Archive for: January, 2011

Portland Day 14: The Final Push

I had expected my last day in Portland to be like those final moments you might see on some reality TV competition. There would be more projects than we could reasonably expect to finish and I’d be racked with guilt over how many odds and ends I was saddling Chandler with upon my departure. Our ambition over the last two weeks would have gotten the best of us, and it would be in these concluding hours of my stay that frustration would turn into aggression. We’d descend into what could only be described as a Diva Duel: insults would be screamed, names would be called, and weave tracks would be brutally ripped from our scalps. I can’t say I wasn’t looking forward to it a little bit.

In actuality, things moved along as they had most days. We looked around and realized we’d done pretty well. There weren’t too many things to do on the apartment that were urgent or pressing or calling out for completion. A light to hang here, a bead of caulk there. And Winnie. Lots of kitty playtime to fulfill.

Some folks asked to see pictures of Chandler’s bedroom in the comments, so I figured I’d comply. Chandler already owned everything in here (with the exception of the dresser), so we didn’t have to do much work, really. The curtains haven’t come yet for this room either, so excuse the totally-bleach-out-by-camera-exposure vertical blinds.

I covet those American Indian needlepoints. I know 90% of my needlepoint collection is sitting under my bed (no where seems right to hang them, but I just don’t want to give them up!), but I’d buy these in a second if I ever saw them.

Yes, the dresser is in front of the sliding door. This is all part of Chandler’s security system. About the door, she had this to say: “I’m never going to use it. Might as well treat it like a wall.” Fair enough.

I like Chandler’s bedroom. I rarely even went in there to be honest (my domain was the living room couch, which is roughly the size of my apartment anyway), but I like that it just kind of came together in this un-fussy, cozy and casual way. Like a little Chandler den.

I think my favorite room, though, ended up being the kitchen. Even though I never could convince Chandler to let me replace the kitchen floor with VCT (it would have cost about $100), a cool rug, some lighting swaps, and a few finishing details made the space about a million times cuter. Let’s review the before pictures:

When we found the kitchen, it suffered from an enormous hole to the right of the sink where a washing machine used to sit and some very grungy lighting, exhaust fan covers, and switch plates.

The one over the sink is on the left, the thing in the middle of the ceiling is on the right. Gross.

The upper cabinets on the left side of the room were missing hardware. Why? Who the hell knows.

And then, because projects beget more projects, we went and bought these chairs (for FIVE BUCKS EACH. I still can’t get over that. Like, a chair. For the price of a Starbucks coffee.) that needed a big makeover of their own.

Overall, the whole thing was bland, boring, dull, and their seedy friend, icky. Soooooooo….

We quickly realized that the cabinet hardware in the kitchen was the same size and shape as in the bathroom (and the exact number we needed!), except the bathroom hardware was chrome and the kitchen was bronze. All of the metal was in really bad shape, so we didn’t feel bad about painting it. I probably would have gone with black, but Chandler picked silver spray paint and it looks pretty good. I don’t like silver spray paint in general, but things like this are just small enough that I think you can still get away with it.

The brass ceiling fixture was just too small and dark for the hallway (where it was originally), but it works perfectly for over the sink. The wine rack is originally from IKEA, but we thrifted it for a couple dollars.

I couldn’t talk Chandler out of reupholstering the chairs in vinyl—I would have done fabric—but I think they came out really cute regardless (and the vinyl does pick up the dark blue in the rug nicely). And can I just say, after upholstering an entire bed, upholstering two chair seats felt like child’s play.

The table is the NORBO from IKEA, which was probably the easiest thing I’ve ever assembled. Oh, and that light. That huge, gloriously bright (we only had 100-watt bulbs on hand, which is definitely overkill) vintage light. It’s cute, even though it looks a little washed-out and weird in this photo.

I also think we did pretty well on budget in here, considering we had to buy EVERYTHING. I’m not including the stuff from the Container Store because it was all bought on gift cards. Or dishes and silverware and stuff because I have no idea.

Stenstorp Cart (IKEA): $199
Norbo Table (IKEA): $30
Window Film, 2 rolls (Home Depot): $46
Chairs (Salvation Army): $28 ($10 chairs/$14 vinyl from Jo-Anns/$4 spray paint from Home Depot)
Wine rack (IKEA via Goodwill): $2
Hardware Paint (Home Depot): $4
Switch plates (Home Depot): $15
Rug (Goodwill): $30
Lighting (House of Vintage): $64 ($45 for light/$14 ceiling medallions—Westinghouse/$5 new wiring and chain)
Microwave (Target): $60
TOTAL: $478

The big splurge in here was obviously the kitchen cart. It wouldn’t have been too difficult or time consuming to just build in some shelves in that space, but the cart is really nice, it fits super well, and it’s something Chandler can take with her to her next apartment when the time comes.

Ultimately, my last day in Portland was mostly about this little peanut. Because how can you work (or eat? or sleep?) with that walking around?

We finished off the day with some delicious takeout from Tom Yum, wine, relaxing, and admiring our handiwork. And guess what? Somewhere Chandler found time to expertly craft this cake for me. What a pal.

And everything comes full circle. We’ve come a long way from spreading out Marlboros and vintage cigarette ads across my kitchen table for our senior project. And yet, we really haven’t. I like that about us.

Thank you, Chandler. I had the best time and I already miss you like crazy, BFF.

Thus ends the Portland saga. Allow me to cue a collective sigh. 12 posts, 9,100 words, 300+ comments (we both loved reading every one), and we’ve reached the end.  Thanks for coming along for the ride, everybody. Have a stellar weekend.

P.S.- Wanna read about Portland from beginning to end? Just click the entire month of January in the archives!

Portland Day 13: Welcome to The Fortress, Lady Winifred.

One of the adorable things about my friend Chandler is that the idea of living alone makes her generally apprehensive. Though I’m unclear on exactly what bothers her about the scenario, it doesn’t seem to be a fear of loneliness or some scary sense of isolation. She doesn’t concern herself with fantasies of, say, preparing a crudité platter when suddenly the knife slips, she accidentally severs all ten of her fingers, is unable to dial the phone for an ambulance, and perishes alone on the kitchen floor. Well, at least she didn’t before I wrote that.

More than anything, living alone seems, to Chandler, to come with a renewed set of security risks. While a criminal might enter a home occupied by any number of people, something about quivering in fear on the floor of your closet is just so much less intimidating when you’re accompanied by a friend or family member. There is safety in numbers, especially ones bigger than 1.

So we needed to beef up security before I left. We installed a motion-activated light outside. We frosted some windows. We left the yard a janky disaster area so nobody would suspect that the inside held anything worth stealing. But we needed more. We considered buying a Guard Duck, but eventually decided that it might freak out the neighbors. What we needed was something on the inside— a beast so magnificently terrifying, so thoroughly menacing, and uncompromisingly vicious that it could ward off all evil spirits, living or dead.

Enter Lady Winifred; Winny for short.

To get a sense of just how enormous this monster is, check her out next to that drill:

And get this. She’s only four months old. Terrifying.

While she’s not on duty guarding Chandler’s fortress, which in reality is 100% of always, she moonlights as an adorable, completely darling kitten. She enjoys playing and falling asleep stretched out on her back in your arms. Her hobbies include cuddling up and sleeping next to you in the middle of the night, purring, and begging shamelessly for food. You guys, she’s the cutest.

Aside from bringing home Winny, we got as close to finishing the living room as we were able to get. One of the things about only having 13 days in an apartment is that not everything gets quite finished, obviously. But I think this is a good start.

Here’s the view from the front door. Originally we put the couch against the paneled wall (the one with the framed poster on it), but I moved it out here when I was painting the trim and we liked the layout better this way. Plus, putting furniture too close to walls in Portland is a problem because mold can grow, so it’s better this way.

I really love that brass touch lamp. And look! I made pillows out of that table cloth, and I think they came out pretty cute and girly and whatnot. Tasteful floral.

Chandler bought this fun and informative Minerals poster on Amazon. It’s in a RIBBA frame from IKEA, double-stick taped to the matte.

This is the view from the kitchen door. I think the way the couch divides the spaces and sort of defines and elongates the hallway is nice, and it made a perfect little gallery wall for Chandler’s awesome art.

Cool, right? Chandler went to Berlin over the summer and made this fantastic photo project using pictures of various balconies on apartment buildings around the city. They’re strung together using these little key rings that we could only find at Home Depot, and obviously she needed about a million to put it all together, so it’s not quite finished in these photos. I think she cleaned out the supply of about six different Home Depots and is still on the prowl for more (read: if you’re in Portland and you were hoping to purchase one of these shiny little key rings, good fucking luck). Anyway, it’s going to look amazing when it’s all complete.

After Anna at Door Sixteen posted these pictures of her beautiful hallway, I had to get Chandler the Grand Taxonomy of Rap Names poster from Pop Chart Lab as a house-warming present (also in a RIBBA frame). She nearly died when she saw it and decided to hang it in the entryway. One thing we didn’t get around to was replacing that awful light fixture (there’s a better view here), but we ordered a new one online that will be a massive improvement. I’ll snap a picture next time I’m in Portland when we do our reunion episode.

And O to the M-G remember those vertical blinds of yore? I couldn’t WAIT to rip them down, but Chandler finally let me (even though the new curtains, also ordered online, haven’t arrived yet) so I could paint the trim.

Excuse the crazy Portland window fog (nope, we didn’t frost those… I think somebody just took a shower), but the trim is painted and the curtain rod is hung! We thought about painting the door, too, but we never got around to it. Maybe next time!

Now, figuring out a curtain rod for a window that big was no easy feat. The window itself is about 10.5 feet wide, so the curtain rod had to be about 11.5 feet to allow for a little overhang on each side. Standard curtain rods just aren’t made that large, and ordering one would have been, like, hella expensive. So we went to Home Depot and got this wood dowel cut to size:

Then I stained it with Minwax’s Walnut stain. To hang it, we fashioned these little brackets using closet rod supports, a screw, a washer, a nut, and a 2″ L-bracket. Boy, figuring that out in Home Depot was a good time.

It’s not the most glamorous solution in the world, but it works and the whole thing was less than $20. I think maybe if the brackets were painted black they wouldn’t be as odd looking, but the ends would still be ugly. Any ideas?

I think someday it would be nice to switch the chaise add-on unit to the other side of the couch and put a lounge chair in the corner this picture is taken from (the left side of the window, where all the kitty stuff is now), which would further define the living room a bit and create more seating (because who can have enough places to plant themselves?). We didn’t come across any good options while out thrifting, though, so that’s another thing that might happen in time.

When the time does come, though, we bought this brass lamp for a few dollars to sit on a side table next to future-lounge-chair and spray painted it red. I think it came out cute, so I figured I’d share even though it’s just sitting around for now. The shade is from Target.

So there it is, the living room. As done as it gets for now.

Phew, still there? One more kitty picture? Okay. I’ll give you two.

Portland Day 12: My Baby’s Growing Up

On the morning of Day 12, Chandler did something shocking. She went to IKEA to pick up a NORBO table for the kitchen. Alone. This is the same girl for whom, 11 days before, I considered purchasing and then slipping a crushed-up Xanax into her coffee before we embarked on our first IKEA run. Needless to say, I was beaming with pride.

While she was out running errands, I was painting trim. Still. It took one coat of primer and about six coats of white paint (I blame the off-the-shelf Glidden brand. Benjamin Moore would have never done me like this), but I finally reached the end of the road with Operation: White Trim. It was quite a battle.

One of the problems with this apartment is that it was really, really dark. Even though the living room window is massive, not a lot of natural light gets in because of the architecture of the building, surrounding trees, and Portland’s generally grey, indecisive weather. Since painting all the walls would have involved a lot more money and a lot more time than Chandler was really looking to put in, we decided to coat all the trim in white semi-gloss paint. It’s amazing just how much painting trim totally brightened up the apartment, even though we didn’t even paint the doors too.


And after:

A new, much brighter light fixture obviously helps, too, but things were already vastly improved even with the old light. I can’t even describe what a difference it is.

Another thing the white trim did, which was kind of unexpected, was it actually made the walls look better. Whereas before they seemed like a dingy white (since there wasn’t a true white-white to compare it to), the white trim made them look kind of creamy and warm. Crisp white paint does wonders, people.

And the light is super cool. I know yesterday’s picture wasn’t great (I was mostly trying to set the scene of that insane thrift store), but it has a really nice texture, and looked really great once Chandler’s friend cleaned it up a bit and hung it. The shade is held up by invisible thread. Nifty.

Between coats of paint on the hallway, I was spray painting outside because I multi-task like that. And I’m awesome.

The chair frames are white! The exhaust fan covers for the fans in the kitchen and the bathroom are white! Oh joyous day.

Portland Day 11: Everyone is Going to Hate Me.

Sometimes, what starts as innocent curiosity can turn into manic obsession. It was around my second day in Portland that I initially laid eyes on a parking lot full of depressed-looking furniture. It was dark outside and we drove by it quickly, but I could have sworn I saw an Eames shell chair out of the corner of my eye. I quickly looked around for street signs so I could privately catalog the location of what looked like a club meeting for neglected chairs. That’s a club I would readily join.

We passed this parking lot a few times before I was able to actually remember the general location, and a few more times before I realized that the lot belonged to a dumpy-looking thrift store not much bigger than a trailer. The promising parking lot, I realized, wasn’t really the store at all, but the store’s vomit. Its overflow. I know some people like slam dunks or field goals or holes in one, but for me, such a scene is essentially the most exciting thing in the world.

On the morning of Day 11, I woke up a few hours earlier than our normal regimen called for (wake up at noon, work n’ stuff, go to bed around 2, repeat), feeling restless. That thrift store was calling my name. So I threw on some clothes, stole Chandler’s keys and drove there myself, cackling maniacally on the way as the wind lashed through the car, wafting in the sweet aroma of going rogue.

I got there around 9:30. The sign sporting the name “Grandma’s Funky Furniture,” featuring a buck-toothed painting of an elderly woman, said they opened at 10. There were two shell chairs sitting in the fenced-off parking lot, both looking pretty rough but it was hard to tell from my distance. I parked the car across the street and walked the perimeter of the lot, scoping the place out a bit. Then I sat in the car and waited. And waited. And waited. 10 came and went. Then 10:30. Then I looked up the store on my phone, promptly called, and got connected to a super whacked-out answering machine. Around 11 my stakeout was getting boring and my bladder was about to burst, so I drove to Starbucks. Then I came back. Still no signs of life.

Some might say you know you’ve hit rock bottom when you’re practically holding vigil outside a thrift store, slurping coffee while your bloodshot eyes remain fixated on the door lest somebody should spontaneously appear, but I would urge them to consider that they should shut the fuck up and leave me alone. Which is essentially what I told Chandler, in gentler language, when she called wondering where the hell I’d gone and when I was coming back so we could go get some breakfast.

“But they have to open sometime,” I reasoned. “Sure their sign says 10, but loads of people are late to work everyday. That doesn’t mean they never come. They just struggle with punctuality.”

Eventually, the store owner’s father drove by, wondering if I wanted any help. After his calls also went unanswered, I convinced him to let me have the guy’s cell number, trying to look as sane and rational as possible as I programmed it into my phone with all too much excitement. A lead. After leaving a message and heading back to Chandler’s place, the owner called me back. We agreed to meet two hours later.

As Chandler drove me back to Grandma’s Funky Furniture later on that afternoon after we ran a few errands, I began to wonder if I was wrong all along. There I was, perched in the front seat like a spoiled child, so excited about the possibility of getting my grubby paws on things I undoubtably don’t need that I’d hardly considered that this thrift store might be terrible. Maybe my radar was off, and it would actually be as junky as it looked, like some glorified yard sale that had gone on for a few too many weekends.

Luckily, I am almost never wrong when it comes to thrifting. Put another way, I am nearly always right.

Chandler found this great little two-tone dresser for her bedroom for $45. It was filthy but is in pretty good shape under all the gunk.

We also found this cool woven shade that will make a perfect light fixture in the hall (we have other plans for the current light, don’t worry!) for $10.

And I found some treasures of my own. These babies are coming back to New York with me, even though they have to be shipped. I don’t care. I love me some shell chairs. Also, I’ve never had an armed one before and always wanted one, so I deserve it.

The kicker? I talked down the prices so we got it all for $100. Which puts my chairs at around $25 each. Sure they’re completely filthy and nasty now, but I’m so excited to clean them up and make them all sparkly and wonderful.

On the night of Day 11, with my two new shells sitting in Chandler’s second bedroom awaiting their trip to the opposite coast, suddenly painting miles of wood trim didn’t seem so bad after all.

Thank you, Grandma. Whoever you are.

Portland Day 10: Ikea + The Bathroom.

About a week ago, I showed you the IKEA KARLSTAD sofa we picked up for Chandler’s apartment. But that sofa—the very same one that looks huge in my apartment—was basically swallowed by Chandler’s cavernous living room.

Chandler really liked the idea of a sectional from the beginning, and since there’s clearly room for it, Day 10 found us going back to IKEA to purchase a few assorted items to finish up the bathroom and the KARLSTAD chaise add-on. So itty bitty (which is actually a healthy 81″ long already) sofa turned into hulking, awesomely comfortable sectional.

Oh, and see that big brass-i-licious lamp? Thrifted for $8. And it’s a touch lamp. There are no knobs or switches, you just lightly touch any part of it and it turns on and off. I sense witchcraft. Really fun to play with witchcraft.

We’ll be sewing some real pillows soon. The plastic casings they came in are a little too avante-garde for Chandler’s taste.

More importantly, the bathroom got finished, which was pretty exciting. We’d gone several days without a mirror and were starting to wonder if we even still existed. Or more importantly, if we were still pretty.

The before…

And after!

The mirror is the STAVE from IKEA, which I think is a nice size for this bathroom. I might have tried to thrift something vintage , but it’s a really good mirror at a really good price that works well in here.


The other side of the bathroom had a towel rod that hung awkwardly directly behind the door and dingy paint-covered switch plates. And see those three broken plastic hooks stuck to the door? Well, let’s just say they were holding on with a death grip and caused a little damage coming down.

So the door got spackled up and painted, switch plates were swapped for a couple dollars, and I just moved the existing towel rod over a couple feet. It makes about ten times more sense here, anyway, since it’s right by the shower instead of across the bathroom.

And I painted that rubber baseboard stuff! It can be done! Oddly, every wall in this room had a different color plastic baseboard, but I just lightly sanded them, primed with Bull’s Eye 1-2-3 latex primer and gave them about three coats of semi-gloss white trim paint. On one hand I think they look much better, on the other hand I think they might make the floor look sadder.

We also added a little SÄVERN towel hanger from IKEA, which is nicely designed and continues with the chrome theme.

The little art above the towel rod is this paint-by-numbers guide Chandler had already in a RIBBA frame from IKEA.

This whole bathroom didn’t cost too much, particularly factoring in that a couple of the pricier items (like the Simple Human trashcan and the shower organizer) were bought with a gift card at the Container Store, and the paint used on the door and trim was leftover from the living area.

Cabinet Hardware (Rejuvenation): $36
Mirror (IKEA): $30
Towel hanger (IKEA): $10
Shower Curtain Rod (IKEA): $20
Frame (IKEA): $5
Shower Curtain Liner (Bed Bath and Beyond): $10
Shower Curtain Rings (Bed Bath and Beyond): $10
Shower Curtain (Target): $10
Switch Plates (Home Depot): $5
1 Gallon of Wall Paint (Home Depot, Behr “Dinner Mint” in Satin): $24
Total: $160

I would have loved to replace the crappy sheet lino with some black VCT (it seriously would have cost about $25 for a whole new floor, including the glue and trowel), but I couldn’t convince Chandler on the idea. I think the bathroom’s cute though! Clean and fresh, like she wanted.

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