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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Artful Home: Artwork in Interior Design

The most important thing in a home to me is the art. Almost anything can be "art" if you find it beautiful. The piece over our dining table was painted by a Queens street preacher giving a sidewalk sermon on "grace and resurrection." The bright colors and energy set the tone for the house. Here's a look at more of the art that inspired our home renovation.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Kitchen Design: Think of Each Run as a Vignette

When I decided to open up some walls for our kitchen renovation, I knew I'd have to consider the design carefully from every angle. What would be the first impression when you entered our home? How much kitchen could you see from the entryway? Sitting on the sofa and gazing over at the kitchen, would I be looking at a sinkful of dishes? A hulking stainless steel appliance? On the wall of the sink elevation: Did I really need wall cabinets, which would block the line of sight to the window? It pays to consider every elevation as a vignette. These are the considerations that gave shape to my kitchen design.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Spray-Painted Kitchen-Sink Faucet One Year Later

Our kitchen renovation is a year old, and I'm still smitten! It is a pleasure to cook in. But more than this, I love that point on the backsplash where the arc of the veins in the bookended marble slabs seek each other out, like the reaching fingertips of Michelangelo's "Hands of God." You may recall that I took a risk in this renovation and spray-painted my drinking faucet to match the Delta Trinsic sink faucet in Champagne Bronze. (I did what?!) Wonder how that's holding up? No holds barred photos after the jump.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Painting the Cottage Kitchen Cabinets Farrow & Ball Pigeon

Despite its modest size and lack of insulation, our 1925 beach cottage has its charms, and we spend nearly every weekend of summer there. Cabins of the era, even when not a primary residence, can be a source of endless projects. Every year it seems something needs repair or sprucing up. We renovated the kitchen 11 years ago using IKEA cabinets that we painted ourselves, and it's held up fairly well. I only just refinished the wood countertops last summer. This year I'm planning a cabinet-color refresh to something a bit more "beach-y." After considering dozens of possibilities, I've arrived at the perfect paint color. Let's take a look.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

My Honed Marble Bath - SIx 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." 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Fixer Upper Friday: 1 BR in Carlton House Converts to 2

Via Streeteasy
This week's fixer upper special is 1,000 sq ft 1 BR in the Carlton House—with a terrace!—that could convert to a true 2 BR with grace and ease. Comparable two-bedroom homes in this neighborhood go for upwards of $650k, and that's without the outdoor space. This home is listed at $465k, so at the very least there is $185k of instant equity on the line—and that will pay for a nice renovation, indeed. Let's take a look.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Rudolf Reindeer Cookies

Matthew Cohen
I don't usually write about food at Renov8or, but these reindeer cookies are seriously cute.  I've been a longtime fan of the Reindeer Cupcakes over at Your Cup of Cake. What makes them stand out from the handful of other reindeer food crafts in my opinion are the cartoonish eyeballs, made from white M&Ms, and the vanilla cookie snouts. So I thought about how to adapt the effect in a cookie. I chose to break up the pretzels, as it makes for more rakish antlers, and mine are all "Rudolphs" with red noses in this batch of two dozen, though you could easily add some plain snouts using brown M&Ms, to represent Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and the gang. However you decorate them, they're sure to be the star of the holiday dessert table.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Installing LED Accent Lighting Above a Run of Bookcases—Easy DIY

It's been five years since I hacked some IKEA BILLY bookcases to create our built-ins that line the wall in our living room. At the time, we were in the middle of a gut renovation of our bathroom, so I asked my contractor to trim them out with some simple molding and I was a happy camper. It wasn't until months later that it dawned on me I'd missed an opportunity to add ambient lighting at the top. Luckily, I did have the foresight to have some outlets installed, so when I came across LED tape lights at a Black Friday sale this week, I jumped on this vacation-day project. It was super-easy to pull off, and you can do it too.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Rope-Wrapped Exposed Steam Pipe—Four Years Later

Like most co-op homes in New York City that were built in the early 20th century, ours is heated  by steam that runs up risers from a giant boiler in the basement and heats up radiators in each room. Love or hate it, steam heat is what it is, and so we deal. The two exposed pipes—one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen—get very hot. After scalding myself getting out of the shower our first winter here, I made wrapping the exposed heating pipes in rope my special project before the next cold wave. Many have asked how our rope-wrapped pipes are standing up to wear. Well, having just replaced the original manila rope in the bathroom with sisal rope, I thought I'd explain why.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Troubleshooting Clei Wall Bed Installation

Have you seen the amazing "transforming" furniture by Italian manufacturer Clei? Whenever Dwell writes about micro living, there are always a few of their pieces featured—like this bed that comes right down over the sofa. Well, I've been stalking these online for our spare bedroom/office, almost since the day we moved in. So when one popped up recently on Craigslist, I pounced on it. Of course, buying large items on CL is never without challenges, so here's my advice if you're considering purchasing a fancy murphy bed like this secondhand.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Why Polyurethane Is the ONLY Wood Countertop Sealant That Worked for Us

A few weeks ago I shared the "unvarnished truth" about our wood countertops—and it wasn't pretty. I can't believe I made the rookie mistake of relying on "oil" for my sealant. If you're considering wood countertops in your kitchen, and especially if yours is a sink counter, be realistic about the way you actually use your countertops. If you're like me, oil was not enough protection as a sealant.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Unvarnished Truth: How Wood Countertops Wear (10 Years Later)

It's been almost 10 years since I began the kitchen renovation at our beach cottage. How time flies! This project was a budget redo from the get-go. We only use this summer house four months out of the year, so I kept costs down by retaining the original footprint, using IKEA Sektion cabinets, and topping it off with low-cost Numerar wood countertops. It was money well-spent; we've enjoyed it! The room is at its best on a sunny morning, when birds are chirping up a storm and the sun projects rays of green off the surrounding trees. Thanks to windows on all sides, it's like living in a treehouse. But there is one regret about this renovation that I want to 'fess up to—it's that I didn't varnish the wood countertops. I'd heard from so many sources that regularly oiling wood countertops will keep them looking new, and I want to tell you today that's just pure rubbish. Sure, the counters still look okay in photos like this, from far away, but up close they're not so pretty. Ready for the ugly truth? This is what unvarnished wood countertops look like after years of use. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Troubleshooting IKEA TUPPLUR Window Shades (Top Installation)

Two of the most visited articles on Renov8or show installation tips for various IKEA window treatments, from cutting ENJE and SKOGLOVER blinds to fit your windows to troubleshooting KVARTAL curtains install. We love those IKEA price points; we curse those puzzling hieroglyphics! I was reminded of this just last weekend, when I installed TUPPLUR blackout shades behind the bamboo window treatments in our bedroom at the cottage. Yes, you can do that! This required a top-mount installation inside the window box, which oddly enough the instructions do not cover, so I had to wing it. As I worked, I took note of some of the more problematic steps; perhaps these notes will be of use to you if you're installing TUPPLURs on your windows. Here are the tricks that worked for me: 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Fixer Upper Friday: 2 BR/1 BA in Laburnum Court Converts to 3 BR/1.5 BA

Via Streeteasy /  
This week's fixer upper special is a rare 2 BR/1 BA in Laburnum Court—rare in that it could easily convert to a spacious 3 BR/1.5 BA. Homes with three bedrooms and more than one bath are in high demand among families in this neighborhood and can go for upwards of $1 million. This home is listed at $735k, so at the very least there is about $265k of instant equity on the line—and that will pay for a nice renovation, indeed. Let's take a look. [Update: price cut to $690k and even I am tempted.]

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Fixer Upper Friday: Open Up This 2 BR in The Versailles

Via Streeteasy  /
This week's Fixer Upper special is a 2BR in The Versailles, which is located across the street from Traver's Park (and the Sunday green market) in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of NYC. The exciting aspect about this handyman special is all that wasted space in the original floor plan—and the asking price a $485k, which is low for a two bedroom in this neighborhood. This home has "good bones" as they like to say in the home shows, with wide rooms, high ceilings, and original hardwood floors that look to be in excellent condition. Let's take a look.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Renovation Diary: Our Kitchen Was Featured on Sweeten!

Via Pixy Liao / Sweeten    
One nail-biting phase of this renovation happened in the planning phases, when I learned my go-to contractor who did my Brooklyn kitchen had moved out of the country and I was looking at starting from scratch, interviewing contractors and comparing bids (hoping to find a kindred soul). On my daily troll of home renovation blogs, I was following a site called Sweeten—a contractor matchmaking service—and I figured why not give it a try. I'm glad I did, because they matched me with the perfect contractor for this job. Fast forward about a year, and that very blog is now featuring my finished kitchen reveal!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Fixer Upper Friday: Spacious 2 BR in Jac Towers - $500k

Via Streeteasy
This week's Fixer Upper special is an expansive 2BR in Jac Towers, located just a stone's throw from the express train at 35-05 72nd Street, #4D in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of NYC. The exciting aspects about this handyman special are the size and light, given it's corner orientation, and asking price of $500k. Most importantly, the floorplan might allow a clever renovator to create a master ensuite, walk-in closet, and second bath. Such a renovation would immediately increase this home's value, as co-op apartments with two bedrooms and two baths in this neighborhood are going for upwards of $750k. So at the very least there is about $250k of instant equity on the line.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Renovation Diary: Yoga Mat Cabinet & Drawer Liners Hack

My first DIY project post kitchen renovation: Install cabinet liner in the cabinet boxes, drawers, shelves, and pantries. Liner padding is available from most cabinet manufacturers and comes in rolls of (usually) clear plastic that you cut to fit. I used it to line our flatware and utensil drawers and pantry shelves. But for pantry floors and, especially, deep drawers where we store heavy pots and pans, I prefer a thicker padding—yoga mats to the rescue. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Trick to Drilling in Narrow Confined Spaces

The project is winding down and so is the punch list. Meanwhile, I've been keeping busy with small tasks. Something weighing on me has been the space at the end of the pantry run. We were left with about six inches of space and the carpenter suggested a mop closet. Brilliant! There was just one problem: With the pantries already assembled, fitting hand, plus drill, plus drill bit into this confined space in order to install any kind of utility rack was going to be a challenge. The guys actually looked at me like I'm a crazy lady. I'm sure when they suggested it they thought I'd just throw some mops in there and shut the door, job done — but I wanted to hang my handy Casabella Grook Utility mop holder and have everything organized neatly. Google to the rescue.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Renovation Diary: Kitchen Reveal Before and After Photos

If you've been following our renovation, you know that we've been in the home stretch for some time, waiting on the lighting over the sink run and peninsula and the remaining doors that had to be recut after some field fitting around the wall oven, above the fridge, and to the right of the pantries. Well, it's all in. Let's have a look.