All posts tagged: Before + After

The Pantry is Done!

jars3

Growing up, I had a few very particular habits and hobbies, most of which entailed spending a lot of time by myself. While my siblings were out playing sports, or watching sports, or everyone was upstairs watching ESPN, or whatever else it was that my heterosexual family did, I could typically be found sitting in a room in our basement, watching hours and hours of HGTV and working on a collection of truly hideous but impressively elaborate scrapbooks. Sometimes I’d move on and build a scaled model of some house I’d dreamt up, or sketch the elevations of a renovation plan I had for one of the few remaining cute 50s ramblers that still dotted my mostly new-construction street (torn down now, sadly, because my plan was pretty slick). Every now and then, my idea of a good time was to make myself insane by organizing the garage or the basement or the laundry room or my mother’s office—really, I don’t think any space in our house escaped my clutches. Our label-maker was one of my closest confidants, and The Container Store was far and away my favorite retail conglomerate on earth. It was a sick, perverse kind of pleasure: the messier a space was, the more exciting the process of organizing it became. The act of impressing order onto the chaos made me feel so…alive. As you can tell, I’ve really made great strides toward personal change in the intervening years.

There was one space, though, that was consistently the biggest thorn in my side and light of my life, year after year. The pantry. The room was maybe somewhere around 5×8, lined with deep shelves and consistently—and, to me at least, alarmingly—unkempt. It wasn’t that it was dirty or even all that cluttered to the naked eye, but once you started really poking around, it didn’t take long to pick up on some major organizational issues. Expired boxes of cereal and cans of beans lurked behind fresh ones, and there were too few containers to wrangle the smaller or more irregular shaped items, which tended to get stuffed wherever they’d fit. Unopened boxes of last year’s Passover matzah, duplicate and triplicate jars of spices, some of them old enough that the labels had been redesigned, snacks that my siblings and I had courted for brief periods (Go-Gurt) before moving on for greener pastures (Danimals Drinkable Yogurt)—it was paradise. I’d typically spread the fun out over a few days, at which point I’d stage a big reveal and make all the members of my family admire it while explaining slowly and clearly where everything now belonged.

Like I said. Totally different person now.

I guess my point here is that I feel like my life experience has really prepared me to make a pantry of my own. I’ve seen time and again how pantries start out with the best intentions and descend into total chaos, and hopefully learned enough to avoid letting that happen to me.

before2

Anyway, taking a little trip back in time…here’s about where we started. The pantry space takes up the footprint of an old stairwell (removed circa 1930), and prior to my work on it was divided into two closets. Busting out the wall that divided the closets and removing the (non-original) closet and doorway from the dining room was definitely the right choice, but also left behind a really strange space to work with. The pantry is 8 feet deep and only about 32″ wide, meaning that actual storage options are kind of limited since I’m basically building a pantry in a narrow hallway. It also needed mostly new walls, a refinished floor, electrical (lighting and outlets), paint, and of course shelving and stuff! Sometimes the smallest spaces are just as complicated as the big ones.

After-2

And here we go! It’s a pantry! Finally! YAY.

I know it’s really annoying when bloggers point this shit out, but some of the photos in this post were taken a few weeks ago and some were taken today (including the one above), and I’m way too lazy to style a pantry. Which is why I didn’t unwrap the plastic from my paper towel rolls. I promise Bounty isn’t paying me. They really are the quicker picker-upper, though, you know? My late-in-life discovery of washable microfiber cloths has drastically cut down on my paper towel usage, by the way, but I’m not ready to cut them out of my life entirely at this juncture.

Semi-related: since when/why is every roll individually wrapped inside the bulk-wrapped pack of 12 rolls or whatever? It’s like they’re determined to make up for being bad for the environment by being worse for the environment. Human beings are screwed.

The point is, due to what I’m now referring to as my “blogging hiatus” over the past couple of weeks (oooooops), I’ve now had a nice amount of time to actually use this space and can happily report that it WORKS. At least for me. I really don’t put any hard work or effort into keeping it clean and orderly because I think it’s pretty effectively designed to stay clean and orderly! I kind of dragged my feet about working on this space for a long time but it really has made an enormous difference to the kitchen and the way I cook and grocery shop and all of that. I’m all about my pantry.

The dimensions of the space were a major challenge, but turned out to be a great opportunity. I think probably the most common issue with pantries is that the shelves are just too deep, so things get lost and you can’t see what you actually have. Then you end up re-buying things you already have, or letting things expire, or you’re always digging for stuff…I’m totally convinced that shallow shelves are vastly superior, and luckily that’s about all this room can accommodate anyway.

Having said that, some deeper storage is definitely important as well! Most pantry items (at least the ones that I buy?) seem to be 6″ in depth or smaller, but sometimes you need a few boxes of cereal or crackers or bags of chips or whatever and so having some good deep shelves is important, too. In this space, the deeper shelving could really only go at the back…so I guess we’ll start there?

cleatsbondo

Part of the fun of this space was trying to spend as little money as possible while still making it cute and functional, which involved a lot of raiding of my scrap wood piles! I made all of the shelving out of the fir 2 x 12 framing lumber that I used for the old kitchen countertops (stained and poly’d this time around), and lots of scraps of 1-by lumber for the cleats that the deeper shelves are supported by. I decided to use wood cleats instead of large brackets just to save some money (brackets add up, even when they’re cheap!), but I’m really happy with how they turned out!

cleat-marking

Hanging cleats for shelving is one of those things that seems sort of complicated but really isn’t. I always just figure out my shelf spacing and mark where the TOP of the cleat should sit (1 x 2 lumber works great). Then I use my mark and a level to draw pencil lines around where the cleat will go. After cutting my 1 x 2 pieces to size, I line them up with my markings and face-nail them into place with 2″ finishing nails, and then I go back in and drive some longer screws (2.5 or 3″ drywalls screws work nicely) into studs. Easy!

If I’m doing multiple shelves, I like to pre-mark all the cleat locations and then pre-cut all my pieces of wood so I can put it all up faster. Getting all these little pieces up took maybe an hour or so from start to finish.

The longest part of the process is the patching/caulking/painting, which I think just makes everything feel more finished and is worthwhile, even though it’s no fun and can feel a little overly-anal while you’re doing it. I’m used to that feeling, though. I like to just paint the cleats with whatever wall paint I’m using so they blend in. Exciting stuff.

cleatsupandpainted

This room is super wonky so you’re just going to have to trust me that this is all level, even though it looks nuts.

kitchenmadness

Lest you think I’m better at all of this than I am, this is my kitchen during the process! As much as I don’t love everything about this kitchen, I love that I can use and abuse it a little and it bounces back just fine. Eventually I’d like to set up a nice little shop space in the basement or garage, but for now I tend to just destroy whatever space is closest to where I’m working and deal with it later.

The deeper shelving is really comprised of two pieces of 2-by lumber, which saved me from making any complicated cuts around that plumbing chase in the corner. One piece comes out to the depth of the front of the chase (about 5.5″) and the next piece extends out 10.5″ for an overall depth of 16″. The only real thought that went into the spacing and depth was that I wanted to be able to fit the microwave back there. I don’t like having that thing taking up counter space in the kitchen, but I don’t know what I’d do without a microwave! I’m always impressed by/fearful of people who don’t have them. This one was generously donated by my pal, Anna, who consequently doesn’t have one anymore so I assume she’s starving to death whenever I’m nuking leftover Chinese food.

brackets-up-and-back-shelves

Before I installed the front piece of those shelves in the back, I marked and installed my shallow shelving brackets using the level of the cleats as my guide. I wanted the shelves to appear kind of continuous to cut down on any visual/physical clutter. These brackets came from Lowe’s for about $5 a pop. Using 2-by lumber meant that I could space them wider than I typically would (therefore using fewer of them), so I only needed 10 to get the job done. These brackets are nice because they can be hung two ways, so you have the option of a 6.5″-ish deep shelf or 12″-ish deep shelf depending on how you hang them.

By the way, I saved staining/poly-ing the fronts and tops of the shelving until after everything was installed, which was just easier than trying to get the stain to look good while everything was laying on sawhorses in the basement. That’s why the front of the shelves look all crappy in these pictures. I just ran my mouse sander over the fronts, did a quick staining job, and three coats of water-based poly on everything. Now the shelves look uniform and are super clean-able when they eventually start to gather dust, which happens quickly around these parts because I live in a construction zone. Not sure if you heard.

shelvesup

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but I installed some mending strips I had lying around on the underside where the deep shelves transition to the shallow ones. This just helped bring everything to the same level. I hit the strips with a couple coats of black spray paint before putting them up just to keep them inconspicuous and matching the black brackets.

jars1

That was really about it! Once the shelves were dry, it was time to install the outlets, touch up whatever paint on the walls I’d screwed up, and start loading in food!

Yes, by the way, I hate myself for the extreme decanting situation up in here, but I also LOVE IT. I love decanting things. I have no idea why. I think it’s a fetish. In any case, it makes me feel like I’m doing something important and worthwhile even though all I’m doing is moving things from one container into a different container. These jars are the KORKEN jars from IKEA, which are great! I like the classic shape and the rubber seal makes them effectively airtight. I’ve basically been buying a few of them every time I’ve been to IKEA in the past two years in preparation for this moment, so they never felt like a big expense even though I guess I’ve probably sunk a lot of money into having so many stupid glass jars at this point. Sometimes you just need to trick yourself that way.

jars2

There was some pretty extreme disagreement between Max and I on how the jars should be labeled. I figured a regular waterproof label would suffice, but he thought it was likely that the jars wouldn’t always be holding the same thing and wanted something more easily removable. Hence, these weird white chalk markers that go on sort of wet, become sort of dry, and look so super twee when combined with cute handwriting!  I feel like such a Pinterest garbage blogger person. I’m totally incapable of writing with the pens on these jars in a way that looks at all nice or legible (I think it’s the curved surface combined with being a lefty?), so I’ll forever be reliant on Max for labeling the dry goods.

It’s so dumb and I love it so much. SUE ME.

The shallow shelves are great, though, because I can really see everything when I go to make a shopping list or, more commonly, wait until I’m starving to death and crawl into the pantry in search of some semblance of ingredients that could be potentially combined to create a meal. Back when I had all of this stuff in the deeper kitchen cabinets, this tended to involve, like, a can of anchovies, a jar of salsa, and mayonnaise, but now I can easily locate and cook some lentils to add to my desperation-recipes! So my life and nutrition has really improved by leaps and bounds.

microwaveshelf

So far, the deeper shelves at the back are possibly being under-utilized. If I go on some kind of cereal diet (I hear it’s going to be the new juice cleanse in 2016), I can always relocate the cookbooks and gain a couple more shelves? I don’t know. As long as the microwave fits. Eyes on the prize. The vintage bowls hold onions and garlic and potatoes and stuff.

door1

One of my very favorite things in the pantry is the inside of the door! I’m obsessed with these things. I got them at The Container Store. It’s all Elfa brand (which is on sale right now!) and the baskets hang off of one central track, which is screwed into the door (you can also hang it from the top of the door with an additional piece of hardware, but I don’t know why you’d do that, really…this looks much cleaner to me). They come in a few difference widths and depths, so I put the deeper ones on the bottom for a couple frequently-used cleaning supplies, various cooking oils and stuff, and then the top ones are all for spices! For some reason it’s REALLY hard to find a decent wall-mounted spice solution and this has been working out super well. I hate having spices in a cabinet because I always end up with like 3 bottles of thyme and no crushed red pepper. Crushed red pepper comprises like 40% of my diet, so you understand the issue.

Obviously my plan is to start buying all the same brand of spices (the ones from our local grocery store chain, Adams, seem to fit particularly well) to achieve maximum consistency and creepiness. I want people to fear me when they walk into my pantry, and this just isn’t cutting it…yet. Give me a year or two and it’ll look about as approachable as a museum.

drawerafter

My other favorite thing? THAT DRAWER. After painting it, I just added a cheap brass sash lift to the front that I had for some reason. I feel like it’s pretty classic looking and doesn’t draw a ton of attention. It turned out a lot better and less bizarre-looking than I was expecting. Success!

draweropen

The impetus for building this thing was mostly to hide the awkward plumbing chase by building out a falsely-wide front, but the drawer itself has turned out to be SUPER handy and functional. It’s really large and fits the tallest spray bottles I have and various other cleaning supplies that I don’t really want to look at but use frequently. It’s nice to have some enclosed storage in here! I ended up painting the interior of the cabinet, too, to protect the wood from spills and moisture and keep it easily cleanable.

after1

I think that’s about it! Especially considering where this space came from, I’m really really pleased with how this turned out and how it functions. It’s made me more inclined to cook (and more efficient at it, too), not to mention freeing up some space in the kitchen and allowing me to go on a huge reorganization binge in there, too. I just can’t help myself.

Want to look back on the seemingly never-ending pantry project? I don’t because PTSD, but here’s a handy round-up for your procrastination pleasure if you’re so inclined…

1. DINING ROOM CLOSET DEMO + PANTRY!
2. BEYOND THE LAUNDRY ROOM: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
3. PREPPING THE PANTRY!
4. TRANSOM WINDOW IN THE PANTRY
5. BUILDING THE PANTRY CABINET!

The Renovated Living Room!

longviewfromkitchen

Before we bought the house, I used to have this recurring dream all the time. I’d walk in the front door of my apartment, start walking down the hallway, and before I made it into the main living space, I’d see a door I never noticed before. Sometimes I’d discover the door while I was moving around furniture or art or fixing something up, but inevitably I’d find a way to open it and behind it I’d find a whole new room. Apparently this dream is not all that uncommon, particularly among small-space dwellers.

The thing about the newfound room was that its potential purpose was never immediately clear. There was always something kind of off about it…like it would be really long but not very wide, or wouldn’t have any windows, or there would be a two foot high step in the middle of the floor. After the excitement faded of just knowing the room existed, figuring out what to actually do with it became a significant source of stress, one that usually kept me pretty occupied until I woke up. With the basic setup of kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom already covered by the rest of the apartment, where did that leave this newfound bonus space? You can see the predicament.

The room in the front of our house has always felt a little like that dream. The main floor of our house is very simple: you walk in to a nice entryway/hallway, where the stairs are located. On the left is a large living room (currently bisected into two rooms and in need of a ton of work), and on the right there’s a kitchen (and laundry) in the back, the dining room in the middle, and then this room in the front. The size of the room is generous, the ceilings are high, and the three large windows let in tons of nice light. With the “big living room” just across the hall, I was initially really resistant to making this room a more formal living space (like a parlor) or a less formal one (like a TV room/den), because I don’t really like the idea of spaces that feel too formal to get used on an everyday basis. We really don’t need a bedroom on the first floor, and while I sort of liked the idea of a nice library/study kind of set-up, using this room as another office space felt potentially sort of awkward and maybe not like the best use of space.

I know. Cry me a river. What an obscenely ridiculous issue to have.

ANYWAY. The real revelation came when I stopped for a second to think about our renovation. I’ve been at this for a year and a half now, and the house still needs crazy amounts of work. With the big living room low (maybe last…) on the priority list, it’s going to be a few years before we even get to that, and I don’t want to wait that long to start living (rather than glamping) in the house! So…living room it is. Sometimes I forget how easy it is to switch things around after the real work of the renovation is done…nothing has to be set in stone decor-wise. So I may not know exactly what this room will be in the long run, but right now I’m just celebrating that we finally have a place to hang out and kick back that isn’t our bedroom. It feels so…house-like.

chimneywallbefore

Let’s recall how this room looked two years ago, the first time we saw the house! The patterned walls were so insane. EVERYTHING (walls, ceiling, doors, trim, windows, floors) was in need of attention, some of which have since been addressed and some haven’t. You can see here where part of the baseboard was missing and the floor had been patched in, presumably after the removal of an original mantel/wood stove/stone hearth that would have sat on this wall.

chimneywallafter

And here we are today! Everything is still a huge work in progress—we already owned everything in here so it was just a matter of setting it up enough to be presentable and comfy ASAP. Decor-wise it’s falling way short but that isn’t the point of this post!

plasterceilingdemo

cornerduringdemo

skimcoatingprocess

ANYWAY. There’s a deceptive amount of work contained in these before-and-after photos. I had to completely demo and replace the wall that the “fireplace” is on, the ceiling got completely replaced, and I spent hours and hours repairing and skim-coating the remaining original plaster walls. New electrical got run, old exposed pipes were re-routed to be inside walls and ceilings, and every surface had to be pretty meticulously prepped before getting painted. Oh, and the fireplace! You can read all about the process of creating that over here.

cornerbefore

In this before picture you can see the acoustic tile ceiling (which got demo’d, along with the remains of the plaster ceiling above it, to make room for new drywall) and the exposed radiator pipes overlapping the window molding. I was originally inclined to keep the radiator pipes as-is, but it seemed worth it to throw the money at burying this plumbing while the ceilings were open, and I’m really glad we did! Oh, and you can see the homemade radiator cover that I removed…I can’t imagine wanting to cover up that corner radiator. It’s so cool!

after

Annnnddd, it’s a room! Let’s see…the sofa originally belonged to my grandparents, then my parents, and now I’ve inherited it in my parents’ recent downsize. Black leather and chrome is really not at all what I pictured for this room, but the size is great (space is tight for a real full-size sofa) and I love it on its own, so I want to make it work. I think it’s from the early 70s and both sides can fold up or down, but I kind of dig it in this chaise formation. The lamp next to it is vintage from a junk shop in Brooklyn a long time ago, the coffee table came from the trash (I think it was made by Urban Outfitters several years ago and is clearly “inspired” by the George Nelson bench…), the vintage rug was a hand-me-down from my uncle years ago, and the wire chair was thrifted. I made the dog bed.

The window shades are temporary, by the way. They’re basically just $8 sheets of white vinyl wrapped around a cardboard tube from Home Depot that I bought just to give us some privacy until I figure out what I really want. What I really want is a decent quality solar shade that will provide some privacy but still let lots of light in, but it can’t cost a million dollars. Thus far, finding such a thing has been a total fool’s errand, but I hold out hope.

hallwaydoorbefore

This is the door from the hallway, which was boarded up on the other side when we moved in! We had to have a key made for the old lock, and after the door was open, we just had to tear down the plywood to restore the original layout.

hallwaydoorafter

And after! The piano came with the house. The brief history is that the house was built about 1865, and the son of the original owner lived here until his death in 1962. He played organ at one of the local churches and was also a music teacher (he taught out of the house starting in the 1920s), so I’m guessing that’s why we have it now! It’s EXTREMELY heavy—I can’t imagine trying to get it out, so I’m glad I like it! Neither of us play piano and it’s very out of tune and in need of some repair, but it’s a nice piece of house history to hold onto. The mirror on top was a recent thrift find (I think it was $8 at AmVets), the crocks and oversized jacks are vintage. The bench is Scandinavian from Craigslist—at some point it might be fun to find an old piano bench that matches the piano a bit better, but this is fine for now. The Hudson Bay blanket is by Pendleton.

door

After a lot of excruciating debate, I decided to continue with the black doors! I grew to really like them in the dining room, so I think I’ll carry it through the rest of the house. I think it adds some really nice richness and depth, which can sometimes sort of fade with white-on-white rooms. The original hardware was stripped (I like to spray paint the hinges black to prevent rusting) and put back, with the exception of the keyhole cover, which was missing on this door. I found a few antique ones at a local salvage place (to the tune of 5 or 10 bucks each) that are almost exact matches to the original—I’m keeping my eye out for more since we’re missing quite a few.

fireplaceandshelves

Clearly I need to find something bigger to put over the fireplace, but that can come with time! The piece that’s there now is by our friend Matt Robinson, which I love but it’s just too small for here.

Also, SHELVES! I really love the way these turned out. The hardware is just cheap track shelving from Lowe’s (it’s almost exactly the same as Elfa but cheaper). The vertical tracks are screwed into wall studs (I had to do some test-drilling to find them, but it wasn’t anything a little spackle and touch-up paint couldn’t fix), and the brackets just snap into place. I think the trick to making this kind of shelving look good is using solid lengths of wood—these are just regular 1×12’s cut to size and painted white—I used the same paint that I used on the trim. I even reused the wood from our now-defunct apartment shelving, which saved about $50. Told you I never threw lumber away. I think all-in, the shelving cost about $150 but I wasn’t keeping super careful track.

fromhallway1

They look totally decent, right? I left about a foot on either side to give them some breathing room, and I love that they float above the baseboard. Keeps things feeling light, even though they’re clearly holding a lot of books. Approximately 1,200 pounds, actually! I know it is decidedly Not Blogger to use bookshelves just for books and not a bunch of nicely styled accessories, but we need the space. They’re also organized by category instead of height or color and the spines face out so I’m pretty much losing all around on this one.

Whatever. We got books. Deal.

chairandshelves

I love you, Norell chair. I found that sucker on my birthday for $250, which was kind a splurge for me but I couldn’t help myself!

I feel like it looks like the shelves are sagging in this picture, but I don’t see it in real life. Weird.

light

I bought the light fixture a few years ago on sale at West Elm, which is a bummer because they don’t make it anymore! I came really close to getting rid of it a while ago, but I’m glad I kept it around because I really like it in here. I have plans for the crystal chandelier from the before pictures, but I felt like it was sort of small for this space.

I used the same ceiling medallion in here that I used in the dining room. As in the dining room, I mixed together watery primer and plaster of paris into a paste-y consistency and slathered it on before hanging the medallion to fill in a lot of the crevices and soften the details—I think it goes a long way toward making it look old and authentic. Once they’re up, caulked, and painted, I think they’re very convincing!

radiatorafter

Since apparently I can’t stop painting things black, I also painted the corner radiator! I initially planned to have this radiator sandblasted and powder coated since it’s covered in quite a few layers of paint, but I figured it couldn’t make things drastically worse to just paint it out in the meantime. Now I really like it! It really brought out the details of the pattern and I really don’t mind that it’s not pristine. Just ignore the floors…this is after a lot of scrubbing but they just really need to be refinished. Hopefully a spring/summer project.

Typically I’d use an oil-based enamel for radiators because of the heat, but this one was already covered in a lot of latex paint so I didn’t want gamble with adhesion and peeling/cracking over time and all that. I found a pre-mixed can of high gloss black latex enamel by Valspar at Lowe’s, which was amazing to work with. This is just one coat! It covered great, dried fast, and so far hasn’t bubbled or anything like that, even with the heat turned up. Hot water radiators really don’t get hot enough to require high-heat paints, but the fact that this paint is for interior and exterior use makes me optimistic about it holding up for the long haul.

chimneycupboard

One of my favorite details in the room (the whole house, really) is the itty-bitty chimney cupboard! I guess this would have originally been used to store firewood and stuff, but I’m so glad it’s remained intact even if its purpose has been obsolete for many decades. The little brass/porcelain latch came out so cute after stripping the paint off. I love it.

fromdiningroombefore

windowshotafter

This is the view from the dining room door. It’s so nice to be able to have the door open now! If you ignore the craziness and chaos everywhere else, it sort of feels like the house is…not a construction zone. I like that.

Look! We Have a Dining Room Again!

|Manhattan Nest Dining Room Makeover|

We’re coming up on a year and a half in this house (insane, yes? not just me? k cool.), and even though I’m super proud of the progress that we’ve made in some ways, I feel like we’ve barely even scratched the surface in others! We started in the kitchen out of necessity, then I moved onto the little office so I could teach myself some stuff before I had the opportunity to mess up the more important spaces, then I dove into the laundry room because we were losing our minds trying to keep up with our filthy lives and our lack of laundry-doing ability.

I’ve been dying to really get into the more major rooms in the house, though! The kitchen and laundry room were kind of an exercise in working what we were working with (and in the laundry room, trying to add back some character and detail to tie it in with the rest of the house), and the little office was, well, small and more of a learning exercise than anything else. For the past several months, we’ve basically been living between the kitchen, the laundry room, and our bedroom, since all the other rooms were either jam-packed with stuff or under construction.

NOT ANYMORE! I don’t even really know where to begin talking about the dining room, other than to say that I love this room and have since the very first time we saw the house. It’s the perfect size, it gets beautiful light, it has a bay window (replete with fancy archway!), original moldings, old doors, old windows, all that good stuff. It’s been mocking me relentlessly. When we first moved here, I was completely delusional and wanted to have it pretty much done by Thanksgiving, which definitely didn’t happen. Then we tore out the ceiling in December, and since then the remodeling/restoration process spiraled into much more than I realized it even could when we toured the house initially. Aside from, you know, getting a new ceiling, there was also the matter of removing a non-original closet and sealing up the doorway, getting exposed heating pipes removed and buried in the wall, swapping the radiator with a different radiator and completely changing its location, re-running a lot of the old electrical work, repairing and skim-coating the walls, stripping down and restoring sections of molding, and finally the easy stuff like caulking and painting and moving furniture in and all that.

But! The hard stuff is DONE. I’m not going to say the room is done, because we literally just got it to the point of functioning like a dining room and I’m positive it will change and evolve as time goes by, but whatever! It’s a real room and worth taking pictures of! So there! Eep!

|Manhattan Nest Dining Room Makeover|

Here we are on Day 1! The room was rocking some pretty ugly acoustic ceiling tiles, a bad light fixture, and some very wild walls that I will admit to appreciating without wanting to actually live with. The good thing about these walls is that the pattern is actually painted with a patterned roller over walls that were skim-coated probably 50 years ago, so aside from a section of wall across the room, there wasn’t really any wallpaper to strip!

Anyway, I’m a sucker for this view. The molding work in our house is one of my favorite things about it (I love how the door and window casings miter into the baseboards—I don’t think I’ve ever seen that anywhere else!), and the original doors and hardware still make me so swoony and sappy. The door on the right leads into the front parlor (the future library room) and the door on the left leads to a shallow linen closet that I haven’t touched yet.

ANYWAY. READY?

Me too.

|Manhattan Nest Dining Room Makeover|

Look guys! It’s a real house and stuff! I’m so super stupid happy about this development. Like so happy.

After the ceilings went up (which I’m soooo glad I hired out, after so much internal debate), I went to WERK repairing and skim-coating the necessary sections of wall. I don’t really have tons of pictures, mainly because it was super boring and I was bouncing back from mono and generally living a lot like a zombie, but it happened? Here’s a really bad photo from the other night that sort of shows what I’m talking about:

process

When all was said and done, I’d say the walls were about 50% joint compound and 50% the old pattern craziness. I tested the walls for lead, and luckily the test was negative, so I gave the pattern a sanding while I was sanding the final skim-coat just so I wouldn’t see the dimension of the pattern through the new paint. Totally worked. Groovy.

I painted all of the skim-coated sections and the new ceiling with drywall primer before painting. I mention this because drywall primer is like $10-13/gallon, and new joint compound and drywall REALLY suck in the first coat of paint, so you don’t want to be wasting your more expensive paint on that first coat. The drywall primer does a good job of sealing everything in and prepping for your actual paint.

SPEAKING OF PAINT! I’m so, so, so happy with the paint color. I kid you not: I have somewhere upwards of 20 light grey paint samples stashed away. I hated everything once I painted samples on the wall. Grey is so hard. I was really after a very pale grey, but one that would never, ever go blue or purple on me. I’ve noticed that I really prefer warm grey colors for old houses, so I needed something that had more of a yellow undertone than blue, but wouldn’t look mayonaisse-y or yellowish. It felt totally impossible.

And then something miraculous happened: I got myself a tester can of a Benjamin Moore color called Soft Chamois, and it is PERFECT. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted, I think. It reads very white in the room, but up against actual white, it’s clearly definitely not white. When I started painting late at night, I had a mini panic-session that involved a lot of “am I painting my walls…tan?” but it dried into this gorgeous neutral that never looks cool and also never looks tan/taupe/yellow/custard-ish/etc. Greys and whites are so hard because what looks great in one space might look completely different and awful in another, so I can’t say that this color is perfect by any means, but it’s perfect here and I’m so glad I found a winner! The trim and ceiling are both painted Benjamin Moore Simply White, which is a fairly bright white that’s a little bit warmer than just pulling the can off the shelf. I love how it offsets with the walls. I’m basically very happy about the whole situation.

For all of the paint, I had it color-matched at Lowe’s to the new Valspar Reserve line, and I can honestly say that it’s the nicest paint I’ve ever used! And that includes Benjamin Moore Aura. It’s about $45/gallon (compared to $65 for BM), and the coverage was INSANE. I didn’t prime any of the crazy bright green pattern, and the Valspar Reserve covered it in one coat and looked flawless in two. I ended up using less than a gallon of paint on the ceiling and only a little over one gallon on the walls. I made sure to clean all of the moldings with TSP substitute before I painted, and it’s already dried really hard and solid and smooth and looks awesome. I’m really impressed with it.

So now that you know about my harrowing struggle of choosing a paint color, more pictures? Let’s do it.

|Manhattan Nest Dining Room Makeover|

One of the things that drove me crazy about the drop ceiling was the way the archway clearly did not fit under it, so the situation was remedied with some creative crown molding work and a ton of caulk. It was not good. Trust.

Since the radiators were probably added somewhere around 40 years after the house was built, I didn’t feel bad about changing the location of the one in the dining room. It was very oddly placed between the opening to the bay window and the other window, obscured the moldings of both, and generally cluttered up a wall that already has, well, a lot going on.

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Yayyy! One thing I did NOT do was get into the bay window. I’m saving that for another time. There’s some water damage to the windows and moldings in there, and it’s going to be one of those slow jobs that I can deal with another time. So I stuck a Fiddle Leaf Fig in it because that is what I do.

SOMEDAY, the other window in the dining room will look out to the outdoors, but right now it faces into that weird enclosed porch situation on the side of the house. The side porch is really horrible and falling apart and full of tools and stuff, so I hung a cheap vinyl shade on the outside so I wouldn’t have to look at it in the meantime. Fancy!

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Because who DOESN’T love before-and-after shots carefully taken from the same angle, here’s another one! The closet on the right is the one that I removed (the space became part of the pantry). The door and casing were removed entirely (hoarded in the basement, of course, because you never know) and I framed in the doorway and patched it with drywall. Then I skim-coated the entire wall…aside from some missing baseboard molding (again, different project, different day), you’d never know the doorway was ever there!

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All that work didn’t end up being all that important, I guess, because I went and bought an enormous antique cabinet and stuck it where the door used to be anyhow. But anyway! I swear I did all that hard work and stuff.

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While we’re here, let’s talk about this cabinet! I LOVE it. It’s about 4 feet wide and 8 feet tall, and I found it at a clock shop in Uptown Kingston months and months ago. I casually stalked it for a few months, and then the store owner decided to renovate and clear things out at discounted prices, and sold it to me after some back-and-forth for $450. I’m guessing parts of it are about the age of the house (maybe a little older), but I have a feeling that it used to be part of a longer run of built-ins and various parts have been tacked on over time, like the crown molding and the bead-board backing, and I think the doors might actually be old storm windows…who knows! The point is that it’s here, and we got it into the house, and somehow Max and I managed to hoist the top onto the bottom all by ourselves, and I think it’s somewhat magnificent.

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The interior of the whole thing used to be this custard yellow color, but I don’t play that. When I got it home, I wiped down the inside with TSP substitute, primed it with shellac-base primer, and painted it with two coats of semi-gloss Bedford Grey, which is a Martha Stewart color that I had leftover from painting the frame and rolling cabinet in the laundry room.

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I love how it turned out! Bedford Grey is SUCH a good stand-by kind of color. For now at least, the top pretty much just holds pretty stuff I’ve picked up here and there (mildly obsessed with that green crock, FYI), except that big wine decanter in the bottom left corner that doesn’t fit anywhere else. The drawers hold napkins, placemats, candles, all that kind of stuff, and the bottom has all our tech crap like the printer and modem and airport. And also booze. It also holds booze.

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Let’s take a moment to recall how awful the ceilings were. SURE, FINE, they could have been a lot better with a coat of paint, but the best thing was really to take them down, even though it ended up meaning taking the plaster ceiling above it down, too, and truly starting over.

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We can agree that this is way better, right? Like if we agree on nothing else at least we can agree on this one thing.

You never really know how a drywall job has panned out until after you get it painted, and I’m happy to say that these ceilings are terrific! The guys did such a great job. Even though I wish blueboard and plaster veneer had been an option budget-wise, I’m more than OK with this.

The medallion, by the way, looks great. I’m thrilled with the size of it (32 inches!), and I think the design really suits the house without overwhelming the room.

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Before I put the medallion in place, I ended up painting it with a mix of watered-down primer and plaster of paris, which I mixed into kind of a soupy paste and slathered on. The mixture helped fill in some of the crevasses and soften the details, so the medallion looks more like real plaster and more like it’s aged along with the house and been painted a bunch of times. I feel a little ridiculous about all of this, but WHATEVER. IT HAPPENED. WE’RE ALL GOING TO HAVE TO LIVE WITH MY FAUX-FINISHING WAYS.

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You might recognize the light fixture from our kitchen renovation! I bought this thing at a thrift store in Sweden for $7 a couple of years ago, and I still love it in all it’s knock-off-y glory. We tried to love it as a kitchen light, but we wound up really needing something that diffused light better and more evenly, so the kitchen got a simple globe light and this went back into the lighting hoard. I LOVE it for the dining room, though. I think it looks adorable and it casts perfect light for dining, especially when it’s dimmed down all romantic-like.

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Max and I found the figure drawing at an antiques store for $40 a while ago. I sort of forgot about him but then I was hunting around for something to hang over the radiator and out he came. Nothing says “Welcome to Gay Gardens!” like a strange naked man on the wall while you’re eating dinner, am I right? I dig it. It was between this or a large oil painting I found, which Max swears is a portrait of Sigourney Weaver. (I tried, Sigourney.)

Those who have followed my slow descent into total madness closely may recall my fondness for the NORDEN table from IKEA. When I mentioned wanting this table, there was SERIOUS dramarama and outcry in the comments about how terrible and cheap and awful this table was, but I like what I like and I found one on Craigslist for $250 and I was like GET IN MY HOUSE, NORDEN.

A word about the NORDEN: it’s a very nice piece of furniture. The size is more than generous, it’s solid wood, it expands, and it’s so simple and versatile that it could work in a million different spaces and look amazing. This table is from 1999 and was used in an office, where I can only assume it took a beating, and it’s still in awesome shape and solid as a rock despite having been disassembled and reassembled multiple times.

will say, though, the design of this table has changed a bit over the years. IKEA has since made the table longer, for starters, but they’ve also changed the top—on the older NORDEN tables, each strip of birch is continuous from one side to the other, but now the top is made of many smaller pieces and looks more like a butcherblock. There’s also something different about the finish…my table is super smooth and the new ones have the slightest texture and feel a little…plastic-y? I don’t know…it’s still a really nice piece of furniture (especially for the price) but I do think the older design is nicer. Luckily the seller had saved the original assembly instructions, so I could figure out how to put the thing together!

Anyway. I have no idea if it’ll stick around forever. But I’m totally happy with it for now and I actually like the way it looks with the chairs, so…that’s that.

|Manhattan Nest Dining Room Makeover|

|Manhattan Nest Dining Room Makeover|

OK, so, the doors! After I’d painted the walls and trim, I felt comfortable pulling the trigger on painting the doors black. I did this in my apartment like 3 years ago, and loved it there, and I already had the black paint, so I went for it! I really live on the edge that way. I used the same color: Onyx by Benjamin Moore, which continues to be my favorite black. It’s very slightly off-black, so not as stark as a true black paint, but it never looks even a little bit navy to me, which is a huge pet-peeve of mine with almost-black colors.

I’m going to be totally honest: I’m not entirely sure about this yet! We hung the doors 2 nights ago, and at first I was like “OMG I HATE IT” and then the next morning I was like “ok, maybe I don’t hate it totally” and then by last night I was kind of into it. I think it’s the white hardware that’s sort of throwing me. The hardware is original and beautiful and non-negotiable, and I knew maybe it was kind of a risk to do something so high-contrast, and…I think I just need to live with it for a while. I call them my Wednesday Addams doors.

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I love this itty bitty mirror. Just saying.

|Manhattan Nest Dining Room Makeover|

|Manhattan Nest Dining Room Makeover|

I think that’s about it! I don’t  know what else to say! I’m so happy to be able to use this space again, and excited that I pretty much just get to futz with it from here on out. The only really major thing left is to refinish the floors (they’re in terrible shape…somehow the pictures make them look a lot better!), but that should really wait until more of the house has been renovated…it’s probably a next spring/summer thing. We’ll get there!

Now onto the next room! I vote library.

The Little Office: It’s Done!

office2

Guess where I’m writing this post from. Guess guess guess.

That chair right there. With my laptop on that desk. In front of that glorious wall. In my office. Which is finished, FYI.

How did you spend your Saturday night? I spent mine pouring myself a glass of bourbon and polyurethaning a desktop and some shelves. Then I poured myself some more bourbon and cut and installed a roller shade and made some paint touch-ups to the walls and baseboards. Then I poured myself some more bourbon and painted the third and last coat of paint on the floor, and then I sat in the doorway and basked. I was drunk at this point, true, but I would have basked regardless. Because this room? It makes me really happy.

before2

When we bought the house, this is how things were looking. I really wish I had taken better photos than the ones that my old iPhone could capture because you totally can’t see how jacked up everything is. The walls were full of all sorts of problems, including old painted-over wallpaper that was peeling away from the plaster, enormous cracks, water damage from a leaky roof, and the floor had a few different types of linoleum laying on top of the original brown-painted tongue-and-groove subfloor. I think because this room is sort of out of the way and looked like such a wreck, Linus decided early on that it was an acceptable bathroom.

Rude.

before6

Things quickly went from bad to worse as I started to chip off all the old wallpaper to reveal the bare plaster. Large sections immediately fell apart and crumbled and later had to be patched in with drywall, but I was able to salvage and repair the vast majority of the plaster with plaster buttons, joint compound, various fiberglass mesh products, a lot of time and a huge learning curve. Repairing and restoring these walls myself felt completely overwhelming and impossible at first, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. The walls look so beautiful and authentic now, imperfections and all.

office1

BLAM. Office magic.

Take it in. I’m usually pretty humble and not totally satisfied with everything and annoying about dumb stuff, but I have to say that I’m so thrilled with how this room turned out. Apologies in advance for the overly self-congratulatory tone of this post! Maybe it’s hideous! But I love it. It feels so clean and crisp and fresh (which are very weird adjectives to be using about my house, the majority of which pretty much looks like the “before” photos of this room, with fewer ceilings…), and to me it’s just the right mix of modern and old. It feels amazing to have brought this room from a really forgotten, awkward little space (it’s only about 7’x8′!) to a beautiful, functional room with a real purpose. Considering the mountains of work we have ahead of us with this house, getting this little room done feels hugely motivational and really makes everything feel so worth it.

before4

The window wall had some water damage (luckily, plaster holds up pretty well to water, even when there’s a lot of it over many years). That corner was all buckled and cracked and falling apart, so it all had to be dug out and rebuilt. I’m saving the window sashes themselves for another time—they’re in OK shape but do need to be removed and fully restored, and that’s just not happening in February!

corner

So fresh and so clean! I hung an ENJE roller shade from IKEA to give a little privacy, filter the light a bit, and cover up the current state of the window. I really hate the ways that IKEA has changed the design of the ENJE shade (they’re on a spring mechanism instead of a pull-chain now, for starters, and it’s a piece of crap), but the fabric remains the same and they’re easy to cut down, so I keep coming back to it. I’d love to use something nicer from an operational standpoint, but custom roller shades are SO incredibly expensive and I’ve yet to find a halfway decent alternative. So ENJE wins again!

The trash-basket is from Home Goods (they always seem to have an ample supply of nice, inexpensive baskets), and the desk lamp is a FADO lamp from IKEA that I’ve owned for years. The mug is from CB2 (with graphics on the other side designed my my internet-friend, Ben Wagner!). The sheepskin is IKEA. Max and I found the chair at the DWR Annex in Secaucus, marked down to something like $75 because there were a few scuffs on the arms! Most of it washed right off with a Magic Eraser, leaving only a tiny area of chipped paint smaller than a pencil eraser. Madness! It’s totally comfortable and totally classic and I like that it’s really visually light, which helps the room feel more spacious and really lets the best part of the room shine. I bet you can guess where I’m headed with this…

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THIS. WALLPAPER.

Y’all. I’m obsessed with this wallpaper. It’s the Diamanté pattern in black/gold from Hygge & West, produced in collaboration with Portland-based design studio Laundry. It’s incredible. I used less than a single roll for this little wall, but it completely makes the space and guided the direction of literally every other design decision in the room. I’ve said this before, but I love that the pattern manages to be really stylistically ambiguous but still really bold and dramatic—it’s well-suited to the age of the house but definitely not striving to be necessarily accurate to the period. I can see this wallpaper working in so many different types of spaces and looking amazing in all of them. It’s hard for pictures to really do it justice, but the gold is perfection in real life—it’s shimmery and metallic without looking either too flat or too overdone.

I love it. I want to wallpaper everything.

Maybe you want to get in on that wallpaper action in your own digs. Maybe you should stay tuned for the next post, because maybe the fine folks at Hygge & West also want that for you. Wink. Wink.

Wink.

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I’m posting a bunch of before/process pictures alongside the afters because I don’t want anyone thinking this was just a fresh coat of paint! And also I’m vain. This was blood, sweat, and tears, people. OK, it wasn’t that either, but it was really fucking hard.

The space to the right of the chimney was a total mess—the top half of the wall had to be repaired with big drywall patches, while the lower half had to be stabilized with plaster buttons, fiberglass mesh screens, and several skim-coats of joint compound. Same story for other parts of the room. It was bananas! It’s safe to say that I had no idea what I was getting into with this room (the whole house, really!), but that’s OK. The good thing about DIY is that none of this stuff was very expensive—just very time and labor intensive. I can do that.

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But now? Ahhhhhhhhh. The only really logical use for this funny little corner were some shelves, and I think they’re so cute! Since I wanted to keep the desktop clear of clutter and distractions, these shelves are a great place to organize all the office-y stuff (and a few books) that I wanted in the space. I built both the shelves and the desktop out of inexpensive pine lumber, and I really like the natural tone of the wood next to the white walls and the black and gold wallpaper. I’ll post a whole DIY step-by-step for how I built them all super soon! The construction was really simple and I’m so glad I put in a little extra time and effort on something that looks really built-in and custom instead of using pre-fabricated or modular components. It makes the room feel special.

I picked up the big snake plant at Home Depot the other day for $15! I feel like these plants get a bad rap, but they’re super low-maintenance and one of the few houseplants that Max and I can agree on. The big crock that it’s in was a lucky yard sale find over the summer. Even though these are fairly common antiques-fare in the Hudson Valley, prices can get a little out of hand. This one isn’t super valuable or super old or super unique, but it is really big and I think we paid $30 for it which still felt like a deal. I stuck some small felt pads to the bottom to keep it from scratching the floor.

(I don’t know what that yellow glass thing on the top shelf is. I bought it at another yard sale over the summer for a few dollars along with some iittala stuff—the seller had no idea what he had!—but I’ve yet to figure out what it’s really for! The top separates from the bottom, so I guess the bottom part could be a vase, but maybe it has some other weird purpose. Maybe it’s for drugs. I think it’s pretty, though!)

shelves

The shelves also hold some things that are pretty special to me, including the stapler that belonged to my grandparents and this little antique box that I bought when I was little. I went through a big antique-box-collecting phase as a kid (yes, really) and have since gotten rid of most of them (how many little boxes can one person really use, honestly?), but I’m glad this one’s stuck around. The black and white striped box below it was on clearance at Target and fits 8.5×11″ paper perfectly.

before3

This area to the right of the door was actually in the best shape, and all it really needed was three layers of skim coat and paint. The little door to the little closet under the attic stairs had lots of gloopy paint on it and I got a little carried away with the heat gun trying to even it out, so I ended up having to strip the whole thing. It’s less than 5 feet high, though, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s probably not something I have it in me to do for every door in the house, though. But it was nice to give this one a little extra love.

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Yep, yep, yep. I’m pretty happy with how this all panned out! I stripped the paint off the door hinges in a pot of water on the stove (low heat for a few hours with a little dish soap!) and spray-painted them with Rustoleum’s matte black spray paint. I love the contrast of the black hardware with the white door and moldings.

glassknob

The door also has the cutest little glass knob! I doubt it’s original, but it’s definitely old. It had some paint on it, but it easily came off using the same method I used on the hinges (again—LOW HEAT…don’t want to crack the glass!) and shined up beautifully. It has lots of little air bubbles in the glass.

mirrorcloseup

I was planning to hang something else on that wall, but as things started to come together, I felt like the room needed some more old stuff to balance out the crispness of everything else. I picked up the mirror at a weird vintage shop somewhere around here for $45 a while ago, and I think it’s kind of perfect. There’s some damage to the frame and the glass is all speckled with age, which just makes it better. I love old mirrors.

light

officelight

Speaking of old stuff, I’m in love with the light fixture. I bought it a while ago at this crazy junk shop for $5 (!)—it had probably been sitting outside for a few decades, and I had no idea what I was going to do with it at the time, but the art deco details on the metal and that ball of amber glass near the top made me need it. I thought at the time that maybe I’d spray paint the whole thing, so I stashed it in the basement for a rainy day and forgot about it. But when I remembered that it was sitting in my basement, the beat-up finish and rust and crap seemed to make it perfect for this room. I took it apart and cleaned all of the components with Barkeeper’s Friend, which helped eliminate the excess rust without stripping its age and wear. Max thought I was a complete lunatic throughout this whole sequence of events, but I had a VISION. I rewired the whole thing (which is really very simple, I promise!) and with a few new pieces of hardware and bulbs, it was super easy to hang up!

The ceiling medallion is nothing special—just a stock urethane foam medallion from Home Depot that was about $30 (they usually only have a few in the store, but the selection online is huge!). These tend to look really cheap and shitty in their packaging, but once they’re caulked and painted, they look like the real deal. I attached it to the ceiling with construction adhesive and drove a couple of screws through it while the glue cured for a few hours and caulked it around the edge. Later on, I took the screws out, patched the holes with ReadyPatch, and painted it the same color as the ceiling. It’s not really everything I ever wanted (I think it’s a little too fancy-looking for this decidedly un-fancy room), but I do really like the way it looks with the light fixture and the wallpaper. For other rooms I’ll order medallions that are more appropriate to the house and the original functions of the rooms, but I’m letting it go for in here. Good enough!

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floor

I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the floor! I’ve wanted to paint this floor white since the first time we saw the house and I didn’t even know what this room would be! It did not disappoint. I love it. It ended up taking a lot of prep work (sinking face-nails, sanding, retrofitting an underlayment, caulking between the boards, shellac-based primer…), but the end result is so beautiful and fresh. I used Benjamin Moore’s low-sheen white Floor and Patio paint (three coats), and the finish seems really durable. I’m not sure I could deal with white floors in large areas of my living space (I don’t like to clean that much…), but this room is so tiny and out of the way that I don’t think it’ll be hard to keep clean. It’s small enough that I can scrub the whole thing with a Magic Eraser every now and then, and enforcing a no-shoe policy in this room shouldn’t be too difficult. I love how the white paint actually brings out the age and imperfections of this old floor—all of the scars of years of use add a texture that keeps it from feeling sterile or cold.

Also, I think Linus likes it for camouflaging purposes. He no longer seems interested in shitting on it, either. Success!

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I love this room. Thank you, sincerely, for all of the kind words of encouragement as I’ve been learning how to do (and sometimes, redo) a lot of this stuff for the first time—it really does help, and it really makes me happy that I have this blog. It never seems like there’s a totally opportune, not-weird time to say this, so I’ll just put it here: I’m so lucky to have such kind, phenomenal readers. I hope you like the room, too!

Now let’s tackle the rest of this madhouse!

The Apartment, After 2 Years of Living: The Living Room

The house is in all-out chaos mode. Ripping out the dining room ceiling sort of had a snowball effect of more and more demo, which has not only created an enormous mess but also brought the number of ongoing projects up to a semi-crazy, semi-overwhelming, basically-unmanagaeble tally. It’s kind of at the point where I just look around and find myself completely incapable of even prioritizing tasks anymore, so I’m just chipping away at all of them randomly and hoping that if I keep on like this, everything will meet some kind of happy resolution. Totally good strategy? I guess we’ll find out.

Even though I like the idea of moving along one room at a time, in practical application that’s just not really how it works with a house in need of this much work. It doesn’t make much sense to just do a little drywall work without just doing most of the drywall work or update a little of the electrical without updating a lot of the electrical. My hope is that if we can get a lot of this stuff taken care of at once, we can go back to the room-by-room strategy and just do the fun stuff like skim-coating* and painting** and making things pretty***.

*not fun at all.
**also not very fun.
***maybe moderately fun, but not that fun either.

So that’s pretty much where things stand. Chaos. Confusion. Too many things. It makes me feel so ALIVE.

throughbedroom

So, to distract both me and you from the fact that I’ve become a perma-dusty garbage person living constantly in filth and despair, I figured maybe let’s talk about things that are currently pretty and clean? Instead of things that I promise will one day be pretty, even if everyone thinks I’ve lost my mind at this current moment?

I posted a little 2-year update on our bedroom at the Brooklyn apartment back in October and intended to complete the series by posting about each of the rooms every week or so, but that didn’t happen. Why? I don’t know. I get distracted.

before2

My goodness, those walls. Sometimes I forget about the red walls when we moved in, and then I remember the red walls, and I become so grateful for good primer all over again.

Probably the biggest question I get from people about this apartment is how in the world I finagled my landlord into letting me make all these changes to my rental, and the answer is more or less contained in this picture (bearing in mind that this low-quality iPhone shot is actually very forgiving). When we moved into this apartment, it was kind of a wreck. It’s a beautiful 1890 building, sure, but it hasn’t been well-maintained (trust, the public areas of the building are horrendous). I think most standard New York City lease agreements either allow painting only with permission or stipulate that walls must be returned to white upon move-out, but that clearly did not happen here. It’s probably best practice to not have missing pieces of flooring, either, and maybe making sure that electrical outlets are operable and covered is also a good plan. Bathroom doors that close are nice, too. As for that legally-required smoke detector? HAHAHA. LOLZ.

before1

The point is, while I did volunteer to paint the apartment myself if our landlord agreed to cover 1/2 of the cost (I would have done it anyway, because…red walls), that was pretty much the start and end of it. And in our building, I think that’s 100% OK. I’m pretty confident that all the things I’ve done are objective improvements, and it just seems silly (and, frankly, unwise) for me to ask permission every time I want to help improve their property. I think this kind of landlord-tenant relationship is pretty standard in Brooklyn, but all I can really say is that you have to evaluate your own individual situation as objectively and honestly as possible when considering altering a rental, and just because I did something doesn’t mean that you should also do that something. My (lack of) consequences might be very different from yours!

livingroom

Anyway! I love this room now. It’s gone through lots and lots of iterations in between that “before” picture and this one, and if we hadn’t bought the house, I’d probably keep messing with it until the end of time. But there is zero extra time, money, or effort in my life anymore that I’m willing or able to devote to futzing with this space, so it’s done enough! I like it.

Clockwise: lucite tables are vintage. Couch is IKEA. Pillows are CB2 (discontinued). Desk is vintage. Wall lamp is OneFortyThree. Tree is a Fiddle Leaf Fig. Pot is Target (discontinued). Ceiling light is the Cartell FL/Y Suspension Lamp. Chair is a vintage Eames Lounge. String light is Patrick Townsend for Areaware. Basket is West Elm Market (discontinued). Mirror and pottery on mantel are vintage. Credenza is vintage. Eames shell chair is vintage, base is from Modern Conscience (quality is terrific, btw). Coffee table is vintage. Rug is vintage.

desk

I don’t know, stuff and things on top of the desk. I still love that Christopher Gray print from Erie Drive.

livingroom2

OK, time to fess up…we got a huge TV. Over a year ago. My little 26″ TV wasn’t cutting it anymore, and at some point we decided that our next TV purchase should be approximately 400 times larger. I know the chic blogger thing to do is have, like, some modestly-sized TV covered with a curtain wall of cotton-velvet panels underneath which is a gallery wall of some fake art surrounding the TV and painted dark to minimize the presence of the TV and pretend like TV isn’t something they do while they continue to try to invent an invisibility forcefield for said TV, but that’s dumb. A TV is a TV, and TV is pretty great these days, so who cares? Despite that I know on a cognitive level that this enormous television is tacky and huge, I’ve also successfully deluded myself into thinking that because it’s mounted and scaled kind of like a piece of art, it isn’t so conspicuous. Ha.

We’re boys. Leave me alone.

We got a good deal on this very slim LED LG model (I think maybe they were phasing it out…I can’t seem to find it for sale anymore), and I have to say it’s super nice. I don’t know lots about this stuff, but I guess LG isn’t considered one of the high-quality brands, but the picture quality (and even sound quality!) on this TV are amazing, and I remember it being slimmer than the nicer Sony and Samsung counterparts. No regrets! I mounted it to the wall with a TV mount from Amazon, which I remember being fairly challenging (this wall is plaster over brick, so I used huge lag-bolts to secure it). Then I wrapped the cords together with a rubber band and stacked some books in front of them “temporarily” while I figured out a better solution. Then I completely stopped caring because my shows were on.

blocklight

Pretty much my most successful NYC thrift score of the last year was that I found a Design House Stockholm Block Lamp at Salvation army for $6. SIX. DOLLARS. It was missing the cord and light socket, but those parts were super simple to wire up DIY-style with stuff from one of the lighting stores in Chinatown. I’ve wanted one of these things for a longgggg time, so the whole event was incredibly exciting.

vases

The collection of amateur studio pottery on the mantel continues to grow, but I can’t help myself! Max’s younger sister, Ana, made that little green bowl as part of a ceramics class to fulfill a studio art requirement in college. Evidently she almost failed the class because her pottery was so elementary and unrefined, but that’s what I love about it! I think she could make a career out of making lousy bowls and selling them for $95 in Williamsburg, but I guess maybe she has other priorities. I’m glad we got one of her pieces before she retired from the ceramics game.

Want to see how this room has progressed over the years? Here are some posts listed chronologically that follow the progress. You know, if you’re having a super boring workday or whatever.

1. The New Nest
2. Settling In
3. I Like All Colors that are Black or White
4. Credenza
5. Slow and Steady but Mostly Just Slow
6. Rocker
7. Radiator: Painted!
8. Fiddle!
9. Shambles
10. Mantel Things
11. 65.
12. New Desk!
13. Adventures in Vignetting.

 

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