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Friday, December 26, 2014

Fixer Upper Friday: Cost of Renovations $0

Our $0 renovation
This isn't going to be a post about scouring the internet for the best deal on fixtures. Or how to find upcycled goods at salvage yards. Or even how to cut your contractor costs by doing some DIY yourself. (Though, I can readily get behind any one or all of those things.)

This is about something very real that you don't hear too much about in the home blogs. How to buy a home that's equity will pay for your renovation.

If I were to add up the cost of the renovations to our new home - contractor fees, materials, and fixtures - it totals more than $40k. But it didn't cost us a cent.

Wa-wa-what what? That's right. Here's how we did it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Roof Reveal: Cedar Shakes = Cottage Love

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There are a lot of new plastic or rubber shingles that have a cedar look, but we chose to go with old fashioned wood shakes. And Arthur and his crew installed them the old fashioned way, nailing them in one by one (with the modern application of course of the nail gun!)

We chose white cedar because it weathers gray - and gray will be a sweet look for a modest cottage like ours with white trim.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to Remove a Broken Lightbulb From a Fixture


Sutton Double Sconce - Restoration Hardware

We've been very happy with the fixtures we chose for our bathroom renovation. The chrome medicine cabinets and sconces complement the console sink and give the room exactly the retro modern look we were going for.

So I have to say I was surprised and a tiny bit annoyed when a bulb blew out in one of the sconces after only 7 months wear, and when I went to replace it, the bulb snapped apart with the metal base remaining stuck in the fixture.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving: DIY Table Extension to Seat Six

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm not cooking today, as we'll be guests, so that gave me some time to work on a project that I've been meaning to get to: Extending our four-top table to seat six.


Saturday we will be hosting "Second Thanksgiving" for family members we won't get to see today. It will be our first dinner party in our new home and I've been planning it for weeks, with every weekend spent knocking out some little DIY task not big enough to merit a post - like caulking the kitchen backsplash ( finally), painting the molding alongside the cabinets (finally), removing a broken lightbulb from a fixture (I did post about that, actually), and finally, this project: Extending our 42" round table of four into a rectangular 42" x 68" table for six.

So, let's get right to it.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

DIY: Making White Slipcovers Without a Pattern


The holidays are approaching, and I have a to-do list as long as my arm. Nothing like the prospect of entertaining guests in your home to get you to finish off all those tedious five-minute projects that would otherwise never get done. Projects such as caulking the kitchen backsplash, painting trim, hanging shelves - post-move projects that I had put off for the summer months. Well, now here we are in November and its crunch time. It took this weekend and last, but I crossed a big one off the list: slipcovering the little mod settee in our entryway.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Goodbye Tulip Chairs, Hello Catifa 53


When form and function meet in perfect alchemy, there's no feeling like it in the world. I knew that I would have these chairs in my home some day. And that day has come. The tulips are out and the Catifas are in! Why?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cottage Renovation: Cedar Shake Roof vs Asphalt Roof


Our little cottage, with photo-shopped cedar roof -- hah! wish it were so easy!

It's been a while since I posted about our little cottage on the Northfork of Long Island, NY. But that doesn't mean nothing's been going on there. We do try to make at least one improvement each year, depending on the Renov8or budget. 

We knew last year that the roof was starting to go. When we engaged a carpenter to build us a shed out back, he pointed out the wear and tear to our roof and said that ought to be our next project. The asphalt shingles were peeling in places and it was starting to sag in spots over the porch. At that point we had to make a decision - shed or roof - we couldn't afford to do both. We already had the shed plans drawn up and in our imaginations the thing was already built, so we went with the shed. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ikea Hack: Home Office for Two


I've been dreaming of a white office with a floating desk for some time. A real home office that would bring all of our office gear into one place and with enough storage options that I wasn't looking at piles of papers, computer equipment, scanner/printer cords and files every place I turned around.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ikea Hack: Cutting SKOGSKLÖVER and ENJE Roller Blinds to Fit Your Windows


This article was originally published after I hacked the ENJE roller blinds, now discontinued. The new SKOGSKLÖVER roller blinds are made of the same solar mesh and can be hacked in exactly the same way. Here's how you do it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Slipcovers Make an Old Sofa New Again

new linen slipcovers for sofa

Before you consign that old sofa to a Re-Store, could that sofa be saved? I had ours slipcovered and they look as good as new. Even better, they fit right in with the midcentury style of our home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Choosing Lighting Fixtures for Our Midcentury Home

Sputnik has landed!
I ordered the Sputnik light fixture for our foyer 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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Update Your Furniture with New Mid-Century Legs




As I mentioned before, 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 furniture was starting to look run down and dated. 




Not the kind of thing that I wanted to put in our new mid-century home. But I wasn't ready to donate them to a thrift store just yet. Could this furniture be saved?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mid-Century NYC Apartment: House Tour




The Building
The Carlton House was built in 1946 and designed by architect Philip Birnbaum, who went on in his later, more seasoned, years to design Trump Tower. Birnbaum was an architect better known for his interiors - his thoughtful use of space and light and devotion to creating "livable" spaces are often noted. Even so, I quite like the exterior of our building, with it's open balconies in the front.


Here's a look inside.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Security Gates on Fire Escape Windows Can Be Pretty!


This is likely not a problem for people who live in the suburbs, but for urban area dwellers, securing fire escape windows is serious business. Unfortunately, when you go to source protective gates for your windows, this is standard:


It's unfathomable to me why anyone would cover a window with all this metal, much less "show" a home for sale with iron bars on the windows, but many do. When we first viewed our home, it had both security gates and child gates. Literally every window was obscured by iron bars of some kind. How inviting! (Not.)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Removing Old Paint from Door Knobs and Hardware



The door knobs in our mid-century home are original, circa 1946, which means they're made of solid brass.



Unfortunately, former residents painted over them. Boo! What's a Renov8or to do?


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bathroom Reveal: Statuary Marble + Subway Tile = Modern Classic



It's incredibly rewarding to take a midcentury gem of an apartment like this one and scrape away residue of poorly executed past "renovations" to bring out the beauty that lies beneath.

You recall my inspiration board and final design plans?

As bad as it looked, this bathroom had a few things in its favor. 1. A separate shower stall, which allowed me to get rid of the redundant shower head, ugly curved shower rod and plastic shower curtain and bring in a free-standing soaking tub as a focal point. 2. The original art deco chrome and glass shower door, manufactured in 1946 by G.M. Ketcham MFG Corp., Brooklyn, was in salvageable condition. And 3. Surprisingly good news beneath the walls. Pipes were in great shape. No leaks, no mold. A testament to how amazingly well built this 1946 home is. It's rare that you open walls of a bathroom and find no issues.

And now, for some photos.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Installing a Statuary Marble Bathtub Surround and Deck

The marble arrived and it is a thing of beauty:



Though warned by multiple sources, I stuck to my guns on a honed finish. I just don't like ultra shiny marble. Empire covered sealing upon fabrication, and again after installation. And I will take their advice to reseal it myself every couple of months (I'll let the "water test" be my guide).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tiling Over Tile: Subway Tile Backsplash

tiling over tile

This weekend, I finally got around to tiling the kitchen backsplash. I tiled right over the existing tile, which was a beige stone-look porcelain. Even before I grouted you could already see the difference: 


The cream-painted cabinets and backsplash have muted the pinky undertones of the granite in a way that the old beige cabinets and backsplash didn't. Win!

Before                                                                                             After
The method I chose to use when I tiled over tile is unconventional, so I want to talk about that.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Choosing a White Paint Color Is Harder than It Seems

Our old home was "super white"!

I've always been a fan of Benjamin Moore Paint. My previous apartment pictured here was painted BM "Super White" and I loved it. That space, though, was spare and ultra modern. For our new home I also wanted a white, but not that same stark "art gallery" white. Our new home was built in 1946 and it has a real mid-century appeal that I would like not just to bring out but to honor. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Jackson Heights Apartment Is in NY Times - The Hunt


NY Times "The Hunt" covered a couple's move from Astoria to Jackson Heights – and I'm in it! 

Don't blink or you might miss the reference: 

"Early in their hunt, [the couple] saw a nice two-bedroom at an open house at Carlton House, a 1946 brick co-op building. ...Another two-bedroom on a higher floor, not as nice, was listed at $279,000. They disliked the wall of mirrors in the living room. ...The place they liked sold for $416,000, and the place they didn’t for $265,000.)" 

The "not-as-nice" apartment they disliked so much, due to the "wall of mirrors" is mine! 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Kohler Bathtub Delivered Damaged



Our tub arrived a few weeks back in the middle of a snowstorm. And it is a thing of beauty... except for that horrible crack in the bottom and a ding in the corner flange.

When you order your bathtub, the fine print will tell you to inspect the product as it's coming off the truck. If it's damaged, do not accept the delivery. The product will go back to Kohler and they will send out a replacement. Sounds straightforward, yes? Not so much.

Choosing a Marble Slab

Today I visited a marble fabricator in Brooklyn - Empire Cabinets and Marble. And I viewed a few slabs that might work. I'm loving the deep veining of Statuary Marble.




When you go to "choose your slab" from a fabricator's yard, it comes out at you in big raw blocks like this. Having had to choose slabs before for kitchens, I can tell you that it's not always easy to visualize how stone will look once you get it inside and onto, say, a countertop. For one thing you are standing outdoors in a huge yard of stone slabs in glaring natural light.

Choosing the marble was easier somehow than those other times. I don't know if it's that I've been through this a number of times or that it's easier to visualize how it will look on the sides and top of a bathtub than countertops. Or if it's the size - we're not buying a whole slab for our small needs, just a remnant (much less expensive). Anyhow, I found the one I want and put down the deposit.

And not a moment too soon.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Replacing a Kitchen Sink Strainer Basket and Drain


Delta Trisinic Faucet
Ever have a simple 2-hour DIY job snowball and take up your whole weekend? That's what happened to me when I set out to replace our old sink basket and faucet with new chrome fixtures.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Painting the Old Kitchen Cabinets to Match Kraftmaid Canvas Color


Don't you love our newly painted cream cabinets? They didn't always look this good. We inherited a kitchen that was recently renovated but it was... meh. Just enough had been done to it to allow a seller to list a home as "renovated with granite counter tops", but very little design sensibility went into choosing the fixtures and colors.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ikea Hack: Built-In Bookcases


Who would think you could jump-start your built-ins using inexpensive Ikea bookcases and and some decorative trim and get this? A beautiful home library! 

About 7 years ago in a previous home, I commissioned a contractor to build floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases along the hallway to house my library. It cost me about $5k in materials and labor. Here's what that looked like:


I opted to paint them myself to save money – and the task was a beast! All those shelves and trim pieces.

This time around, encouraged by the work of AM Dolce Vita and Centsational Girl, I hacked Ikea bookcases for about $800.  Here's the schematic that I drew up for my contractor.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets: Step by Step





The most important thing about painting cabinets is to take your time and go through every step. You will not get a good result by hurrying. Here's how you do it, step by step.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bathroom Lighting & Storage



We are down to the wire! Literally.

It is time for me to firm up lighting specs and measure where the recesses for the medicine cabinet, tall side cabinet, and shower alcove will go.

It's always jarring in that stage of a renovation when you move from dream phase to purchase phase. It means the dreaming (and paging through Houzz and Pinterest) that I have been doing since I made the offer on this apartment in July is about to come to an end. But also that the end product is near.

So, these are my choices.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pet Stains on Hardwood Floors: Before and After Photos


I am in love with our floors! But this wasn't always the case. When we bought this place the floors were so damaged that the seller reduced the price significantly when I showed them the estimate from a floor restoration specialist. The extent of the pet damage was so great that it required not just refinishing but removal and replacement of certain damaged slats.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Measuring Your Bathroom for Subway Tile



If you are like me, you may have been poring over Pinterest and Houzz for months in preparation for your next home renovation project, but when the time comes to actually place the orders for all the fixtures and supplies, you find yourself scrambling.

When it came time for me to order our bathroom tile, I had some measuring to do.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Repairing Pet Damage to Hardwood Floors



What can you do about hardwood floors that have been destroyed by "pet damage" - read, urine?

You can steel yourself for a sharp blow to the budget, my friend.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Final Bathroom Design

My Inspiration Board!
After many hours spent poring over Houzz and Pinterest, shopping tile stores in Chelsea, and comparing samples, I've decided that the bathroom in our 1940s mid-century apartment is going to be a modern take on the classic subway tile bathrooms of the era. 

Here's the plan.