purchased specifically of this room? Something like that! Like I always say, hoard with purpose and it pays off. I find that I need to break up bigger and more expensive projects (like the exterior restoration, or the upcoming kitchen) with getting rooms like this out of the way…and I’m so glad the bedroom is finally out of the way!

New Knobs for My Old Dresser!

Three years ago, I bought a big antique dresser that I put in the bedroom. Then I blogged about it. This one:

I love this dresser! It’s probably from the mid-1800s, which is sort of fun because so is my house! I obviously don’t want a time capsule house, but it’s always fun to pepper pieces around that could have been there originally, I think. It’s something I’d like to do more of as I’m able to find and afford this stuff. I think this dresser is actually intended more for linens, so I can see eventually moving it out of the bedroom and putting it somewhere else in the house, too. Ya know. Versatile unique cool piece that I expect to have for a long ass time.

One thing that’s never been quite right about the dresser (and probably the reason I was able to snag it for $300 in the first place) is the knobs. They’re reproductions, definitely not original or at all old. Whoever installed them did a pretty good job matching the stain, but not amazing, so I’ve always planned to do something about it. Then one broke in half in my hand one day, and another one fell off, so I put on a random knob I had laying around “temporarily,” a solution that lasted a mere two years. Every now and then I’d feel a burst of inspiration to try to find a new set of 8 knobs only to give up and forget it. It was a fun thing to get momentarily fixated on every couple of months.

The problem was that I didn’t feel confident that a new set of wood knobs would be any kind of improvement, but the real complicating factor was the size! The replacement wood knobs were the right size at 2″ in diameter, but typical knobs are between maybe 3/4″ and 1.5″ on the large end and that would look too dinky.

See? Major struggle.

Then a few weeks ago, somebody kindly alerted me in the comments to a lot of 8 Sandwich Glass knobs on eBay that would look good on my dresser! So I dashed to eBay! I found nothing!

Like I said, major struggle. But thank you for trying, kind stranger. This is the kind of help and support that I need.

ANYWAY. I don’t know what the original knobs on this dresser were, but it’s possible they were glass. Brief history corner, here we go! The Sandwich Glass Company operated out of Massachusetts from 1826-1888 and notably made pressed glass knobs among other things. So glass knobs became a big thing, and by the middle of the century were pretty ubiquitous. Fun facts.

Now, glass knobs are very beautiful and there are some AMAZING antique ones out there. But finding a set of 8 is tough, and when they do come up, they are not cheap. In addition, you may be aware that I’m renovating a 150 year old house, so my motivation and available funds to address this very small aspect of my life is low. Like lower on the priority list than changing the dead lightbulb on my garage, but easier because I don’t have to go outside. Point is, I wanted to order a nice thing from the Internet, have it delivered to my home, install, admire, and move on with my mess of a life.

Then I found reproduction Sandwich glass knobs at House of Antique Hardware for $8.29 a pop. They come in 6 colors! They’re 1.75″ across instead of 2″, so I made the lazy courageous decision to let it go and just buy them. Enough hassle. End the madness.

House of Antique Hardware is a GREAT resource, by the way. I’ve ordered a number of things from them over the years and the quality has always been excellent, prices are fair, and there’s a big selection of products. I love them.

In anticipation of my new knobs arriving in the mail, I figured it was a good time to give the dresser a little bit of attention. It’s a little beat up generally and the last few years have not been especially kind to any of my possessions.

Little dings and scratches and discoloration, ya know. These things happen. I think those scratches look suspiciously like Mekko nails. Dogs are so great but they also fuck up your stuff.

I love Restor-A-Finish. What’s not to love? It’s so easy and quick and great for blending in small damage (like what’s all over this piece) without losing the existing patina. The last thing I want is for this to look new or newly refinished. I had a couple different cans in the basement that I mixed together and buffed in with part of an old t-shirt. Easy peesy.

Then I put my new knobs on, and done! I think it looks cute. I am satisfied.

By the way, can we also appreciate that the walls are not crumbling plaster and the moldings are freshly painted and it looks like a real room that someone lives in? I love the wall color with the tones of wood in this piece. It’s working for me! I don’t know what to do up top in terms of art and stuff. I think the fact that I secretly had a 47″ TV on top of it before I renovated the bedroom did not prepare me well for imagining this wall ever being pretty. Now that the room is nice I can’t bear to put the TV back, so I have to try to remember how to be stylish?

(You have to be in some strange positions to ever see that little Sonos speaker tucked underneath the dresser when you’re actually in the room, but I know it looks silly in this photo. Forgive me! I do love my Sonos system, though.)

Good job, new knob. You’re cute.

Of COURSE when I was writing this post I found these Paxton Hardware folks that are selling repro Sandwich Glass knobs in a different pattern in the 2″ diameter I was searching for all along. They’re over $20 a piece though, so I’m kind of glad didn’t know about this earlier. I have put all the shits into this that I can muster for now and I am not doing a thing about it.

Knobs. They’re a good thing.

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.

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!

Wrapping up the Bedroom Renovation!

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

newcasingpried

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

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

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

medallion

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

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

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

lightinstalled

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

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

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

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

bedroommoodboard

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

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

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

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