All posts tagged: Bedroom

Upstairs Kitchen is Gone!

I’m aware that some people grew up engaging in wholesome sorts of activities, like reading the Bible or watching Schoolhouse Rock. For such individuals, that type of stuff might have played a significant role in their understanding of how people should act and how the world should function. My family wasn’t really like that, though. Instead, every Sunday night, we tuned into a little television program called The X-Files, which I now realize was all part of my parents’ never-ending commitment to help raise the next generation of neurotic Jews (this, along with poor digestion). There, with eyes wide and hearts racing, we were taught the secrets of the universe while also having the shit scared right out of us. The fancy-pants parents of today would never stand for this sort of thing, but this was the 90s. Things were different then.

I’m just going to assume that you live on planet earth and know what The X-Files is. If you don’t, you need to take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself what you’re doing with your life and commit to making a change. Then go get a Netflix subscription. The X-Files hasn’t really seen quite the same trendy resurgence of late that shows like Twin Peaks and Buffy have, but it’s only a matter of time. As a home design blogger, I feel semi-qualified to make semi-confident trend predictions about these things.  You’ll want to stay ahead of that one so that you’re cool when everyone else begins to recognize that the first 6 seasons of The X-Files were the best TV ever produced.

ANYWAY. In the pilot episode of The X-Files (which, admittedly, we watched as a re-run), there’s some crazy stuff happening with UFOs and aliens in Oregon, which Mulder and Scully go out to investigate. At one point, they drive through an area with radio signal interference, which Mulder mysteriously takes note of by spray painting an X on the road. Later on in the episode, they drive through the same area again, but THIS TIME Mulder checks his watch:

903x-files

Then they see a flash of blinding white light.

whitelight

When it’s over, Mulder looks at his watch again.

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They mysteriously skipped over nine minutes of time. Mulder gets out of the car to find the X on the street. Scully follows behind. They discuss it in the pouring rain at night time, because most things happen in the pouring rain at night time on The X-Files. 

x-files1

THEY LOST TIME, YOU GUYS. BECAUSE OF ALIENS AND STUFF. Awesome. Best show.

I bring this up because this is more or less how a lot of home renovation projects seem to be taking shape. I’ll walk into a room to grab something, or think I’ll spend 20 minutes or so working on a project, and then I’ll come to and realize that the sun has set. I’ll check my watch and realize I haven’t had anything to eat or drink in many hours. I haven’t even peed.  Then I take stock of my surroundings and realize that things look completely different than they had when I walked in. Maybe I have an open wound or two that I either failed to notice or failed to attend to while in the thick of things. All that time spent in the middle is muddled and fuzzy, a sort of abstract blur of tunnel-vision activity.

This is how the upstairs kitchen in my house vanished. I’m pretty sure I went in to grab a bottle of olive oil in the early afternoon. Then, POOF! Magic! It was the middle of the night and the kitchen was gone! I have only this series of photos to piece together what I guess happened in the interim.

kitchen

First of all, this was the upstairs kitchen, which was presumably installed when the house was split into a two-family. It’s at the back of the house, directly above the downstairs kitchen, and was very ugly. I’ll admit that it was actually pretty functional (this is the kitchen we used while we renovated the downstairs kitchen, so I’m actually really glad it was here!), and almost all the components of it are being reused elsewhere. The stove, for instance, we moved downstairs for our kitchen (since the original stove was a busted-up piece of scrap metal), and the cabinets went to the mudroom (and, probably someday, the garage) and hold all my tools. The still-working but very old and inefficient fridge was donated, and the sink was kept just in case we want to use it for a future remodel.

ANYWAY. I demo’d that shit all by myself over the course of an unexplained time lapse. This is sort of how I did it, I guess:

sinkcab1

I started with removing the sink, which I figured would be the most difficult. It was. The plumbing had already been disconnected at the basement level (I think ahead and stuff), so there wasn’t anything super technical to worry about. Just a lot of disconnecting things without adequate tools. Without adequate tools is becoming kind of a theme of my life——I’m FINALLY learning that I need to invest in decent tools when I need to buy them, and replace the cheap-o ones that are all breaking with something better when they inevitably give out. Cheap crappy tools were fine when I was just playing around in my apartment, but they’re not ideal for house renovation.

Anyway, the sink plumbing came apart super easily. I thought it would be easy-ish to just lift the sink off the base once the plumbing was disconnected. HAHAHAHAHA. Oh, Daniel. When will you learn.

See that strip of white behind the sink? Well. The sink was sort of built into that strip. That strip was made of three pieces of 1/2″ plywood glued and nailed together and screwed into the studs. WHYYYYYYYYY.

sinkcab2

Sawzall time! Note how this sink base is A) the worst thing you’ve ever seen and B) super hand-made meaning super-badly-made meaning built like a tank. I really did think I could just take this whole thing out as a single unit, and I’m pretty sure it ended up as just a pile of splinters, infused with my rage.

undersinkwoodprying

Once it was gone, I got to wondering what the deal was with the platform that the sink base was sitting on. In another room, there’s something like this under a radiator, which the wood floor was clearly laid around, so I figured that this was the same kind of deal all along. Then, whilst demoing, I had the following conversation with myself:

Me: What if this piece of wood is actually on top of the wood floor? What if there is more wood floor underneath it?
Me: No, definitely not. It’s the same as under that radiator. The floor probably rotted out at some point so they cut it all away and added this thing. Or something. Your house isn’t the fucking Secret Garden.
Me: I really think this is a possibility. I don’t know why you’re always so negative.
Me: Because everything is terrible. You know that.
Me: MAYBE THIS WON’T BE TERRIBLE JUST GIVE ME A CHANCE.
Me: You’re going to regret this.
Me: We’ll see about that. By the way, your left arm is bleeding.

So I dug in with my pry bar. And hammered, and pried, and stuff, and probably hurt myself again.

prying2

WHAAAAAT. There WAS wood floor underneath the weird platform thing! I was all:

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Anyways. Then I removed the sheet vinyl floor, which I was pretty safe about, I guess. It’s possible that the backing of this kind of sheet-vinyl contains asbestos, but luckily there was no adhesive used to secure the flooring to the wood floor underneath. I used a box-cutter to cut it into strips, rolled it up (spraying the backing with soapy water as it was exposed, although the sheets weren’t tearing or coming apart or anything scary like that), and bagged it all up.

By this point, many hours had passed. I guess Max finally got curious about my whereabouts and came upstairs and was all:

scully

And I was all:

mulder

And the kitchen was all:

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OK, I know it still looks a mess, but it’s exciting that it’s…not a kitchen anymore? It’s just a regular room that needs a lot of work?

floors

Pretty much the big exciting news is that the floor is actually in pretty great shape! Turns out all those years of being covered up did a nice job of protecting it, so while down the line we’ll probably want to refinish it, it can totally just be cleaned for now and look fine.

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I still have to rip out that pantry thing in the corner, but after the sink cabinet…well, at least I’m semi-prepared emotionally and mentally to deal. It’s going to be a pain.

after1

Anyway, this is a pretty good room. It will be a pretty good room. That door leads to a terrible set of exterior stairs that you can see here (which we’re hoping to have removed soon!), and the window has a piece of plexi on the outside, so it doesn’t open. The walls are all made of this weird fiberboard stuff (not plaster, not drywall), which is in pretty lousy condition and has a gross texture, and now half of it is ripped out to make way for new plumbing for the upstairs bathroom (long story, different post…). Basically, it will all need to come down to the studs at some point.

But! Underneath that pillar thing between the window and the door is a brick chimney! Above that super low ceiling (I think it’s 7.5 feet) is nothing! There’s no attic over this part of the house (the kitchen and this room were a later addition, probably around the turn of the century), so someday I’d love to loft the ceiling in here, which will make the whole room feel much bigger. So…refinished wood floor, lofted beadboard ceiling, two windows on either side of an exposed brick chimney——hello master bedroom? That way, that middle room can become a kind of flex space——like chill-out zone with a TV (we don’t want a TV in the main living room, but…I like TV. So.) and a pull-out sofa, which will eliminate the awkwardness of having the access to this room attached to another bedroom. Here is a diagram to better explain what the hell I am talking about, lest you have not memorized the entire layout of my house:

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Something like that? I am tired just thinking about getting there. Let’s hope for more magical X-Files alien time lapses, yes? Skip ahead to a time where this is all done?

Cool. Great plan.

Safe Haven: The Bedroom!

window

One of the weirder things about our home renovation is that we came here with very little stuff. There was some spill-over from the apartment——a few little things I’d been saving——but by and large, we’re starting fresh. We’re furnishing very slowly, as we find pieces that we both like and fit our budget of wildly cheap/free, and we’re also going to be getting a few pieces of furniture from my parents, who are downsizing from my childhood home to a new condo in a few months. We have to wait on that stuff, but I’m really excited to have it. My family has always been weirdos about passing hand-me-down furniture around  across impractical distances, so I’m glad that tradition is continuing in my generation.

Prior to moving in, I had certain ideas about what the first few months in the house would be like. I reasoned that it would be a luxury to have no furniture while we were busy painting and stripping wallpaper and all that, since there would be less stuff to work around.  We’d work until our whole bodies ached, and then we’d collapse onto an air-mattress made for camping, which would be serving triple-duty as a bed, a sofa, and a dining table, since we’d have none of these things. It would be like an extended camping trip, and everyone says camping is fun!

We bought the air mattress on our first night, but soon realized that my plan had several flaws. The first was that camping is not fun, and camping in a house is probably less fun than real camping because you aren’t supposed to be filthy and uncomfortable in a house. The bigger issue was that renovating——while gratifying——is also hard. It’s physically demanding and draining work, and by the end of the day (or, more accurately, the middle of the night), you really just want to escape a little bit and go somewhere that isn’t in chaos. Somewhere that’s actually pretty clean and comfortable and looks kind of OK? It took about one night on the air mattress for me to go from trying to be really hardcore about this whole thing to just wanting a few small luxuries to counterbalance the world of crazy we’d just opened for ourselves. So, aside from the kitchen, we decided that the bedroom really needed to be a priority. Not getting it done and fully decorated and looking perfect, of course, but enough that we could close it off at the end of the day and feel good about things.

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So here we go! Sorry the picture is terrible. Very much a work in progress, but there’s a bed and side tables and lamps and even a rug! I’m sure this room will change a lot over time (as in, the only thing I really want in here in the longterm is the bed!), but it feels good right now.

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We found the bed in an antiques store in Saugerties (which is a town a little bit north of us) called Newberry Antiques. I have a serious soft spot for an Art Deco piece of furniture here and there, and I was blown away by the condition of this bed as soon as I saw it, since these pieces often have tons of chipped or missing veneer. I figured it would be a bajillion dollars, but it was priced at $250, which I got dropped to $200 (never hurts to ask!), and I was sold!

When buying vintage beds, it’s important to MEASURE. I’m not sure exactly when mattress sizes were standardized, but often vintage/antique beds are weird sizes and need to be altered to fit modern mattresses, but luckily this one was a standard full size! Bed frames always look weirdly tiny without an actual mattress in them, so don’t just eyeball it. If you don’t have a measuring tape, antique stores always have one on hand for you, and often even thrift stores do, too! Often the matching side rails are hiding somewhere else in the store, and it’s easy to cut slats to hold the mattress up——we just used about a dozen 1 x 4 pieces of cheap pine, and the whole thing is very solid.

The other thing to remember is that vintage beds were made before the time of these crazy 22″-thick pillow-top enormous mattresses you can buy these days, so don’t go trying to put something like that on an old bed. It will look ridiculous. I don’t like mattresses like that, anyway (my back seems to prefer very cheap, firm mattresses), but with vintage beds, you want a mattress that’s about 10″ thick, give or take a couple inches. PSA, over.

bed1

The duvet cover is from IKEA. I like it! The side table came with us from the apartment (I’d still love to find a better top for it), and the lamp is vintage from a junk shop. The cord situation is a little annoying, but the outlet placement in this room is strange. Hopefully we can have a couple more receptacles installed down the line.

mekko

The rug is from the Nate Berkus collection at Target, and it comes Mekko-approved. It’s not really the right rug for this space, but that’s OK. It makes it feel like a real room, and that’s the goal!

When the kitchen is done (so close!), we’ll probably turn our attention to this room, but for real this time. We have a thrifted dresser sitting in the garage waiting for me to repair and refinish it, and all the walls need to be stripped and painted. As you can see in the pictures, there’s some serious flaking/peeling going on (that’s what happens with there’s like 3 layers of wallpaper and a million layers of paint separating from old plaster walls that weren’t heated for two winters!), but we’ll get to it! One thing at a time.

65.

desk

The neighbors wondered whether a motel might be going up during construction. In the Chicago suburb of Highland Park—composed mostly of large, traditional houses—they weren’t used to seeing anything like it in 1963. Single-storied, flat-roofed, vaguely linear, and covered primarily in bright white stucco, it didn’t look like much from the outside. At best, they probably thought, it was uninteresting—a tacky architectural carry-over of California modernism. At worst, it was offensive. There were certain codes of conduct in places like this, and judging from the architecture alone, rule #1 was to color inside the lines.

My grandparents weren’t the original owners of the house, but I never really saw it that way. They were more like adoptive parents: maybe they didn’t build it, but they were the ones who treated it the way it was supposed to be treated. They hired a decorator when they moved in in 1972, and together they conceived and executed a plan, resulting in something not unlike what would happen if Woody Allen’s Sleeper mated with 2001: A Space Odyssey and birthed an entire house.

hallway

But that wasn’t how I saw it, either, at least not until I was older. I didn’t see it as mid-century modern or 70s glam, and I certainly couldn’t appreciate the curvilinear design scheme that gave the house shape or the particular balance of materials that gave it form. It didn’t strike me as odd that my grandparents owned a sofa made entirely of foam, or that the rug was made of strands of yarn longer than my hands, or that the coffee table essentially amounted to an enormous plastic cube. It was all just part of them.

My grandparents were both people for whom modernism wasn’t any kind of intentional decision or contrived style choice, but just something they kind of emitted and diffused into the air around them. Like Steve Jobs, my grandfather always seemed to be wearing some slight variation of the same understated uniform. He accessorized with slim plastic watches that looked like they’d been flattened by a steamroller. He was a constant consumer of information and news: if there was a new technology, he wanted to know about it. His whole ensemble—the house, the look, the attitude–added up to being the sort of person who embraced the future with open arms.

They fit, together. For as long as I can remember, my grandma stuck to a basic wardrobe of black and white. But there was always a twist: a line of decorative buttons there, a pair of glasses so elaborate and substantial that it was hard to imagine the bridge of her nose supporting the weight. She always carried with her a set of Paper Mate Flair felt-tip pens, a packet of tissues, and little pill-sized tablets of Equal sugar substitute in a plastic dispenser. She was the kind of person who thought everybody she encountered was entirely fascinating, who could listen to a person talk about nearly anything, and do so with utterly rapt attention. Everything was “nifty” to her, and if it wasn’t, you felt as though it was. Profoundly so.

table

And there they were, in that wild 60s house—colored by vivid 70s technicolor—floating around it all like little punctuation marks. They were a part of that house and it was a part of them. And I thought it was the most beautiful place I could imagine.

My grandfather died in 2001, and everybody more or less figured that my grandma would move out of the house in favor of something more manageable and suited to a woman approaching her 80s. But she refused. I found out a couple of years ago that my grandma never actually liked the house—that it had always been my grandfather’s passion and that she had complained about it constantly. But his death brought about a sort of desperate clinging, the despair of leaving it worse than the despair of living in it alone. This went on until she, too, passed away in 2007.

I went back to the house twice after my grandma passed away—the first time, to sit shiva, and the second time, about a year later on a trip to Chicago. To a stranger, it probably would have looked the same. But it felt different. Where before the air always held a slight tinge of her perfume, now it was flat and vacant. The house was still an amazing place by all counts, but something essential about it had dissipated, leaving only a spectacular shell in its place.

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Though it would now be regarded more as pathology than habit, my grandmother was a perennial keeper of things: old receipts, letters, coupons, photographs, and other documents. She had a cataloguing system all her own, enabled mainly by binder clips and paperclips, and stashes hidden all over the house. What began as a daunting but straightforward process (“we’ll rent a dumpster…”) turned into an ordeal that took weeks, then months, then years. As middle children often do, my aunt Janis took on nearly all of this work, separating the trash from the treasure, sitting alone in the middle of the living room with mounds of paper building up around her, a pile for everybody. I wonder if she ever considered carrying it all out the back door, walking a rickety stairway down to the beach on Lake Michigan, and just setting it all ablaze. But she couldn’t do that. Instead, she spent nights and weekends, early mornings and late afternoons commuting between downtown Chicago and her parents’ old suburb to take care of things for the rest of us. For Janis, the house became both a thorn in her side and—if not the final—than at least the largest tether connecting her to the past. Anybody who has ever taken detailed stock of somebody else’s belongings knows the feeling: it isn’t just sorting. It’s communing. And when it’s over, there’s a deep feeling of emptiness and finality. There’s no more to be seen or found, and it’s time to move on.

Everybody wanted to keep the house. Janis and her husband, Tom, considered moving in briefly, and my parents even toyed with the idea of relocating from Washington, D.C. to live in it, but it just wasn’t practical for anybody. Once it was finally listed, the large lot on the lake immediately attracted the attention of developers rather than families, who saw in the house only an easy tear-down and the potential for three houses in its place. And that wouldn’t do.

So we waited. For two years, the family refused enticing development offers, hoping that the right buyer would happen upon it and see what the rest of us saw. But it didn’t happen, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sinking feeling in my stomach when I found out that we—the estate—had accepted an offer from a developer. The carrying costs and the maintenance had become overwhelming, and we’d all just lost hope. We negotiated salvage rights, giving us the opportunity to bring in a crew of contractors and remove anything we could—lighting, built-ins, even the doorknobs were coming with us. Admittedly, the idea that pieces of the house could be dispersed and reused across the country was a decent silver lining, but it didn’t help much. The idea of a bulldozer destroying the house all at once was only slightly less palatable than us going to rip it apart from the inside out.

But then something fell through, as they often do when real estate is concerned, and the developers backed out. Amazingly, it wasn’t long after until the right buyers did come along, and saw the house as something special and worthwhile and significant, and offered to buy it. And then it was time to really say goodbye.

Most of the furniture, art, and other stuff got loaded on trucks and sent around the country—to my aunt, just an hour away in Hyde Park, Chicago, to my uncle in Utah, to my parents in D.C. and to my sister in Los Angeles. And we got a few things, too.

closeup

This chair was one of a pair that sat in my grandparents’ bedroom for almost 40 years (my dad has the other one), and now it’s mine. Of course, I know what it is and what it’s worth, but that’s really not something I think about. I love it because it belonged to them, and because I grew up climbing all over it, and because sitting in this chair feels different than sitting in any other chair exactly like it.

chairfromafar

Not surprisingly, it’s also very comfortable and has basically become my permanent office in the apartment.

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The other biggest thing that came our way on a truck were these two lithographs that used to hang on the wall behind my grandparents’ bed. They’re really sun-damaged and worth very little, but they’re two of my favorite things. I love them hanging over the bed like that, and every time I peak into the bedroom I’m so happy that they ended up with me.

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My grandparents didn’t live to see me become an adult or the sort of life I’m building, or the ones who get to share these things with me. But I think they’d be happy, too.

Dresser Restoration

Sometimes, I can’t explain why I do the things I do and why I choose a particular moment to do them in, particularly when drugs or alcohol are not contributing factors. Why did I put in that late-night ASOS order last week? Beats me. Why do I NEED to reorganize my kitchen cabinets at 2 in the morning? Can’t say. Why did I up and decide to restore a whole dresser on a Saturday afternoon while Max’s lovely mother was staying at our apartment? No reason that I can think of.

But I did, and I’m lucky that when Max and his mom got home from an exhausting day of non-stop exciting action to find me covered in grime with dresser drawers strewn about the apartment and the air reeking of furniture wax, they took the whole thing in stride. Those close to me have mostly developed a certain tolerance for this sort of thing by now. “Oh, there he goes again,” they say, rolling their eyes. “I guess we’ll just come back in a few hours when he comes down.”

dresser-before

So Max and I bought this dresser a few months ago, and I’ve just been too busy with school and work and procrastinating to devote any time to fixing it up. I mean, it’s a nice dresser—totally looks pretty nice and there’s nothing functionally wrong with it, so it wasn’t exactly first on my list of priorities. All I really did was wipe out the drawers before we started loading clothes into it, and Max threw a bunch of art books on top before I even had a chance to clean it off.

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but it had a bunch of little nicks and scratches and bumps and bruises and chipped veneer and little bits of paint and cigarette burns and rings on the top. We did buy it for cheaps from a dead person’s house in Long Island, so.

Also, every time I did wipe it with any cleaning product, the towel would turn a shade of dark brown, which was a bit disconcerting. I love some nice rosewood, for sure, but decades of smoke and tinted furniture polish and wax and crap probably weren’t doing the wood a lot of favors at this point.

supplies

Here was the restoration supply kit, which is a little modified from how Morgan originally taught me at The Brick House, but using the same basic principles. Since there wasn’t any existing finish on it like varnish or polyurethane, I didn’t want to touch it with sandpaper, since it’s easy to get carried away and remove more than necessary. Since the drawer-fronts are veneer, that’s definitely something to think about. Instead, I opted for some fine steel wool and soapy water, which did double-duty of scrubbing the shit out of this thing and smoothing out some problem areas where the solid wood had noticeably chipped or scuffed.

progress1

That top image is the top of the dresser before, which kind of shows the surface damage and general sadness going on with this dresser. I started by unscrewing all the hardware, which I’ll get to shortly.

Then all I did was fill a bowl with a few tablespoons of Murphy’s Oil Soap and some hot water and went to work with the steel wool. This thing required a LOT of scrubbing to liberate the wood from so many years of general grime and horror, so I just kept dumping out and refilling my bowl so that I wasn’t totally just moving gross water around. It’s important to only scrub the wood WITH the grain (duhz), and I followed up with a few rags after scrubbing so that water wouldn’t sit on the surfaces long enough to penetrate and ruin anything. As all the old crap came off of the wood, it got noticeably lighter and the beautiful grain really started to show through, which was all very exciting. So I just rubbed my wood until it felt nice and soft and it didn’t seem like any more weird stuff was coming out of it. That came out all wrong.

(by the way, I’m basically making this up, but it worked for me so I guess it’s a good method totally worth emulating and basing your furniture restoration and entire life around)

Fast-forward a few hours, and my arm felt like it was going to fall off, a symptom that should persist no more than a few days. If it does, call your doctor.

Before I moved forward with messing around with my wood any more, I wanted to give my hand, wrist, and forearm a break. Damn it!

handleprogress

This is the part where this post might get controversial because I showed no mercy on the old brass hardware. This is a personal decision I made in a fit of “OMG SHINYYY!!!!!” but in retrospect it might have been better to use a less intense product and keep some of the patina on the brass. Brasso probably would have done the trick nicely, but I went all-out and scrubbed these things with Barkeeper’s Friend (also known as EVERYBODY’S GODSEND) and the rough side of a sponge until all the tarnish was gone and the brass glimmered like melted sunshine. I used an old toothbrush on the tricky inside-bits.

Yeah, I like my furniture to look its age and whatever, but brasssssssy. I couldn’t stop. I just couldn’t.

Diverting attention away from the wood to the hardware also gave the wood a chance to dry out, which is what you want before applying any type of finishing product. Trapping water in wood is not a good plan FYI.

drawersprogress

So I went back to the dresser and the whole thing looked more or less like this. If you’re doing this sort of thing, this is the part where you might be tempted to panic because your wood will be so dry and hazy and sad looking that it seems like nothing will ever save it and you’ve ruined vintage rosewood and you should be put to death immediately. You are a very dramatic person and possibly need medication to get a handle on your feelings.

This is where the Danish Oil comes in. After using Danish oil, Teak oil, Tung oil, and Restore-a-Finish in the past, my favorites are definitely Danish and Teak. Tung tends to darken wood a bit (I think), and I don’t really trust Restore-a-Finish for a project like this because all you really want is the natural color of the wood to come out. There’s a time and a place for Restore-a-Finish, I’m sure, but it’s not when you’re dealing with rosewood or teak because it’s pigmented and that freaks me out.

After the oil (leave on about 15-20 minutes, wipe off excess, repeat if necessary), I finished off the whole thing with Howard’s Feed-N-Wax. This stuff is magic and smells terrific. Then I just screwed the hardware back on and…

dresserdrawerdetail

Hello.

dresserafter2

What’s your name? Can I get your number?

So I was kind of lukewarm on this dresser before because the drawers are kind of annoyingly shallow and it isn’t the most functional thing on four legs, but now I love it? I can never get rid of it?

topafter

dresserradiatordetail

A couple people have pointed out that this dresser sits verrrrry close to the old radiator, which is not generally a good idea. However, it’s probably an OK idea if your landlords are cheap and turn the boiler on about twice every winter, and your boyfriend keeps all the radiators turned off (and a window open, and a fan on) year-round anyway. You are also probably cold all the time and worry for the life of your plants.

At the very least, I’d like to paint this radiator white like the other one, but I also have fantasies of just removing the whole thing and capping the pipe. This project sounds difficult and scary and heavy, but it would open up an alternate room layout that I’ll admit to finding very exciting and enticing. I should be restrained is what I’m saying.

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I’m out of things to say about this dresser.

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Dresser

You have rented a Zipcar and conned your boyfriend into accompanying you on a great schlep out to Long Island. You were supposed to meet Crystal, let’s call her, at 7 pm. But now it’s two hours later, it’s dark, it’s pouring rain, and Crystal is very, very late. You’re sitting in said Zipcar on a pitch-black residential street in front of the closest approximation of the address you’ve been given, which doesn’t actually exist. Crystal has been 10 minutes away for the last hour and a half, and the sneaking suspicion that you are being pranked is overshadowed only by the worry that you are about to be brutally murdered. You consider just leaving, just calling the whole thing off, just saying fuck it and hitting the road, back to Brooklyn, back to safety, but you’ve already come all this way. And waited this long. And rented a fucking mini-van. So you sit, the engine stalled, waiting for the phone to ring.

Crystal finally shows up with her “asshole husband,” as she referred to him an hour earlier by telephone. The sleeves of his shirt are cut off and he sports a modest though distinctive mullet. They pull up in front of a dark house and get out of their station wagon—a small Chihuahua, we’ll call him Rocco, in tow. Crystal looks exhausted. Her husband looks pissed. Rocco looks nervous. You make introductions quickly—it’s dark and raining and late and everyone wants to get this over with—before Crystal and her man lead the way to a dark front porch and open the front door of the house to a completely dark foyer. You stand on the porch, exchanging nervous glances with your boyfriend, who stands three steps behind you. Crystal and her husband cannot find a light switch and begin arguing with each other, then suggesting you join in the cause. Ain’t no fucking way, you think. I is smart, I is kind, I is important, and I is not about to walk into this fucking house and be blindsided by a couple of Long Island serial killers. Fuck no. Not tonight. Not for this.

They finally find the light switch and the house is revealed—sensible, polite, carpeted, nearly empty. The walls are the color of custard. It smells like the 1970s but looks like the 1990s. “This way,” they say, moving toward a set of stairs on the left. Against your better judgement, you follow them. They hadn’t mentioned anything about stairs. You get to the top, turn right, and enter the first room on your right. A switch is thrown, the room illuminates, and there they are, exactly as they looked in the pictures.

Welcome to Craigslist.

This all started when my awesome friend Maya, who is a genie of all things thrift, dug up this unassuming ad on Craigslist. She knew that I’d been looking for a dresser for a while (after we moved my desk out of the bedroom and into the living room), but New York City is pretty much the worst place to buy nice furniture if you can’t pay for nice furniture, and I’d been coming up completely dry. We really needed a dresser—with one small closet between the two of us, we were both completely tired of trying to maintain the “organization” of clothes shoved in a hanging shoe bags and cumbersome bins. I was *this close* to just buying the IKEA TARVA 6-drawer dresser and trying to make it semi-pretty (I have no idea how), but Maya caught me in the knick of time.

I obviously don’t have room for two huge mid-century dressers, but it turned out that if I could go get them, Maya would take one off my hands. So by buying both, we were already down to $200 a piece, and when I got there I haggled down another $100 because of some flaws in the condition (veneer chips, cigarette burns, standard vintage fare) but mostly because these wacky consignment folks made me wait for so long that I knew they’d agree and I would feel better for my struggle. For a $150 gorgeous dresser (which was really more like $250, once the cost of the Zipcar was factored in, in fairness), I’ll wait a good long time.

(Plus, I got to go see Maya’s house, which is like a magical wonderland of awesome. I never wanted to leave.)

As soon as we hauled this beast up to our 5th floor walk-up at around 2 in the morning, I had to go return the Zipcar and by the time I got home, Max had already somehow dragged it into place and covered the top with piles of books and other…stuff. I have been so busy that I haven’t even taken the time to give the thing a proper cleaning and TLC, but come on—that’s a good looking hunk of wood. And it’s going to look amazing once I get around to cleaning off all the old layers of furniture polish and crap. I’ll make this thing so happy it came to live with me, it’ll never want to leave.

It’s pretty large (and deeper than the desk was), and looked totally crazy to us at first. But now that I’m used to it, I’m so into it. I think I’m going to try to polish up those little amazing brass handles while I’m working on the wood—they’ll never look brand new, but that’s what I like about the idea. I just want a little more brass. Love me some brass.

Ignore the crap on top and just look at that sexy sexy dresser. We have too much crap.

So, I’m just going to call it: SHELVING FAIL. I hate those shelves so very much.

They have to go. It’s not super high on the list of priorities and I’m still tossing around ideas about what to do with all of the many many books (kindling?), but this just isn’t working. I hate how the shelves are all crooked and how the L-brackets can’t stand up to the weight and how there isn’t enough room and…I made a mistake. These were kind of thrown up in a moment of desperation and panic (Max moved in –> 34,765,234,238,754,973 books moved in), but my dislike has only grown in the intervening months and something’s got to give. I’ll fix it.

But dresser. At least we have a dresser.

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