cross box 1

This is a sad, sad situation here, right? This mess of cords in the apartment makes me so upset. I know it’s only three plugs, but between the protruding timer on the lamp and the big black monster that powers our radio, there’s really no way to hide the whole thing with a carefully positioned pile of books or a cord channel. For a while I’ve been hiding it behind the giant ampersand, but I want to hang that thing on the wall, not leave it leaning precariously in a corner.

cross box 5

Over Christmas, we received a gift from an author of some baked goods in a large, round wooden box. It’s nothing fancy (a notch above balsa wood, really), but I snatched it because I was sure I’d be able to use it for something.

Unable to look at that cord mess for one day longer, I devoted an unreasonable amount of time yesterday afternoon to figuring out how to get it out of my sight. I abandoned my plans of preparing and freezing meals, cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, giving myself a pedicure, doing photo research, and pretty much everything else that would have made my week easier, and set about turning this round box into a…um…what? An electric outlet cozy?

cross box 4

cross box 3

Since everything looks better with a cross on it (case in point) I used tape to mask one out (sort of the reverse of what I did on my medicine cabinet), then used some leftover wall paint to fill in the negative space. The trick to preventing bleed-under when painting over tape on bare wood—especially when it’s very porous and rough, like this box—is to use a really dry brush. Always paint away from the center so you’re not brushing toward the edge of the tape. The paint will dry very quickly, so you can easily do three very thin coats.

cross box 2

Cute, right? I decided to leave the edges of the box bare wood. I didn’t take a photo, but I cut a little notch out of the bottom edge to allow cords to pass through.

cross box 6

The last step was to corral the cords into a little bundle so they’d pass through the notch easily (all of the excess cord length got wrapped up to be hidden by the box, too), then I put a nail in the wall to hang the box from. It’s not attached to the wall, so if I need to access the outlet it’s not a problem at all. Then I smooshed some books underneath to further distract from the extending cords.

I doubt this is a project that anyone else will be replicating in their own homes, but I figured I’d share it anyway! I know I could have made a very simple box to hide the outlet and painted it to blend with the wall more (or bought something prefab made of plastic, I imagine), but I thought it would be more fun to make something that looks intentional. Intentionally weird, maybe, but at least I can’t see that stupid outlet or the plugs anymore!

EDIT: There has been some concern from a couple of commenters over whether this box poses a fire hazard. The answer is no. First of all, the outlet and electrical box/wiring inside (which are all new) are NOT overloaded. I realize it looks like there are a lot of things plugged in, but that’s an illusion caused by the color, size, and shape of the three plugs and the lamp timer. Second, the box (which is quite large—it’s about 5″ deep and 14″ wide) is NOT airtight by any means. There is plenty of airflow, even more than inside of a TV cabinet, kitchen cabinet, or other places where you might have an enclosed outlet. This is no more hazardous than putting a piece of furniture, a refrigerator, or curtains in front of an electrical outlet—or having an outlet inside of a kitchen cabinet to power undercabinet lights, etc. I am a big fan of electrical safety, and I would never do something like this if it posed a risk.

Last night we made an impromptu trip to the DWR Annex (we brought Dan from Manhattan Nest along for good luck, because he’s so charming…GET IT?!) (← Evan has just informed me that this is not a funny joke, even after I explained it to him. Whatever.), and, as usual, I scored a few items that were on my wish list at tiny fractions of their usual prices.

cotton stripe bathrobe

First up is Daniel Östman’s striped cotton bathrobe from Design House Stockholm. It’s reversible, so you can be more black or more stripes depending on your mood. There’s also a hood, which in my experience makes nearly every garment more snuggly.

I’ve never owned a bathrobe as an adult. Lately I’ve been thinking I want one, though, because I hate putting my pajamas back on after I’ve taken shower and coated myself with moisturizer. Problem solved.

Kubus candlestick

I’ve wanted a Kubus candlestick (designed by Danish architect Mogens Lassen in 1962, blah blah blah) forever. This sucker was only 25 clams, so how could I leave it behind? It’s in perfect condition, too—only the box is damaged. They also had the big ones for a few dollars more. I’m sort of tempted to go back and get another one.

Muuto dots 2

THE DOTS!! I’ve had my eye on Tveit & Tornøe’s humongous wooden Dots for a while now, and even though I don’t know exactly where I want to use them (In the dressing room, perhaps? Or maybe the kitchen…), I couldn’t pass them up. I got them in screaming yellow, and once again, only the box is damaged.

Annex receipt
I don’t care if it’s gauche to share receipts or talk about prices. I saved $386.75!

TIP: Never accept the marked price on anything that’s been discounted at an outlet store. There’s almost always flexibility. Ask for an additional reduction, especially if the item is damaged or if it’s been sitting around for a while. They want to clear out inventory!

fruit crates

I decided to stain the fruit crates black. At first I thought I’d want to leave the wood bare or oil it, but after giving them a good cleaning and sanding, it was pretty clear that the wood just wasn’t cute enough to leave exposed. I used an opaque black stain, the same as I used for the mega-planters and for a million other projects over the years (I’m still on the same gallon!). In my mind that was a 30-minute project, but in reality, it took six hours to paint three crates. The wood was really porous, and there are just so many tiny nooks and crannies and surfaces to cover.

I may still add casters to the bottom crate à la this photo, but for now, I like how these guys look stacked two high in the living room. I took my Dwell magazines out of storage (I’m not a fan of magazine hoarding, but I do love Dwell and refer back to old issues often—I got rid of several years’ worth when I moved out of Brooklyn, and I still regret it) and piled ’em up. I love the colored spines on the more recent issues.


I spent a little time cleaning up this radiator, too. We’ve had it wrapped in aluminum foil (no, seriously) for a couple of years now because the paint flakes off like crazy and we don’t want the dogs to eat it, but after a long session with a wire brush, I think I’ve managed to remove most of the really loose stuff. We still need to have the radiator sandblasted and powder coated—it’s really expensive, so that’s on the back burner for the time being—but at least it’s less of a danger now. I know the scruffy old chipped paint look (I refuse to call anything in my house “shabby chic”, sorry) can be nice, but there’s a fine line between rustic and health hazard. A rusty radiator covered with flaking paint isn’t something anyone should have in their house.

By the way, if you have old cast iron radiators and you’re looking for a good way to keep them clean, I highly recommend buying a long, bendable vent brush (this is the one we have, but I’m sure there are plenty of other brands). It’s kind of horrifying (but super-satisfying) how much junk they manage to clean out of the fins.

p.s. Did you notice how much we managed to cross off of the to-do list for this weekend? I’m so proud!

Morgan's bench

I almost died when I saw this. Why is Morgan at The Brick House such a genius?? She’s been blogging about fixing up her raggedy old fence, and instead of throwing away the rotted posts that weren’t fence-worthy any longer, she cut off the ends, bolted them to a couple of Eames LTR bases scavenged from a banged-up surfboard table, gave the wood a healthy dose of teak oil, and…HELLO! Is this not the most beautiful bench you’ve ever seen?

What’s really killing me right now is that about a month ago, we came across an Eames surfboard table at the DWR Annex that looked like it had been chewed on by rabid Chihuahuas and then thrown off a cliff, but it was marked down to $99. We passed it by, but we probably could have talked it down to way cheaper and then used the bases to make something awesome like this. Something we could actually use. But I’m not as smart as Morgan.

Matt's curtain

Next up is this blanket-turned-window shade from Matt at Wood&Faulk. It’s so awesome it landed him a feature in the Dec/Jan issue ReadyMade magazine! I was agog over this project when Matt first posted photos on Flickr back in April, so I’m really happy to see it (and his great blog) getting some well-deserved attention. I can’t wait to get a full set of instructions on how to make my own shade! I have the exact same door in my kitchen…

(Is there anything wool blankets can’t do, by the way?)

Suki's magazine table

This is the simplest project ever, but I’d never have thought of it. Sure, we’ve all stacked up our magazines, but Suki at Varpunen went one step further and created a strap out of ribbon and D-rings to hold them all in place. The result is much more finished-looking than a wobbly stack, and it really does create a functional bedside table. I’m not yet at a point where I can get rid of all of my magazines without having a nervous breakdown, so this is making me rethink keeping a decade’s worth of copies of Dwell (those colorful spines!!) hidden away in a cabinet.

+ See also: People who made cool stuff out of other stuff, Part 1.

You know how you always see cool projects all over the place that involve re-purposing old fruit crates? Or old shipping pallets? And then you start getting obsessed with looking for these old fruit crates and old shipping pallets everywhere you go. Where is everyone finding this stuff? It’s like there must be some pile of magical old wood out there somewhere, just waiting for you to take it home and make it into something lovely. Except you never actually find that magical pile of wood—not in a location where it’s up for the taking. At least I don’t.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, fruit crates. I found some! A whole bunch, actually. They’re all piled up in the parking lot of a store that’s gone out of business on the outskirts of Newburgh. We’ve liberated three of them so far, and I think we’ll go back and get some more this weekend. I want to use them for basement storage bins. If I can get my hands on a bigger, sturdier crate, I want to put casters on it and use it for stashing magazines in the living room. Like so:

(via emmas designblogg)

I’m not sure how I missed this story when it first ran in the New York Times, but today I happened to stumble onto it while reading the comments on this post (thanks, Madeline, whoever you are!).

Sandra Foster and her husband, Todd, bought a piece of land in Delhi, NY, with a hunting cabin and a trailer on it for $46,000 and spent $3,000 renovating and decorating the 125 square foot cabin until it resembled a magical Victorian gingerbread house. Sandra did virtually ALL of the work herself. I am super-impressed.

There are a bunch of additional photos (and a great article!!) on the NY Times website. So inspiring.

All photos by Trevor Tondro for The New York Times.

So, I guess I’m pretty handy (at least when I have the energy to be handy, that is), but I’m super impressed and inspired by people who make super cool stuff out of found materials or repurposed wares.

Case in point? THIS DESK. Holy mackerel, right? Dan over at Manhattan Nest (which is a rad blog you should all be reading, by the way) made it out of a beat-up nightstand he found on the street, some knobs, a couple of sheets of MDF, legs from IKEA, some knobs, and a little paint:

Total cost? EIGHTY-THREE SMACKERS. He rented the tools and did this in an NYC apartment, too (let’s hear it for spray-painting on the fire escape!), so I don’t want to hear any crying about how you “don’t have space” to build stuff. Check out Dan’s blog for more details on the construction process.

Example #2 of making-cool-stuff-out-of-other-stuff is this amazing shelving unit from Daniel and Valeria at the always-inspiring Hindsvik blog (they have a great vintage Etsy store, too). Inspired by the Brick House (in turn inspired by the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs), they put this together using standard metal plumbing pipes and reclaimed barn wood:

There are more photos on the Hindsvik blog (yes, the cabinet opens!). Don’t you suddenly feel the need to build one of these units in your house? Somewhere? Anywhere? All I know is I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the perfect pile of discarded wood.

And all I did tonight was make popsicles (out of all-new materials, FYI).

Aside from installing a ceiling light fixture and cramming it full of stuff, the closet-to-be is now officially a CLOSET. What was once a filthy, unused, and unfinished space behind a door used solely for attic access is now a much-needed 18-square-foot storage space, and it’s pretty cute, too!

Once the plaster walls had been repaired, the electric work was done, and the ceiling was in place (THANK YOU, CLOSET FAIRY!!), I got to work on cleaning up the considerable mess that was the floor. As I mentioned, the existing floor was old linoleum, which I’d planned to leave in place and cover with FLOR tiles. However, I was pleased and surprised to discover that not only was the linoleum laid in a single sheet, but it was not attached to the floor in any way! No creepy glue, no scary asbestos paper. I was able to simply lift it and remove it in one piece. Excellent!

Underneath the lino was a plank subfloor (just like in my office). This subfloor runs through the entire house, of course, but with the exception of this closet and the office, it’s covered with finished, face-nailed strip flooring everywhere else. (If you’re curious about the finished floors, here’s a post about them!) The subfloor in the closet, of course, was never finished in any way, and was splintery, stained, and soft.

In other words, the floor was ripe for painting! Out came the sandpaper, the primer, and the floor paint, and I got to work.

Because we’re going to be storing some heavy stuff in here, we need to have a covering on the floor. I had ordered the aforementioned FLOR tiles before discovering that the lino could be easily removed, but when it arrived, I realized I’m not really a huge fan of the stuff. It’s a little too perfect for my taste. Happily, I remembered this rug, purchased last year on eBay for $3. I’d never found the right spot for it before, but it fits perfectly into the closet!

I apologize for the quality of the photos. It’s very tricky to get a decent shot in there . . .

We finished the guest bedroom more than six months ago, but we still haven’t had any guests. Boo-hoo! Until someone deems us worthy of visiting, I’ve decided to make a point of hanging out in the guest bedroom from time to time. It’s nice in here!

The salmon-pink plastic Philco radio on top of the credenza still works. I bought it years and years ago at a stoop sale in Brooklyn for $5. I love the sound of old transistor radios, especially to listen to baseball games (even though I have no real interest in baseball). Insta-nostalgia.

I wish I could remember where I got the little clock on top of the mantel. Probably at another Brooklyn stoop sale! I’ve had it forever. (The poster, of course, is from Elisabeth Dunker of Fine Little Day.)

Now doesn’t that look like a nice place to take a nap?

I’m a sucker for a bargain, and the DWR Annex in Secaucus (almost) never fails to disappoint. This Saarinen side table looks totally fine, right?

From this angle, too! I can’t see anything wrong with it. Why would it be marked down EIGHT-FIVE PERCENT??

Ah-ha! I see why now—there’s a chunk missing out of the edge. Oh well. Doesn’t bother me! It’s near a wall, anyway. You have to really look hard to see the damage, and even if it were more visible, who cares?

I’ve gotta say, I highly recommend that anyone who thinks IKEA is somehow inferior to so-called “high-end” goods in terms of overall durability spend an hour at the DWR Annex. Trust me, a $430 laminated side table chips just as easily as an $80 (for two!) version (and looks just as bad afterward). You need to look at the quality of individual products. Don’t worry about the brand name!

(Also, tulips. They make everything more beautiful.)