All posts tagged: Furniture

We Got a Dresser!

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A couple of weekends ago, Max and Anna and I hung out for a few hours down around Newburgh. We went to Anna’s mommy’s house to say hi and check out her beaaaauuutiful newly-refinished wood floors. Those floors are not the point of this post, but it kind of threw my floor-refinishing fantasies into overdrive. Our floors downstairs are a total mess, and I know they could be gorgeous refinished. Someday, floors. Someday. Anna’s stepfather, Bernie, said I could do it myself…which of course is giving me all kinds of ideas about my own abilities that I probably shouldn’t have. We’ll see.

Anyway. Then we went to lunch, and on the way back to Anna’s house, we stopped to check out the new Newburgh Vintage Emporium. I don’t usually buy anything from places like this since everything is usually out of my price range, but it’s fun to look. And then, toward the end—THIS DRESSER! I’ve been casually looking for a dresser since we bought the house (let’s just not talk about our clothing storage situation prior to this, cool?), and then I saw this one and it was all over.

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I think the dresser is probably early-mid 1800s (so about the age of our house!), but beyond that I don’t know tons about it! I love how simple it is, and I love how each drawer is a different size, and that each one has a keyhole and lock. We don’t have the key, but I don’t really care about that. I wish it was more apparent from the photos, but what really drew me to it was the size! This thing is HUGE. It has the proportions of a much smaller dresser, but it’s totally bulky and boxy and enormous.

At about $300 it wasn’t the best bargain in the world, but I still think it’s a good deal for a piece like this (I think similar ones tend to be more in the $600-and-up-range). The reason it was probably semi-affordable is that the knobs definitely aren’t original, which doesn’t really bother me. For me, that’s always been a realistic way to collect antiques—pieces that have non-original parts or have been repaired or refinished or altered aren’t as valuable as ones in totally original condition. If prices aren’t already lowered as a result, knowing what to look for and pointing out stuff like that can be a good negotiating tactic. The knobs on this dresser are just too pristine and stained too uniformly to be original, but I think the shape and size are kind of nice and they aren’t by any means offensive, so I’ll live with them for a while and maybe change them up down the line somehow.

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Isn’t it super great how the back legs are all un-fancy and just continuous with the side/back panels and the front legs are pretty turned wood? I think that detail sold me. I love this thing.

Other than the dresser, the bedroom looks pretty much the same as it did back when I posted about it in august. We had to pick up the rug because it was just getting too dirty with all the dust and debris getting tracked around the house all the time, and we’ve since stripped the walls almost completely down to the bare plaster—they were covered in wallpaper and layers of paint, all of which were peeling off the walls in large pieces. I know the plaster walls look fun and arty and beautiful and people will try to convince me to not repair, skim-coat, and paint them, but I swear it’s just the pictures. Parts of them (like the part behind the dresser, for instance) are in pretty great condition, while other parts are totally falling apart and a complete mess, beyond the point of doing small fixes that could blend in a good way. I also just really don’t think this is the house for bare plaster walls. Our friend John has some bare plaster walls in his house (sealed with some kind of varnish to keep dust under control), but his house is a 1725 Dutch stone house and beautifully rustic, where that look really works. Our house, by contrast, is kind of a modest Greek Revival, and I really think the house just wants to be simple and clean and bright. Maybe that sounds like crazy-talk, but I really feel like the house dictates what it wants to be, and it’s more or less my job to make that happen.

ANYWAY.

I still love the deco bed but I do feel like it’s totally out of scale with the dresser and kind of wacky in a bad way, but that’s OK at this point. Maybe it’ll become a guest bed someday. Maybe the dresser will go somewhere else. I know everyone really just wants to see a beautiful, put-together room, but that’s not really how my life works and therefore not really how this blog works. Right now, our attention (and money) is focused almost exclusively on renovating the house and maybe collecting pieces here and there that we really love, and I’m fine with that. We (like pretty much everyone…) have years to figure out how to mix and match our pieces and play around until things look right (or right-enough), and honestly that’s way more exciting to me than trying to do it all in one pass.

The bedroom is pretty low on the list of priorities right now, honestly, but it feels very exciting to finally have a place to store our underwear like fancy adults! Step in the right direction.

Dining Room Furniture!

Throughout basically my entire childhood and adolescence, I can’t recall my parents buying furniture. Our house had furniture, so I never really thought too hard about it. That I’d never seen my mom hem and haw over a fabric sample or my dad try and fail to assemble something from IKEA never really struck me as weird, even when we moved to a larger house when I was 7. Instead of going to stores and finding the right pieces to fill the space, selected as part of  a pre-planned decor scheme, the house just sort of became furnished. It wasn’t until a little later that I started to understand that most of the furniture we owned had at one time belonged to another family member, and even later when I realized that all of my relatives are lunatics.

It wasn’t that my parents couldn’t have bought their own furniture (that would be different), but that they just never really had a reason to. Instead, it seems like anything that my grandparents bought between the years of about 1960 to 1980 but no longer used——including office furniture——was systematically kept, stored, and shipped great distances on an as-needed basis years later. Even now, if the second or third caretaker of one such piece then decides they don’t want it, its donation or sale must be agreed upon by all members of my parents’ generation (and, increasingly, my generation), lest someone else might want it or someday decide that they might someday want it. Then it goes back into storage and waits for the house that so-and-so won’t own for a decade. It’s psychotic.

The actual economics of this are often completely backward, since all of the storing and the moving and the shipping ends up costing more than the value of the furniture to begin with, but that isn’t the point. The point is, if you need a sectional sofa in my family, you can take your pick between the maroon one and the black one, and maybe they’re both missing parts, but on the plus side they’re already broken in a little and have a modicum of sentimental value for somebody, somewhere.

As this stems from my father’s side of the family, I’m not sure my mother knew what sort of life she was signing up for: the kind where actually buying anything new amounted to an act of rebellion, liberation, desperation, or all three. The poor woman has literally hated her bedroom furniture for 20 years——not casually, in the way that you might want a new set of dishes but never seem to find the time, but aggressively and persistently, day in and day out, for two decades. And it wasn’t like there was a honeymoon period at the beginning when it was new and she actually did like it, because in the context of her life it was never new. It just arrived at some point, and that was that.

Of the many things in my childhood home that my mother openly despised, very few received as much disdain as our dining room set. She has been plotting to get rid of it the entire time I’ve known her. I’m not even really sure what her major gripe with it was——something about the chairs being uncomfortable and not liking the shape of the table——but I’m not sure it really matters. It was more of a fixation, an imaginary problem into which many of her broader frustrations were slowly channeled. At various times she would find a new table option here or chair option there, but the effort always fell just short of actually placing the order. I think eventually the pressure of finding something that would make her happy became too overwhelming to outweigh just living with the anger, so she resigned herself to just waiting until they moved.

Once my parents actually did make the commitment to move, it was more or less assumed that the ridiculous cycle of storing and shipping old many-times-used furniture would just continue as it always had. To their credit, my parents did get rid of a lot of stuff, but the option was put to us kids to claim whatever we wanted first. Seeing as I’m the only one with the space or the need, I got the only thing I was truly interested in.

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BOOM DINING ROOM SET. It is mine. Finally it is loved.

This set was purchased by my grandparents for the house my dad grew up in around 1965. It doesn’t have any manufacturer marks or labels, so I have no idea who the designer or brand is, but I love it. The chair frames are all brassy or bronze-y or some kind of warm metal-y with lots of patina, and the seats and backs are black leather slings with white stitching. I personally think they’re comfortable, but I also personally don’t give a shit either way because look at that fine chair.

I love chairs.

My father reports that as a teenager, he used to sit at this dining set and listen to Jefferson Airplane and watch the wallpaper.

Stoner.

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Now for the potentially controversial part of the post. I don’t think I actually like the table. My evolution toward becoming my mother is officially complete.

Objectively, it’s a nice table. It’s solid wood. It has leaves. It’s in really good condition. However, the original finish was a much lighter wood tone, and in an effort to make themselves like it, my parents had the whole thing ebonized in the 80s. Consequently, even though the set is from the 60s and the chairs alone are delicious, the set together reads very 80s to me. Black leather is one of those tough things that really only works in certain contexts, I think, without looking like Wall Street. 

Luckily, my dream dining table is actually pretty attainable. I know people will roll their eyes, but the IKEA NORDEN table is SO nice. It’s solid birch, has great simple lines, and is HUGE (a bit bigger than this table, which I think will fit the room better). I think it would look reallllly good with the chairs, too, and complement them way better than this table does. Since this is our only dining space and we use it constantly (as opposed to the last 20 years, when this table only got used a few times a year because we had an eat-in kitchen), it would also be nice to have something I wouldn’t have to worry so much about damaging. Even though I don’t particularly like this table, I also do want to keep it in good shape.

You know, in case my siblings want it in 20 years.

 

Safe Haven: The Bedroom!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Desk Drawer Redo!

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I guess there are certain things you’re supposed to do when moving to a new place, and there are very few places where these conventions are more entrenched than on college campuses. When I got to college, I kind of tried to do these things. I committed myself to making friends and enjoying the city with all the bright-eyed-bushy-tailedness that my persistently-nervewracked brain could handle. I didn’t get involved in any clubs or student organizations or anything like that, but I tried in my own way to be a productive, socially-healthy member of NYU and New York City at large.

It was only a couple of weeks into this New Socially Fluent Me that I was somewhere in Chelsea, let’s say, coming back from somewhere exciting, let’s say. I was too distracted by trying to act like less like a feral animal and more like a likable and attractive person to remember details. All I really remember is getting Indian food that was far too spicy, and a long internal debate that followed about whether it would be worse to order something else and risk looking like a pansy or grin and bear it. I chose Option B and sobbed/hiccuped (does anyone else hiccup uncontrollably when eating impossibly spicy food?) my way through the meal, which must have definitely made me look very attractive. No question.

There’s a valuable window of time in New York between when you and your acquaintances leave wherever you’ve been and walk to the subway. Amidst the traffic and the weird smells and the weird people and the weird-smelling people, it’s a time to reflect, to dispense final thoughts, and to debate your best route home. The goodbye itself is abrupt because everyone literally has a train to catch, so this window of time is not only brief but also pivotal to ending things with a good impression. This is what I was trying to do, after the Indian food fiasco. I’m so charming! I’m funny! BE FRIENDS WITH ME!

And then I saw a little crappy wood nightstand popping out of a pile of garbage and instinct took over. I NEED THIS GROSS DUMPSTER THING, my brain told me. I WILL MAKE OF IT A NIGHTSTAND (it was already a nightstand) AND IT WILL BE GOOD. I WILL STAIN IT. I WILL REPLACE THE HARDWARE. I WILL BE SO CRAFTY. I hailed the closest cab. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE FRIENDS, my brain said while I tossed it in the trunk, BUT THERE IS ONLY ONE DUMPSTER THING. And that’s how I left things.

Charming and attractive.

before

On the left, that’s how it looked once I un-stuck some wallpaper (which I distinctly remember doing with rubbing alcohol, for some reason, which led my roommate to believe briefly that I had a hidden drinking problem), stained the unfinished pine, and replaced the hardware. Then, when the spirit moved me to own a desk, I did some primitive cobbling together of things to create a desk out of it. Which I had for a while until I replaced it with this desk, which is much more practical for our apartment. Sorry, old cobbled-together desk.

Some readers suggested that I try to sell the desk, but after a few years of use and abuse and my slightly shoddy workmanship to begin with (no formal training! can you believe it? I can.), I just couldn’t really imagine doing that. It would be like posting an ad on craigslist for a used dishrag. “PLEASE BUY THIS SCHMATA I’M DONE WITH IT.”  <– not something you would do.

It would have read like this:

DESK. MADE IT WITH MY HANDS. NOW I’M A BLOGGER. MAY NEED SOME REPAIRS. REALLY NOT WORTH THE COST OF REPAIRS. BOYFRIEND SPILLED PLUG-IN OIL ON IT, ATE A HOLE THROUGH TOP PAINT & POLY. WEIRD STAINS ON PAINT. BOTTOM DRAWER KIND OF STICKS DUE TO WEIRD LEGS. TOP IS SAGGING A LITTLE, BUT NOT TOO BAD. NOT DEEP ENOUGH TO BE A GREAT DESK, EVER. OTHERWISE YOU WILL LOVE THIS DESK $4 OBO.

See? It’s not a good look.

Point is, desk was a fun experiment and looked good and all, but it was time to move on. Obviously I couldn’t just do the natural thing and get rid of it though.

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BOOM rolling tool cabinet. New look, same great taste. I have too many tools and nothing great to hold them in, and this fits perfectly in our little closet between the hamper and the suitcases. I will not be showing that, due to shame.

process

This doesn’t even really merit much explanation, but you’re already here so might as well:

1. Removed the legs from underneath the cabinet and screwed some little casters I had laying around directly into the frame.

1. Sawed down the original desktop (which is 2 pieces of 3/4″ MDF sandwiched together with wood glue) with a circular saw on the roof. Discarded excess.

2. Sanded the top and sides of the remaining top to rough up surface. There were some weird stains that wouldn’t come out and some chipped paint, so I decided to just repaint the whole thing.

3. Sanded the newly-sawed edge lightly and applied some Ready Patch with a spackle knife. Ready Patch is my new favorite thing in the world—harder than spackle, not as hard as wood filler, very easy to work with and dries quickly. Perfect filler for like everything?

4. Painted the top with a 2″ angle brush in semi-gloss white latex paint. When I did this originally, I used a small foam roller for the top, but I prefer the look of furniture when it’s painted with a brush. It’s a personal preference thing.

contents

And look! It does things! Like hold tools! Obviously I have more tools and DIY tchotchkes than fit in this little thingy, but this now holds pretty much all the essentials I’d want for a little fix-it job around the apartment. It’s easy to just roll it around to wherever I’m working and have everything at arm’s reach. Maybe I’ll even invest in a few drawer organizer things (like for utensils) to further organize stuff. I know, edge of your seat with excitement.

The knobs are the SNODD knob from IKEA, by the way. They were the cutest little knobs and IKEA only made them for like 5 minutes and it’s not fair. I should have bought a thousand of them, just to hoard. Or at least more than 4.

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Yay! This thing has more lives than Keanu Reeves.

New Desk!

When I was young, my parents became possessed of the notion that we needed to have all of our personalities tested. There wasn’t anything terribly dysfunctional about my family—at least not more so than most other families, which are mostly all dysfunctional—but the tests held a certain alluring promise. Before the tests, we were free-falling in chaos, but after the tests, we would know things about each other. We would regard each other with understanding and compassion, communicate more clearly, and we would be better for it.

I was twelve at the time, and I remember sitting in my bedroom and answering simple, repetitive questions for two hours. It was fun and relaxing and, when the results came in, made me feel exceedingly special. Here was a written report explaining in scientific-ish terms that I was, essentially, a terrific person. Of course, everyone’s results come out this way, so I’m not bragging, but the test told me specifically why I was terrific. The test had a way of putting a positive spin on all traits. Instead of being needlessly and irrationally emotional about the problems of other people, I was just very empathetic. I could give up on the dream of pursuing anything very practical or profitable career-wise because ultimately I was just too literary for all that. I was an intellectual, and this made me feel as though I was more interesting than my siblings, which was more or less all I wanted at 12.

The biggest takeaway for my family, though, was that instead of just being a lunatic spaz, I had a high change score. I was the kid who was constantly rearranging my furniture and always questioning why we couldn’t just move some stuff around in the house or paint a room or four. Prior to the tests, this sort of behavior was interpreted by mostly everyone as simply irritating. But after the tests, I had a label. There was a chart in a folder that said this was just who I was, irrevocably.

Because permanence and stagnation freak me out, I often try to avoid them. I don’t mind permanence much where my life is concerned (oh hey, live-in boyfriend and two dogs in the space of a year), but it drives me crazy in my living space. I like things best when they’re easy to reverse and modify. It drives me crazy that each room in my apartment only has one truly viable furniture layout (trust me, I’ve tried everything!), and I don’t like feeling married to certain pieces (with the notable exception of my grandparents’ Eames lounge chair. I’ll marry that.).

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Oh hey there. Lookatchu.

The only reason anyone reads this blog is probably because I once made a desk. It was one of the first things I ever built, and I was really proud of that thing. I had no idea what I was doing or the best way to go about anything (some of my advice in that post is, uh, really bad), but the point was that I had an idea and I made it happen and it totally worked and it looked cool. And then Anna blogged about it and I felt really cool, which led people other than my mom to read my blog and led me to eventually counting Anna and some other people I met through blogging as some of my best friends.

So that desk meant a lot to me. I’ll admit that. I’m not made of stone!

But while I loved that desk in my old apartment, I could never really make it work here. I schlepped it from the bedroom (where it was NEVER used) to the living room (where it sat for months and was rarely used). It took up precious space and provided so little storage. Eventually, the desk just became frustrating, and I realized I was keeping it around mostly out of some weird sense of obligation and sentimentality. But it had ceased to be very practical (which was the whole goal when I built it) and when the MDF top started to bow slightly and some of the paint chipped, it just didn’t look so great anymore.

Enter the light of my life, fire of my loins: Craigslist. For a while I just wanted to get rid of the desk and replace it with some kind of small, low dresser on this wall next to the sofa or maybe a smaller desk, and then I realized I could have both! I quickly found a listing for a cute Swedish secretary-style desk for a couple hundred bucks. Oddly, there was another listing for the exact same desk for like $1,200 at the time, which is a total rip-off.

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I totally love this cute little desk, but it’s a piece of crap! The teak veneer is pretty, but I think the entire thing is made of just chipboard and cardboard and some little dowels and wood glue. It seemed like the entire thing was going to fall apart when we dragged it up to the apartment, and it had little floating storage compartments inside the desk part that did totally fall apart and now need repair. Whoops. Anyway, not all things vintage are synonymous with quality.

Oh well. It works. And now that it’s in place, I don’t think it’ll fall apart as much anymore. Also, I KNOW that arrangement on the top is not working, but I need to rearrange the art to make room on a wall for that painting. I guess. I don’t know. High change score. Don’t rush my process.

Anyway! The desk is super cute, super Swedish, super vintage, and has a lavish amount of storage space. When you live in 500 square feet with one small closet, it’s amazing how much a change from 4 small drawers to 4 less-small drawers just feels absolutely spacious. The desk holds all of our office supplies, electronics crap (extra cords, chargers, external hard drives, etc.), and most of my tools (thereby clearing up space in the kitchen cabinets!). It’s great.

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I don’t have any pictures of the new lounge chair and the old desk in the room at the same time I don’t think, but trust—it was feeling very crowded and dumb. Here’s a before-ish picture for reference-ish? I’m shitty at this.

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I love how the new desk has totally opened up this end of the living room. I moved the Fiddle Leaf Fig (still going strong!) out of the corner and it seems to be pretty happy there in the middle. The proportions of the desk are small enough that it works off to the side of the sofa in a way that most other furniture (including the old desk!) just looked really awkward. Feeling it.

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I moved my Patrick Townsend String Light from the kitchen to the corner behind the chair, and I LOVE IT there. It’s the perfect lighting after the sun goes down, and is just so soft and beautiful. It’s unfortunately exceedingly hard to photograph well, but it really is one of my favorite things. Like, in the world.

I kind of wish we could get away without a side table next to the chair, but I’ll admit that it’s nice to have something to put a mug or a book down on. It’s a vintage knock-off Saarinen tulip side table from the amazing Maya! I kind of want to replace the top at some point (it’s just wood with a bullnose edge), but I don’t know. It’s feeling very mid-century-modern-museum up in here, so fake tulip might have to be relocated. Hmmm.

I want to change all the things always.

string

I love String.

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I love desk.

I’m out of words.

 

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