Archive
The Apartment / Brooklyn

I’ve been told by several friends (you know who you are) that I need to stop leading off all of my posts by saying, “I know these photos are bad, but…” I’m going to try not to do that anymore. Not because I expect my photos to improve in quality, but because nobody likes disclaimers — including me. Let me just say that I only have one camera (a tiny Leica point & shoot that I love dearly, but it’s not an SLR) with one lens, and I am super impatient when it comes to cameras. I am photo-deficient. OK? OK. I’ll just put the best photo first and then hope nobody notices how cruddy the rest are…

doorsixteen_fauxstringshelves_aptkitchen_1

Before you ask, the “It’s Always Worth It” print is by Lisa Congdon. Sometimes I think about writing “Well, Almost Always” underneath, but it’s not worth it.

In 2006 (pre-this blog), I was in the early throes of my ongoing obsession with Nisse Strinning’s String shelving system. It was hard to get them in the US at the time without paying a billion dollars for VAT and shipping from Sweden (these days we can order them in a number of color/wood configurations from A+R and, soon, the MoMA store), so I was really excited when I happened to spot a run-down set of knockoff String shelves at a used furniture store in Beacon (I’ll never stop missing you, Iron Fish). They were in seriously rough shape, but they were cheap — I think less than $20 — and fixing them up looked like an easy enough project.

And then I put them in the basement. If you look carefully at the photos in that post, you can actually see the faux-String brackets wedged between a dog gate and a vacuum cleaner. And there the shelves sat, more or less forgotten, for the next 7 years.

The day we decided to rent this apartment, my mind went to the big space between the two windows in the kitchen…and then it went to the shelves! THE SHELVES! THE ONES IN THE BASEMENT! So I finally did it — I fixed ‘em up, and put ‘em to work.

doorsixteen_fauxstringshelves_aptkitchen_3

PERFECT-O! I briefly considered getting nice new pieces of wood and just re-using the brackets, but this apartment is already really wood-heavy. I’m also a big fan of black on gray (yeah, that’s a pretty daring combo, I know) so I figured I’d just go ahead and paint the old wood shelves and hope for the best.

Since there’s always someone ready to freak out any time the words “paint” and “wood” are used together in the same sentence, rest assured I did not paint over anything worth restoring. Not all wood is precious. This is what I was dealing with:

doorsixteen_fauxstringshelves_aptkitchen_BA

Deeply-gouged, peeling veneer over crappy laminated pine, and, if you look carefully at the back right corner, mold. No good. I peeled off the loose veneer, cleaned the wood with bleach and water, let it dry in the sun, then gave all surfaces a good smoothing with my Mouse sander (I love that thing for small jobs like this). With the surface good and porous, a single coat of black Cabot Solid Stain (seen previously on the mega-planter I built for the garden) went on beeeeeautifully. I’ve had that same gallon can of stain for YEARS, and it just keeps on coming in handy. The finish is so super-rich and opaque, but you can still see the texture of the wood grain. It’s prone to scuffing, though, so I topped it with a coat of satin polyurethane for durability.

doorsixteen_fauxstringshelves_aptkitchen_details

The shelves have little brass hooks that hang from the brackets — it’s such a smart design. See how the damage and grain of the wood are still visible? I like that when I’m painting stuff black. Otherwise the finish can look a little plastic-y and too new.

doorsixteen_fauxstringshelves_aptkitchen_2

For context, here’s where the shelves are in relation to the kitchen’s main work surfaces and the backsplash. Yes, I still need to deal with that weird gap above the microwave where the duct is visible. It’s yucky. I’ll get to it eventually.

But yay, shelves! Totally worth it.

EDIT: The cute Bubble clock is from West Elm Market! It’s meant to be hung on the wall, but I’m not sure where its final location will be, so it’s just sitting in the shelf for now.

doorsixteen_fauxstringshelves_aptkitchen_4

When we first found out that my brother was going to be moving out of his longtime rental apartment, I scanned through my mental pictures of the place and quickly came to the conclusion that we should take it. I remembered four things about the bathroom: That it had a sliding glass shower door, a framed picture of Moomintrolls, a very nice cactus garden…and pink tiles. I was right in my memory of the first three things (though obviously the Moomins and the cacti moved out along with my brother), but pink tiles? No. That was wishful thinking.

I love a good pink bathroom. This is not one of them. This is something very different — a tan bathroom. The tiles, tub and toilet are all roughly the color of a Band-Aid. The sink and vanity are off-white, and the laminate on the latter is peeling. The floor is…the floor is WAVY, leading me to wonder what exactly is happening under those tiles, but I’m not intrepid enough to find out anytime soon.

It is what it is, and I’m totally OK with it! Much like the kitchen cabinets, none of this is what I would choose, but it’s functional and not the worst thing in the world, and who knows — maybe someday we’ll retile the entire bathroom and put in a new sink and toilet and get the tub sprayed white and angels will sing. That’s way off in the future, though, if it’s ever going to happen. This is a rental, and there are limitations (especially when you also own a house and that house has carpenter ants in the kitchen and needs a new boiler — but I digress).

Alright, now I’m just avoiding posting photos. Please be gentle! It actually looks better in person, I’m just not good at taking photos in small spaces.

doorsixteen_aptbathroom_1

Yeah, this is as good as it gets. I decided to continue the dark gray color we’ve used on the walls in the rest of the apartment into the bathroom through furnishings (the hand towel, the shower curtain, the print, etc.) rather than painting the whole room. The ceiling in this part of the apartment is pretty low, and I don’t think dark paint would do the bathroom any favors. Dark gray and black have an interesting effect on tan, by the way — they manage to make it look more pink! My goal is to get this bathroom looking more ’50s than ’80s, but without getting too literal or kitschy about it. I just want it to feel vintage-y and not sad. I painted the walls Benjamin Moore Moonlight White (matte finish), which is the same white I used throughout my house. It’s very soft and warm, perfect for imperfect spaces.

Here’s what the bathroom looked like before we did anything at all to it…

doorsixteen_aptbathroom_before

Two things are happening here that I absolutely cannot live with: A wood toilet seat and a sliding glass shower door. I really, really don’t understand why this type of shower door was so prevalent in American bathrooms for so long. What is the advantage over a shower curtain? The glass is a pain to keep clean, the tracks are traps for all kinds of nastiness and that bottom edge is just waiting to take a chunk out of your shin. Fortunately, they’re pretty easy to remove — take out a few screws, use a razor blade to slice through the caulk, pry off whatever needs prying, and you’re done. This was the very first thing we did on the first day in the apartment! Something tells me the landlord isn’t going to want us to put it back when we leave, but just in case, we have the entire door assembly stored in a closet.

This apartment had the entire array of builder-grade light fixtures in effect, including this marbled number in the bathroom. We replaced it with the ALÄNG from IKEA (scroll up to the first photo to see it!). It’s fine. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and head clearance is at a minimum, so it gets the job done. I’m keeping an eye out for an inexpensive vintage fixture to replace it with, but I’m not obsessing.

So here’s where we are now…

doorsixteen_aptbathroom_4

1. The hardest-working $29 scavenged Componibili around continues to be super-useful. I keep my hair dryer, straightening iron and other unwieldy implement in there. The raindrop hand towel was made by Satsuki Shibuya (sadly no longer available).

You can’t really tell from the pictures, but we replaced the mirrored medicine cabinet. The old one was pretty janky, and it was the kind that’s supposed to be recessed into the wall — except it was just floating on the surface with mirrors glued to the sides (?!). We put the LILLÅNGEN from IKEA in its place, and it’s GREAT. So much more storage! $70 well spent.

2. Does anyone use those tiled-in toothbrush holders for actual toothbrushes? Mine is holding the most amazing incense from Reliquary in San Francisco (thank you, Victoria!). The soap dish is from Izola (thank you, Ilenia!).

3. I picked up the shower curtain from West Elm a couple of years ago for our old apartment, and it’s finally growing on me now. I’m still kind of thinking about replacing it with this one from Ferm, but we’ll see. It is a MASSIVE improvement over the sliding glass doors, that’s for sure.

4. Why is the toilet positioned so weirdly? Dunno, but it looks better with a black toilet seat! I work in a 1930s-era Rockefeller Center building, and the white toilets (many of which appear to be original, incredibly) have these amazing black seats that I’ve always admired (hello to any coworkers reading this who are now giving me the side-eye). Just a little vintage flavor, if you will, but you probably won’t because who wants to use the word “flavor” in reference to a bathroom? Anyway, black toilet seat! I like it.

Oh, and the very cool No Sleep Til Breuckelen print is from Pop Chart Lab.

5. Here’s the plastic bag I taped to the wall to make the bathroom look even more authentically vintage! No. It’s there because some the tiles inside the shower are coming loose and need to be removed, cleaned and replaced, and I have to do it in stages. The entire tub needs to be re-caulked, too. It’s got that perma-mildew thing going on, which I won’t show you because I’m nice.

6. Those cheap little RAST dressers sure do come in handy when you don’t have a lot of space! We used to have this one inside of a closet in our last apartment. I painted it with Benjamin Moore Deep Space (the same color I’ve been using throughout the apartment). It fits so perfectly here, and it holds a TON of stuff.

My mother gave me that sweet Plint box from Ferm for Christmas, and I must say that thing is PERFECT in this bathroom. It ties together the wall tile color and the dark grays so well that it almost looks like it was painted to match the space. Doesn’t it make the tiles look pinker?

doorsixteen_aptbathroom_3

I just want to dwell on this clock for a minute, because I love it so much. I bought it for $1 at a stoop sale in Brooklyn about 15 years ago. It keeps perfect time, and it even has a 60-second timer built in. It was made for a kitchen, but I’ve always used it in bathrooms. It’s been in retirement/storage for a few years now, and it makes me really happy to have a place for it again.

There’s a whole website devoted to Telechron clocks! This is a 2H17 (the “Minitmaster”), manufactured in Ashland, MA, between 1945–1949. I love the internet.

doorsixteen_aptbathroom_2

And finally, my favorite part of the bathroom! The vintage black tray was a gift from my mother years ago. My smelling-good things are Dark Wave from OLO Fragrance and Rocky Glen from Cold Spring Apothecary, which appears to be discontinued. The Tarot Deck candle is from Catbird, and it smells like “incense, Turkish rose and pencil shavings.” Yup. I like anything that smells like witches and/or my high school bedroom. The rocks — those beautiful rocks! — are our place cards (place rocks?) from Lisa and Clay’s wedding. Diana Fayt hand-painted 103 of them — you can read more about that on Lisa’s blog. (Diana has a shop for her painted rocks if you want one, too.)

What’s next in here? I’m not sure. A rug, maybe, but it would have to be just the right one. I’ve thought about adding a row of black pencil tiles to top off the tan, or maybe putting up some cool wallpaper — I think the gold Wilderness pattern from Ferm would look pretty amazing! Re-tiling the floor in a dark slate or black would go a long, long way, as would a new sink. I’ll see! It definitely needs some Moomintrolls, too…and more cacti.

doorsixteen_ikea_kvittrabox

Have you been sitting around wondering which box is the best box? Probably. Me too. Guess what? I figured it out! This box is the best box: KVITTRA from IKEA (specifically the “red” design), designed by Anna Salander. I’ve been noticing Salander’s name on a lot of nifty IKEA stuff for the past couple of years, but this box is just the best. It’s made of a sturdy cardboard that’s coated with a screen-printed paper. The paper has slightly embossed texture to it, almost like fabric. And the colors! Perfect.

I actually have two KVITTRA boxes stacked on top of each other here. They’re only $9, so I picked up a couple when we first rented the new apartment without really having a specific purpose in mind for them. Last night I finally put them together, and now they’re holding all of my extra buttons, pouches, cables and so on — all of the little things that have sort of just been floating around looking for a place to be stored. I could put them in a closet, sure, but they’re much nicer just sitting on the living room floor.

And yes, there are a few other things to talk about here, like the new rug (!!!), the credenza, the lion head…and the fact that I can’t stop painting walls with that Deep Space paint. I’ll get to all of that soon enough, but I just couldn’t wait to share this box! The best box.

doorsixteen_ikea_kvittrabox_close

backsplash before & after

Remember the ugly kitchen in the my new apartment? The one with the kale chip counters, the cherry-colored doors and the backsplash made out of what are very clearly floor tiles? Yeah, that’s the one. Check out what I just did with the backsplash, though! This was a weekend project that I put very little planning into, and I am really, really happy with the result.

apartment backsplash

apartment backsplash

This is light years better, right? I kind of don’t even hate the kitchen anymore. Don’t get me wrong, if the landlord suddenly asked me to do a gut renovation I’d start this weekend, but in the very likely event that he doesn’t, I’m totally OK with how the kitchen looks now. It’s pretty amazing how well that color (yes, it’s Benjamin Moore Deep Space again) neutralizes the red tones in all of the wood in this apartment. The cabinet color is actually tolerable now! When we picked out the paint we made sure it picked up on some of the gray undertones in the countertop, too. They look more black than green now, which is a very good thing.

So basically all I did here was cover up the tile with plywood that I painted a pattern on. It’s held in place with Velcro, so I can remove it anytime with no permanent effect.

Here’s a step-by-step…

backsplash step by step 1

1. I used 1/4″ pre-sanded baltic birch plywood (not luan). I needed 3 2×4′ panels to do this backsplash. They were about $8 each. I chose ply over masonite/MDF primarily because it’s much lighter weight.

2. I measured out the panel dimensions, then did all of my cuts with a jigsaw. I’m sure I could’ve gotten more perfect lines with a circular saw, but ours is up at the house and I just wanted to get this done. I have a pretty steady hand, so the jigsaw really was fine.

3. To cut out the opening for the outlet, I drilled a hole first so I could get the saw blade in.

4. I test-fit the panels to make sure everything lined up right.

5. I gave the plywood a coat of primer. It’s really important to prime BOTH sides when you’re dealing with flexible stuff like beadboard, molding trim pieces and thin ply, otherwise you’re going to have a lot of warping. Trust me, it’s worth the extra time.

6. One coat of my base color was enough. I let it dry for about 3 hours before getting started on the pattern — I used that time to figure out what I was going to paint! There aren’t any progress photos of the pattern-painting, but I just used primer and little foam brush to paint it on freehand. (And yes, it took forever.) You could certainly use a stencil or stamp or whatever, but I didn’t want any repeats in my pattern. Every little line is unique.

backsplash step by step 2

7. This might sound crazy, but I was a little worried about the original white backsplash showing through the seams of the dark panels, so I put some strips of painter’s tape on a sheet of aluminum foil and…

8. …I painted them to match the panels. Yup.

9. See what I mean? I knew it would drive me crazy to see a sliver of white, so it’s just an extra little bit of insurance.

10. And finally, Velcro! I used almost one full roll of Velcro Ultra-Mate. It cost about $17, which seemed insane to me, but I guess that’s how much Velcro costs unless you’re smart and buy it online first. I just put a few inches in each corner, plus a few extras along the edges for the bigger panels. It’s SUPER secure.

Total cost = $42. Soooooo worth it.

A few things I didn’t do, but that I still might do…

✚ Put a coat of matte polyurethane over the whole thing for extra protection.
✚ Add a bead of clear silicone caulk where the panels meet the counter.
✚ Switch out the cabinet knobs. OK, I’m definitely doing that. The current knobs are cheap-o brassy things that most of the finish has rubbed off of. I think I’ll just go with simple, small black knobs.

EDIT! ALSO! HEY! READ THIS!
Reader Jenny questioned the use of combustible material around a gas range, which is definitely a valid concern. You should check your range’s clearance requirements and local code before doing something like this around a burner/stovetop. In my case, because this is not a high-powered or backless range, the wall in back of the stove is not a concern. The sidewall to the left of the range is another story, though, and I will probably replace that piece with stainless steel upon further thought. I did kind of dismiss it because the range is already actually TOUCHING the wood casing around the window right next to it (that seems bad, right? But my brother lived here for 5 years without setting the place on fire…), but hey, a little extra safety can’t hurt.

doorsixteen_backsplash4_NEW

An unexpected side effect of working on this project is that I really feel like painting. Not painting houses, but painting stuff. I feel like designing wallpaper, too. And pillows. And blankets. And everything, really. I wish I had time! I have so many ideas. I do write them down, at least.

Morrissey in a frameless frame

For the past 22 years, I’ve been dragging this giant Morrissey poster around with me everywhere I’ve lived — and I’ve lived in a lot of places. It’s done a few stints rolled up in a closet (not for any loss of love for Morrissey, mind you), but it always winds up back on the wall again. One of the first things I thought about when we rented the new apartment was, “Where is Morrissey’s head going to go?”

I’ve never had it in a frame, and the damage it’s incurred as a result is really starting to show. When you’re 15 years old and sticking up a Morrissey poster with Fun-Tak and pushpins and taping the back when it inevitably falls a million times, you’re not thinking about someday being 37 years old and still having that same poster on your wall. At some point I made the switch from tape and tacks to Jørgen Møller’s Posterhanger, which did work well for a few years. It’s a good design, but I think this post is just too big and heavy — it’s about 4×5′, which is pretty darned large and unwieldy. Morrissey started falling again, so I rolled him up and vowed to be a REAL GROWN UP and get him framed properly once and for all.

There’s a very well-rated frame store right near the apartment, so one evening Evan and I popped in to get a quote. I had braced myself for it to be around $600, thinking that if I prepared for the worst I’d be pleasantly surprised when the quote came in lower.

Well, the quote did not come in lower. For the most basic framing option in the simplest frame, the quote was — wait for it — $1300. Yes. I guess I’ve been spoiled by years of cramming stuff into cheap RIBBA frames from IKEA, but I was totally caught off guard. I glazed over immediately and tried to politely listen to the rest of the spiel from the framer before I apologized for wasting her time and left. The other thing I learned was because my reckless teenage self fixed the poster’s tears by putting tape all over the back, it’s not a candidate for reinforcement options like dry-mounting or linen backings. Boooooooo.

At that point, I figured I had four options: (1) Learn how to frame stuff, buy the necessary tools and materials, and frame it myself; (2) Become really good friends with someone who owns a framing shop and then put them in a horrible position where they owe me a huge favor; (3) Order a cheap framing kit online that I’ll never really be happy with; or (4) Slap something together with spare parts and call it a day. I chose option #4.

So here you have it! A couple of lattice strips cut to size, two thumbtacks (inserted through the back of the poster and into the lattice — one at the center top, and one at the bottom) and four binder clips. Done! No, it’s not fancy, and yes, someday I’d still like to have the poster framed by a skilled framing professional who knows what they’re doing, but for now this is totally fine. It’s not going to fall, rip or sag, and that’s all I really care about.

frameless frame

Side bonus! Here’s a quick review of me and “Our Frank” over the years. I wish I had more pictures of my bedrooms in the ’90s, but such are the realities of life before digital cameras and iPhones. Despite the passing of years, my love for Morrissey remains as strong as the cut of his 30″ jawline. (He’s even in my bio now!)

Our Frank

doorsixteen_newapt_alcoveBA

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.

doorsixteen_newapt_alcove5

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.

doorsixteen_newapt_alcove7

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

doorsixteen_newapt_alcove2

doorsixteen_newapt_alcove1

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.

doorsixteen_newapt_alcove3
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.

doorsixteen_newapt_alcove4

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.

doorsixteen_easyshelving2

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.

doorsixteen_easyshelving1

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.

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_island

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.

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_before

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…

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_kalecounters

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.

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_longview

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.

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_main

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.

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_sinkdetail

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.

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_radiator

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_windowbox

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.

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_cloudlight

doorsixteen_aptkitchen_hektar

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?

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_nelsonbubble3

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!

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_nelsonbubble5

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.)

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_nelsonbubble4

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_nelsonbubble1

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.

doorsixteen_bedroomlight_UGLY

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…

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_nelsonbubble6

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_1

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.

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_4

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!

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_2

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_3

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.

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_5

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.

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_6

doorsixteen_aptbedroom_7

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.