Monthly Archives: March 2016

eskayel office

see that gorgeousness above? it’s a shot of the eskayel office, a brooklyn-based company (right down the street from the famous peter luger steakhouse!) that creates the coolest, prettiest, most badass wallpapers, pillows, rugs, etc. i’ve ever seen.

i’ve waffled back and forth over the past few weeks as to what i want this apartment to be. call it “defining my design style” which is a stupid, silly term that resolutely proves that i watch WAY too much HGTV.

the world today, and especially, the internet today, is so over saturated with beautiful interiors that it’s hard to separate the “wow i love this” spaces from the “i want that to be MY home” spaces. i go back and forth between wanting california cool, a la amber lewis and chic neutrals, a la danielle moss. i have a feeling i’ll end up somewhere in between, with a space that’s grounded in neutrals, but accentuated by colorful textiles and art. and also, by this eskayel wallpaper, which i have been pining after since i saw it featured in taylor tomasi hill’s chelsea apartment years ago (see below).


how BEAUTIFUL is that? it’s the sort of design detail that makes people stop and stare, that turns your apartment from a ho hum home into a kickass interior inspiration palace. eskayel founder and designer shanan campanaro takes familiar elements of nature – the sky, the ocean – and turns them into incredibly dreamy digitalized designs that almost look like oversized tie dye.


i did some googling, and found this great interview she did with abc home a while back. it’s worth a read. i am so envious of the makers in this world – the true creatives. rebecca atwood is another amazing textile artist that i’ve been following for a few years (i was lucky to snag a few of her pillows at her spring sample sale, and felt instantly cooler as soon as i walked out of the studio space).


eskayel’s wallpaper isn’t cheap (and rightfully so), so if i want to incorporate it at all, it’ll have to be in a small space. many of the inspiration shots i found used the paper in bathrooms, and powder rooms, specifically (wallpaper in bathrooms with showers/tubs = recipe for disaster, thanks to heat and steam), but i’m leaning towards an entryway sort of thing – just a little pop when you come through the front door. the photo below is a good example, though it’s obviously MUCH bigger than my space.


discerning eyes will notice this is the same paper TTH used in her apartment – it’s called dynasty. so amazing, no? more eskayel goodness below.






last week, when i first received the draft contract for the grand apartment, my lawyer sent a list of “key takeaways” (his assumption being, of course, that i wouldn’t read the entire contract myself. BUT I DID. not that i understood it, but i tried!). the list looked a little something like this (key areas removed for privacy’s sake):

  1. Purchaser – Sarah Jacobson
  2. Apartment – Apt X, Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
  3. Apartment to be vacant and in broom clean condition at time of closing with the standard items listed in 1.11. Anything else they told you they would include in terms of personal property or furniture? this one made me laugh. pretty please, could they leave behind the ugly dorm light and random bookshelf in the bedroom?
  4. Purchase Price – keeping this under wraps for obvious reasons
  5. Contract Deposit – 10% of total purchase price (YIKES) (Due at the time the Contract is signed by you)
  6. Closing Date – On or about May 2, 2016 (this changed)
  7. Maintenance –keeping this under wraps for obvious reasons
  8. Assessment – None.
  9. Loan Amount – keeping this under wraps for obvious reasons
  10. Occupants – Sarah Jacobson
  11. Pets – None. this had to be corrected to include the queen of my life, my cat, penny lane
  12. Seller’s Rider 42 – Please Review and confirm that all is true.
  13. Appliances – Seller is not making any representation that any of the appliances are in working order. Are you replacing them all anyway? this also made me laugh. i kid you not, i asked my lawyer to write “please remove the fridge” into the rider to ensure that whatever dead body is hiding inside there will NOT be in my apartment when the keys are turned over to me. 

following this list, my lawyer had another one. this one was made up of “everything he could find out about the Corporation (apparently, that’s what the co-op is called) and the building.”

and in that list was this SNEAKY LITTLE ITEM:

Flip Tax – 25% of the net of any first sale of a unit and after the first sale its 15% of the net sale price or $5,000.00, whichever is greater.

i’m sorry, SAY WHAT? i read it multiple times, then read it again. after i handed over all of my savings, a good chunk of my inheritance, my first born, an exhaustive list of my financials and also my soul, THE CO-OP WAS GOING TO TAKE 25% OF THE APARTMENT WHEN I SOLD IT?

oh HELL no.

i called my broker. he told me he’d mentioned this to me, that flip tax was a common thing in the new york real estate world.

look: i know i tend to have selective memory. that and i smoked too much weed in college and so sometimes my memory just isn’t that great. but i swear to god, NO ONE had mentioned this tax. and CERTAINLY, no one had mentioned it in the context of my making an offer on the grand apartment.

my broker tried again. he explained that while i had correctly understood the concept of flip tax, i hadn’t interpreted the ruling above quite right. the “first sale,” he told me, refers to, well, just that. as in, the first people to sell the apartment following its conversion from a rental unit to a co-op unit would pay 25% of the profitbasically, it works like this:

seller A: the lucky person who was living in the unit when the building went co-op in the 1980s. likely got the apartment for a steal (seriously, i don’t even want to know what they paid, it’ll make me cry), and then made a BOATLOAD of money the first time they sold it. let’s just say, for shits and giggles, they bought the apartment for 80k.

seller A’s flip tax situation went a little something like this:

purchase price: 80,000

selling price (the first time the apartment was sold by seller A, the original owner): 500,000

profit made on the unit = 500,000 (selling price) – 80,000 (purchase price) = 420,000

flip tax = 420,000 x .25 = 105,000.

INSANITY, RIGHT? basically, seller A had to hand over 100 grand of their profit to the co-op. you know, because life makes no sense.

i thought this was the situation i was in.

while i wasn’t exactly right, i wasn’t exactly wrong, either. because the “first sale” already happened, my piece of the pie is “only” 15%, not 25%. that softened the blow, a little bit. and that 15% only applies, remember, to the profit i make – not to the gross selling price.

a little research, along with more discussion with my broker, revealed that flip taxes are pretty standard in new york city co-ops. they allow the co-op to make money without having to jack up the maintenance (which, i should add, is quite low in this building).

in other words, as frustrating as that 15% is, there’s no way around it. though it may not be the LOWEST in all the land, it’s also not the worst case scenario (that would be a flip tax percentage that applies to the gross selling price. OUCH).

all parties involved in the transaction (broker, lawyer, mortgage broker, and a few other smart people i talked to) agreed that while 15% wasn’t, you know, great, it also wasn’t the end of the world, nor was it a reason to walk away.

so, i signed. but may this be a lesson for all future apartment hunters: ask about the flip tax, and ask about it early. preferably before you fall in love with a future home and imagine raising your little four legged friends (and maybe even some two legged ones) there.

hindsight’s 20/20, right?





today, march 23rd, 2016, i signed the contract papers for the apartment at 504 grand street, where i will (hopefully, if all goes smoothly with my mortgage and the coop board) reside for the foreseeable future (following months of renovation).

this is, without a doubt, the scariest, most exciting, most HOLY SHIT moment of my entire life. i just took the first real step to becoming a HOMEOWNER. i am going to OWN A PIECE OF NEW YORK CITY!

(cue the violins and insert a quote from virginia woolf’s a room of one’s own)

when i first got word, late last week, that the contract would be coming our way in the next few days, i asked my broker where we’d meet.

i had this idea in my head that the contract signing would be some big, exciting, miraculous moment. we’d all gather in some giant boardroom somewhere, and the papers would be handed down the line for me to sign. the clouds would part, and the angels would sing, and i’d sign my john hancock oh so expertly four times over. there would be hand shaking, and “congratulations” and “thank you so much” and i’d walk out the room feeling like i’d just done something huge.

i’m sad to report that the actual state of the union is much less exciting than i’d imagined. in reality, what happened was that my lawyer emailed me the contract, told me to print out four copies, sign where appropriate, write the check, and stick it all in an envelope, which his messenger would come and collect from me at my office.

the clouds didn’t part, and the angels didn’t sing, and this BIG HUGE GIGANTIC thing i’m doing…well, it was rather anticlimactic. it’s not at all how they say it is on HGTV. in real life,  i’m just a girl, sitting at her desk, signing a contract and asking an apartment to love her.

but anticlimactic or not, a messenger just came to my office, and picked up a package filled with 16 pages of my signature, along with the biggest check i’ve ever held in my hands, let alone written.

and it appears, ladies and gentlemen, that i am well on my way to actually doing this thing. 

wish me luck, and HERE WE GO!




you guys, waiting is HARD. i’ve been waiting around to sign a contract for the grand apartment for over a month now, and you know what? i don’t like it, not even close, not even a little bit, not at all. bonus points if you got the 10 things i hate about you reference above. though i totally gave it away with that photo, but whatever. when a girl has an excuse to post a picture of heath ledger, she has to take it.

but back to my rant: waiting IS NO FUN. when i put in an offer on the grand apartment, two days before leaving for a week in colombia, my broker was all, i need ALL OF THE THINGS FROM YOU RIGHT NOW and so i scrambled to assemble my financials and sign all of these scary papers (#adulting) while simultaneously trying to pack for a week in south america. i was running around like a blonde chicken with her head cut off. basically, if you can picture me, but with really frizzy hair and no makeup and a crazed expression on my face, you’ll get the idea.

i was frazzled. i was overwhelmed. i was terrified that in gathering all of my financials, and filling out the forms, i’d do the math wrong, or write something incorrect, or just generally, screw it up in some/any way shape or form.

but i did it. i hurried, and i made it happen, and i submitted not just an offer but a counter offer, driving my lovely mortgage broker, doug, crazy in the process (the man shot off about 10 different pre-approval letters in the span of 24 hours).

and then i boarded a plane to cartagena, and in my head, i was all, i totally have this adulting thing under control. I’M A REAL PERSON! i just turned THIRTY, and now i’m buying an APARTMENT, and i’m going to be ON THE BEACH IN COLOMBIA when i get the news that my offer is accepted, and i’m basically just killing life on all levels.

suffice it to say, i got a little ahead of myself. okay, a lot ahead of myself. the week in cartagena went by with no word from eric, my broker. and then i came home, and another week went by, and still, we had no word.

i was definitely, definitively not killing life on all levels. 

then, finally, word came, in what was basically the emotional equivalent of a howler. we had what my broker called “verbal confirmation” of an accepted offer, but as it turned out, no contract could be drawn up, and nothing could be signed, because the sellers were an estate, and they hadn’t done any.of.their.paperwork. as in, legally, they couldn’t even sell the place. they didn’t have ANY of their ducks in a row. THEIR DUCKS WERE ALL OVER THE PLACE.


my broker assured me that this was just “a few weeks” away. it was a “relatively painless process” and we just “needed to be patient.”

you know the phrase hurry up and wait? well, that epitomizes this process. i basically drove myself insane putting in an offer right before i left for vacation because the seller was pretty much threatening to give the apartment away to someone else if i didn’t a) come up 30k and b) come up 30k RIGHT NOW.

so then i did just that, and POOF. they weren’t ready. not even a little bit. not at ALL!

to say this part of the process has been frustrating would be the understatement of the century. it’s not even that i’m a particularly impatient person (though i also wouldn’t exactly say patience is my strong suit). it’s that i hate being in limbo. i feel like someone strung me up in a tree by my ankles and told me they’d be back in 30 seconds, and instead, it’s been an excruciating SIX WEEKS. so here i am, dangling, thinking to myself, “are they ever coming back to get me? is anyone going to let me down from here? HELP!”

yes, i know in the above analogy i’d be long dead by now, but you get my point.

the weight of the wait, man. it’s torture! since i haven’t signed anything, none of this is legally binding. which means that technically, someone else could swoop in and take the grand apartment out from under me at any time.

granted, they’ve promised me this won’t happen, but still. LIMBO, you guys.  i am a worst case scenario type of person, and right now, any and all worst case scenarios are up for debate.

as of now, i’ve moved forward as much as i possibly could. i’ve met and vetted three contractors. i’ve done 3 separate walk throughs. i’ve verbally agreed to sign away an obscene amount of money. i’ve collected all the documents that the bank will need to give me a mortgage. i’ve pinned the SHIT out of dream kitchens on pinterest. i even started an instagram account!

but beyond that, all i can do is wait. my mortgage broker emailed me this afternoon to check, and when i lamented that we were still (shocker!) waiting, he had this to say: in a few months when you own the place – you’ll hardly remember the process!

at least someone’s thinking happy thoughts.



Taylor-Kinney-Going-Make-One-Superhot-Husbandrecently, i met my dream man. he was experienced, smart, nice, helpful…all the things you look for in a man.

did i say man? i meant contractor. recently, i met my dream contractor. his name was charlie, and he was experienced, smart, nice, and oh so freaking helpful. like, the MOST helpful, even though he legitimately owned me nothing and had no reason to be so.

that’s not him, above. that’s taylor kinney, who is ACTUALLY my dream man (and could easily be my dream contractor too, with those muscles).

let me back up a bit.

at the advertising agency where i work, we have a process called “triple bidding.” it refers to bidding a given job out to three different companies/people/production houses at once in order to a) find the best (wo)man for the job and b) get the best price.

my broker advised me to do the same thing for the grand apartment: do a walkthrough with three different contractors, get three different estimates, and go from there.

so that’s what i did. the first contractor, jan, came highly recommended from my broker himself. the second was manny, a recommendation from a family friend, a woman who swore (in her thick new york jewish mother tongue) that he’d “done some really nice stuff” at her place. the third was a man who i’d followed on instagram for a year, following his feature on design*sponge. his name was charlie.

let’s start with contractor 1.

contractor 1 (jan):

a soft-spoken, enterprising new yorker who comes from the czech republic, and boasts a lot of work experience on the lower east side.

estimate: around 65-70k


a kitchen done by contractor 1

above is an example of jan’s work. it’s not bad, not by any means. it’s simple. it’s not necessarily my taste. but it’s workable. after touring my soon to be space, jan walked me over to an apartment he was currently working on a few blocks away. when i entered, three workmen were chipping away at installing sheetrock and fixing plumbing. the space was clean, and the renovation appeared to be moving along smoothly.

jan and i had a slight language barrier, which was probably exacerbated by the fact that i don’t really speak dude, and i REALLY don’t speak construction dude. but all in all, he was lovely, albeit quiet.

now on to contractor 2.

contractor 2 (manny):

a fast-talking, native new yorker who mostly works in westchester but swore he and his guys could do a bang up job in manhattan proper.

estimate: 89k

despite the fact that the only other manny i’ve ever known was my 8th grade boyfriend, who i routinely drunkenly hooked up with in the backseat of cars throughout high school, i really, truly, wanted to like manny. i wanted him to be the one. my mother loved him, because her friend susan loved him. and my mother’s opinion means a lot to me.

when manny did his walkthrough, he brought his cousin, who walked around with a measuring tape and took very official-looking notes. i thought that manny and i spoke the same language, though he talked as fast as a born and bred cabbie from deep brooklyn. i had faith in manny. manny promised to send examples of his work, along with references.

he did neither. and then his estimate came in 20k more than jan’s.

so i did what any reasonable girl would do. between a rock and a hard place, i decided to reconsider charlie, who i’d essentially been online stalking for a better part of a year. okay, online stalking is extreme. what i’d been doing was following his work, and hoping that maybe, someday, i’d have a home like the ones he designs. see exhibit A below.

contractor 3 (charlie):

charlie (also known as dream contractor), whose company, cw property group, specializes in taking old, decrepit spaces and turning them into something fresh, pretty, and livable.


exhibit a: my dream kitchen, designed by charlie, executed by his company

in my heart, charlie was clearly the most qualified man for the job. so despite my gut feeling that he’d be waaaay out of budget, i emailed him, and asked him if he’d come and look at the space.

well, folks, turns out, my gut was right (guts and mothers: never wrong). after doing a walkthrough of the space last week, charlie called this morning, and told me his guys hadn’t even finished the full estimate, but they were already close to 100k.


finding your dream man, and then finding out he’s too expensive…it sucks.* ain’t no two ways about it, hearing a number like that hurts. honestly, hearing ALL the numbers above hurt. this isn’t monopoly money, it’s real money. it’s money that belongs to my family. money that is the result of hard work. it’s hard to think of parting with such giant sums–and even harder to think that those giant sums don’t even cover it.

but, you know, buying a home is expensive, and so is renovating it. at least, that’s what i keep telling myself. that, and inhale. exhale. inhale. exhale.

so where does that leave me?

while i’ve been advised not to go with my cheapest option, because that’s a potential recipe for disaster, i will likely be awarding the job to jan. here’s why:

  1. he’s the only one i can afford. the truth hurts, people.
  2. he seems like he really WANTS the job. manny on the other hand…not so much.
  3. the in progress space he showed me a few weeks ago looked pretty damn good.
  4. one of the references on his list is “mr. jeremy piven” who i am obviously assuming is THE jeremy piven. that’s a reference i WILL be calling.

also, if i play devil’s advocate…

cost doesn’t always dictate quality. in fact, charlie (contractor 3) flat out told me his guys “were not the cheapest.” not going to lie, ripping off that bandaid hurt

my (not at all educated) guess is that part of the difference in price will manifest as a) a little less “customer service” (aka, i’ll have to do lots of checking in and following up) and b) a little jerry-rigging in terms of finding my cabinets, appliances, lighting, etc. all on my own.

a note to self (and to anyone else who tries to do this after me):

i’ve learned that most contractors do NOT include any surface materials beyond sheetrock, paint, baseboards, doors, etc. in their estimates, so everything from countertops to tile is on me. likely, those will be the places where i’ll be hunting on my own, tracking things down, getting them shipped/delivered, and perhaps, most importantly, making sure they’re budget friendly. if anyone has any tips on budget friendly places for tile, fixtures, lighting, appliances, etc. HIT ME UP. 

in the meantime, in the words of alessia cara, i’ll be over here, pining over my dream contractor, and hoping that someday, somehow, i’ll be able to afford his services.

*i recognize that this is a total champagne problem.