Friday, July 11, 2014

New Slipcovers for an Old Sofa

They're here! The new linen slipcovers are in. Well, the cushions covers are in, as well as the ottoman cover.

 And you can already see how great they're going to look:

The seamstress-ing was done by Trish Banner at Cottage by Design. I came across her blog some time ago when I was researching slipcovers with skirts vs. those without and I was so impressed with her work. Though Trish lives on the opposite coast from me, I was able to send her the old slipcovers to use as a template.

She is making new  slipcovers for all the living room furniture, including this little settee in the foyer:

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!

Trish is still working on the furniture covers themselves, but I couldn't resist sharing a sneak peek at what she's done so far.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Choosing Lighting Fixtures for Our Midcentury Home

I ordered this 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 every time. Back out two months from your demo date, and you have got to start moving product.

When it comes to tile or bathroom fixtures, I'm generally okay with it. 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).

Between making the offer and closing on the purchase, I spent weeks -- well, actually months -- poring over lighting websites, which by the way, in my professional opinion could all use some taxonomy help. (Everything cannot be tagged midcentury, people!)

Here she is:

As you may notice -- and the shiny chrome is a dead giveaway -- our Sputnik is, yes, 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 top notch reviews. The prices are great, the product is stunning, and customer service email response was immediate all the way through -- even when the box arrived with no lightbulbs,which they were quick to ship for free and with a few extra bulbs thrown in.

Whatever your stance on knockoffs, I have this much to say: Original fixtures in the NYC area that you might see offered on Krrb and Craigslist are quite spendy. It may be different in other areas of the country, but in NYC demand for midcentury originals is high. Despite the fact that with old light fixtures the wiring may be suspect, parts may be missing, and the brass could always use a good polish, dealers have little trouble moving them. 

In the end, I much prefer the modern day chrome over MCM brass and almost anything would be an improvement over the light fixtures that were in this home when we bought it.

Entryway BEFORE:




In the living room and master bedroom, we replaced the ubiquitous 80s era no-frills ceiling fans with The Haiku, from The Big Ass Fan Company.

I keep telling people I ordered a Big Ass Fan. You think I'm joking, but after much research on highest performing ceiling fans available, this baby was the clear winner. And I just love the design!



The den, too small for a Haiku, got the fan that I'd put in my previous apartment in Brooklyn, the Minka Concept II.


And in the hallway, this flush mount in milk glass from Schoolhouse Electric replaced a pitiful "boob light":

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

Monday, June 30, 2014

New Sofa Legs = Midcentury Makeover for Living Room

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.

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.

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.

The slipcovers are arriving in two weeks. I can't wait for the sofa transformation!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mid-Century NYC Apartment: House Tour

The Building
Our building was built in 1946 and designed by architect Philip Birnbaum, who went on in his later more seasoned years to design Trump Tower. He was an architect better known for his interiors -- his thoughtful use of space and devotion to creating "livable" spaces. Even so, I quite like the exterior of our building.

The Floorplan

The Foyer

I love that this apartment has a formal entryway - a space that is not intended for anything more useful than getting one's bearings upon entering the apartment.

A foyer is one of the hallmarks of the midcentury apartment design. Though it would be considered wasted space in most floor plans today, there's much to be said for having a place to hang your coat, toss your keys, put down your bags when you come in the door. 

I admit that I don't really know quite what to do with this space. Right now I have an awesome mod settee that I inherited and am having reupholstered, so more on that later. And this sweet little midcentury console table that I found at Beall and Bell in Greenport and could not resist. Coming soon, a Sputnick light fixture that seems to be on permanent back order. (I have a paper sphere holding it's place.)

 The Living Room

The living room is a 12 x 20 ft rectangle -- the perfect layout for a back-facing sofa aligned with a library table. And given the bookshelves that replaced the infamous Wall of Mirrors referenced in NY Times "The Hunt" -- how appropriate.

The Dining "Area"

The floorplan draws attention to the dining area with this raised platform. I don't know what the thinking was back in 1946, but the raised platform just screams mid-century, doesn't it? It creates a distinct area for eating, and I appreciate the graceful transition from room to room.

The Kitchen

My first instinct was to rip out the wall, level the raised dining platform, and create an "open floor plan". It would have made the room look immediately spacious upon entering the apartment. But at the time, all of the Renov8or budget was going toward the more needed upgrades in the bathroom.

You know what? I'm so glad that I waited.

Now that I've been living with it, I have come to like this enclosed galley kitchen. It keeps cooking smells in and mess out of sight. For under $4k, we added upper cabinets, painted all of the cabinetry a neutral cream color, replaced sink fixtures, and tiled the backsplash in cream subway tile. The rich cream color has subdued the busy coral granite to the point where I not only don't hate the pinkish stone anymore, I admire it's natural beauty. 

So, this Reno8or learned something by being budget constrained. I learned that simple changes make a world of difference. And it's best to live in a home a while if you can. (It will tell you what it needs.)

The Office/Second Bedroom

Having a second bedroom in NYC is a luxury that was beyond our imagining. And of course it wouldn't have been affordable if we had stayed in Carroll Gardens or moved to Manhattan. This is what makes Queens such a great fit for us.

I found a mid-century style sofa bed for the office/second bedroom. Mom and Dad tested out the bed when they visited the week after we moved in. They said it was comfy (but maybe they were being tactful?).

I made good on my promise to Ross -- a room to keep his guitars in. However, I am definitely eyeing that corner window for my desk!

The Master Bedroom

I have to laugh when I say the words "master bedroom". Our bedroom is HUGE. Really. It's 12 ft x 20 ft. I've seen entire apartments this size in NYC. I barely know what to do with all the extra space (but trust me, I'll figure it out!).

The bedroom has an inviting "bay window" facing east and a fire escape window facing north. I commissioned this fire escape security gate by iron works artist Valessa Monk. You can read about it in my post Security Gates Can Be Pretty. The best part? We face a row of two-story Tudors, so there's nothing blocking the light, and no real reason to have window treatments unless we just want them.

I love waking up to the light streaming in the window and glancing off the metal petals of these ironwork flowers. It is a real work of art.

The Bathroom

Well, if you followed the big reveal, you've seen our new bathroom in all its glory. This room was gut renovated -- taken down to the rafters and beams. Then rebuilt and tiled in beveled white subway tile with a Dwell collection floor by Heath Ceramics (that I just LOVE!). The sink was a big surprise. I took a chance on the Mason Console from Signature Hardware -- an online store that has no bricks and mortar location where you can actually see and touch the products. It was a leap of faith to be sure, but I am not disappointed. It is as high quality as the Kholer fixtures and has exactly the timeless look that I was going for. 

The tub is the Kohler Tea for Two deep soaking tub. It is undermounted. I designed the double apron and deck, fabricated by Empire Cabinetry and Marble in Brooklyn.

The shower is simple subway tile in charcoal gray with light gray grout. We have two showerheads from the Kohler Purist line, an overhead and a handheld, adjustable on the bar. (Great for showers when you don't want to get your hair wet!) The shower door is vintage -- one of the few things the former owners left intact. I had it relazed with clear glass. And where we raised the ceiling in the shower stall, I just left it open at the top.

The chrome medicine cabinets and sconces are from Restoration Hardware, and the quality and heft could not be better. RH's white glove delivery was excellent -- even when I had to return them for a different size.

And so concludes our house tour. I hope you enjoyed it. Leave a comment. I WILL reply.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Security Gates on Fire Escape Windows Can Be Pretty!

I don't know if this is a problem for many people living in the suburbs but for those of us who dwell in urban areas, securing your fire escape windows is serious business. 

But, why on earth is this the standard choice:

When you've just spent thousands of dollars renovating your home and endless hours on DIY projects to make things look beautiful, why would anyone put bars on the windows? And it's unfathomable to me that any realtor would "show" an apartment with bars on the windows.

Our new home had both security gates and child gates. Every window was literally covered in some kind of metal bar when I first viewed it. How inviting!

The bars were the first things that I removed in the renovation.

Then I spent days poring over typical iron works catalogs for some type of aesthetically pleasing fire escape gate. And there are NONE out there.

Luckily, I am in a book club of resourceful New York women, most of whom own homes in historic Brooklyn. So, I turned to my go-to's for advice. And Sharon hooked me up with iron works artist Vallessa Monk.

And this is what Vallessa designed for me:

She met me at my apartment to get a sense of my style and what I was looking for. I had looked at her website and admired her "nature" line. On the spot she sketched a rough draft of iris and roses, not even knowing that iris are my favorite flower!

I paid her a deposit of 50% of the project cost. And she got to work. A few days later she emailed me the "plasmas":

Already, I could tell I was going to love it.

I couldn't believe how she could achieve such delicacy with metal:

The day it was ready, Vallessa emailed me a photo of the finished gate and said that she was on her way over from her studio in Williamsburg.

Luckily, Dad was here to assist with the installation. He helped carry it up the elevator.

And here is the final piece, blending right into my interior design -- just another work of art.

I love the way it filters the light coming through the window when I wake up in the morning. 

Form and function.

Who said a security gate on a fire escape window has to look like prison bars?