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The Apartment / Brooklyn

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One of my favorite things about the new apartment is that that the last set of stairs — it’s a 4th-floor walkup — is just for us. Our apartment door is at the bottom of the stairs, and you walk up directly into our living space. That means that there’s no hallway noise, which in turn means that Bruno and Fritz are less stressed out (like most Chihuahuas/Chi mixes they are excellent watch dogs). That was a huge problem in our last apartment with its hotel-like corridors. When you get to the top of the stairs, there’s a small landing and a little wall that backs up to the refrigerator. It was pretty much dead space before, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve been turning it into a cozy little alcove-ish entryway.

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This is what you see first walking up the stairs into the apartment. And yes, that is an outdoor gate functioning as a railing, and yes, it is hideous. But we can talk about that in another post.

You might recognize that bear print from, oh, every other apartment I’ve lived in. It’s a silkscreen print from Banquet Atelier & Workshop, and I love it very much. It’s hanging off-center because I wanted to cover up the ugly electrical panel, and I figured that since the door buzzer and the light switches are all herky-jerky and crooked already, what’s another thing being off? If you ask me, three wrongs make a right.

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We’ve been trying to find a place to put the walnut Hang-It-All for more than two years! FINALLY!

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Shelves for dumping mail, keys, coins and jewelry! This is what they like to call a “landing strip” over at Apartment Therapy. I don’t like to call it that because it makes me think of bikini waxing, so let’s just call this the alcove. “Hey, where are my sunglasses?” “Oh, they’re in the alcove.” Works fine for me.

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One thing I love about having a blog is that I can marvel over how much time passes between when I get an idea for a project and when I actually wind up seeing that project through. I bought this mirror for $5 on the street in Philadelphia in 2007 (our hallway looks so plain and sad, and I look so skinny…sigh), and since then it’s been sitting in a closet waiting for me to do something with it. It’s pretty badly damaged, and someone tried to fix it with what I think might be drywall compound, but I’ve stopped caring. I’m just happy to have it up on the wall finally! It’s really perfect in this spot. I don’t even mind the damage. See? If you hoard stuff long enough, eventually it pays off.

The little neon pink triangles are wall stickers from Ferm Living’s kids collection. I have a billion of them, and I have to force myself to not put them EVERYWHERE. So cute.

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I could have put more shelves in this space, but since most of our books are kept at our house and we already have shelving in the bedroom, I kept it to a minimum. I’m sure over time more stuff will accumulate here, and I definitely need to add flowers. I also need to paint the shelf cleats to match the wall, but I’m all out of Deep Space — I’ll will myself into going to the paint store soon for more.

Shelves like this are really easy to make, by the way. This took me all of 30 minutes to do, including cutting and sanding the boards. I had a few $3 TRYGGVE shelves from IKEA in the basement at the house, so I just used those. It would be nicer to have deeper, chunky old wood shelves, but I didn’t want to wait. If I ever want to swap them out for different wood, it’ll only take a minute. No biggie.

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For light-duty shelving like this, you can get away with using a simple cleats on either edge instead of using brackets. I dug through my scrap pile and came up with a broken RIBBA frame (yes, I keep everything) that I thought would be perfect for the job! You can use anything that’s thick enough and drill-able, though — furring strips, scrap lath, a 1×2, whatever.

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Mark out a level line on the wall, drill pilot holes through the cleats, put anchors in the wall (or drill into studs), screw in your cleats. Done! So easy. If you use heavier-duty wood and run a third cleat along the back wall, you can make very strong shelves. This is how we built the shelving in our pantry at the house, and it’s strong enough for huge stacks of dishes! Just make sure the shelf isn’t too deep and that you’re not using chipboard or MDF for cleats if you plan to use your shelves for heavy stuff.

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The thing about owning a house and renovating it very, very slowly — and with no one’s taste in mind but your own — is that you really start to feel like every tiny detail matters after a while. I don’t mean that you spare no expense or that everything has to be perfect (I pity the fool who buys a 125-year-old house and expects perfection), I just mean that there’s nothing stopping you from spending 7 years trying to find the perfect light fixture. Trust me, I know. We’ve been working on the kitchen at our house since 2006, and it is gradually becoming exactly what we want it to be.

It’s different when you rent, though. Things tend to happen faster because you don’t know how long you’ll be living in one place, and depending on how lenient your landlord is, you may not be able to do all of things you’d like — not to mention the hesitancy to invest time and money in someone else’s property. As someone who is currently an owner and a renter, I’ve found that all of these rental issues get amplified when they’re contrasted with the benefits of ownership.

So, on that note…the kitchen in the new apartment! I spent a few hours working on it over the weekend. All I’ve really done so far is paint the back and side wall with Benjamin Moore’s Deep Space (the same paint I used in the bedroom), changed out a light fixture and hung up a rail above the sink, but even with just a bit of effort it’s starting to look better.

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I very stupidly forgot to take a series of “before” pictures. BOO. All I have is this one! You can see, though, that I’m dealing with the same orange wood-overload issues as in the bedroom, but with an added tragedy: Cherry-finished cabinets. Now, I know there are plenty of people out there who love cherry cabinets. I am not one of those people. In fact, if you had to ask me to describe my WORST kitchen nightmare, it would probably involve a collapsing ceiling, cherry cabinets and forest green countertops.

Which brings me to the following…

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Yeah. Forest green quartz. With a beveled edge. The words alone are like locusts screeching in my brain. I swear the universe is laughing at me for being such a jerk about kitchens I think look dated and tacky, because now I have one just like that. Womp womp. I’m still going to be a jerk about it, though, because otherwise the countertops will have won.

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Here’s a long view of the kitchen, which is completely open to the living space. I know this picture makes it look like our apartment is a dark, miserable cave (not that dark miserable caves are a bad thing — some of my best friends are cave-dwellers), but that’s just because I took it at 7PM last night. In reality, this place gets a TON of daylight even though it’s an attic conversion. Between the skylight in the bedroom (north side) and the full-length windows in the kitchen (south side), it the brightest, sunniest place I’ve ever lived in.

The interior architecture is weird, though, and the ceiling in the kitchen area is pretty low…about 7′-ish. I like that more than I thought I would. I’m not usually a huge fan of open kitchens, but the height differential makes the space feel distinct from the rest of the room.

I still can’t get over the ginormousness of this place, and it’s amazing to me that it hasn’t been carved up into 2 or 3 smaller apartments. The layout of the kitchen is kind of silly considering the size of the room — I can’t understand why they chose to install that island (peninsula?) on the left 6 miles away from the main wall of the kitchen on the right. It does have an overhang on the window side, though, so we’re going to get some stools and make it a nice place to sit and eat.

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Sigh. The uneven cabinet heights, the weird floating microwave, the cabinet boxes that are a different finish from the cabinet fronts, the fluorescent light…it’s just not cute. I’m not even sure that painting the cabinets would make me like it more, because the installation was so poorly executed. I kind of just want to live with it as-is and then eventually (like in a couple of years — Evan and I both LOVE this apartment!!) propose a complete renovation of the kitchen to the landlord. We’d do all of the labor, of course, and I know from experience that I can get the job done for under $3000 easily. Who knows, maybe he’ll go for it. Right now, though, I’m not sweating it. The appliances work well, there’s a ton of storage space, and it definitely does look better with the walls painted. Maybe I’ll cover the backsplash with something temporary and less glaringly high-contrast, too. That would help.

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Speaking of the backsplash, I wanted to take a moment to mention those tiles. See how big they are? Not only are they too big for the area they’re covering (12″ tiles are never going to look right on a backsplash that’s 18″ high, come ON), but THEY’RE OBVIOUSLY MEANT TO BE FLOOR TILES. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. It’s even worse when the same tiles are actually used on the floor elsewhere in the house. Ew, man. I don’t want to think about floor tiles while I’m cooking food. Yes, there are some tiles out there that can do double duty, but these 12″ marble contractor specials (they cost $1 each, which is why you see them everywhere) don’t cut it. Subway tiles are just as cheap, and it’s not that much extra labor. Stop being lazy.

Okay, thanks. I needed to get that off my chest.

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Two things I love! The weird/creepy industrial radiator that’s supposed to be enclosed but isn’t, and the VIEW. The guys that own our building also own the empty lots behind it (they rent them out for parking), and since they’re not interested in selling them to developers, we have a clear view of both the beautiful block next to ours and the rest of Cobble Hill beyond that. The sunsets are amazing. Also, there are a couple of built-in window boxes for me to plant stuff in when (if?) the weather warms up a bit. I’m thinking ornamental kale and cabbage.

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I replaced the fluorescent light over the island with the smaller HEKTAR light from IKEA. The entire HEKTAR series is really good-looking and very nice quality. I wish I had a place to put the big pendant, because it’s sooooo nice in person (and huge). I still have to fix the ceiling where the old light was…I’ll get to that before I paint the ceiling Moonlight White.

I’m not sure what to do about the other fluorescent light, though. At first I thought I’d hang another HEKTAR but just shorten the cord, but I misjudged just how low the ceilings are — and how close that fixture is to the sink and stove. Anything lower than the existing fixture would be a head-bonking waiting to happen. I really only have about 7″ of clearance. I’m not sure what kind of light is that small and will look good with the HEKTAR hanging a few feet away. Maybe I need to just hang two of the same but swag the one on the sink side so it’s closer to the center of the room? I don’t know, I guess that would look dumb. Maybe I should just cap the other fixture and get by with one light. The microwave has a light, and I could install the undercabinet lighting I used to have in the kitchen at the house. Hmmmm. Ideas?

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OK, first of all (and I know I’m always saying this), I’m sorry about the quality of these photos. I was half-asleep when I took them this morning, and I didn’t realize my camera was on the wrong setting (the unpopular “grainy and dark” setting, apparently) until I was about to jam my boots on and run out the door. I’m too impatient to wait to take new photos tomorrow morning, so I’m calling these good enough.

Last night I pretty much bolted home after work in order to beat the sunset and get this light wired up while I still had some daylight left. All of the lights and outlets in the apartment are on the same circuit, so when I kill the power it’s pretty much everything…unless I leave the refrigerator open and rely on that to see by, but that seems like a bad idea somehow. Anyway, I managed to take the subway back to Brooklyn, stop in at the hardware store for some masonry bits and pick up a vegan pork banh mi sandwich from Hanco’s (my fourth in four days, OMG…but that’s a whole other post) in time to make it to the apartment with an hour of daylight left. YES!

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I knew as soon as we moved into this apartment that I was going to want a Nelson Bubble lamp either in the bedroom or the living room. I’ve always liked them, but I couldn’t find the right place for one in our narrow house. The apartment is much wider and more open, though.

We did our usual jaunt to the DWR Annex to see if we could get one in less-than-perfect condition for a discount, and we lucked out! They had several in stock and marked down considerably. This one was actually in perfect condition—according to the shipping label on the carton, it was returned by someone named Eileen in Rye, NY, who must have decided she didn’t want it after all before so much as taking it out of the box. Suit yourself, Eileen! Your indecision, my gain.

(This is the Nelson Ball pendant in medium, by the way, in case you’re trying to get a sense of scale. It’s about 19″ in diameter.)

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Perrrrrrrfect. I hate saying stuff like this because it sounds so cheesy, but it really ties the whole room together. I’m not a huge fan of stuff that looks super-retro-y or “atomic” or whatever, but I’ve always thought the Nelson lamps transcend that look and stop on the right side of gimmicky. They really kind of do go with everything, too.

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I couldn’t bring myself to put these photos higher up in the post, but why don’t we do a quick look back at the atrocity that this lamp is replacing? That thing on the left…oh man. I took it down and put it in storage last week, and it even worse up close that it is in a photo. I think the “metal” parts might actually be plastic? I’m not sure, but I’m glad I don’t have to see it anymore. Well, except for the matched pair that’s still hanging in the living room, haha.

As you can see from the photo on the right, I had to do a pretty hasty swag-and-coil in order to hang the new lamp in the visual center of the room next to the skylight. I still haven’t painted the ceiling, but when I do I’ll obviously repair the area around the canopy. This morning while I was in the shower I had a really good idea about how to make the swagging look better (I’ll cut the cord to the right length once I’m positive about the height, too), but you’ll have to wait and see! Unless it doesn’t work, in which case I’ll never mention it again.

And finally, here’s the indoor full moon lit up in the bedroom last night…

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The bedroom in the new apartment is coming together much faster than I thought it would, and it’s looking pretty cute. Well, at least I think so. I haven’t hung anything on the walls yet because I still have to paint over the existing glossy white paint with a softer, flat white, but it’s definitely getting there.

The only new thing we’ve bought for this bedroom is the dresser in the corner. It’s the gloss tall chest from CB2, and I’m super happy with it. The cutout pulls (which are actually backed with a recessed metal panel, though that’s hard to tell from these photos) and proportion are reminiscent of Asplund’s classic “Snow” dresser, but with a much glossier finish and a much lower price tag. This is the first thing I’ve bought from CB2 that required assembly and has movable parts, and it’s made a good impression. The quality is much better than I’d expected it to be.

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Also, can I say how nice it is to have proper clothing storage? We have a really nice setup at the house (Holy cow, that’s an OLD photo! The dressing room looks like this now, but you can’t see the PAX wardrobes—I guess I should do an updated dressing room post…), but in the apartments we’ve alternated between stuffing our clothes into a fauxdenza in the old studio, and stuffing our clothes into a couple of tiny RAST chests inside of our closet since there was no space for a real dresser in the bedroom at the last place. Wow, that was a long sentence. Shorter version: YAY DRESSER! YAY SPACE!

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Check it out, there’s a SOFA in our BEDROOM! I can’t get over how huge this room is. Our last two apartments have been pretty tiny, so we’ve been using a small KARLSTAD loveseat from IKEA in lieu of a full-size sofa. It’s perfectly fine, but two people plus two dogs on a loveseat gets a little too cozy after a while! Now that we have a bigger living room (pictures to come, I promise), we decided to put the loveseat in the cavernous bedroom instead. I’m not sure how likely we are to actually sit there, but it looks nice and the dogs are always excited to have another place to nap. Bruno sometimes gets annoyed by how much space Evan, Fritz and I take up in bed at night (I know, how dare we!), so now he can walk off in a dramatic huff to sleep on the sofa without even having to leave the room.

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I love this little arrangement. That neon pink-toppped vase from ¿adónde? has been on my wishlist for a while now, but for $250…I just couldn’t do it. I hit the jackpot at the DWR Annex last week, though, and brought one home for $50. Yay! That little black vase is from CB2 (discontinued), the little “Fire” candle holder (a gift from my mother) is by Iittala, the perpetual calendar (also a DWR Annex score) is by Massimo Vignelli, and the cross vase is the most awesome thing I’ve ever found at the Goodwill for $3. I love that thing.

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The last bit of bedroom updates is the addition of bookshelves. We don’t keep many books at the apartment (I SWEAR I HAVE MORE THAN 20 BOOKS! They’re all at the house!), but inevitably a few do wind up not making the journey to Newburgh. This is really all the space we need for that kind of thing. When I mounted these shelves in the last apartment, I predicted IKEA would discontinue the wonderful steel EKBY OXIE brackets, but it appears they still carry them! I still think I should stock up. They’re good-looking, strong and cheap. Like me! No, not like me. I’m just cheap.

Still on the apartment bedroom to-do list:
✚ Replace that horrible light fixture we’ve agreed to not discuss
✚ Paint the white walls and ceiling BM Moonlight White
✚ Hang art
✚ Make the closets nice inside (FLOR tiles?)
✚ Figure out if I want some kind of window covering
✚ Obsess over finding the right rug

Benjamin Moore Deep Space

It’s been just over a week since we moved into the new apartment, and I can tell you two things with certainty: We’re going to be holding onto this place for a good, long time, and we’re also going to be working on fixing it up for a good, long time. Both of these things make me happy.

Now that all of the deep-cleaning is done, I’ve started in on painting the bedroom. I knew I wanted to use a dark charcoal gray with a little blue in it, and after spending a while looking at paint chips in natural and artificial light, I went with a color I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long while: Benjamin Moore Deep Space (matte finish). I think I first saw it in this sneak peek…or it might have been this one. I really like how soft it looks, and that it reads as a true charcoal in daylight. It’s definitely not black, but it doesn’t go green or brown or anything, either. It’s just right.

before and during

Yes, the bedroom is enormous—about 500 square feet. Seriously! It’s bigger than our last apartment was in its entirety. It’s stupidly large, and it’s kind of a weird space. I dig it. The apartment is a converted attic, and that jog in the front wall is where the original building façade ends. The clerestory windows are part of the vertical extension of the attic, and are not original to the building. (Does that make sense?) Also: SKYLIGHT. Yes. Love.

One of the biggest challenges I’m up against is an enormous amount of wood. Shiny, orange-toned, unpainted, stained and varnished WOOD. Wood floors (no complaints there), wood baseboard moldings, wood windows, wood window casings, wood cabinets and lots and lots of wood doors. Sigh. At least the moldings are wide and the doors are solid.

Now, if I had my druthers, I’d be painting all of that wood (OK, maybe not the floors) white in a hot second. I don’t own this apartment, though, and as much as I believe in doing what you need to do to make a rental your home, I also believe in respecting other people’s property. There’s a fine line between improvement and destruction depending on your point of view. I’ve rented a lot of apartments over the years, and I take pride in the fact that I’ve left every one of them in better condition than I found it in—by anyone’s standards. No landlord in his or her right mind is going to complain about me stripping the paint off of old door hardware, tiling a backsplash or recaulking a bathtub, but painting unpainted woodwork is another story.

In other words, once we’ve been living here for a while, I’ll ask the landlord if he minds if I paint the woodwork. Haha. In the mean time, this deep charcoal paint really does a good job of taking the edge off of all that wood by making it way less high-contrast.

painted bedroom walls

Pretty nice, yeah? Scroll up to that before picture again to compare. It’s like night and day! Har, har. Jokes aside, the dark paint makes a HUGE difference. I really couldn’t be happier. Isn’t it amazing what a $50 can of paint can do? I wasn’t sure how much of the room I wanted to make dark, so I just took it one wall at a time. Once the window wall was done, I realized I had to paint the side walls in order to de-emphasize the jog, so I kept going right up to the side of the chimney. I’m 95% sure I’m stopping there.

I still need to paint the remaining white walls and the ceiling in my favorite white (Benjamin Moore Moonlight White), so please ignore the harsh white semigloss that’s there now! It’s awful.

Speaking of awful, ASKJALKSJFLKSDJFLKS LIGHT FIXTURE NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. It’s bad. So bad. I know. Trust me, once it comes down it’ll go in a bag in the closet and stay there, untouched, until the day I leave. Let’s never talk about it again, OK?

Yes, we need a dresser and we need to put things away and that desk looks too tiny and we’re going to put a sofa in there and NO I am NOT planning to leave all of my tchotchkes on the window ledge like an old lady.

wood overload

In case you thought I was kidding about the wood overload, take a look at this! Oh boy. I mean, the upside is that we have 20′ of closet space along that wall (!!!), so that’s great, but wow. That is a lot of shiny, orange wood. New, non-brass doorknobs will help, as will going over the damaged areas of the wood with Restor-A-Finish. And averting my eyes.

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Sorry to leave you with those yelling goats for so long! Friday was our big Brooklyn moving day. We said goodbye to DUMBO and hello (again) to Cobble Hill. The two neighborhoods are only a mile apart, but they have very different personalities. Even though we moved out of our first Cobble Hill apartment ten years ago, it still feels like home to both of us. So good to be back! The photo above is the view from our new kitchen. The sunrises are beautiful.

We won’t have internet access in the new place until Thursday (seems so ridiculous that in 2013 they still have to make an appointment to bring you a modem in person and “install” it for you!), so I’ve been using my time to clean, unpack, clean and clean some more. I’ve moved many times in my adult life, and I never feel comfortable in a new place until I’ve scrubbed every surface. This apartment is pretty huge, so it’s taking a while!

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The dogs are in HEAVEN. The new kitchen gets a ton of sunlight, so they basically spend their entire days now sleeping and moving slowly across the floor like hot dogs on a roller. It’s also very quiet in the new place, so their naps aren’t interrupted by barking patrol duties.

Isn’t that radiator crazy? There are two of them, and I’m told they’re some kind of old industrial model that’s supposed to be behind a wall. Whatever the story is, they’re very weird and a little scary looking and I love them.

Lots of photos to come once I have steady internet access!!

Atlantic Ave

Just about a year ago, Evan and I rented an apartment in DUMBO. It was the first time we’d lived in Brooklyn since we relocated to upstate New York nine years ago, and it felt so good to be back. I love Brooklyn. My first post-college apartment was in Cobble Hill, and South Brooklyn pretty much immediately felt like home to me. We did stints in Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, too, back when there wasn’t a Fairway or an IKEA (or much of anything in the way of conveniences, really!). And then we left, and I spent a bunch of years missing Brooklyn.

So, DUMBO. When we rented our little place there last year, it was kind of an experiment. Evan works in the neighborhood, and what could be better than having a commute that amounts to little more than walking across the street? As I’ve mentioned way too many times, I was never really sold on the idea of moving into a gut-renovated, brand new apartment, and no matter what I do with the place, it just doesn’t feel like our home. Now, we are extremely fortunate to also have a wonderful old house that feels more like our home than anywhere I’ve ever lived, so I know it’s a little silly to care so much about the apartment, too, but…

OK, let’s cut to the chase: We’re moving. To Cobble Hill. Yes, right back where I lived when Evan and first met, my favorite neighborhood in Brooklyn.

We hadn’t really been planning on moving, but right after our current lease came up for renewal, my brother and his wife bought an apartment…and, as a result, decided on a date to end the lease on the Cobble Hill rental apartment they’ve been living in for years. Guess what? That date just so happened to be exactly the same as the end of our lease! I know there’s no such thing as “fate,” but that’s a pretty happy coincidence. My brother’s apartment is in a great location, it’s at least double the size of our current place (!!), the landlord is friendly and kind, and it’s a lot cheaper, too. Cheaper is good. It’s also on high enough ground that it won’t flood during the next hurricane—in fact, it’s where we evacuated to when Sandy struck.

And did I mention how much I love Cobble Hill?

The apartment itself is a 4th-floor walkup in a converted attic, so the bottom half of it (meaning from mid-wall to the floor) is original to the building (which I’d guess was probably built around 1880-1890ish), and the top half is an addition that was put on to make the ceiling higher. I’m not sure what year the addition was put on, but it’s got to be at least 30 or 40 years old. The kitchen is new-ish, the bathroom is old-ish, and absolutely nothing is my style. Hah! That’s OK, though, because all of it has potential. I like potential. I like a challenge. I have a vision. I can see right past that tan bathtub and those unpainted moldings. Just you wait. This is a place I can see Evan and I holding onto for years.

The move is probably happening in mid-February, and I’m really excited. I’ve been dreaming about paint colors and sofas (we’re finally going to have room for something bigger than a loveseat!) and light fixtures and floor tiles. It’s going to be so good!!

Brooklyn work space

I realized last night (upon receiving lease renewal forms) that it’s already been 10 months since we rented “the new apartment” in Brooklyn. Whaaaat?! I don’t really understand how it’s been almost a year already, but geez—I guess I should take some more pictures of it. A little while back I showed you one side of the main room, now here’s another side. This room contains the kitchen, dining room, living room and office, all compressed into a surprisingly spacious-feeling 220 square feet.

When I was planning out this room, one thing I knew I wanted was a nice work surface. I don’t like compact desks. I considered a few possibilities, and eventually arrived at a combination of two VIKA LERBERG trestles ($10 each) and a VIKA FURUSKOG table top (regularly $60, but I found it for 50% off), both from IKEA. That’s a 60×30″ work surface for $50—not bad! The table is actually deep enough that Evan and I can both sit and work opposite each other at the same time if we need to.* Plus, if we slide the iMac to the end of the desk (or put it on the floor), the table is big enough to seat 4 people—really nice if we have friends over for dinner.**

*This has never happened. But it could!
**This has also never happened. I blame the lure of the roof deck.

Brooklyn work space

The IKEA PS cabinet holds everything…and then some. I was sad to have to give up the awesome fauxdenza from our old apartment (it’s since been relocated to a closet at the house—more about that in another post!) because of space, but this guy really does an amazing job of storing way more stuff than it seems like it would be able to. All of our office supplies, tools, dog stuff, papers, and other things are in there, with room to spare. Our PS cabinet has been with us since 2003—almost a decade now. It’s an IKEA classic at this point, and I really think it’s one of their all-time best products.

Funny how much the (not) “new” apartment is starting to look like the old one, isn’t it? I even hung all of the artwork in the exact same arrangement. I still don’t think this place has the same kind of friendliness the old apartment did, but I am warming up to it! We definitely have a lot more visitors in DUMBO than we did in Washington Heights, that’s for sure, and I do love being able to open my home to people from out of town. It’s not big enough for overnight guests, but for hanging out for hours on end petting dogs and drinking coffee, it’s perfect! Every time friends or family come over, it really does start to feel a little more like it’s ours.

Herman Miller Lifework blog

If you’d like to see a few more photos of this side of the apartment (as well as some new pictures of the office at the house!) and read a little interview with me about work spaces, head over to the Herman Miller blog. I’m so honored to have been asked to contribute to their Lifework blog! I think it’s obvious to anyone who’s seen any part of my house or apartment that I have a considerable number of Herman Miller products in my life, so this was a lot of fun to do. (Thanks for inviting me, Amy!)

We arrived in Brooklyn late last night after getting word that electricity had been restored to our apartment building. The elevators were still out which meant we had a long hike up to the 9th floor, but the relief of being back in NYC was worth it. I don’t want to be away right now.

This afternoon we headed out to drop off supplies for Sandy victims. The situation in the outer boroughs, where people—many of them elderly and immobile or financially unable to relocate—are living without heat and with a diminishing food supply, is becoming increasingly dire as temperatures drop. 20,000 of the 40,000 New York City residents expected to be displaced by Sandy are public housing residents. You may have heard that there is a gas shortage in NYC right now as a result of the storm (there are waits at open gas stations of 4–5 hours, and many stations are closed because they don’t have power), but aside from the resulting transportation issues that have been reported on, people are now unable to power generators. The disparity between recovery efforts in downtown Manhattan and in Queens and Long Island is dramatic. There are people in danger who need help NOW.

My friend Jenna has written a compelling post at Sweet Fine Day about the devastation she’s seen first hand, and what she and others have been doing to help. She has also compiled a GREAT list of local organizations that are providing direct assistance to those effected by the hurricane—donations to the Red Cross aren’t bringing relief fast enough. If you would like to help, please consider giving to one of these groups. Even if you can’t contribute, I urge you to read Jenna’s post—it paints a much truer picture of what’s going on here right now than anything you’ll see on CNN.

UPDATE:
Occupy Sandy has set up a registry through Amazon to facilitate the donation of the most-needed supplies in a very simple way. If you are not in NYC and would like to help, this is a great way to do it. Occupy Sandy volunteers are making daily deliveries to priority response areas. THANK YOU!

If you’re in DUMBO, Gleason’s Gym and Superfine—both on Front Street—are accepting donations of blankets (the most-needed item!), coats, water, non-perishable food, batteries, trash bags, diapers and other supplies on-site. Donated items will be delivered directly to those in need in outer-borough areas affected by Sandy.

The community effort I saw today in DUMBO is really heartening. A lot of small, independent businesses took a real beating from the storm, and ground-floor apartments (including the ones in my building) were destroyed. Those who fared well are helping out those who didn’t by making their showers, food, water and electricity available. Clean-up efforts and fundraisers are in full swing. DUMBO has the benefit of being an area that attracts a lot of tourists, so I’m hopeful that people will continue to visit! There are a lot of tech-industry and creative jobs in DUMBO as well, and the sooner those people can get back to work, the better. The DUMBO Improvement District site has info how to donate specifically to the businesses who suffered the greatest losses.

Damage and recovery at my favorite book store, powerHouse Arena. There were piles of water-logged, destroyed books on the sidewalk outside. I took a photo, but I can’t bring myself to post it…

One Girl Cookies is closed indefinitely due to extensive damage. Today they opened a pop-up shop a local children’s clothing store.

Galapagos Art Space was completely flooded, but managed to reopen yesterday after a massive clean-up effort. The before and after photos are amazing!

Jane’s Carousel survived in spite of the water that crept under the bottom of its enclosure. It’ll be a while before it’s operational again as the underground electrics were flooded under 5 feet of water, but the horses are fine.

✚ DUMBO is a really popular destination for wedding photos (barely a day goes by when I don’t see a bride or two posing outside my building), and it was nice to see that tradition continuing today. DUMBO will be just fine.

This is the final set of photos I took before leaving Brooklyn last night. Our building in DUMBO is still off-limits per the FDNY—extensive flooding everything on the lower levels means must be completely rebuilt and inspected by ConEd before the power can be restored and residents can move back in. Our apartment is on the 9th floor and was thankfully unaffected, but the apartments at ground level were destroyed. We were allowed back in to retrieve belongings (and empty the refrigerator!), but we have no idea when the building will be habitable again.

We are, of course, very fortunate to have our house up in Newburgh in addition to the apartment, so that’s where we are now. We brought Jen from Honey Kennedy (currently visiting from Portland—possibly the worst “vacation” ever!) along with us, and everything is really fine up here. There are some downed trees and the waterfront restaurants were flooded, but it seems the Hudson Valley was spared the damage that affected New York City, New Jersey and other points south. We weren’t so lucky up here during Irene! Metro-North trains aren’t running yet (nor are subways between Manhattan and Brooklyn), so I have no way to get to work from Newburgh. It’s strange to feel so immobile.

I took these photos on the apartment roof deck last night at around 8PM—worth climbing 10 flights of stairs in the dark to take them. It’s so strange to see the lower Manhattan skyline so dark—the only lights are those powered by generators. When I walked down to the street level, I noticed that the Empire State Building was perfectly framed—and perfectly illuminated—beneath the Manhattan Bridge. I’m such a cynical person by nature, but I’d be lying if I said the sight didn’t put a lump in my throat.

Now that I’ve caught up on news and have seen the complete devastation that’s occurred in in areas like Breezy Point in the Rockaways and Seaside Heights on the Jersey shore, I feel even more grateful to have escaped without harm. Having to wait for electricity and trains is nothing next to people who have lost everything, including their homes.

PREVIOUSLY:
Waiting for Sandy (Sunday mid-afternoon)
Still waiting (Monday, early afternoon)
Sandy, during (Monday, 6:00–8:30PM)