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The House / Newburgh

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It’s been nearly nine months since my last kitchen tiling madness binge at the house, and it feels so, SO good to be back in the swing of things. Aside from not having bronchitis and a 102° fever this time around, it’s very encouraging to at least have a finish line in sight. Having the radiators disconnected means I can make lots of progress with the tiling and the flooring, but it also means I’m now racing to get everything finished before heating season starts.

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When I got to the house on Saturday, I was finally able to see this corner of the kitchen (next to the sink) radiator-free. The valve and supply pipe were positioned so closely to the pipe chase that the radiator actually had to be cut out by the plumbers — you can see the scorch marks on the painted wood from being in contact with a hot valve. We will not be having this radiator reconnected, since the one on the other side of the room provides sufficient heat on its own.

See how crazily sloped the wall and baseboard molding are under the window? When we bought the house, this wall was in a serious state of disrepair. Years of water seepage and ice buildup on the outside of the building had caused the mortar between the bricks to fail — you could literally push on the outside of the house and see the bricks move. There was so much water damage on the wall behind the radiator that you could see light from outdoors coming through the radiator. (I don’t think I have photos of all of this, unfortunately, but I’ll check on an old hard drive this weekend to see if I can find anything.) It was alarming, to say the least! We hired a wonderful contractor to repair the exterior of the house and stabilize the bricks and lintels — as well as dig out the foundation and waterproof the outside about 6′ below ground level — and all has been well since then, but all of the interior settling that occurred as a result remains. It is stable, though, and rather than open a can of worms trying to straighten the wall and re-set the baseboard molding, I just went with it as-is. It was kind of like tiling a ski slope, but it’s honestly not all that noticeable now that the tile is uniform and the molding has been primed. It’ll be even less apparent once I get everything grouted and caulked and make the moldings a little nicer.

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Not bad for a solid 12 hours of tiling! I feel like I should be going faster, but the unevenness of the wall means I have to do a lot of building up/tapering of thinset along the way, and it’s tedious. I really do love tiling, though — always alone, never with an assistant (though I won’t object to having my thinset mixed for me!). It’s somewhat meditative, and I’ve done enough of it at this point that I have a good system down. I always listen to NPR, I always use my Wood & Faulk pencil, I always use a certain orange plastic triangle, I always have coffee at the ready…as long as I know the necessities are there and I keep my workspace clean, I can keep going and going as long as I need to. On Saturday night I was up until 3:00am!

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My favorite corner!! Man, I love how this is looking. I’ll be grouting this area next Saturday, and I know I’m going to take at least a dozen beauty shots when I’m done. Is it weird to be this obsessed with a corner? I just want to pet it. And maybe lick it? I love you, corner.

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I keep forgetting to take pictures to show how you deal with outlets and tile. Because tile changes the distance between the surface of the wall and the electrical box, you have to move the switches and outlets forward. With single boxes you can use a box extension ring, but with double boxes like this one you can use these little plastic shims. After turning off the circuit to the box (!!!), all you need to do is loosen the screws connecting the outlet to the box and snap on as many shims as you need to move the outlet forward the same depth as your tile. Tighten the screws, and you’re all set. (These shims are great if you have a loose outlet that needs support, too.)

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THIS IS ALL I HAVE LEFT TO TILE!!! Just this little corner! I have to do some repair work to the wall first because the plaster is really lumpy where the radiator was, but I should be able to finish this in a day. Then it’s time to grout!! See that lovely new radiator valve on the bottom right? That thing is smoooooth to turn. The old one was so rusty that bits would crumble off into your hand if you tried to close the valve. We had the plumber move the valve (and the pipe in the basement that leads to it) about a foot to the right at the same time so the radiator will be centered under the window instead of being crammed into the corner. And yes, that electrical outlet will need to be moved as well.

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The kitchen floor is still a huge unknown, but I’m holding onto hope that the original pine subfloor will be salvageable enough to paint. We know that they unfortunately have a lot of water damage, and I have to admit that the condition of the exposed planks in this corner is not encouraging. We’ll see how it goes, though. I doubt we’ll be able to start demo work on the floor next weekend (I still have to finish getting the rest of the tile up and then grout and caulk everything, plus if the weather is good I want to refinish the radiator outside), but hopefully the weekend after that. Fingers crossed that the floor will be alright with a little Bondo and a lot of paint!

For the past six months or so, we’ve been trying to get a plumber to our house to disconnect the kitchen radiators and do some related pipe work in the basement that goes beyond what we’re capable of doing ourselves. You’d think it would be easy to, you know, give someone a bunch of money to do the work they’re trained to do, but contractors are a special bunch. Long story short, we’ve had three enthusiastic and friendly plumbers come to our house to assess the situation and prepare a quote, but after five months of phone calls/voicemail messages (from us), we had yet to see even a single quote from any of them.

You know things aren’t going well when you can’t even get a quote.

So now we’re back with the plumber who worked on our upstairs bathroom in 2008 and our downstairs bathroom a year later. It took yet another month to get a quote from him (and then a couple more weeks to schedule the work), but…IT HAS FINALLY HAPPENED. Evan and I both had to be in the city so we haven’t seen it in person yet, but my friend Ilenia was wonderful enough to both let the guys in and sneak a few iPhone snaps while they worked. This is SO exciting!!!

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EWWWWWWW!! Gross. I’m guessing this part of the room hasn’t seen the light of day in the better part of a century. I cannot even express how much I am looking forward to CLEANING that baseboard molding (and painting it!!) and repairing the wall above. There was zero clearance behind and under the kitchen radiators, so it’s impossible to clean and maintain properly. This is going to be soooooooo very satisfying.

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The radiator next to the sink was removed, too, and I’ll bet it’s even grosser back there. We’re actually not going to replace that one. We had the plumber cap the steam pipe at basement level. We’ve been getting by just fine heat-wise with only a single functioning radiator in the kitchen, so we’re going to put this one in storage (in case we ever want to reconnect it).

The other radiator was in a really weird spot before, so we also had the plumber move the steam supply pipe over about a foot so that it can be centered under the window when it’s reinstalled. The photo on the right is the new position — it’s not connected yet, they were just figuring out where to drill a new hole in the floor.

Hmmm…I think this also means we’re going to have to move an electrical outlet. Hmmm.

Now that the radiators are OUT, here’s what’s on my kitchen to-do list for the next couple of months:

▶ Frantically tile the last two walls
▶ Frantically refinish one of the radiators
▶ Frantically pull up the existing VCT floor tiles
▶ Frantically remove the plywood subfloor, which was at some point used as a large snack for carpenter ants
▶ Frantically assess the condition of the original pine subfloor that’s underneath the plywood
▶ Frantically do something so that there’s a floor in place when the plumber comes back to reinstall one of the radiators

I feel a little sick thinking about it because I’ve been SUPER busy with work lately, but between summer hours (I get every other Friday off) and a few vacation days Evan and I have both scheduled, I think we can make it happen before heating season starts. The floor is just a huge unknown because we have no idea what’s happening under the plywood, but at least now we can actually start doing the demo work.

I’m just going to try not to think about the fact that we also need a major repair done to our boiler. Sigh. This is why our renovation projects drag on for years — there’s always something urgent to deal with that sucks up our entire budget. House stuff is expensive. All of it. Even the stuff that’s not expensive is expensive. I am mystified by blogs that document entire home renovations that take less than a year. We’re going on eight years of renovation with no end in sight. Is this normal? Sorry, I’m digressing too much. Ignore me…

On the agenda for this weekend: TILING. And more tiling. And tiling some more. It’s going to be total tiling madness. I can’t wait!!

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For as long as we’ve owned this house, I’ve been lamenting the weird, dead corner space to the left of the stove. My decision years ago to use pre-fab, freestanding IKEA kitchen units rather than fitted cabinets meant hoping for the best in terms of maximizing the usable space in the room. I got really lucky on the sink side of the stove, which just happens to be exactly 1/2″ wider than a single UDDEN unit, but the 42″ space on the left has just been a waste all this time. I did have a cart there for a long time, but the position was awkward and it really didn’t get much use.

Looking back on this post from January (THAT WAS EIGHT MONTHS AGO, UGH!) you can see that I planned to put a piece of butcherblock there to fill the whole space. Time passed, seasons changed and we never managed to figure out how to wrangle a giant slab of IKEA butcherblock into the car, so we just kept putting it off.

And then…

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HEYYYY. Who’s that fine young thing in the tank top sanding down what looks like a 42″ piece of wood countertop? Why, it’s Daniel! When Daniel told me he was planning to make his own countertops out of fir framing lumber, I hopped on that bandwagon real quick. I dropped a few subtle hints like, “gosh, I really wish someone loved me enough to make me a piece of countertop,” and the next thing I knew, there it was!

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I had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the countertop at all, but Daniel has written up a great post explaining exactly how he did it using nothing more than a circular saw, a Kreg jig, screws and good looks. (His own kitchen is looking totally amazing, by the way, and uses much of the same materials, finishes and colors as my kitchen, but in different ways. I’m so impressed!) (Have I mentioned how great it is to have Daniel and Max and Mekko and Linus as neighbors not only in Brooklyn but now also in the Hudson Valley? So great.)

I had a hard time getting a good shot of the underside, but hopefully you can tell what’s going on there. Ideally the counter would be bracketed to the walls for support, but because I don’t want to drill into the tile (I want to have the option of changing this kitchen around in the future, which is why I tiled all the way down to the baseboard moldings), I opted to use four adjustable VIKA KAJ legs from IKEA. They extend to a maximum height of 34″ and have a 165lb weight limit per leg, so they’re perfect for this kind of use. Three of the legs are set at the corners of the countertop, and the fourth leg is positioned back about 20″ so that the front right corner (next to the stove) appears to float. The legs really aren’t visible unless you’re looking for them, but I might spray paint them black at some point just so they blend in even more.

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When it came to finishing the countertop, my first thought was to stain it black with India ink (!) and then apply a marine varnish for protection, but once it was in place I really liked having more wood tones in the room. My favorite kitchens are ones that look like they’ve come to where they are over a long period of time rather than being a brand-new matched set of parts, so the less uniformity of natural materials the better. Bring on the knots and wood grain!

If I’d had any mineral oil on hand I probably would have just used that, but I used it all up when I was refinishing the giant island. I’ve read good things about Watco Butcher Block Oil (basically tung oil and solvents) on woodworking forums, so decided to give it a shot. A pint-sized can was about $15, which seemed kind of steep, but because of the solvents it’s nowhere near as viscous as straight oil — it goes a long, long way. I’ve only gone through about 1/8 of the can. Also unlike mineral oil, this stuff is flammable, so you do have to be careful about disposing of your rags (I used cheesecloth). The other thing to be aware of with products like this is that they need to cure for a full 72 hours before the surface is considered food-safe. I don’t plan to use this countertop like a cutting board because fir is too soft, but it’s still something to be conscious of.

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So far, I’ve done three coats (waiting six hours and sanding lightly between coats) of Butcher Block Oil, and the finish looks great. There’s a slight sheen to it, but it’s definitely not SHINY. I don’t like shiny wood in kitchens. I poured a little water on to test its durability, and after 30 minutes it was still beaded up on the surface. Good sign! I’ll probably do a couple more coats just to be on the safe side, and then maintain the finish periodically with mineral oil going forward.

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I’m so happy about this combination of materials. Stainless steel gets a bad rap for being “clinical,” but I actually think it can look very warm — it’s all about how you use the material and what you combine it with. See how great it looks paired with natural wood and white tiles? The thing with stainless countertops is that you have to stop caring about scratches and other visible wear and just let it do what it’s going to do. The first few scratches we got on the counters looked terrible, but now that we’ve been using them for seven years and the steel has developed an overall patina, I don’t worry about damage at all. Stainless countertops are pretty indestructible.

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It’s no small thing to have counter space on BOTH sides of the stove now, let me tell you! Being able to use one side for chopping and another for keeping spices and oils handy while I’m cooking (plus the island behind me for organizing ingredients) makes a huge difference. It’s great. I can’t believe I went for so many years without anything on the left side of the stove! It looks so much more visually complete, too.

Speaking of things being complete, the kitchen still is not. We’ve had a very difficult time trying to get a plumber in to disconnect the radiators (that might sound like an easy job, but the steam pipes need to be cut, re-threaded, capped at basement-level and eventually extended and re-routed, which is beyond our level of DIY-ness), but we FINALLY have a plumber booked for next Wednesday. YAY!!! Once he takes out the radiators, I can resume tiling the remaining two walls and ripping up the floor. It’s going to be a VERY busy August! Evan and I have both taken vacation days, and we’re determined to get all of the work done before temperatures drop…otherwise we’re going to be without heat in the kitchen during the winter, which wouldn’t be good news for our feet or our pipes. Time to get moving!!

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The ladies at A Beautiful Mess recently invited me to participate in their “At Home With…” series, and rather than submit a bunch of my own I-only-shoot-in-automatic-mode-with-a-point-and-shoot-camera-style snapshots, I asked my friend Ilenia Martini to shoot some photos of my house. Ilenia is such a great photographer (she also took my bio photo, and you may have seen her work recently on sfgirlbybay), and I knew she’d be able to show my house in way that I’m not capable of. The result is really beyond what I could have dreamed! A bunch of the photos she took are now up over at A Beautiful Mess, as well as an interview with me that gets into my feelings about owning a home in the City of Newburgh — and my feelings about home renovation in general.

My only regret is that Ilenia didn’t shoot the entire house! We were mid-heatwave, and I asked her to sneakily avoid getting any air conditioners (and piles of tools and construction debris…) in the pictures. I’ll have to lure her back with iced coffee and bagel sandwiches and get her to shoot the rest in the fall!

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My house also made an appearance on the Dwell website last week in their feature on where design bloggers work. It always makes me happy to see my father’s old drawing table make the rounds; it’s very special to me. If you look closely at the screen of my laptop, you can make out what I was working on that day — the logo for Evan’s new band, Thermite.

If you have the September print issue of Dwell, you can find a few blurbs from me about products I love and my own trend forecasts (which is something I don’t actually like to do, but when my favorite magazine asks a question, I’ll answer it). I didn’t get a cool illustration of my face like the other bloggers who participated, but I’m too excited to see Daniel in there to care!! It’s a great issue all around, though, and I’m always happy to be asked.

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My last post about our back garden was 8 months ago, and something unfamiliar and weird seems to have happened: We’re finished. I mean, nothing is ever really DONE, of course, and it’s a garden so (hopefully) everything will continue to grow and change and need to be maintained, but I’m calling this a complete project. WOW. Clocking in at 7+ years, the world’s longest landscaping project involving a tiny plot of land has come to a close. The garden is now officially a nice space where we can hang out and have guests over and not apologize for dirt mountains or dangerous holes waiting to break ankles or swallow Chihuahuas.

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We finally got some plants into the recessed planters we built last summer (each is just four boards stained black and screwed together at the corners). I had some ideas about the types of plants I wanted to use based on Susan Welti’s garden design for Carin Goldberg and Jim Biber, but I let my eyes and my wallet be my guide when it came time to buy. Fortunately, our local garden center was running a big sale on ornamental grasses, so we were able to pick up four large dwarf maiden grass plants at a good price. We also bought four variegated Solomon’s seal plants, which we’ll have to be patient with and allow a couple of years to fill out.

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Check out those HUGE spirea bushes in the mega-planters!! They were so teensy when I planted them a couple of years ago. Everyone said they would die during the winter if we put them in planters, but my mother thought they’d be fine, so I went ahead and took a chance. I love them. I’ll probably fill in the planter a little more with some annuals next spring, because the garden could really use a little color to break up all the green.

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I wound up having to take down my homemade Woolly Pocket-style planter (I don’t think I ever blogged about it, but you can kinda see it in these photos) because some industrious squirrels decided to turn the felt into nesting material. Oh well! I really liked having plants on the fence, though, so I ordered four of the new hard plastic Woolly Pocket planters to put to use in the spring! I could put them up now, I guess, but plants are expensive and I want to get a full season out of them.

And now for the time-lapse progress shots…

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Photo by Lönngren/Widell for Lovelylife

Last weekend we had another plumber come to the house to take a look at the work we need done in the kitchen — removal of two steam radiators, re-routing of steam pipes and, eventually, re-installation of one of radiators (we’re putting the other one in storage for now). While we’re waiting for his quote to come in, we’re trying to make a list of everything we need to get done once the radiators have been removed. It looks a little like this so far:

▶ Frantically tile the last two walls
▶ Frantically refinish one of the radiators
▶ Frantically pull up the existing VCT floor tiles
▶ Frantically remove the plywood subfloor, which was at some point used as a large snack for carpenter ants
▶ Frantically assess the condition of the original pine subfloor that’s underneath the plywood
▶ Frantically do something so that there’s a floor in place when the plumber comes back to re-route the steam pipes and re-install one of the radiators

But let me back up a little. A few months ago, amid all of the tiling chaos going on in the kitchen, I happened to notice that a few of our VCT floor tiles had come loose. One of them actually felt…squishy? Knowing that squishy floors are generally a bad thing (I learned that from watching This Old House), I peeked underneath the tile to see what was going on. ANTS! ANTS! ANTS!!!!! Yes, a swarming mass of carpenter ants. Ugh. The carpenter ants have since been eradicated (I may have a vegan diet, but, well, let’s just say I did NOT rehabilitate, foster, and re-home each individual ant), but the plywood subfloor is looking pretty terrible. It has to go. We definitely weren’t planning on replacing our floor — we installed it dirt cheap years ago (pre-blog), and I’ve always been happy with it — but it seems to be unavoidable.

I do know that the original pine plank subfloor is hiding under the plywood subfloor (which was already here when we bought the house — it was in decent shape, so we patched it up and tiled over it rather than replacing it for no reason), but I don’t know what kind of condition it’s in. In theory it’s the same as the floor in Evan’s studio (unfinished, dirty and rough, but mostly OK), but in reality it might have a lot of water damage, weird sections cut out of it from when the walls were reconfigured 50+ years ago, or any number of unknowns that might make it unsuitable to be exposed.

However it turns out, I know I want a painted wood floor in the kitchen. Tile just isn’t in the budget, and love painted wood floors anyway — especially in kitchens. If we luck out and the existing pine is usable, I’ll follow the same steps I did upstairs when painting them (probably black, but we’ll see). If they’re a total wreck, then we’ll install inexpensive pine on top. We used the lowest-quality cheap pine flooring available on the walls in our upstairs bathroom, and it was CHEAP — like $1/square foot or something crazy like that. Once it’s patched and painted, the knots and holes and stuff don’t matter.

Anyway, here are some inspiration photos of painted kitchen floors that I’ve been squirreling away for when the time came to make decisions about the kitchen floor, and that time is officially HERE! Assuming the plumber’s quote isn’t totally insane, this is all going to start happening really soon and really fast. GULP.

What floor color would be best in the kitchen? Stick with black? I do love black floors. Would white be too crazy-bright in there? The same gray color as the walls??

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Photo by Paul Massey

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Interior by B-Arch Studio / via Remodelista

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(L) Photo by Birgitta Wolfgang Drejer for Bolig / (R) Photo via Corcoran

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Photo from InsideOut

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Interior styling by Lotta Agaton

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After waiting out The Winter That Wouldn’t End, I found myself avoiding going out into the front garden to to take care of the plants and clean up all of the dead leaves and debris (mostly cigarette butts, grocery bags and flattened Styrofoam cups, with the occasional dead mouse thrown in just for excitement) that had accumulated in front of our house. Sometimes I forget that the front of the house even exists — once we’re inside, we tend to hole up there like hermits.

Rake in (gloved) hand, though, I forced myself to do it, and I wound up feeling like I want to make an effort to make the front of the house look pretty again. When we first moved in, one of the first things we did was take care of the outside, which was just dead grass and weeds at the time. It was — and is — very important to us that our neighbors see that we care about our community when they look at our house. At the time, there wasn’t much going on in the way of landscaping/flowers/plants on our block, but over the years, I’ve noticed more little gardens and flowerpots appearing here and there. I’d like to think that’s at least in part due to us. Maybe. Front gardens matter.

In 2009, we started working on the exterior of the house itself. We had the bricks repointed and the wood cornice repaired and painted by a contractor, and we gave the porch a pretty substantial overhaul ourselves (here’s a before and after). We still need to have the exterior of the original windows repaired and repainted, but that will take time…and money. It can wait. The house isn’t going anywhere. I just never want it to look like this again.

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I made this little path a few years out of fire bricks salvaged from our chimney repair. I didn’t do it the “right” way with crushed stone and sand underneath and all that, I really just dug out an area, set the bricks down, and packed dirt into the cracks. I was prepared for it to get out of whack with the first heavy rain, but it’s been just fine. After the winter I do have to re-set them a bit, but I like how soft they look, especially now that there’s a bit of moss growing between them.

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Under the porch there’s a set of slate steps leading down the the basement entrance. At the bottom are my favorite bricks, arranged in sort of semi-herringbone pattern. They were buried under several inches of dirt when we bought the house…a happy discovery that makes my little path seem pretty silly! I love that these mossy old bricks are still almost completely level after more than 120 years.

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That’s the whole house! Our property ends precisely at the edge of our house on either side — the white cornice belongs to the house attached to ours (we’re first in a row of four identical houses). It’s CRAZY to see how much the boxwood row as grown in five years. This is what it looked like when we planted it! It’s also crazy to see how dedicated I used to be to planting stuff…and how good our carpet roses used to look. They’re so scraggly now that I didn’t even bother taking a photo. Sigh. Maybe this weekend I’ll head over to the garden center and pick up some colorful things to plant! The main problem I’ve had is that the garden gets SO much daylight — like super intense sunshine all day long (I took these photos in the early evening). There are no trees on our street, so shade is non-existent. Even plants that are supposedly tolerant of full sun have wound up croaking after a month or two.

I’d also like to rip out all of the grass between our garden and the sidewalk. It’s impossible to keep looking nice, and mowing it is a pain since all we have is an electric edge-trimmer. Maybe juniper or something else low-lying? I’m sure people will step on it, so it needs to be pretty durable.

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And for the Sylvester-fans (you know, this guy), you’ll be happy to know the neighborhood tough guy is still hanging in there and keeping guard over our house. Another neighbor (she calls him “Beauty” — UGH) feeds him, too, and he has at least a couple of porch beds to choose from these days. He’s a good kitty.

That gray cat just appeared out of nowhere last weekend, stretched out under the boxwoods like he owned the place. I don’t know what his deal is, but he’s super-friendly. I think he probably belongs to someone. I don’t like other cats hanging out on Sylvester’s turf, though, so hopefully that was his single appearance.

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Even though it’s one of my favorite spots in the house, I’ve been really bad about documenting the (slow, as usual) progress I’ve made in the dressing room over the years. I didn’t realize it until I was asked to contribute to a story on another blog about fiddle leaf fig trees and I was only able to find a single photo of the room that was less than four years old — and it was taken with an iPhone! Over the weekend I got my act together and took a few decent pictures. Unfortunately it’s still a little hard to tell what’s going on in the room because it’s so small (about 6×12′), but I did the best I could.

I need to re-pot my fiddle leaf ASAP. Considering my reputation as a plant-killer it’s doing really well, but that white pot isn’t big enough and its roots are growing out the bottom of the black plastic starter pot it came with, so it’s time to size up. Ideally I’d like to keep it in a lightweight pot inside of a basket (much like Emma’s), but I can’t seem to find the right one. Baskets are always way spendier and smaller than I think they’re going to be.

✚ Flashback! Here’s how the dressing room looked when we started working on it in 2006. A small reminder that even the ugliest, messiest renovation projects will eventually pay off!

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A little dark, but you get a sense of the space. The family who lived in our house before we bought it used this room as a bedroom for their son — complete with bunk beds! Considering how minimal I am when it comes to clothing, it’s kind of funny to have a dedicated dressing room…but hey, the space is there, so why not?

The latest addition to the dressing room is the Arrowhead rug (this is the 22×84″ runner) from Target’s new Nate Berkus collection. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to look at Target for a rug, but a couple of weeks ago Max excitedly texted me an picture of this one while he was in the store, and I was immediately smitten. I was originally thinking I’d put it in the upstairs hallway, but as soon as I saw it on the floor next to that orange bench, I knew where it was meant to be! It’s a great rug, by the way — really nice quality, and it’s even reversible. I might have to buy the smaller one for the bathroom at the apartment. (Max loves his so much that he wrote a post about it for Design*Sponge!)

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I still can’t get over the insane brightness of Tom Dixon’s Offcut bench. There’s no way for it to come through in a photo, but it’s like the most electric-looking fluorescent orange you can imagine. BLINDING. I love it so much. I was extra-excited over the weekend when I noticed that my nails match it perfectly right now! It’s the little things, right? By the way, if you’re looking for a great fluoro orange nail polish, the shade that FACE Stockholm made for J.Crew is really nice. Good quality, too. Plus it’ll match your bench.

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Oh, wallpaper. How I love thee. This is the Berry Black pattern from Ferm Living. I put it up in an afternoon about 4 years ago. I know I’ve said this before, but if you’re hesitating to put up wallpaper because you think you’ll get tired of it, stop worrying and go for it. If you choose something you really, really love, there’s no reason to think you won’t love it 4, 5 or 10 years later. Even if you do wind up wanting to get rid of it eventually, there are primers specially formulated for coating walls pre-wallpaper that will facilitate its removal down the road. It doesn’t have to be a nightmare if you plan ahead. Wallpaper is just so satisfying! DO IT.

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The coral hook-handle on the closet (we keep linens and shoes in there) is a “temporary” thing I came up with years ago. At the time it was a way to quickly deal with a very old door that was missing its lockset, but it’s really grown on me! The magnet holding the door shut still works fine, and I honestly can’t foresee installing a real knob at any point in the near future. The hook is here to stay!

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After 7 years of wondering if maybe we should have gone with glossy solid white doors on our PAX wardrobes instead of frosted glass, I think it’s time to just accept them as they are. I think IKEA has since discontinued this door style, but the wardrobes themselves are the same ones they have now. The solid birch KOMPLEMENT drawers they sell for inside are really nice, and overall the amount of storage these wardrobes provide is more than enough for me and Evan. My first instinct when we planned out this room was to go with built-in open hanging rods, but because of the position of the closet door and the window, it just made more sense to use something prefab and contained. Also, old houses are dusty. We don’t have off-season clothes storage, so some stuff will hang here for months on end without being worn — I didn’t want to leave it all exposes. Thumbs up for PAX! Other than the fact that I’m still considering changing the doors (I’ll never get around to it), I have nothing but good things to say about these wardrobes.

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Photo from Fjeldborg

It’s been such a long time since I posted a round-up of white floors! After spending the weekend doing some serious spring-cleaning at my house (Did you see my to-do list, by the way? Almost everything got crossed off!), I’m really feeling like I have to make the time to paint the second-story floors WHITE. They are so dingy, damaged and discolored, and they can’t be sanded down. I already painted the floor in the back room (uh, four years ago), and I meant to keep going into the other rooms, but I just…haven’t…gotten…to…it.

Between the high I’m on from completing so many tasks over the weekend and this latest batch of photos, though, I think I can feel it happening soon. I mean I bet I could get one room done each weekend! Or half a room. Or a quarter. I have to divvy it up, though, because I guess I’ll have to move all of the furniture out of the room and into another one while I do it, right? See, this is where I start to feel lazy. In the mean time…

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Photo from Fjeldborg

On a side note, how nice are those black cabinets? I love that the handles are the same color. Fjeldborg is such a pretty blog.

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Home of Majbritt and Jesper Johansen of DesignUnit / Photo by Gaelle Le Boulicaut for Elle Decoration

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Home of Majbritt and Jesper Johansen of DesignUnit / Photo by Gaelle Le Boulicaut for Elle Decoration

Same room, two different angles. So peaceful. Everything about this space is perfect (I’d probably spoil it with a rug, though). I especially love the side-by-side black & white Eames LTR tables. And what kind of tree is that?

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Photo via emmas designblogg

Can you believe this is a Swedish real estate photo of a home that was styled to be sold? Amazing. Not really the kind of thing you’d ever see on an episode of Sell This House.

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Johan Sellén for ELLE Interiör

This reminds me of my bedroom at the house! Now imagine my bedroom minus the orange floor (that wood looks so much better in photos than it does in real life, seriously). SO MUCH BETTER.

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Johan Sellén for ELLE Interiör

See how there are boards intersecting at a weird angle on this floor? No idea why it’s like that, but I love it. The upper-level floors in my house were put in at different times, and they’ll all arranged in different patterns/cut styles. I actually think that painting the floors white will make that more apparent, because the gaps between the boards would really show.

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Photo by David Prince

Back when I posted about my kitchen overhaul plans in November, I mentioned the poor reviews on Amazon for Karlsson’s Big Flip wall clock. A number of you commented here and on Twitter to let me know that you own the same clock (or the nearly-identical Flap clock from Habitat, also manufactured by Karlsson) and that it works just fine. I think people have a tendency to leave feedback for certain things only when they’re dissatisfied, so Amazon reviews aren’t always the best way to research the real-life quality of a product.

Anyway, a very kind D16 reader also emailed me about one that was listed on eBay (new, in box) for a very low price, so I took a chance and bought it. I’ve had it running for about four months now, and I haven’t had any issues at all. I realize that four months isn’t a very long time, but that is long enough for it to have cycled through a few months of varying lengths (I did have to make a manual adjustment at the end of February, which is understandable) and several hundred flip configurations, so I have a good feeling so far. I’ll let you know if it ever breaks down, but at this point my review is a thumbs-up.

(By the way, the price on Amazon seems to fluctuate pretty wildly. It’s listed for $164 today, but just a few days ago it was up around $200. There are few other US retailers, but they all seem to have it priced much higher. In short, keep your eye on the prices, shop around, and check eBay before buying!)

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Here’s the Big Flip clock in my kitchen. Yes, it’s killing me that I still haven’t been able to tile that wall (we need the weather to warm up so we can have the radiators temporarily removed first!), and obviously the clock will look a lot better once there’s a bunch of shiny white subway tile and fancy black grout to set it off. Also, the nicer the rest of the kitchen gets, the more I hate that metal door. I can’t wait to replace it.

I took that second photo from the side so you can see how deep the plastic cover on the clock is. The whole thing extends about 6″ from the wall. It’s pretty huge — 17″ square — so it’s not really something you’d want to put on your desk. They do make a mini size, though, or you could just download the Fliqlo screensaver from 9031 and save time and money.

One last photo of the Big Flip in the wild, because I love this arrangement and especially that poster…

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Photo from Weekday Carnival / Poster available from Stilleben