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Just a quick PSA: I noticed last night that my new favorite shoes (see post from last month), Clarks “Hotel Image” in Cotton, are on sale right now for a pretty sizable discount—$80, down from $130. Light Tan and Honey are also on sale through the Clarks website, and Navy and Mushroom (both discontinued) are still on super-duper sale ($66!) over at 6pm.com.

I’m presently trying to talk myself out of buying a pair in Light Tan, but geez…it’s hard to resist! These shoes are sooooo comfy and perfect for walking in the summer. I’ve been wearing them pretty much every day. When shoes go on sale I worry that they’re about to be discontinued, so I’m afraid to wait too long…

Plus, they look good in all of my vintage floor tile photos on Instagram, which is as good a reason to buy a pair of shoes as any other. Right?

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As you may know from my Instagram, we’ve been doing a pretty massive spring cleaning at Door Sixteen—every room (yes, even the basement), every closet, every box—and I’ve been paring down my shoe collection to only the few pairs that I wear with any regularity. I even set up a second Instagram account for a D16 yard sale, where I’ve been selling the many pairs of shoes that didn’t make the cut. (There’s more to come, by the way—shoes and otherwise!)

And what did I do to celebrate my shoe adieu? I BOUGHT ANOTHER PAIR OF SHOES. I know, I know. But my goal is to own two pairs of boots, two pairs of flats, two pairs of sandals, and two pairs of “fancy” heels. I’m all set on the boots and the sandals, but I need flats. I’ve also been wanting to add a pair of white shoes to the rotation, but I wanted them to be not quite so white that they looked like golf shoes. Not that there’s anything wrong with golf shoes, but I can’t pull that look off.

So, I’m walking to work, and I pass the Clarks store on Madison Avenue. It’s early, they’re open, and it’s dead inside…so I go inside and take a look. Clarks is one of those brands where you kind of have to see past all of the stuff that’s probably very practical but also very hideous, and just look for the few pieces that really hit the mark. As soon as I walked in, my eye went right to these babies.

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Oooooh, I love them. They’re the Hotel Image style in Cotton, which is very subtly off-white without looking dingy. It’s sort of a super-pale, creamy beige-white. Much less stark than you might imagine white shoes being. The cutouts on the sides feel summery without making the shoes unwearable in at least three seasons (they’d be so cute with black socks/tights), they’re super-comfy right out of the box, and the construction quality is excellent. When I buy shoes, I want to know they’ll be able to hold up over time, and I don’t mean time spent sitting in my closet until I decide to sell them on Instagram (heh), I mean frequent wearing and walking long distances on concrete sidewalks.

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Why yes, I did lie on my back in my office with my iPhone in order to take these photos! All of my coworkers were out to lunch at the time, fortunately. Or unfortunately, since I know they’d have enjoyed the whole thing.

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Here are my new shoes out in the wild! They’re so photogenic. It’s going to take a while for me to get used to looking down and not seeing black shoes, but I’m feeling this look. I’ve only worn them with jeans so far, but I think they’ll work with dresses, too.

For reference, this style runs a little large. I usually wear a solid size 10 shoe, but I had to go down to a 9½ with these. They also come in Light Tan and Honey, which is sort of a mustardy-yellow. (Navy and Mushroom are discontinued, but you can get them on major clearance!)

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(I had to take a blog break for a while. I’m back. Hi there!)

I have a feeling this is one of those things that everyone was into five years ago and that I’m just discovering now, but I’m suddenly digging black-and-white composition book prints. What set me off was spotting these sneakers on the subway (which I stealthily photographed and then tweeted—thanks to Kate for identifying them), which lead me to start searching for other composition book-print stuff. There’s a lot out there, hence my realization that this probably old news…but whatever. These are my favorites!

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1. Notebook Print Saddle Shoes / Band of Outsiders
2. Winie Print Baby Rib Brief / American Apparel
3. Composition Book Knee High Socks / Artisan Socks
4. Composition Notebook Pouch / Out of Print
5. Composition Print Wristwatch / American Apparel
6. Jillian Print Dress / Club Monaco
(discontinued, but check eBay)
7. Dexter Sneaker / Circus by Sam Edelman
8. Composition Notebook Tote Bag / Out of Print
9. Black Static Backpack / Baggu

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In my last post, I mentioned having bought a queen-size mattress for the new apartment. Knowing that we were going to be making that upgrade, I bought new sheets a couple of months in advance. A number of people have emailed me about Target’s plus-sign bath rugs and towels, which led me to these great plus-sign sheets! (They’re a little tricky to find on the site since they’re not consistently depicted in the main product photo—just click the “plus print” icon under the color selector and you’ll see ’em. And if you don’t want a whole sheet set, they sell a set of two pillowcases separately. That product photo looks gray, but they’re definitely bright white.)

They’ve only been washed twice, but I’m really happy with the quality of them so far. Normally I would shy away from a cotton-poly blend, but I honestly wouldn’t have known they aren’t 100% cotton if I hadn’t seen the label. They’re very soft, almost like flannel. And the scale of the pattern is perfect. (I like them even more than this much more pricey variation from Normann Copenhagen, in fact.)

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By the way, since a few people have asked, the black blanket with the white stitching is from IKEA’s 2009 PS line, designed by textile artist Kazuyo Nomura. Sadly (and predictably), the STICKA blanket is not still in production. Maybe I should start a blog entirely devoted to nice stuff that IKEA discontinued…

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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.