All posts tagged: Living Room

Solar Shade Success!

shade2

One of the major tragedies of the past few years was IKEA’s decision to change the design of the ENJE roller blind. I’ve probably mentioned this like 30 times on this blog, but only because it was so crushing and significant.

See, back in the good old days, this shade was one of my favorite IKEA products. It’s not a blackout shade or really even much of a privacy shade, but it did a great job of filtering light, softening a view, and providing enough privacy for me to feel comfy with. It came with pretty nice, durable hardware, it was super long (perfect for big old windows!), it was fairly easy to cut down to a custom size, and it was cheap.

Then somebody decided that the pull-chain mechanism that made the shade go up and down was a choking hazard for kids, and all the ENJE shades disappeared from IKEA showrooms across the country, only to be re-introduced under the same name several months later.

New ENJE? Total bastardization of the old ENJE. Gone was the pull-chain mechanism, replaced by a spring inside the roll. The little end-caps on the bottom rail got switched from a faux-chrome finish to a sad, grey plastic. The bottom rail also got this new handle thing…easy enough to just break off and toss, but still totally stupid. At the time I needed a couple of shades for my apartment, so I bought the new ENJE shades, cautiously optimistic.

GARBAGE, I tell you. I mean, I still put them up and they look fine and whatever, but I only realized once I got them home that also gone was the generous length of the old shades, rendering them about 6″ too short for our long-ish windows at the apartment. So dumb. And that spring mechanism? Also garbage. It barely works. If you never want to raise and lower your shades, I guess it’s fine, but otherwise it just sucks.

At the time, I vowed that I wouldn’t buy any more of these shitty Americanized ENJE shades for the rest of my life. I would go to Canada next time I needed shades. I would swim the Atlantic. I would…find a new source for window treatments?

That last option sounds like the easiest, right? WRONG. SO WRONG.

You would think that a basic thing like a super-simple solar shade would be easy to find, right? And how expensive could they possibly be? I mean, I don’t expect everything to be IKEA prices—I knew I’d have to deepen my pockets a little bit. Like maybe 60 or 70 bucks instead of 30?

WRONG AGAIN. I searched high and I searched low. I went to multiple popular blinds manufacturer’s showrooms. I searched a lot of the internet. I even ordered a sample shade that looked promising online a while ago that cost me $75 and it was literally just a sheet of dumb white vinyl around a cardboard tube. This is the appalling world we live in, folks.

I’ve ordered solar shades from The Shade Store for a client and they’re super duper nice, but I think a single shade for one of the windows on the first floor of my house came out to about $250. That’s just not happening. A couple of very kind European readers even offered to go to IKEA, buy the European versions of the ENJE, and ship them to me, but with taxes and shipping it ended up being really expensive and the whole thing just seemed like kind of an absurd premise to begin with, even for me. A few people have suggested JC Penney’s version of the roller shade, which admittedly seems to be very well-priced, but the reviews were kind of questionable and I couldn’t really tell what they looked like from the pictures, and I think they’re all cordless, which I just feel too scarred to gamble on again.

SO ANYWAY. In the meantime, I did the thing I swore I wouldn’t and bought a few of the new ENJE shades for a couple rooms in the upstairs of our house. They’re a little too short for the windows and still crappy, but we needed something so I just did it. I’ll probably replace them someday but right now it’s not a priority.

process

Then for downstairs, I went to Home Depot and got these super cheap spring-powered vinyl shades for like $8 a pop, just to put up temporarily. We needed the privacy and honestly it’s better to put something up that’s disposable-ish while you’re renovating, since you’re likely to get paint and joint compound and dust all over it anyway. Above is a really horrendous process photo (is there anything uglier than that moment when the walls are painted but the trim isn’t?) showing how charming those looked. They were much better during the day but at night…oof.

Now that we have a couple rooms renovated, though, the “temporary” $8 vinyl sheets in front of my windows were an enormous bummer. They tend to get kind of blown out in photos so maybe you don’t notice them as much, but in real life they looked very crappy. It felt sad to put all this work into these rooms, get them looking good, only to have this big glaring horrible thing remaining in the space because the world of window treatments is so cruel.

Before I forget…yes. I know. I know there are many, many other solutions. Curtains, roman blinds, venetian blinds, cellular shades, shutters—there are lots of things out there to cover windows. I know I’m being more than a little ridiculous and dramatic here. I can’t be the only one who sort of hates 99% of window treatments, though, right? Even the term “window treatment” makes me nauseous. For some reason I actually tend to like curtains for other people but I don’t really want them in my own house? Maybe I’ll want them someday? I don’t know. One of my favorite things about my house are the big, beautiful old moldings, and I guess I worry about curtains sort of hiding/distracting from the architecture of the space. Another thing I like about my house is the natural light, so I like solar shades because they’re super minimal, they give some privacy, and you don’t have to sacrifice your natural light to get it.

I think I just want to be as picky and annoying as possible about everything that I possibly can. I’m so much fun to live with.

book

At long last, I finally found something I like, and of course it was right under my nose the whole time…at Lowe’s! I don’t know how it took me so long. I’m at Lowe’s several times a week. I’m dumb.

Anyway, Lowe’s carries a few different brands of custom blinds and shades and stuff, including their own Allen + Roth brand stuff. Allen + Roth things tend to be great, by the way. I’ve used some of these little lights around the house (nice-looking and inconspicuous for old houses, right?), I’ve been impressed with the tile options, some of the home goods are cute…they’re doing a good job.

I guess the thing I didn’t realize was just how customizable the shades are! I think they have all the same options that you get when ordering at the Shade Store—different levels of opacity, different fabric weaves, lots of colors, inside vs. outside mount, reverse-roll or regular, finish options for the bottom bar, corded vs. cordless, and on and on! AND they’re about half the price. So. They’re not exactly inexpensive, but after a truly exhaustive search and knowing what else is out there and how much it costs, I think they’re a great value. Our shades came out to about $130 a pop including tax, but the price varies depending on the custom options and the size of the window. I think there was also a 10% off promotion going on when I ordered them, so that’s something to look out for, too. So anyway…not cheap, but not horrible, and feels decently manageable when you’re just buying a couple at a time.

3percent

I snapped some photos of the different fabric options, just in case you are as insane as I am and need to know everything? Custom solar shades are typically available in different levels of opacity—that’s what the 3% openness thing means. The lower the percentage, the more opaque the shades are.

4and5

One of the things I ran into a lot with other sources was that even if the shades had all the options I wanted, I didn’t like the fabrics. I feel like most of these are really nice, though? It’s hard to judge from these pictures, I know.

10percent

ANYWAY, because I am wildly boring and predictable, I went with the Equinox 10% openness in white. I tend to think 10% is the best for getting the most light and an acceptable level of privacy. They’re probably a little more opaque than the ENJE shades. There are 12% and 14% options, too, but that seems too transparent, unless I guess you’re just layering them under something else.

I don’t think there’s a way to order the custom stuff online, but doing it in the store is very easy. An employee enters all your custom options into the system, it spits out a price, and about a week or so later, it shows up at your house! I just ordered one shade to begin with as a sample, loved it, and went back to order two more to round out the living room. All three windows were the same size and they had all my info saved, so I didn’t have to go through the whole process again. Nice, right? I’m saving up to do the three dining room windows next, and then I guess I’ll just try to buy them for each room as we renovate, although I’m paranoid that they’ll discontinue them or the design will change or something and then I’ll just have to give up on life completely.

packaging

They come wrapped up all nice in brown craft paper. The ONE THING I wasn’t impressed by is that mine didn’t come with directions for mounting them! But after looking at the shades and at the brackets for about 30 seconds, it wasn’t hard to figure out. The brackets are pretty petite, too, which is good because our window casings don’t have a lot of depth.

It took all of about 5 minutes to get the shades up, and it IMMEDIATELY made the room feel so, so much more finished. There was much rejoicing.

shade3

It’s hard to capture with a camera how these things look in real life, but I did my best! I don’t have any reason to block light in this room, so I’m thrilled with how bright they keep things. It’s also nice to kind of soften the views without blocking them. I like being able to see out a little.

shadechain

The pull-chain is SUCH a relief, too! It came with this little plastic piece to screw into the casing to keep the chain taut, but I broke it off and tossed it. All the hardware really seems very nice and built to last. It seems like these get bad reviews online because the cordless shades have the same operability issues that all cordless shades seem to have, but the corded option is great.

The window sashes themselves need some work, by the way. I’m sort of thinking of the window restoration as its own renovation project, so consequently I really haven’t touched them aside from replacing a couple of broken panes. I’ll get to it!

I chose a white powder-coated metal bottom bar, which I like. There were a few options including different metal finishes and having the fabric wrap around. I’m happy with it! Totally boring, like I wanted.

outside

Privacy-wise, they’re enough for me. I took this lousy picture from the sidewalk at night with the lights inside turned all the way up. You can definitely see shapes and movement but not a lot of detail. Realistically, we pretty much always have the lights dimmed down at night, so you’d be able to see a lot less…I just figured it was worth showing. Privacy is one of those very personal things, though. As someone who has made a habit for half a decade now of constantly putting photos of the inside of my home on the internet, my standards may be a little atypical. Different strokes!

shade1

I have no idea how I managed to write this much about white solar shades. This was supposed to be a short and sweet post. Just slapped myself. Bye!

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.

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.

 

The Doors are Open!

before1

before-2

When our house was divided into two units in the days of yore, one of the more unfortunate-looking alterations was blocking off these two doors right inside the entryway. The one in the top photo leads to the front parlor (accessible through a door in the dining room), and the one in the second photo leads to the big living room (accessible through another door in the back of the entryway. You can see how this looks on the floor plan here.). Luckily, the original doors were right on the other side of the plywood, but unfortunately they were both locked! It kind of begs the question of why the additional plywood barrier was really necessary at all, but then again, old houses come with a lot of questions about why things were done the way they were done.

My best guess is that blocking the doors this way was an attempt to further insulate the downstairs apartment from heat loss and sound, particularly if the owners chose not to heat the entryway, since it wasn’t part of anyone’s living space. You can kind of tell in the pictures that instead of just nailing the plywood up and calling it a day, whoever did this also took the time to smear a bunch of wood putty over all the nail holes and surrounding the entire edge of plywood, creating an impenetrable seal that made it more or less impossible to rip the plywood down from the front without totally messing up the surrounding moldings. Fun!

I thought we’d rip this plywood down on, like, day 1 in the house, but that didn’t happen. It didn’t happen on days 2 or 3 or 4 or 5, either, and after living this way for a few weeks, I just hit my limit of having ugly plywood sheets erected in my entryway. There’s only so much a person can take!

keys

Like most old houses, ours came with a big heavy box of keys. Almost none of the keys are labelled, so I have no idea what most of them do or if they even match any existing locks, but I was hopeful that one of the 5 skeleton keys would have to fit the locked doors.

Nope. Of course not.

We went down to the local locksmith shop, and after re-trying all of our keys, he moved on to a huge handful of skeleton keys he brought with him. No dice. Naturally.

Instead, he had to go back to the shop and make us a custom key. I would take a picture, but of course now I’ve misplaced it among our renovation disaster. We don’t really have any reason to ever lock these doors, but I hope I can find it somewhere, since we spent like $80 on all this drama and I want my souvenir.

ANYWAY. Locksmiths are magicians. He got the doors open. There was much rejoicing.

doorsblocked1

At some point, I started to wonder what was in that 6-ish inch space between the plywood and the door. Maybe there would be hidden jewels! Stacks of money! A family of borrowers!

There was none of these things. Instead, there was a big panel of weird fiberboard sheathing stuff, similar to homasote. Then with that out of the way, there were also pieces of wood running horizontally behind the plywood, nailed into the door frame. The horizontal boards were then wood-glued and nailed to the plywood, and all of the edges had received a generous coating of caulk, just for good measure.

So thorough. So impressive. So annoying.

I had thought that with the doors open, I’d be able to just knock down the plywood by running at it and throwing my body against it until it came tumbling down, a strategy I learned from handsome men encountering locked doors on TV. But with all these added reinforcements, that seemed like a recipe for a couple broken ribs, so the shrimpy nervous Jew side of me re-evaluated.

crossbraces

I started by removing all of the visible nails that I could from the doorframe with a pry bar.

jigsaw

Since the plywood still wouldn’t budge, even with the nails gone (shocker!), I broke out my jigsaw and just started cutting out sections of the wood, all haphazard and sloppy-like.

debris

Then I started kicking out sections, like the man-beast that I have become.

I went so H-A-M on this plywood, you guys. So very H-A-M.

actionshot

This action shot doesn’t begin to portray how badass I was in this moment.

Nothing can portray how badass I was. You just have to believe.

vogue

Here I am, vogueing, you know, as you do. I realize now that this post would be so much more primal and saucy if I had been naked behind that piece of plywood.

NEXT TIME.

linus

Before long, the doors were open! There was light! There was air circulation! There were new ways to get from room to room! SO. EXCITING. OMFG.

Pausing for a second, this view is the exact reason why I have no real interest in altering the existing layout of our house. I love the amount of symmetry and order that the original layout has——the way that these doors are directly across from each other (the angle of the photo makes them look a little off, but they aren’t), which is repeated with the other door to the big living room and the dining room, and the doors from the parlor to the dining room to the kitchen. A lot of people (both here on the blog and in real life) keep suggesting that I do things like widen the entry into the front parlor or open up the wall between the front room and the dining room, but that would completely throw off the proportions and sense of order that I think make the interior layout of this house really special. Designing a house this way doesn’t just happen by accident, and I think it would be an enormous mistake to start futzing with things like that.

I tried explaining this to Linus, who clearly doesn’t care.

mekko2

We get it, Mekko, you’re a beauty queen. We’re trying to talk about doors, here.

Now we just have to take the vestibule wall down! I can’t believe we closed on the house almost 2 months ago and it’s still there! The deal I made with myself is that I’d do that as SOON as the kitchen is done (celebratory demo is kind of like champagne, yes?), which means its days are verrrrrry numbered.

 

Adventures in Vignetting

Some things I could stand to be better at:

1. Dressing myself.
2. Cooking.
3. Saving money.
4. Waking up in the mornings.
5. Eating breakfast.
6. Eating lunch.
7. Going to sleep.
8. E-mails.
9. Socializing.
10. Vignetting.

So basically I’m mediocre at nearly all aspects of daily life. Go me!

That last item, though—the last one I struggle with. All the other stuff seems like things I could fairly easily improve upon with a little focused attention and effort, but vignetting is more like a frustrating art where owning nice things and understanding concepts like composition and color and scale and being fabulous intersect. You’d think it would be simple: buy pretty things, plop them on top of other pretty things, and BOOM: prettiness occurs. Not so.

For some people, I think this sort of thing comes really naturally, but some of us have to work at it. And maybe some of us also get careless and flustered and feel ridiculous working at it. I mean, this isn’t a model home, it’s where I live, so when I put too much effort into arranging things just so I tend to feel stupid and petty and I give up and go on being mediocre. It’s a weird hang-up. I want my home to just look easy, breezy, beautiful, like I’m just naturally cool so therefore I have pretty stuff (duh) that all looks nice together (double duh).

before

Take this situation, for instance. When I brought home the new desk, the painting that had been hanging in that spot just stayed where it was (except leaning instead of hanging). I had that black lamp on the old desk, so it stayed, and then I thought, hey, here’s a Dala horse and a Dansk candleholder and a vase thing I can put pens in and I’ll just put all that up there, too! Great plan, D!

Except it wasn’t so great because it looked crowded and nothing really looked good together. Then, factoring the lamp on the desk and the lamp next to the couch, which don’t look so good together, it was feeling very lamp-y ’round this corner of my world, which doesn’t look so good FYI. Plus the painting is too big and overbearing here, so the desk looked small, and it didn’t provide enough contrast with the painting over the couch (which I recognize is not in the above picture, but trust me). See what I mean? It just…isn’t right.

vignette1

I’ve been trying to streamline and simplify and pare-down, though, and I’m really happy with how things are looking now! Breaking it down from left to right:

1. The Telescoping Otis Light from OneFortyThree. I’ve been a huge (huge, huge) fan of Logan’s work at OneFortyThree for a longggggg time now, and I’m so thrilled to finally have one of his creations in my life! It perfectly solves the too-many-lamps issue, since it easily swivels from side to side to illuminate both the desk and the couch, and it extends! Now I can say, firsthand, that Logan’s work is as exceptionally made as I imagined it would be from stalking his transformation into a full-blown prolific lamp-making, plywood-bending superhero.

2. Plant from IKEA. I don’t know what it’s called, but it seems hard to kill, and that’s how I like my plants.

3. Christopher Gray Winter Logs Giclee Print from Erie Drive. I’d never heard of Erie Drive until very recently when the creative director and buyer, Alexandra Grenham e-mailed me, and then I was filled with lust and envy and very intense feelings to buy all the things! Alexandra has a really amazing eye that she’s used to curate this store with SO much great stuff, it’s a little overwhelming. I fell head over heels for this Christopher Gray print, though—I love the black and white (no shocker there), and the composition and balance of it. It’s bold and graphic, which contrasts perfectly with the other abstract paintings we have in the room. The quality of the print is really nice, too, which was an unexpected surprise. AND it fits perfectly in an IKEA RIBBA frame, which is really the only way I ever frame anything, ever. Love.

4. Nybro Crystal Volcano tea light holders, vintage Swedish from a stoop sale. Yep, it’s stoop sale season again (finally!) and these were my first scores! I love how big and weighty they are, and as we know from my deep and abiding yearnings for Ultima Thule, I pretty much love whenever glass looks like it’s melting all over the place. Mine were a total steal, but here’s one and here’s another one if you need a pair and have no impulse control (like this guy!).

5. Vintage studio pottery, thrifted. Amateur studio pottery is tough because I love basically all of it, but it doesn’t all look great together. This might be stating the obvious, but I finally figured out that they key is matching up the right scales and keeping things contained to a complementary color palette. There are lots of nice options here, but I’m cheap so I wait for them to show up on my thrifty rounds.

6. Dansk candleholder, stoop-saled! This was from last summer and was only $5, so I kind of had to. I’ve yet to find candles that actually fit in it, but it’s such a great shape that I don’t care. Tons of similar ones on Etsy and on eBay if you can’t live your life without one for another second.

7. Dog, scavenged.

desk2

Here’s a slightly better angle of that swivel in action and how the lamp, couch, desk, and two pieces of art all look in relation to each other. Feelin’ it.

closeup

If you also love the Christopher Gray print or other lovely notions from Erie Drive, then maybe you want to stick around because maybe the amazing Alexandra is maybe a fabulous and generous sponsor who wants to offer you a fabulous and generous giveaway very soon. Maybe.

Probably.

This post is in partnership with Erie Drive.

Back to Top