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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cheater's Guide to Touching Up Wall Paint

Cheater's Guide to Touching Up Wall Paint

We're coming up on two years since we bought our home, so that means two years since we painted. With holiday guests expected, it's time for a touch up. So a few weeks back I went through the house looking over all the walls and placed a small piece of blue painter's tape next to every scuff, smudge, and scratch. Then I rooted through my paint closet and found the unused paint that I had thought to store, clearly labeled Farrow & Ball Blackened — thank you, Past Self! All I had to do now was mix some of that with 50% water, test a small area to see if the color blended (finger's crossed), and get this job done.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Restoring Chipped Laminate on a Saarinen Pedestal Table


Our pedestal table has survived three moves - and in the process seen some hard knocks. It was not in perfect condition when I bought it off Craigslist. I paid $175, if memory serves, and it had many dings and scratches on the pedestal base. In our most recent move, though, the laminate top was gouged in a very prominent spot. I've been concealing the gouge with strategically placed candles that I found at Designer's Guild in Chicago. I do love these colorful candles! But to hide the chipped area, I have to place them off-center. 

It is time that I do something about this chipped laminate. But what to do?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Chair Makeover — Oh Yes You Can Paint Upholstery!

Chair makeover using Rit dye
Restored to its original color

I've had this chair for more than a dozen years, and I still love it. Manufactured by Youngs Furniture in Portland, Maine, who source from local, artisanal furniture makers - it was holding up well. The foam was firm and still retained its shape. Only the color had faded, and this was accentuating stains and fabric pilling.  Was it time to say goodbye to this little red chair?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bedroom Inspiration: Yellow and Gray


gray and yellow bedroom inspiration board
  1. Duvet fabric, Bubbles - Sterling, Tonic Living
  2. Yellow bureau - street find
  3. Chair fabric, Casablanca Geo - Citrine, Tonic Living
  4. Gray campaign dresser, inherited
  5. Piston lamp, Lite Source Inc.
  6. Floating nightstands, Slice Wall-Mounted Storage Shelf, CB2
  7. Min Bed, Design Within Reach 

What do you think of the gray and yellow theme for a bedroom?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Installing a Custom Kick Plate on the Front Door



Remember when I cleaned off years of sloppy paint jobs and restored our midcentury door hardware? The icing on the cake turned out to be that custom-order solid brass kick plate, which tied everything together. I promised instructions on how to order and install a kick plate, so here goes.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Honed Marble Bath - Two Years Later


When the design for our bathroom renovation was just a gleam in my iPad but I was starting to narrow it down to marble for the tub surround, I was definitely concerned with how marble would wear in a bathroom. I did some research, and articles like this one from Houzz, "Why Marble Might Be Wrong for Your Bathroom," certainly gave me pause.

"Marble is easily etched by acidic materials, such as lemon and certain cleaning products... Because marble contains minerals, there's always the risk that its iron content will turn to rust in a bathroom." 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rental Renovation: Retro Kitchen Makeover for $350

retro renovation for rental kitchen

Is it worthwhile spending money to upgrade a rental?

For two years before we bought our current home, we lived in a cute cottage in Sunnyside Gardens. It was a rental - Ross had been living there 14 years before we met. Our landlady, a lovely woman who lived in the cottage across the path, was born and raised there. Like almost all of the buildings in the neighborhood, it was a 3-family residence - two up and one down, as they say. Generally, owners lived in the two-bedroom units on the ground floor while the one-bedrooms above them provided rental income. The neighborhood was booming, with the cottages increasingly being converted to one-family homes.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Covering Exposed Heating Pipes with Rope

covering exposed heat pipes with rope
The formerly exposed pipe is now completely covered to shoulder height

When we gut-renovated the bathroom, one of the first things we demo'd was some ugly crumbling insulation covering the heat pipe. The previous owners had small children, so that insulation was a necessary safety measure. But I was sure that I could find something nicer looking, fit to be seen outside of the walls.

A whole year went by before I got around to it, though. And in the interim, both Ross and I have scalded ourselves while drying off after a shower.  So this year, covering this pipe was top on my list of things to do before cold weather hit and the heat was turned on in our building.

With this weekend turning unseasonably cold for early fall - no time like the present to check this project off my list. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Midcentury Apartment Door Hardware

restoring midcentury door hardware


I finally got around to a small project that I'd been neglecting for some time: The entryway door. It's not that I was blissfully unaware of how bad it looked, but you know, other things. Anyway, here's a shot that I took on my first viewing of this home before we bought it. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Replacing a Kitchen Sink False Front with a Tip-Out Tray

kitchen sink tip-out tray

Does your sink have one of those fake panels that looks like a drawer front but doesn't open? Some cabinetry lines use this space for a tip-out tray, where you can store sponges and scrubbers. But if your kitchen sink base doesn't have one, you can easily retrofit it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

FSBO: How to Get a Good Appraisal


When I set out to sell my Brooklyn apartment FSBO in 2013, I was expecting a challenge with the appraisal. Though the real estate market in NYC had fully recovered from the wake of the housing bubble of 2008 and prices were back up, lender appraisals were not keeping up with fair market values. I knew that I had to take charge of the process to ensure that the appraiser assigned by my buyer's lender would have all the information I needed them to have at their fingertips.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Adding Shelves to Organize an Antique Cupboard

shabby chic cupboard

Inspired by Daniel at Manhattan Nest, who added shelves to his antique hutch with great result, I was inspired to make some long-needed changes to the cupboard in our cottage. The scope of the job seemed fairly straightforward - I simply needed to add a shelf to both the top and bottom sections of our hutch. In fact, getting the shelf in the top to fit the interior properly took more "tries" than I anticipated. Hopefully you can avoid my mistakes.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bathroom Design: Encaustic Tiles Have Real Art Deco Appeal


Marrakech Design

I'm drooling over encaustic tiles lately. Over at Sweeten Blog, Pepper and Marshall share their bathroom reveal and the tile they chose for their Washington Heights art deco era home. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fixer Upper Friday: Large Studio in Jackson Heights for $160k

Photo: Streeteasy
If I had my way, I would move every year, just for the sheer fun of getting to renovate another home with Renov8or potential. Sadly, Ross does not share my penchant for "fresh starts". Little did I know that when I found our current home - a 2BR with parking and a doorman - I was setting the bar pretty high for me ever convincing him to move again. Try finding another deal that that in New York City.

It doesn't stop me from "looking" of course. I'm always culling StreetEasy for new homes on the market that have good Renov8or potential. Some of these I send to friends who are looking. Others I simply ogle and dream about.

Take this large studio in Jackson Heights, for example, that recently showed up on StreetEasy:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rafter Storage to Organize the Garden Shed


Having the little garden shed has certainly made life at the summer cottage a lot more organized. The renovated front porch has become a favorite place to relax with a morning coffee or evening cocktail. And all the stuff we used to store there - bikes, beach chairs and umbrellas, patio cushions, kayaking gear - is all tucked away in the shed. I'd like to say "neatly tucked away".

Problem: The shed is filled to capacity.

Solution: HyLoft Ceiling Storage (not a paid endorsement).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Custom Garden Shed for the Cottage

When we screened in the front porch of our cottage and turned it into a sitting room, it had a huge impact on our daily living. When 5 or 6 people are living in 1,000 square foot space for the summer, every inch needs to work for you. Making the porch a sitting room gave us a great space to enjoy our morning coffee or an after beach cocktail or simply lounge and read. In addition, as it's the first room you see upon entering the cottage, it set the tone for the "feel" of the house.

Here's the porch before and after:



Great change! Except for one thing. We effectively eliminated the obvious place to dump beach bags, shoes, toys, and umbrellas after a hot sandy day. And when it rained and we had to bring in the patio cushions, they'd end up piled on the porch - the one place we liked to congregate on a rainy day.

What we needed was a shed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Installing an Elfa Custom Closet in the Summer Cottage


When we bought the cottage seven years ago, this little armoire functioned as our bedroom "closet". It worked for us more or less, because we only visited on weekends during summer months and we tended to leave behind only bathing suits, shorts, t-shirts, and towels. But now that I'm freelancing again, I've been spending more time in summer here, and this little armoire wasn't cutting it anymore.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Replace the Mesh in a Torn Window Screen

Screen Repair Kit from Home Depot SRP $10
When we moved into our mid-century home it was in fixer-up condition, with a lot of work needed. One of the things pretty far at the bottom of the priority list was fixing the torn screens. Back when I was a novice home owner, I would have started pricing new window screens. But now I know how easy (and much less expensive) it is to simply replace the mesh, and yes, there is a kit for that. It comes with a roll of mesh, a length of rubber "spline", and a tool to push the spline into the frame.

I'll explain in more detail and take some photos as I go along. Ready to fix some screens? Let's go.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Midcentury Lighting Fixtures I Love

Choosing lighting fixtures when you are planning a remodel can be difficult. You may not have firmed up in your mind's eye, where exactly you are putting various pieces of furniture or how you plan to particular areas of the home.

In our new home, built in 1946, there is a sweet foyer. The kind that New York developers rarely devote the space to these days. It is a true entryway - about 9 feet by 12 feet of room intended for nothing other than getting one's bearings upon entering the apartment.

I was not sure how I was ultimately going to use that space - in fact, I'm still not certain I won't one day move the dining table there and expand the kitchen. I did know that I wanted a light fixture that would set the tone for the entire home. Here's a look at some of my runner's up.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Custom Metal Designs for Your Home

Window grill, Monk-Designs
A while back I posted about how difficult it is to find a security gate that doesn't look like prison bars. I ended up having a mine custom made by Brooklyn metal sculptor Vallessa Monk.

The Wall Street Journal just published a profile of Vallessa.

Wall Street Journal

I love this glimpse inside Valessa's studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It makes me wish that I had visited her on the job, though I may have keeled over with tool-shop envy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Artwork in the Bathroom


It's been a little over a year since the big bathroom reveal, and I still had a blank wall.

I'm a big fan of artwork in the bathroom. Well, of artwork everywhere, really. And for many years, the bathroom was the place where I'd hang some of my lesser favorites or framed posters, thinking any moisture damage wouldn't bother me so much. But I've spent so much time designing this bathroom that I couldn't put just anything in here. I've been holding out for the right thing.

Monday, April 6, 2015

First-Time Renovation? What to Expect and Some Things to Avoid

Inspired by this floor I saw on Houzz, I made it a focal point in my bathroom renovation.
Preparing for a renovation project and wondering what to expect? Projects vary, depending on the room you are renovating and the scope of changes. But the process, from inspiration through execution, remains pretty much the same. Most renovation projects follow these phases in this order.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Remodeling Around an Ugly Granite Countertop


Would you choose this granite for your countertop?

Our home's previous owner (PO) did. I think it's a Juparana Florence or Juparana Bordeaux or Juparana Crema. It's hard to tell for certain. The color looks different, depending on the light.

Dark area over the dishwasher


Distinctly coral-colored in the light near the window 
Lots of brown near the sink
While I'm not in love with this granite, I can cut our PO some slack. Having had the nail-biting pleasure of choosing a slate slab for my previous home's kitchen and a marble slab for this home's recent bathroom reno, I can understand how a homeowner with the best intentions can still end up with a stone that doesn't end up looking as nice as they'd imagined it would.

When you go to "choose your slab" from the fabricator's yard, it comes out at you in big raw blocks like this.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Right Height for Hanging Artwork in Your Home




This weekend I broke down and did something around the house that I'd been meaning to do for some time: I re-hung every single piece of artwork the proper height. So, what is the right height?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Restoring Luster to Mid-Century Wood Furniture



One of my favorite antiquing finds since we've moved into our home are the little mid-century console table and mirror in the foyer that I found on separate trips to Beall and Bell in Greenport, my go-to for their great eye and nicely edited selection of mid-century furniture.

After a year, the table was starting to lose some of it's luster.  I had heard about Feed-n-Wax from bloggers like HouseTweaking, so I decided to give it a try.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why It's Nearly Impossible to "Flip" in New York City

Photo: RedFin.com

This week a listing for a  900 sq ft 2 BR in the Towers for $515k caught my eye. Back in September  the same unit on the first floor sold for $230k. Why the almost $300k price differential? The latter was a wreck, indeed, as these side-by-side photos show.

The recent listing caused a flurry of speculation in the Jackson Heights Life forum. Did someone "flip" that wreck? And brought up a good question: can you "flip" a co-op apartment in Jackson Heights? Not in the conventional sense, especially in a co-op.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Our White Kitchen Makeover for Under $3,000


After closing on the purchase of our 1946 home in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of New York City, we immediately embarked on a gut renovation of the bathroomA bathroom renovation of this magnitude — taking walls down to the studs, floors down to the beams — runs about $20k-$30k these days, so I knew there'd not be a whole lot of budget left to upgrade the kitchen. I had to be creative and focus on things that could be most easily and most economically changed. Here's a look at it "before":

Monday, January 5, 2015

Beveled Tile - The Problem With Finishing Corners


Back when we were renovating the bathroom, just when my marble-tub vision was starting to come to life, we hit a snag with the tile that could have been a show stopper. I want to share some information that I wish I'd known then about beveled tile. Perhaps someone out there right now planning your bathroom reno will stumble across this in your planning phase, while you have all your options open. Or maybe you're right in the middle of dealing with this very issue right now, and this information might help.

The most common way for any homeowner to blow your renovation timeline and incur additional costs is to have something go wrong with a product order. Avoid Order and Delivery Hiccups, says Sweeten blog, and they are so right. When it comes to tile, special order tiles usually have a six week lead time. Even common tiles like subway tile can have special order pieces that take a few weeks.

Early on when I was placing my tile order, I had to decide between ordering from a premium tile line like Waterworks that offers special finishing pieces or going with just simple field tile from Metro Tile. I was absolutely willing to splurge on Waterworks tile if I was going to need special finishing pieces like fancy corners and bullnoses, because they had the most beautiful and extensive line I had seen. I showed my contractor the simple look I was going for — white beveled field tile in the bathroom and charcoal gray subway tile in the shower stall — and he didn't think special order pieces were going to be necessary. This was very good news for my budget. I was already splurging on marble for the surround and deck and handcrafted floor tiles from Heath Ceramics. Even though in my gut I felt something was wrong, I was more than happy not to take a hit on wall tile. 


I wasn't happy for long. This would turn out to be a teaching moment, as they say. I should have had more confidence in that gut feeling. I had thoroughly researched every aspect of this renovation and I had a vague recall about questions on Houzz related to how to deal with positive corners when using beveled tile. My gut told me the beveled edges were going to need special treatment. And my gut was right. The positive corners turned out to be a problem.


My contractor had experience with beveled tile used for a kitchen backsplash, but he'd never done an entire bathroom with it. He figured  he could finish the corners the way he usually did subway tile, by beveling the back on his cuts, which gives a nice clean point to the positive corners. But it turned out that doesn't work with beveled tile. Even when you cut the tiles on a bevel at the back, the front edges go all wavy gravy where the corners meet, due to the front bevels.

Now, in the middle of the job, what to do?

I hit the Internet and discovered that some designers confront the problem of positive corners by using beveled 3x3s. I showed Henry and he said this absolutely could work, so I called my local mom and pop store Tiles by Kia, where I had ordered the tile. Sadly, the verdict was no go. They said that the Metro line I'd ordered from didn't carry beveled 3x3s. 

Searching the web, I found beveled 3x3s in a line also called Metro by a company called Luxe Tile. I had them Fedex me samples in three different whites. If you've never tried to match whites from different product lines, you would not believe the variation. It's astounding! And it's not something you want to be dealing with mid-project, with your timeline hanging in the balance.

This really could have been a disaster. Unbelievably, though, one of the whites turned out to be okay for our needs.


I say okay; it was not a perfect match. There's an almost imperceptible difference, with the 3x3s reading as just a tiny bit more pink, as you might be able to see in the above photo. But because they're on shower door corner, I tell myself the pinky note might be mistaken for shadow. Certainly if anyone has ever noticed, they haven't commented



But I know it's there.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Could Roller Blinds Be the Perfect Midcentury Window Treatment?


Amy Lau Designs 
The window treatments really make this room, don't you think? I learned from reading the interior designer Amy Lau's comments on Houzz that the curtain fabric shown in this picture was designed by textile artist Judy Ross. 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.