The Apartment / Manhattan

So…that’s it, then. This weekend we moved the last of the furniture, odds and ends, and forgotten cabinet contents out of the Washington Heights apartment that we’ve kept for the past two years. While Evan was making trips back and forth to the house in Newburgh and the new apartment in Brooklyn, I was patching, filling, sanding, painting, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning for two solid days and nights.

Despite the fact that no one else has ever paid me the same consideration, I believe in leaving rental apartments in nice condition and immaculately clean for the next resident. I don’t understand why it’s not standard for landlords to hire cleaning services to tend to apartments between tenants, but (at least in my experience in New York) that’s definitely not the norm. The things I’ve had to clean out of refrigerators when moving into new apartments…ugh. I just like to make it nice as possible for the next person, and I always leave the apartment in better working order than I found it in.

Painting over the black kitchen wall and converting the “office” back into a closet felt sad. We had hoped to assign our lease to a couple who actually wanted to keep the black paint, the fauxdenza, and all of our other modifications, but that didn’t work out as planned, so it all had to go. I don’t like the feeling of leaving an apartment and not knowing what’s going to happen to it. I know that might sound a little silly since people do that all the time, but I was really attached to this place. It’s a great apartment in a great building with GREAT neighbors. I hope someone nice moves in. I also hope nobody paints over all of the doorknobs and hardware that I spent so many hours stripping.

I started crying when we were ready to walk out the door for the last time. Good old 6F in Washington Heights is the complete opposite of the new place in Brooklyn. I’m comfortable in these old, concrete-walled apartments with paint-globbed moldings and cracked plaster and mismatched bathroom tiles. And I’m a little uncomfortable in gut-renovated white boxes with 90° corners and dishwashers and fancy amenities. I know how to live in old spaces, but I’m not sure how to live in new ones. It’s going to be a weird adjustment.

I’ll miss this place. Goodbye, Bennett Avenue.

As part of my ongoing effort to make the city apartment feel more home-like, I decided to hang a couple of framed printed in the kitchen. I’ve been holding on to these prints with the intention of framing/hanging them for about 15 years (!!) now, and it feels great to see them out of a storage tube and onto the wall.

Both prints were silkscreened by Robin Hendrickson, who I met while we were in the Art+Design program at Purchase College. Robin was immensely talented, and I do wonder what he’s up to now. (Hey Robin, if you Googled yourself and wound up here, get in touch!) The Lost Highway poster (black ink on yellow plasticized paper) was done for a special screening of the movie in the campus theater, and the “Hockey Fight” print was a personal project he did to document a multi-face type family that he’d hand-drawn. We have an alternate version of this poster in what is now the guest bedroom at our house (yikes, old photo!).

There’s a tendency to think small when it comes to hanging framed stuff on kitchen and bathroom walls, but I love putting big posters in smaller spaces. The room immediate feels cozier, happier, and all-around more comfortable. I don’t worry about heat or moisture, either. I probably wouldn’t put anything valuable right next to the stove or the shower, but I’ve never had a problem with anything getting damaged.

Oh, and speaking of the apartment kitchen, remember that giant hole in the ceiling? Well, it’s finally fixed. What a huge relief. Not being able to cook (and you know, having a giant hole overhead constantly shedding dirt and concrete) was pretty stressful.

Let this post also stand as a reminded to order your 2012 Stendig calendar! It’s already November, and it’ll be a new year before you know it. And remember, the pages make great wrapping paper when the month is over.

Things are still very much all work, all the time around here, but I managed to sneak in a few snaps of Instagram brightness here and there.

Speaking of Instagram, you may have noticed that there is a big update to version 2.0 available right now. My personal advice is to skip the update for the time being. If you’re wondering why, take a look at this very thorough review. I was extremely unhappy with the update, and wound up jumping through a bunch of hoops in order to downgrade to the old version.

And yes, I still love Instagram for all of the reasons I wrote four months ago, by the way—maybe a little too much.

p.s. What happened to September?!

Lately I’ve been trying to make the city apartment feel a little more like a home than just a place to crash. When we first rented it last year, my goal was to keep it as spare and minimal as possible—but who am kidding? I like stuff. I like furniture and lamps and art and books and pillows and candles. The entire apartment is only about 450 square feet (including the kitchen, bathroom, and entry area), so it’s really not too hard to make it feel “cozy”—homey is another story, though. I think when you don’t have your favorite stuff with you, the place you’re living in can start to feel a little like it actually belongs to someone else, or that it’s temporary. Either way, it’s unsettling.

Okay, so this is minor, but look! We FINALLY screwed the top down on the fauxdenza. It only took us five months! (Well, it took about five months to think about it, and then 30 seconds to actually do it.)

Speaking of FAUXDENZAS, I have to point out that the official Google “fauxdenza count” is up to a whopping 13,700 hits. To recap, “fauxdenza” made its debut in November 2010. By the following March, we were up to 323 mentions. Less than a year after its inception, “fauxdenza” has become part of everyday language in households across America. Are you listening, Oxford English Dictionary?!

Okay, I promise to dial down the nerd now. But first, here’s an updated FAUXDENZA Google screencap.

See? I’ve been hanging stuff on the walls! For a long time the fabulous bear print by Sarah Edmonds of Banquet was the only thing up there, but I’ve since added three more pieces. The mountain poster is by Elisabeth Dunker (I wish I had a better picture of it in situ, but the glare from the window was fighting me!), the Pee-wee print is by Dan Zettwoch, and I’ve already written about the Superpowers poster from Pop Chart Lab.

A couple of other new things came to live with us, too—both of them from the 2009 IKEA PS collection. The cute little KARLJOHAN side table was designed by Christian Halleröd, and the crazy SVARVA lamp is the from the super-awesome Swedish design collective FRONT. This is probably the only scenario in which I’ll actually be able to afford anything designed by FRONT. I love when designers I love (hello, Hella Jongurius!) do pieces for IKEA.

Ever the bargain-hunter, though, I waited to buy these two pieces until the price dropped to almost 50% of the original cost. It looks like IKEA is phasing out much of the 2009 PS collection now, so if there’s something you’ve been wanting, get on it now.

Here’s a closer view of Dan Zettwoch’s amazing Pee-wee bike print. You’d need to see this thing in person to appreciate the fantastic attention to detail! Dan has some really cool photos of the process of creating it on his blog—check it out. It’s silkscreened in really rich inks (plus silver!) on thick, creamy paper, and it looks SO good on the wall. Dan screened an edition of 30 of these prints, and I think he still has some left, so definitely get in touch with him if you love Pee-wee as much as I do!

(Thanks so much to Matt Roeser for tipping me off to Dan Zettwoch’s work back when I put up this post about my love for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure!)

Today as been quiet. We’re settled down with our supplies at the apartment and waiting for hurricane Irene—she’s just rain and wind right now, and hopefully that’s how she’ll stay. We slept in a bit (or at least I tried to—one foot out of the bed and I lost my spot!), visited with Mamma Biscuit and her dads, and indulged in some amazing vegan treats from our favorite bakery, Sweet Semosh.

Tonight is for getting caught up on Project Runway, watching old episodes of Cheers, eating leftover Chinese, and staying dry inside. I’m trying to fit in a little freelance work now, too, just in case we lose power tonight. And if we do, well—I’ll be making a lot of friendship bracelets tomorrow!

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first: My nails look adorable. After eying those Sally Hansen Nail Effects strips at Duane Reade at least once a week for the past few months, I finally went ahead and coughed up nine bucks and bought a box. I’d read a ton of reviews, so I knew they probably wouldn’t suck, but I didn’t expect them to be quite so awesome.

For my first attempt, I went with “Misbehaving”, a champagne-gold with a fishnet overlay. I’d read that the glittery styles are harder to apply, so even though “Glitz Blitz” was calling my name LOUD + SPARKLY, I opted for something easier the first time around.

The strips are kind of like really thin stickers, but they’re actually made of nail polish. They don’t add dimension to your nails or anything like that. They apply kind of like model airplane decals (sans water) in terms of fragility and placement techniques, but they go on really nicely. The amazing thing is that there’s no drying time, so if you’re like me and tend to decide to do your nails at midnight, you can hop right into bed after and not worry about dreaded sheet-prints screwing up your manicure.

Up close, you can definitely tell that I messed up the placement on a couple of stickers—mostly from fear of getting too close to the cuticle. From a normal distance, though, they look perfect. Oh! And they supposedly last for at least ten days with no chipping. I’m only on day three, so we’ll see how it goes. So far, so good, which is more than I can say for regular manicures. Kind of spendy, yeah, but if you have short nails like me, you can get two full manicures out of a box. Not too bad.

Now onto the other stuff: Hurricane Irene. Yeah. Well, we really don’t know what to expect. We’re staying in the city this weekend because the traffic heading out is bound to be brutal, so things could get exciting. Luckily, our neighborhood (Washington Heights) isn’t in an evacuation zone, so hopefully we’ll be okay. Unsurprisingly, tomorrow’s planned festivities have been postponed (Spike actually wanted to go ahead with it, but once the governor announced that ALL mass transit will cease operation at noon tomorrow, cancellation was kind of a done deal), so we’ll be holed up in the apartment—hopefully with electricity, cell and internet service!

There’s still a giant hole on our kitchen ceiling (grumble, grumble), but the roof seems to have been repaired, so hopefully we won’t get any water coming in—touch wood. I truly hope Irene takes it easy on us all! Everyone please be safe out there.

So, we haven’t been at the city apartment for a while, but we headed down late last night—dogs in tow, of course—and were greeted with this sight upon our arrival:

Yes, that’s right, the kitchen ceiling has been relocated to the kitchen floor. And on its way down, it decided to extinguish both pilot lights on the stove…so the entire apartment was filled with gas. Scary stuff. (This photo was taken after we’d opened the window.)

We opened the window and turned off the gas, but we can’t stay there until the gas clears and the ceiling is repaired. Even just being in there for a few minutes made me feel sick. I think the gas must have been pouring out for days, since this was clearly the result of rain damage to the ceiling coming in through the roof (our apartment is on the top floor), but everything was bone-dry.

After making numerous calls to the management company and our superintendent, we all got in the car and drove all the way back up to the house. We’re extremely lucky to have that as an option—I don’t know what we’d have done if this was our sole residence!

Let’s see how long it takes for the ceiling to get fixed, shall we? Things like this are exactly the reason why I prefer to be a homeowner. The lack of control you have as a renter can be frustrating—especially since I know they won’t actually fix the source of the leak…they’ll just patch the hole and move on. We could tell it had been “fixed” before we moved in, so this isn’t even a new problem. Argh!

UPDATE: The ceiling is FIXED! And the roof, too. Whaddya know?

Hooray! My “needle in a haystack” raindrop tea towel from Zakka Nouveau just arrived in the mail, and it’s even prettier than I’d imagined. They’ve been out of stock for quite a while, and I couldn’t place my order quickly enough when they returned to the shop. Now I want the other two colors, too.

You know when something turns up in your mailbox and the entire process of opening it up and rooting through the packaging is almost as fun getting to the thing itself? Opening this envelope was like that. Thick vellum machine-stitched with pink thread, cotton string and a screen-printed label. So nice.

I discovered Zakka Nouveau (you can read about the name here) when I was writing this picnic post for SFGirlbyBay, and it was love at first sight. Beyond the obvious (it’s no secret that I’m a fan of raindrop shapes, after all!), I like how soft and feminine everything looks without being cutesy or little girlish…and while still being graphic and bold.

Store owner and designer Satsuki Shibuya also maintains a really wonderful blog for Zakka Nouveau full of both beautiful images and inspiring writings about creative expression, work, and life in general.

My beautiful new tea towel is now at home in my apartment bathroom. Thank you, Satsuki!

I’m sure everyone and their blogger-brother will be talking about these new lamps from Portland-based Schoolhouse Electric over the next few days (or maybe they already are—I’m weeks behind on blog-reading, so I apologize if this is all old news!), but I can’t resist mentioning them as well because they are just SO perfect. Schoolhouse Electric is such a great company (we have their Truman sconces & Alabax surface-mount lamp in our downstairs bathroom, and their Benedict lamp in our bedroom) and their fixtures are top-quality. I can’t recommend them highly enough. They’ve just introduced a new line of table lamps, and these are my favorites from the collection:

Super nice, right? I love that you can choose from five different colors of cloth-covered twist cords for the ones with visible wiring—that’s such a nice touch. My eyeballs and greed-finger are all over the place right now, but I’m looking really seriously at the Ion Black. We’ve been needing a little bedside reading lamp for the apartment, and I think this might be just the thing…especially with an Edison bulb.

All photos courtesy of Schoolhouse Electric

Remember when I first shared my horrible Frankenword, “fauxdenza”? At the time, there were no other mentions of such a term anywhere on the internet. Now, a mere four months later, there are 323 search results. Take that, Merriam-Webster! Of course, I’m sure every single one of those search results is a referral of some sort to my post, but still. Fauxdenza! You heard it (and hated it!) here first.

More importantly, though, the fauxdenza is no longer topped with a too-long, too-wide, perpetually dusty table runner. As of this weekend, it now has a wood top! And it only took us 15 months!

The great thing about mounting IKEA wall cabinets at credenza-height is that they offer a huge amount of storage while taking up very little space in the room (and they don’t require any legs, of course), but the downside is that the top is seriously unattractive. IKEA designed these cabinets to be mounted high on a kitchen wall, so these screws, joints, and gaps would never show under normal circumstances.

We debated buying a length of butcherblock-style countertop from IKEA to fashion a top, but the logistics (How would we get it in the car? And would we have to then lug it up to Newburgh to cut it, and then bring it back to the city? Ugh…) proved too complex. In the end, we just went to Home Depot and bought a ¾”-thick length of pine. It was 6′ long, the exact length of the fauxdenza, so we just needed to have them cut the width down by a few inches. The waste was minimal, and I think I can even use the scrap to make a shallow shelf for…somewhere.

We decided to have the wood cut to the exact depth of the handles. They stick out quite a bit, so this makes the overall look much cleaner from above.

I was hoping that the wood would magically lie flat, but of course it’s warped a little bit. We still have to make a decision about how to finish the wood (I’m leaning toward wanting to live it pale pine and just sealing it with non-yellowing, matte poly, but we’re also considering an ebony oil stain…), and then I’ll put some screws through from the inside to pull the top down.