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doorsixteen_light_bathroom

Something happened with the light this weekend. Despite the three feet of snow still piled up along the side streets in the City of Newburgh, it suddenly feels like spring is coming. The weather was beautiful yesterday, and the daylight pouring into the second floor of our house made want to do nothing but wander from room to room.

I don’t really take many pictures of the house anymore unless I’m working on a specific project, but after eight years, those projects are fewer and farther between—especially since the remaining ones are expensive and daunting, but not necessarily interesting to look at (like replacing our exterior window casings or buying a new boiler…snore + $$$ = no fun). I still love my house, though, and it still makes me happy to share it. So maybe it’s OK to just take some pictures without them being about a renovation project!

Here’s a walk through the oft-neglected second floor of the house, taken while admiring the almost-spring light.

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My fiddle-leaf fig tree is still alive! Miracles. The print is from Fieldguided—I bought it ages ago but just got around to framing it last month.

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Ah, it’s the rarely-seen east wall of the bedroom! I’m still unsure about the Heywood-Wakefield dresser. HAH. I’ve been thinking about either painting it (don’t bother with the hate mail, H-W protectionists, I already know) or getting rid of it since pretty much the day I bought it, but it’s kind of grown on me? I don’t know. It’s not hurting anyone, so it can stay for now. I promise not to paint it. Really. It is an amazingly well-built piece of furniture, I’ll say that much.

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I love you, Tom Dixon Offcut Bench. This is one of the best things I’ve ever bought. It really needs to be seen in person to be appreciated—the fluorescent orange is nearly blinding. I got a good deal on it because it was a floor model and it’s a little banged-up.

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The guest bedroom gets such nice light. It’s in the middle of the house, directly above the dining room. It’s a little shadowy, but the sun that comes in the huge window is beautifully filtered. It’s such a nice place to be. I wish we had more guests. (Sadface.)

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Frames. Everywhere. Always. I’ve been making a big effort lately to get artwork I’ve collected over the years out of storage and into frames, and, hopefully, onto the wall. It never ends! One of these days I need to sit down and make a master list of frame sizes, what I want matted, and what I can frame myself versus having to send to a shop. It’s overwhelming.

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And finally, the studio. I never get tired of this white floor—it’s the best room. It looks bright and clean even at midnight, and even when there are guitars and amps and cables all over the place. Yes, that section of molding is still missing. And yes, that’s OK—it’s good enough.

Now that the floor demolition is complete, we’re in a bit of a race for time to get a new floor in place and have the radiators reconnected. Fall in upstate New York is an unpredictable thing; sometimes that first frost and freezing temperatures sneak up on you earlier than you’re expecting. It’s already down to 66°F today — I’m wearing a scarf and not sweating profusely! Between busy work schedules, the holidays this month and traveling plans next month (more on that later!), we don’t have a lot of weekends free to get the work done. I’m panicking a little, but we’ll make it happen.

First of all: We’re definitely going to put in new wood plank floors and paint them. That’s the vision I’ve had for the kitchen for a while, and even though salvaging the original subfloor didn’t work out, it’s what I still want. Aside from painted wood floors looking nice, it’s a very budget-friendly option. The pine T&G flooring we used in lieu of beadboard in the upstairs bathroom was about $1/SF — tough to beat. In an ideal world, we’d continue the same black pennyround floor from the downstairs bathroom into the kitchen (the rooms are side by side), but it’s just not in the budget. And that’s OK.

What I’m trying to figure out now is exactly how I want to paint the floor. For a long time I was thinking solid gloss black, but that might have just been because I’m so used to seeing the kitchen with a black floor already. Now that I’ve seen the floors with white paint (albeit primer over grossness), I can’t stop thinking about other possibilities. I definitely don’t want to do solid white, but…

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Photo by Frederick J. Karlsson for Alvhem / Styling by Sarah Widman (via sfgirlbybay)

Yeah. That looks really good. I’m picturing a pattern-filled rectangle around the big wood work island, sort of like a faux rug. I even love this exact pattern as-is (surprise, hah). I can see it also looking verrrrrry nice in reverse — white on black — or with colored crosses like the pattern in my sidebar. It would be so easy, too. If I ever wanted a change, I wouldn’t feel badly about painting over it and doing something new.

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L: Cecconi’s Mayfair London, interior by Ilse Crawford / R: Cecconi’s West Hollywood, interior by Martin Brudnizki

These floors are actually inlaid marble, not paint, which would also be really nice but would cost 400 billion dollars. I could do something like this with paint, though! I love that the thinner stripes run diagonal to the line of the wider “boards.” It would take forever to measure, mark and tape off the stripes, but it wouldn’t be particularly complicated. Just time-consuming. I could probably knock it out in an overnight, though, since it’s only two colors.

Barcelona kitchen
Photo from Micasa / Interior design by Egue y Seta studio

Speaking of time-consuming, can you imagine if I tried to paint THIS pattern on the floor? I posted about this Barcelona kitchen back in January, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. We actually priced out how much it would be to use those cement tiles in our kitchen, and it came out to more than $3000…which is obviously just not happening.

Seriously though, could I do it with paint? I mean of course I’m technically capable of doing it, but the three questions that immediately come to mind are (a) Will I wind up spending $3000 on painter’s tape?, (b) Will my brain melt out of my head? and (c) Will I ever sleep/eat/talk/laugh again, or is the rest of my life going to be devoted to painting rhombuses parallelograms on my kitchen floor?

In other words, I kinda really want to attempt it.

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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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I get a surprising amount of traffic here on the blog from people searching for pictures of black tiles with black grout (or black pennyrounds, or just black bathroom floors in general), and a lot of those people then email me to ask about whether I like having all of those things in my house and what the maintenance is like. It’s been about 4 years (!!!) since we put them in our downstairs bathroom, so I feel like I can speak with a bit of experience about them at this point.

We used matte black pennyrounds from Nemo tile (the style code is m890) in our bathroom with Polyblend sanded grout in Charcoal, which really does read as black to my eye. It took a bit of hunting to find it locally, but Tec makes sanded black caulk (Raven) that matched the grout pretty perfectly. (Grout is for between the tiles, and caulk is for joints — like where tiles meet at a corner or where your tile meets the tub.) Including the tile underlayment and all of the “ingredients,” the whole floor cost about $350.

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The caulk line looks a little grayish here, but that’s really just the photo. After four years, the color hasn’t faded at all — it still looks rich and black. Several people have asked me whether using products like talcum powder in the bathroom would be an issue with black grout. That’s not something I ever use, but I do wear loose face powder every day that I brush on with wild abandon…and I’ve never noticed it showing up in the grout. I have dropped bits of broken pressed powder onto the floor, though, and that does definitely require some clean-up, but nothing that a regular sponge and warm water can’t take care of. (Note: I did use a sealant after grouting. Not sure if that actually makes a difference, but it can’t hurt.)

The other thing that comes up a lot is the question of whether dust and water spots show on the tile. In short: No. Nothing shows on this tile. Even if I were a total pig and didn’t regularly clean my bathroom, I could go for a really, really long time before the floor looked dirty. Like…months. At least. I’m not going to try it to find out, but seriously, this is NOT a nightmare floor. I think that’s probably because the tiles are tiny/visually busy and because they’re matte. If I had 2×3′ polished black marble tiles, I might be singing a different tune!

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Next up, cleaning! I don’t do anything special to clean the pennyrounds. The first thing I do when I’m cleaning any bathroom is vacuum, because otherwise I’m just pushing hair around with a sponge and EW. Usually I just follow up with a wet Swiffer cloth, but every couple of months I do get down on my knees with a bucket and a sponge and go to town on all the nooks and crannies. Again, though, this is just something I’d do regardless of the type of tile, not because the floor looks grimy or anything.

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Alright, so you can’t actually see the tiles at all in these pictures, but I’m including them anyway because I love this bathroom so, so, so much. I’m still really proud of all the work Evan and I did in there (even though it did take us the better part of a year!). It was such a sad, ugly room when we bought the house, and now it’s one of my favorite places to be. Maybe that’s a weird thing to say about a tiny little bathroom? I really do love everything about it, and we learned so much in the process. That was my first time tiling!

BONUS PICTURES!! I recently saw this black-floored Brooklyn bathroom on Remodelista and fell in looooove. It looks to me like they used polished black marble hexagons with a slightly lighter grout than I did, but the effect is very similar. For your ogling pleasure…

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Photos by Sean Flattery for Remodelista. (There are more photos on designer Elizabeth Roberts’ website — click through the slideshow for more bathroom shoots!)

I’ve had these photos from British Standard saved in my kitchen inspiration folder for almost a year after spotting them on Remodelista, but I forgot about them until I started thinking about painting the cabinets in the kitchen of our new apartment. That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon (for starters, I’d definitely have to ask the landlord first, and I’m waiting for him to fall in love with us as tenants before I start bringing up that kind of stuff), but now I can’t get this kitchen out of my head!

British Standard cabinets from Plain English

British Standard cabinets from Plain English

LOOOOOOOOOOVE. I mean beyond the inset, flush-mount doors (you don’t see those much in contemporary kitchens!), the exposed copper piping, the door latches and the wooden countertops, how amazing is that paint job?! It’s like the entire bottom third of the room was dipped in black paint. I love that it even goes right across the upper cabinets! So, so good.

Plain English (who make incredible kitchen cabinets that I’ve coveted for ages) created their lower-priced British Standard sister line as part of an apprenticeship in building skills program for the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community. A custom-fitted Plain English line will run you at least £50,000 (gulp), but the no-frills, off-the-shelf British Standard cabinets cost about a tenth of that. They’re intended to be painted by the owner, which is good if the black-dipped thing isn’t for you for some crazy reason.

British Standard cabinets from Plain English

British Standard cabinets from Plain English

One more thing: You know I can’t resist doing a recreation of this kitchen using stuff that’s readily available in the US, right? Yeah. I’m going to leave out the sausage links, though.

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WHAT HAVE I DONE? Haha, this took forever. Geez, now I really want to do something like this in the apartment kitchen! That’s what happens when it’s 1AM and you can’t sleep…you wind up badly Photoshopping paint onto IKEA cabinets. Seriously, though, this would look pretty great. You could easily do something like this with existing cabinets, too—take down a few uppers, paint the cabinets, add new hardware. Wood paneling is really cheap and easy to work with, and it’s a nice alternative to tile in kitchens and bathrooms—just make sure to prime both sides before installing it. We used it in our downstairs bathroom (though not in the shower area, obviously), going a full 8′ up the wall instead of stopping at the usual wainscot/chair rail height.

1. EverTrue unfinished pine wall paneling
2. AKURUM/Ädel wall cabinet with glass doors, IKEA
3. AKURUM/Ädel base cabinet with drawers, IKEA
4. Rohl apron front sink
5. Rohl brass wall-mounted faucet
6. NUMERÄR birch countertop, IKEA
7. Esse Ironheart cook stove (I’ll bet this stove is a nightmare, but gosh…so pretty)
8. Factory Light No. 7 cable pendant, Schoolhouse Electric
9. Steel cabinet latch, House of Antique Hardware
10. Half moon cup pull, House of Antique Hardware
11. Coconut bristle and dust pan, West Elm
12. Fleet hot orange chair, CB2

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Have you seen the new collection from Ferm Living? I’m almost as much in love with it as I was with their fall/winter 2012 collection. As far as I’m concerned, the highlight are all of the Half Moon-patterned things—a perfect storage basket, a laundry bag, cylinder/bolster cushions in neon (!) and black, and my favorite piece in the whole collection…the shower curtain!! I wonder if it would be too much in my tiny downstairs bathroom?

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The Half Moon wallpaper is also on my wish list. I’m kind of running out of walls to put wallpaper on, but maybe inside of a closet? Hmmm…there’s no wallpaper in the guest bedroom yet. Maybe on the walls to the left and right of the fireplace?

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Excuse the terrible Photoshopping, but I had to see how cute it could look! The answer is very cute. Hmmm. HMMMMM.

Even though we’ve been renting it for the better part of seven months already (!!!), I’ve been extremely slack about sharing photos of the Brooklyn apartment. I’m not sure why, exactly. I definitely don’t have the same attachment to my apartment as I do my house, obviously, but in truth I don’t even feel half the affection for it as I did the last apartment we rented in Manhattan. I really loved that place.

I do like DUMBO, and of course I’ll always love Brooklyn, and there’s no question that I feel extremely fortunate to have even one place to live, let alone two. I guess the disconnect comes from the fact that this apartment doesn’t NEED me.

Going all the way back to the very first apartment I rented (Yonkers, 1995) and through all the ones I’ve rented since (White Plains, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Beacon and Manhattan—I’ve moved a lot!), I’ve consistently been in places that are both old and run-down around the gills. They’ve all needed me to make them better. I’ve done extensive renovation work in some of these apartments, investing myself not so much financially as emotionally—and that’s really how you become connected to a place. That’s how it goes from being just a place to live to being a true home. Every apartment I’ve lived in has been in better condition when I left it than when I arrived, and that makes me feel good.

You know, for all of my perfectionist tendencies, I actually adore imperfection. Imperfection is a sign of hope that things will improve. Imperfection is full of promise. Imperfection makes that which is beautiful look even more so by comparison.

This new apartment, though…it doesn’t really need anything. There are no real imperfections. The walls are white, the floor is pale oak in perfect condition, the kitchen is well-designed—it’s fine. All of it is just fine. There’s nothing for me to do here except arrange my stuff, and where’s the fun in that? This apartment doesn’t need me, and it will inevitably look worse when we eventually leave, not better. Even though it’s in a late-1800s building, the entire thing was gut-renovated less than a year before we moved in. And so: Track lighting, sprinklers, pre-finished MDF moldings, veneered doors, built-in AC, and so on. Our lease is an inch thick, and we can’t change anything. (There’s even dishwasher. I have a dishwasher?! What?)

It’s weird, being in this new, fancy apartment in a bizarrely fancy part of Brooklyn. I’m trying to love it. Part of me feels a lot like when I go into Saks to buy a lipstick, though—like I don’t belong, like I’m a kid trying to pass myself off as a grown-up, and I like I’m just too sloppy and, well, run-down around the gills to pull it off and fit in.

Anyway, I think I like this little spot in the apartment. It’s starting to feel right. I love the neon sofa legs, and I finally bought some decent pillows. It’s getting there. I’m getting there.

Yeah, I could live there is a new, semi-regular D16 feature wherein I post pictures of houses I want to break into, kick out the inhabitants and move in. Today I’m spying on the home of Swedish photographer and art director Jakob Nylund.

I came across Jakob’s photoblog after following a link from Just—My—Type, a repository for his typography work. (I downloaded all of the fonts, of course, which are free from any usage restrictions. I can’t wait to try them out!)

Yeah, so I probably don’t even need to spell out what I love about Jakob’s home (uh, everything?), but two things are abundantly clear to me upon looking at these photos:
1. I need to suck up the VAT and the shipping and just order some String Shelves already.
2. I want to mount marble shelves above my radiators, too.

Wait, I think I need to add another item to my list:
3. I have to get going on my kitchen mini-renovation (ugh, that post is almost two YEARS old). Just the slightest glimpse of subway tile + black grout at this point sends me into a fit of guilt over how long I’ve been procrastinating!

There are more photos of Jakob’s home over on his blog. While you’re over there, take some time to look at his other work—it’s all pretty fantastic! His understanding of black and white photography in particular is really compelling…

All photographs © Jakob Nylund. Used with permission.

Apologies if this is old news, but I haven’t checked in on those amazing Danes at Ferm Living in a while, so it’s all new to me! I have wallpaper from Ferm in my dressing room, studio, bathroom and pantry, so you could definitely say I’m a fan. I keep looking for more things that I can wallpaper just to have an excuse to use more of their patterns. I wasn’t really aware of all of the other non-wallpaper housewares they’ve added to their line, though! Obviously I need to pay more attention, because apparently Ferm are just designing stuff for me. I mean…look at this collection! I kind of want everything.


Beckman Villa, Stockholm // DAPstockholm, 2004

Welcome to a new, semi-regular D16 feature: Yeah, I could live there. Wherein I post pictures of houses I want to break into, kick out the inhabitants and move in.

Earlier today I was on the DAPstockholm website looking for pictures of these amazing rowhouses they designed a while back (how cool is that black–gray gradation of exterior colors?!), and this villa in Stockholm caught my eye.

White on the sunny/water side, black on the shady/trees side—it’s got Anna written all over it, right? These photos were taken in 2004. I wonder what it looks like now that those little trees are probably a lot more mature. Must be heaven…

Yeah, I could live there.

p.s. Twenty bucks says my mother gasped out loud when she saw these photos. (Did you, Mommy?)