Sunday, August 10, 2014

Home Office for Two: An Ikea Hack

I'm dreaming of a white office. A real home office that brings all of our office gear to one place and with enough storage options that I'm not looking at piles of papers, computer equipment, scanner/printer cords and files every place I turn around.

Since we moved in, Ross has been setting up his laptop at the dining room table and filing his papers under the bed, while I have been working at my little desk in the bedroom.

While I do like that my desk overlooks a window, I don't like that my files are located in the second bedroom and the printer/scanner is on a book shelf in the entryway. Every time I need to print or scan something I have to drag in the machine and cords and set it up then take it down again when I'm done.

So... I've been dreaming. And you know what that means. There is a new project in my future. And poring over home office photos on Houzz and Pinterest, I see many good options. To narrow down, the configuration, however, I had to decide exactly where to locate it.

Right now, the entry way in our apartment doesn't really serve any purpose. We have this little settee (waiting for it's new slipcovers to arrive) and this book case that is actually redundant in a room that already boasts an entire wall of bookcases. The settee could very well go into the bedroom in the bay of the windows and I could part ways with the book case.

Something like this would look great in the entryway:


Pros: Easily achievable. A long expanse of wood (Ikea Numerar comes to mind) with some Lack floating shelves above it.

Cons: No window or natural light. And Lack floating shelves, while spare and elegant, would not hide all the office stuff and my files would still be in the second bedroom.

What about this corner of the living room, near the window?

Pros: Good light. Nice expanse of wall. I could float the left side of the desk in the corner and anchor the right side with a file cabinet, moving my files out of the second bedroom. We could hide equipment in a row of mounted cabinets on the wall.

Cons: The room is already very "shelv-y" and mounting cabinets on the wall will start to close in the room. Also, do I really want my office out in the open in the living room? Wouldn't it be nice if we had a door to close, especially on nights when working late? Or in the middle of a project, when papers pile up.

What about the second bedroom?

Right now it's serving as a multi-purpose TV room/guest room/music room. Though we rarely watch TV in there instead of the bedroom. If I rearranged the furniture I could float a long shallow desk in the corner where the book case is now and anchor the other end with a file cabinet.

Pros: We'd have great natural light coming in through the corner windows. And wall mounted storage like the Ikea Besta would look great here. Something like this:

Ikea Hackers

Cons: If I float the desk from the corner and anchor it on the left with a file cabinet, the chairs are going to be bumping into the sofa when you roll out. Really, the file cabinet would have to go on the left. Which means the table would have to have legs, shooting my desire for a floating desk.

In addition, moving the book case to the other wall means the TV will be too high.

But what about that other wall? Should we replace the entertainment center with a solution that houses both -- media and desk?

Like this?

Right now, the TV sits on this Besta Burs media console that I hacked, adding chrome legs and hanging files in one of the drawers:

Ikea Besta Media Console
The middle sections no longer hold media equipment, as we now stream all our movies from our laptop to the big screen. They are actually empty. Now that I think about it, this media console isn't functioning for our needs any longer. It was an inexpensive purchase made about 7 years ago, and I'm happy to part ways with it. But could I salvage any of the pieces? Those chrome feet I hacked on are from the Besta line and would fit my new file cabinet. And the glossy top is actually the exact dimensions of the Besta desk (which I don't like because of the clunky legs). What if I floated the salvaged top from the file cabinet to the windowsill. I'd have my long expanse of desk! And the white will blend right into the corner windowsills. With the chairs to the far left, I'd have a great view of the gardens while I work.

I'd need two Besta 24x25 cabinets, one for my hanging files and the other for Ross's piles of papers that are under the bed. The TV could sit on top of those to the right, while the salvaged top could be braced on the back wall and against the radiator cover if I wanted to float it. Would it be stable enough? I lifted it up. It's actually fairly heavy. It might require legs. If so, I'd want some mid-century style legs. Something airy.

Perhaps these hairpin legs from

I am beginning to get excited about this home office project!

Ikea Hicksville is on our way home from Greenport this weekend. Would Ross mind a little stop over?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ikea Hack: Cutting Enje Roller Blinds to Fit Your Windows

How did I come to hack the Ikea Enje roller blind? It's a long story that starts with why roller shades are the perfect window treatment for midcentury homes and ends with I could not find a window treatment that better suited the spare architecture of our rooms -- and at Ikea prices, it seemed a risk worth taking. In the end, I think you'll agree.

DBA Blinds
"Simple roller blinds in a white setting become part of the architecture. In a room with a series of same-size windows, roller blinds lined up at the same height appeal to those of us who appreciate precision." - Remodelista

Amen to that, sister!

Christine Chang Hanway got it right in her article Remodeling 101: Simple Roller Blinds.

Before we even closed on the purchase of our midcentury apartment, when the renovation was just a gleam in my iPad, I spent many hours poring over Houzz and Pinterest for inspiration. This living room in a Greenwich Village penthouse, designed by Amy Lau, was an enduring source of inspiration. And even though my own living room ended up looking nothing at all like it, the combination of midcentury modern and contemporary modern mixed kept me focused on a "feeling" that I wanted my home to have. And that feeling guided my choices in fixtures every step of the way.

Amy Lau Designs
The window treatments really make this room, don't you think? I learned from reading Amy Lau's comments on Houzz that the curtain fabric shown in this picture was designed by textile artist Judy Ross. And I keep that bit of info tucked away for future renovations. Because my current living room isn't having it. And that's not really surprising when you consider that this apartment was built in 1946.

Midcentury architects did not think living spaces should have window treatments. They felt textiles detract from the pristine nature of the architecture. The window boxes in our home are unadorned of wood trim even, and this does add an austere symmetry to the rooms that draws attention to the spare lines of the walls and ceiling soffits. The rooms have a geometric grace that I am reluctant to disrupt, even with a fabric I love as much as Judy Ross's.

Midcentury architects, however, did not consider how much the large expanses of glass they loved so much would let in sunshine - and heat. Though most of our windows have a northern exposure, the light in the morning can be blinding and in summer the heat grows stifling before noon. Clearly we would need shades.

Which is why I turned to Ikea's Enje.

The Enje are made of a sheer fabric that filters light without completely blocking it.

We live on the top floor overlooking the rooftops of neighboring two-story tudor homes. So we don't have to worry about privacy, day or night. These would strictly be functioning as light blockers during the day, then when raised would simply disappear into the wall.

I had installed Enje before, when I lived in Ross's apartment in Sunnyside prior to our moving here. I love the spareness, the lack of cord, and smooth spring loaded mechanicals. Even the plastic pull on the aluminum rails is good-looking. They have the look and hand feel of a much more expensive product. And did I mention the price? $18-$35, depending on the size. A great deal for an apartment dweller who doesn't want to invest in expensive window treatments. But even as a homeowner who might spring for a more luxurious line, I didn't see anything out there that I liked better.

The only problem: the sizes. While most of our windows are standard 34" windows, the "bay" in the master bedroom has these 18" side windows.

And in the bathroom, a 17" window.

The smallest size the Enje are available in is 23". But could I hack them down? The roller and rail are aluminum, which can be cut with a standard hack saw. The mesh would have to be removed from the roller and cut with a sewing scissors. It was certainly worth a try!

I'm generally not very good at stopping mid-project to take pictures, but I remembered to take a few this time.

Step 1: Remove the plastic end cap.

Step 2: Measure the width of the window inset, then measure the roller shade - with the hardware on.

Step 3: Remove the fabric from the roller. (This was easy; the fabric glue remains on the fabric and makes reassembling the fabric to the roller quite easy later.)

Step 4: Pencil mark the roller and make your cut.

(Okay, I missed a few steps with my camera!)

Step 5: Sand the end of the roller smooth. (I used a painter's block.)

Step 6: Replace the end cap.  

Step 7: Repeat on the other side.

Step 8: Now, the rails. Remove the end caps from the rails.

Step 9: Slide the fabric panel out by grasping the plastic strip that it's stapled to.

Step 10: Remove the staples and free the fabric.

Step 11: Lay the fabric out on a flat surface, then measure and cut the fabric with a sewing scissors.

Step 12: Reassemble the fabric at one end on the plastic strip with staples and at the other end on the roller and replace the end caps of both.

Okay, I missed a bunch of steps with my camera. Sorry!

Step 13: Hang according to Ikea instructions.

Step 14: Sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy looking at your handy work.

Friday, July 11, 2014

New Slipcovers for an Old Sofa

Our sofa is about 20 years old. One of the first major purchases of my life post-college, I bought it at Bloomingdales on sale and made monthly payments for more than a year. It came with a matching chair and ottoman and all were covered in "shabby chic" slipcovers in a white seersucker fabric that was the big thing at the time. 

Fast forward 20 years, the slipcovers were starting to look truly shabby and not chic...

I removed the slipcovers and shipped them off to Trish Banner at Cottage by Design

Trish custom sews slipcovers for a very reasonable price. If you check out her site, you can see the careful workmanship she applies. Normally you'd have to live in her area of California, so that she could come and visit your furniture and measure it. But because I'm ready to say goodbye to these old slipcovers, I was able to ship them off to her to pick apart and serve as the template for the new slipcovers. After a few emails with photos of what I like, she sent a handful of fabric swatches for me to choose from (her prices on fabric are excellent and include prewashing and ironing). I chose an off white Belgian linen with a bit of a salt and pepper thing going on that I think will compliment the Farrow and Ball "Blackened" paint color of our home.

The cushions covers are in, as well as the ottoman cover. And they look fantastic!

Even though I am still waiting on the furniture covers themselves, I put the cushion cover on the chair and the ottoman cover as a daily reminder to myself of how great this room is going to look when I'm finished with it.

Trish is making a new cover for this little settee in the foyer as well:

It's certainly looking a bit forlorn without a cover. But when it's finished, it will be fantastic, don't you think?

Here's what it looked like with it's former cover, which was more form-fitting than what I have in mind:

That cover was 20+ years old and had to go.  But you can see the beautiful lines, can't you? I can't find a label anywhere, but I knew the lady who owned it and she bought it from Roche Bobois, a french modern furniture store that used to be located just down the street from Bloomingdales. It has certainly stood the test of time!

Meanwhile, as I wait for the slipcovers, I am replacing the bun feet with mid-century style sofa legs that I found at

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Choosing Lighting Fixtures for Our Midcentury Home

Sputnik has landed!

I ordered this baby back in February, when, hot on the heels of the home purchase closing and with renovation plans still just a gleam in my ipad, it was, unbelievably, time to start deciding on fixtures and getting them in.

This is the reality of every renovation project that never fails to take me by surprise. Back out two months from your demo date, and you've got to start purchasing or you'll blow your renovation timeline.

When it comes to tile or bathroom fixtures, I'm generally okay with making early choices. I know what I want; I break out the credit card and commit. But lighting is my particular weakness (along with camera skills, as you may have noticed). It takes work to imagine where your furniture will sit and mental exercise to walk through your day to day to address things like task lighting.

Between making the offer and closing on the purchase, I spent weeks -- well, actually months -- poring over home design websites, and a good deal of time on lighting sites, which by the way, in my professional opinion could all use some taxonomy help. (Everything can't be tagged midcentury!)

Now, four months later, here she is:


Our Sputnik is a knock off... er, reproduction, of the midcentury classic designed by Gino Sarfatti in 1954. I sourced it from Zoetico. And despite the long wait, I give them a top notch rating. The prices are great, the product is stunning, and customer service response was immediate all the way through - even when the box arrived with no lightbulbs. They were very quick to respond to my email and ship the half chrome bulbs for free and even threw in a couple extra for good measure.

25 half chrome bulbs light up the entryway

Whatever your stance on knockoffs, I have this much to say: The DWR model Sputnik is quite spendy. And even upcycled originals that you might see offered on Krrb and Craigslist are pricey too, despite that the wiring may be suspect, parts may be missing, and brass tarnished. I did see a few in antique stores in Greenport that looked in good condition, but all were brass. I tend to prefer a chrome finish for my light fixtures. And I'm finding chrome looks especially good with the Farrow and Ball "Blackened" paint color we chose for the walls in our midcentury home - which has a silvery cast.

Whether you agree about chrome or not, I'm sure you'd agree almost anything is an improvement over all the light fixtures that were in this home when we bought it.

Entryway BEFORE:


Bathroom BEFORE:

Two "high hats" over the tub - and no light at all over the sink or in the shower

Newbury Flush Mount,; Halo Dome Shower Trim,

Sutton Double Sconce,

Livingroom BEFORE:

80's style ceiling fan

The Haiku with bamboo airfoils,

Diningroom BEFORE:

Another 80s model


Brenda Pendant,

Master bedroom BEFORE:

Another 80s era ceiling fan


The Haiku with white airfoils,

Second bedroom BEFORE:

And yet another 80s style ceiling fan


MinkaAire Concept I,

Hallway BEFORE:

I'm not really sure what you call this - and I've done a lot of lighting research


Sabin Flush Mount,

If you are wondering about The Haiku fans from The Big Ass Fan Company that replaced the ubiquitous 80s era no-frills ceiling fans in the living room, dining room and bedrooms, I did quite a bit of research to source the highest performing ceiling fans available. This company started out making giant fans for industrial warehouses before designing for the home market. Where regular old ceiling fans have blades, Big Ass Fans have airfoils with winglets that are aerodynamically designed to maximize air velocities and stabilize air movement. And I really appreciated the Craft-Your-Own order form that let me choose bamboo for the living room and white in the bedroom. The performance of these fans is so important to me, because I detest window air conditioners. And my deal with Ross is, if we can get through the summer without using ours, I can donate them to Build It Green and clear our windowsills of those light-blocking behomeths.

Added bonus? The look on visitors' faces when I say it's a Big Ass Fan!

Questions on sourcing? Thoughts about knock offs? Comment and I WILL reply.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New Sofa Legs = Midcentury Makeover for Living Room

As I mentioned previously, our sofa is about 20 years old. One of the first major purchases of my life post-college, it came with a matching chair and ottoman and all were covered in "shabby chic" slipcovers -- that were the big thing at the time. 

Fast forward 20 years, the slipcovers were starting to look truly shabby and not chic...

So I removed the slipcovers and shipped them off to Trish Banner at Cottage by Design to remake in an elegant Belgian linen.

Meanwhile, I have plans for the furniture legs. The original feet are what's referred to as bun feet. The height of elegance in the 90s, they look a bit dated now. And some have become loose and wobbly. Yikes!

Researching replacement legs online, I discovered, and learned how easy it is to change the style of furniture by simply replacing the legs. (Who knew!)

I chose these midcentury style ones, which arrived unfinished.

And I stained them this mod brown and gave them a light coat of poly.

Then I began what I thought would be a tough task of replacing them, but it could not have been easier.

The old legs had embedded bolts that screwed right into the plywood frame of the sofa. And that's really where the problem began. Over time, and several moves, the holes had expanded and the legs were loose. In the past I had tried drilling a new hole. And that worked for a while. But now some corners had several holes.

So, when ordering, I chose a different model that came with these stabilizing metal plates that screw into the plywood with four small screws.

The legs themselves then screw into the metal plate.

I think this method will provide a good solution to the multiple holes problem as well as make the sofa more stable over all.

So, I assembled my tools -- drill, drill bit (to drive the pilot holes), and box cutter to open the packaging, -- and got to work.

Turning the furniture over, I unscrewed the old feet.

Lined up the metal brace and drilled the pilot holes.

Screwed in the metal plate.

Turned the new feet into the center of the metal plate.

Repeated these steps for all four feet on the ottoman, chair and sofa. And voila!

Midcentury modern makeover for a 1990's living room set.