Monthly Archives: April 2016


so, as you may have gathered from my last few posts (and instagram posts – if you’re not following me yet, please join us on my faaaave social platform!), i have KITCHENS ON THE BRAIN. mainly, i am deciding between wood or tile floors, and gray or white cabinets. all will be revealed in my next post, but for now, here are some thoughts:

  1. contrasting uppers and lowers (cabinets, people) are really in right now. as my newly selected contractor, shmulik (yes, that’s his name, and i love it) informed me, “the young people are really into dark on the bottom, light on the top…” that being said, my kitchen, while it has a window, doesn’t get a ton of natural light, so gray cabinets might be an issue.
  2. it remains to be seen whether the hardwoods underneath the layers of linoleum on the kitchen floor are in good condition, okay condition, or absolutely horrible condition. tearing up the linoleum will somewhat guide my decision, but i am leaning towards tile – mostly just because it’s pretty, it makes a statement, and then i can post a hundred million pictures on the #ihavethisthingwithfloors hashtag.
  3. i’m really feeling a country-ish kitchen with a couple of more “modern” touches. think subway tile and shaker-style cabinetry, but with slightly more modern hardware and lighting. i know for sure i want some reclaimed wood up in this hizzy, but i also know that i don’t want to go tooooo farmhouse because i’m, you know, in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world.

so, with those three things in mind, here are some kitchens that are making my heart go boom boom.


i’ve had this one pinned for years – it’s an eclectic bohemian kitchen that obviously has way more space than mine, but it proves you can mix ‘country farmhouse’ with ‘down ass bohemian chick’ and still have it look good.


this kitchen gives me heart palpitations, even though the full marble backsplash is a bit modern for my taste. i mean, hello, look at that stove. think of all the marvelous things you could cook on that range. and the crisp white cabinets with beautiful brass hardware…i can’t get enough. i think i’m going to stay away from brass in my own kitchen, mostly because i worry that it’s too trendy and overdone and that in ten years, i’ll wish i’d done something slightly more classic.


this pantry shelf situation belongs to author jane green, and was featured in the nytimes a while back. it’s the inspiration for my “front wall” – the wall above the sink, where i don’t want any upper cabinets, and instead, just want giant reclaimed wood shelves that could easily have been chopped down from the trees in my imaginary backyard. all white dishes, giant glass canisters for all my baking goodies…SWOON. HONEY, I’M HOME!


these brass drum pendants are the stuff dreams are made of. unfortunately, you need both a big space and a big budget to bring them home – but they sure are nice to look at, aren’t they? i love love LOOOOVE these stools, and am on a hunt for low-priced versions of them. beyond the hints of brass, this kitchen is somewhat close to what i want: simple white cabinets, simple hardware, and marble countertops with stainless steel appliances.


it’s photos like this one that make me consider ebony hardwoods and moody gray cabinets. i loove this kitchen. i want to cook in this kitchen. it’s so unassuming and cozy. unfortunately, i don’t think i get enough natural light for cabinets this dark. but heyyy wood shelving and white subway tile backsplash!


what i would give for a wall of reclaimed brick. that’s all i’ll say. my building is wood and concrete, so brick isn’t in the cards for me, even once we start tearing down walls. alas, regular old sheetrock will have to do.


i love the symmetry of this space. i’m betting that middle area used to be a fireplace that the owners closed up – but building out the shelving around it works so well. it looks like most of this is decorative shelving, not everyday cups and glasses – but still, it’s beautiful. i also love the mirrored backsplash (can you see it back there?). the rich patina adds instant age to an otherwise modern space.


ah, grey cabinets and brass hardware. such a match made in heaven. but are they MY match made in heaven? this i do not know.


a small space with big style. simple shaker cabinets: check. simple black hardware: check. marble counters: check. great shelving: check. i want it all.


this room has dark hardwoods, but still feels SO BRIGHT. this is why i’m leaning towards white cabinetry – just look at all that light! also, these pendants are verrry similar to the ones i’m eyeing from schoolhouse electric. HOLLA.


white on white on white on wood. i like. i want my wood shelving to be a little knottier, funkier, and darker – to look like it’s lived a life before me – but otherwise, i am loving everything about this.

well, folks, there’s my inspiration. as you can see, despite my best efforts to be the kind of gal who goes for moody grey and brass (moody grass?), it turns out i’m the kind of gal who prefers the all white look with hints of wood.

that’s what she said.

stay tuned for my actual kitchen design plan, coming next week. and in the meantime, if you’ve got any sources, ideas, or thoughts, please do not hesitate to send them my way!


{photo: kate arends of wit & delight}

the time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. of shoes – and ships! – and sealing wax, of TILE FLOORS AND THINGS.

that’s right, folks, today, we are talking tile floors (and hardwood ones, too, for a hot second), in an effort to help me make a decision on what to do with my soon to be kitchen.

it used to be that funky patterned tile was reserved for scene-y restaurants like gracias madre in LA, but more and more, i’ve been spotting it in the homes of mere mortals like myself.

now, i know what you’re thinking. tile? for kitchens? groundbreaking.

i get it. kitchen tile, regular old boring kitchen tile, is nothing to write home about. it’s decidedly blah, and as my mother so kindly reminded me, causes anything you drop on it to shatter into a million little pieces.

but encaustic tile (the funky, patterned stuff you see above) is a whole different ballgame. encaustic tiles are ceramic pieces in which the pattern is not a product of the glaze, but instead, of different colors of clay. in other words, each tile is an art piece.

JHID-WhiteBrickMed-8872{photo: jessica helgerson}

encaustic tile adds an instant cool factor to any space it graces. check out another shot of kate arends’ kitchen, below. instant cool.


would regular hardwoods be pretty in this space? of course. but the tile makes the kitchen POP.

i’ve had my eye on encaustic tile (and specifically, the cement tile shop, where kate bought her tile) for months now, but i wasn’t totally sold until i came across this kitchen, designed by jessica helgerson, a badass portland designer who is the QUEEN OF FIERCE AND PRETTY.


not to sound all design nerd, but i DIE FOR THIS SPACE. i love this kitchen like joanna gaines loves shiplap. the marriage of that incredible tile with the BLACK AND GOLD STOVE, along with that insane window seat, vintage wooden island, gold pendants…ugh, all of it gives me heart palpitations.


here it is from another angle. can you IMAGINE cooking on that stove? MOVE OVER MARTHA. anything you make on that amazing range would be spectacular, i just know it. obviously, ovens like that one are gajillions of dollars and way out of my price range, but hey, a girl can dream!

so, back to the tile situation. between kate’s kitchen, and the helgerson beauty above, i am officially SOLD ON TILE. that is, until i see a kitchen like this, with ebony hardwood.


hello, my pretty. i want to be cooking in you!

white cabinets + open shelving = swoon city. but if i’m being honest, my hardwoods (which, by the way, are hidden under 3 layers of fuggggly linoleum) aren’t nearly as beautiful as the herringbone floors above. they’re just regular old hardwood floors. sure, they’re original to my 1929 building, but they’re not exactly special.

you know what’s special? this tile. it’s cement tile shop’s “star” and it’s modern and classic and moroccan inspired all at once.


it’s also, coincidentally, what kate arends used in her kitchen, which, in case you needed a refresher, can be seen below.


i’m torn between “star” (above) and “agadir white” (below), a decidedly more moroccan style that i’m worried might look a bit busy on the floor. star has the benefit of a simpler design, but adgadir is such a statement piece that i’m tempted to go for it.


so, tell me. which would YOU choose? i’ve ordered samples of both, and cannot WAIT to see what they look like in person.



(the dining room design plan, so far)

luna pendant | cygnus pendant | capiz chandelier | work hard poster | bentwood chair | docksta table | sheepskin rug | hide rug | bar cart

so, if you are a regular reader around these parts (and by that i mean, my two friends who read this thing – i mean, i’m writing for posterity and personal shits and giggles, right?!), you may recall that yesterday, we talked about my dining room design plan, and took a look at a few spaces showcasing the ikea docksta table, which i currently own and will continue to own until i can afford the real thing.

as a totally untrained interior design addict, i find that gathering inspiration is the only way to begin even wrapping my head around what i like, and by extension, what i want my home to look like. i need to sort through image after image, put them all in a (digital) pile, and say, okay, looks like i have a whole loooot of white walls here, so, you know, i guess i like white walls. my home will never, ever look like a magazine, or even be bloggable, but a girl can dream, right?

generally, when it comes to inspiration, i start with my favorite blogs: style by emily henderson, elements of style by erin gates, and amber interiors by amber lewis. i’ve been reading these blogs since emily, erin and amber started writing them, and to say i have girl crushes on all three of them would be the understatement of the century.

i’m an emily henderson fan girl (i’ve applied to write for her three times. she has never responded to me. sad face.), and have been since her pre-design star days on HGTV. emily is like that cool, quirky girl in class who is never afraid to speak her mind or wear that weird shift dress. and i love her for it. her work always includes a lot of antique and vintage, and as a result, the spaces she designs feel immediately lived in. #goals



erin gates…what is there to say? she’s an amazing writer, she has a beautiful, emotional, incredible heart, and she’s an amazing designer. she melds her life stories with her design, and the results are always spectacular. i’d highly recommend her book, which i received for hanukkah last year and promptly read COVER TO COVER. her design work tends to fall a little too traditional for me – but then she’ll go and do an animal print stair runner in her home and i’m all *heart eyes*. i love you, erin.



amber lewis is a california based designer who is the EPITOME of cali cool. i am pretty sure that her work is the sole reason i want to paint my entire apartment bright white and go crazy on the kilim rugs. seriously, her spaces are TO DIE FOR, and each and every one of them is SO her. she has an incredibly unique eye, and while her look is decidedly west coast-ian, i am hoping to inject a little amber flava flavvvv into my east coast apartment. now, if only i could afford the amazing rugs she sources from turkey, morocco, and the like.



why tell you all this? because i think my design style falls squarely in the middle of all of these. i want a little bit quirky, a little bit neo-trad classic, a little bit california cool with ALL THE TEXTILES. blending these is going to be hard, but the dining room design plan above…it’s a start. the animal hide and the schoolhouse electric luna pendant? they’ve got amber written all over them (with some shibori throw pillows in for good measure, of course). the black thonet chairs? they seem right up erin’s alley. the sheepskin? something emily (and amber) would totally dig. i am hoping i can find a few vintage pieces to throw into the mix, a la emily, and keep the rest cool, clean, and simple – while still feeling comfortable and lived in. wish me luck!

next up: the living room.


as i wait for my mortgage loan to officially go through, and as i fill out what seems like an endless amount of paperwork to apply for the board, i have to ask myself: why did i think this would be fun?

OH WAIT, I REMEMBER. because it meant that, if i pinched my pennies and made some smart choices in the renovation, i could redecorate a little bit. ALL ON MY OWN. i have been pinteresting up a storm trying to figure out what to do with my dining area, which will actually just be a section of the living room (thanks, new york, for your ludicrous lack of space). since the apartment isn’t all that big, and from the entryway, both the living and dining areas will be visible, they need to be congruent spaces. i want them to feel separate, but the same.

there are a few ways i’m hoping to achieve this:

  • lighting: i’m going to go a bit more modern in the living room (with a serge mouille knockoff as the centerpiece; wish i could afford the real thing but there AIN’T NO WAY), so i want the dining space to feel, if not super modern, at least somewhat so.
  • rugs: a more neutral rug in the dining room (i’m eyeing a natural hide rug, but this will have to come later in the process, as those babies are EXPENSIVE) paired with either a) a natural jute rug layered with a vintage kilim or b) a moroccan shag rug in the living room.
  • the color scheme: i’m keeping the walls bright white. my current place is gray, and while i might go for a “warmer” white with a little more gray in it, i’m going to stay from color, at least for now. most of my furniture has a white and/or neutral base, and i’d like to keep it that way. i’ll bring in my pops of color via textiles, which are much more easily altered than wall colors are.

one thing i know i will be keeping, at least for now, is my ikea docksta table. oh, the beloved docksta. it’s an ikea favorite; i hope they never get rid of it. it’s a knockoff of the famous saarinen tulip table, which i adore but cannot afford. and dressed up with some nice chairs and good lighting, it’s actually quite wonderful. here it is styled a variety of ways.





it’s not fancy, but it gets the job done. and you can easily fit four chairs around it, six if you squeeze. as you can see from the shots above, it’s also a truly versatile piece. it goes with just about anything, chair-wise. i’m torn between my beloved bentwood chairs (love this modern black version from crate & barrel) and a slightly more comfortable wishbone style. right now, i have clear chiavari chairs, which i’ve loved, but am ready to let go of.

so, how does it all come together? that’s a post for another day, friends. most likely, it’s a post for tomorrow. i am slowly, painfully, very unsexily teaching myself verrrrry basic photoshop skills with the help of my friends here at the office, and I BE MAKIN’ SOME DESIGN PLANS! so stay tuned for that, because it’s going to be SA-WEEET.






this probably goes without saying, but the part of this process that i am MOST excited about is the decorating. it has long been my dream to design a place from scratch (though i’m learning that doing a place truly from scratch is actually quite stressful and, well, REALLY HARD. i commend you, designers), and the grand apartment is my first chance to design a home that really feels like me.

i’ve lived in my current apartment for six years now (an eternity in new york), so i guess you could say that it “feels like me.” as much as i love it, and as good as it’s been to me, it holds a lot of memories, and not all of them are good.

let’s back up a bit. a few months prior to moving into my current place, i went through a traumatic breakup with my college friends. in an instant, they cut the cord on me and our years together, and as a result, the cord on the apartment which we had all shared. they gave me a choice: move out and leave us, or we will leave you. what followed is a long, complicated, emotional story, but suffice it to say, the experience broke my heart. i’ve never had my heart broken in a romantic sense, but i think, in some ways, this experience was much, much worse. it was like 5 breakups in one. it was akin to someone stabbing a knife into my chest, tugging it down the breast bone and then yanking out my bloodied, still beating heart. and then stomping on it, repeatedly, on the sidewalks of new york city, while curious passerby watched, but did nothing.

the experience sent me home to massachusetts, into the sweltering humidity of mid-summertime new england and to a childhood bedroom in which i hadn’t spent longer than a few weeks since high school. for the first two weeks, i didn’t leave my bed. each morning, my mother would come into the room, wake me, and offer me breakfast. and each morning, i’d tell her i’d never felt so empty, that i didn’t believe i could ever get out of bed again, that life wasn’t worth living without my friends. i was 24, alone, and untethered, spinning aimlessly in the universe. or so i felt.

after a few weeks, i made it out of bed, and into a therapist’s office (god bless talk therapy, amirite?). after a few more, i made it to main street, where i sat at a coffee shop with an old high school friend and attempted to carry on a “normal” conversation.

after two months, it was decided that i should go back to new york. a good part of me, probably close to 95%, was convinced i could never set foot in the city again. new york was ruined for me. i had failed. it wasn’t meant to be. i was small town, small time, not the brave big city girl i’d thought myself to be.

but my parents said no, that wasn’t true. my friends could take everything from me – but they couldn’t take new york.

and so back to the city i went. this time, i saw apartments on my own, not with the safety net of three best friends. i saw “one bedrooms” in the west village with bathtubs in the kitchen, and tiny roach infested studios in gramercy. i saw spaces so tiny i wasn’t sure i could fit my bed in them, let alone my entire life. the pickings were BEYOND slim.

so when my broker told me, gently, that in my price range, looking on my own, i wasn’t going to find even close to what i would get with a roommate, and suggested i look at a place in the very property i’d been kicked out of, i told her no. no way. i couldn’t live anywhere near those people. what if i ran into them on the street? what if i saw them in the supermarket, casually browsing cereal boxes in aisle 4?

so we saw more tiny places. and more five floor walkups. and eventually, i relented, and agreed to sign a lease just six blocks north of my old home.

it’s a funny place, new york city. you can live literally on someone’s doorstep, and never ever see them. we always assume that our ghosts will trail us, that we’ll find ourselves following their footsteps on the street, ducking into alleyways to avoid awkward confrontations. the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. most of the time, we don’t run into our ghosts; we see them once in a blue moon, if at all.

my particular ghosts moved out and moved on after just a year, and somehow, someway, i stayed. for six years.

i remember move-in day like it was yesterday. i’d convinced my friend caroline to live with me, and the apartment, a converted one bedroom, was supposed to have a wall dividing the living room and the newly created “2nd bedroom.” key phrase here being “supposed to.” because when we walked in, it was not there. no wall. just a giant, empty, open living room that echoed my cries of frustration, sending my tears bouncing off the walls and the cheap parquet floors.

it was raining (and by raining, i mean pouring) as my mother and i attempted to shuffle my life in boxes from a uhaul into the elevator, while hired “moving men” lifted my sofa and bed from truck to sidewalk.

i remember thinking, of course, of COURSE it has to rain today. of course there is no wall. of course nothing in my entire fucking life is going right, because WHAT ELSE COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? my life had already been torn apart at the seams. here i was, trying to rebuild, to start over all on my own, and here was the man upstairs, sending me a big fat fuck you.

i remember screaming into the empty room, at the management company on the phone, at my poor, beleaguered mother, who was trying oh so hard to keep it (and me) together. never let it be said that she is anything less than a saint.

all i had wanted, all i had asked for, was a goddamn wall. ONE wall. ONE thing to go right. one thing to signify that i wasn’t making the biggest mistake of my life in coming back to new york. one thing to signify that i was still worthy of happiness, of deserving anything good at all.

and i couldn’t even get a wall.

here’s what i could (and did) get: a mother who didn’t throw me out on the street. a mother who didn’t, despite my complete and total meltdown, disown me. a mother who took the phone out of my hand, and calmly arranged for the wall to be built the very next day.a mother who continued to move my boxes. a mother who helped me unpack every single one of those boxes until i felt some semblance of a life, what used to be my life, building itself back up around me.

it took months for me to walk around the streets near my apartment and not check my peripheral vision for my former friends. it took over a year for my newly developed severe anxiety to wane. and it took years – years – for the apartment i started over in to feel like home. to feel like a place that was mine, and not just a place where i’d sought shelter following the worst months of my life.

six years later, i can finally say that i am almost over it, if one can ever be over such a thing. slowly but surely, i rebuilt my life. i reconnected with old friends. i made new ones. i put time and effort into cultivating the relationships around me, and into making sense of the role i played in my dismissal from my friend group. i have, as they like to say in therapy, done the work.

somehow, i’ve come out the other side. i’m not the same girl i was six years ago, not even close. i’m stronger. braver. more independent. a little harder, even. and the apartment i live in now? parts of it – okay, a lot of it – feel like they belong to the old sarah. t0 24 year old sarah, a girl who was trying, and often, failing, to find her way in the world.

the sarah i am now…well, let’s just say mama deserves a new media console. i want this home, my grand apartment, my very own little corner of the sky, to feel like it’s mine. really, truly mine. and not the kind of mine i’ve been forced into, not the kind of mine i’ve created out of a sheer need to feel safe in the world. but the kind of mine that i’ve created out of the realization that i am, finally, pretty damn close to where i need to be. and that i got there all on my own.

you know what costs a lot of money? a gut renovation. you know where a gut renovation costs a SHITLOAD of money? in new york city, that’s where.

when i started this process, i had this idea that we would set a number in our brains of how much things could cost, and that would sort of be that. we’d find ways to magically save money, i’d stumble upon an amazing farmhouse sink (exhibit a, below) at the chelsea flea market, and things would just sort of fall into place.


let me tell you, as far as i can tell, that is NOT how this thing’s going to go. in fact, despite what you (or at least, i) might think about being able to save money, there are no two ways around it: this shit is majorly f-ing expensive. like, are we dealing in monopoly money expensive.

i have received estimates from two different contractors, and not only were their bid documents WILDLY different, but so too were the estimates themselves. as in, there was a nearly 30k difference between the two (that alone should give you an idea of how crazily expensive this will be).

maybe it’s the avid HGTV watcher in me, but you know, when they do this sort of thing on TV, and something goes wrong, the contractor always seems to find a way to make up for it elsewhere in the budget. this sort of thing happens all the time, right? you look at the electrical panel and you say, hmm, that’s from 1932. that will need to be replaced. but you think, well, whatever, i’ll just buy a cheaper countertop. and on tv, that’s exactly what happens. the property brothers tear open a wall, and they realize that all the wiring is knob and tube and could basically set the house on fire if it’s not replaced. so they replace it all, and they tell the homeowners that it’s going to cost them 12,000 to do so. and that they have to give up the amazing gas fireplace installation that they were SO counting on, because, you know, they live in middle of nowhere canada (where most HGTV shows are filmed) and it’s COLD UP THERE.

eHs0SIddXxs.market_maxresthe homeowners are usually all, “noooo! we had our HEARTS set on that fireplace!” and the property brothers say, well, sometimes we have to make tough decisions, and then the show cuts to commercial. in real life, the homeowners would not get a fireplace. in fact, they’d prob have to give up their new tub too. but on tv, what happens is that, unbeknownst to the homeowners (but obviously broadcast to the viewers), the PB’s decide that they really want to make the homeowner’s fireplace dreams come true, and they secretly install a super fancy one so that when they film the big reveal the couple is all, “OMG YOU GUYS!” and then usually they cry.

my point in all this is that i kind of thought that when my contractors told me that all my electrical had to be redone and that it was going to cost a lot of money and i might not be able to knock down the wall between the entryway and the kitchen to make a breakfast bar, i didn’t really believe them. because in my head, i thought that maybe the property brothers were going to pop in and be all, “you know what sarah, we know that you realllllly want that breakfast bar, and we’re going to find a way to make it happen within your budget.”


they ARE cute though, aren’t they?

sadly, tv is not real life. and the property brothers, cute as they may be, aren’t coming to save me, or my renovation, anytime soon.

in real life, you actually DO have to make the tough decisions. in my case, i have to make choices such as:

  • custom/semi-custom cabinetry (much more expensive, but also, way better and maybe a better investment) vs. ikea cabinetry (cheaper, but crappy quality)
  • recessed lighting ($$$) vs. some sort of weird under-cabinet + flush mount light situation ($-$$)
  • crown molding ($$) vs. no molding and therefore, less charm ($)
  • breakfast bar ($$$ but oh so amazing and OMG, open layout!) vs. no breakfast bar/keeping the galley kitchen ($ but ugh, galley kitchens)
  • new closets ($$$) vs. not enough closets ($)

all of these are, in my mind, tough choices. the hardest being the breakfast bar, which i really, really want, but which is also likely the greatest money saver should i choose not to do it.

the contractors have both been talking to me about “investment potential” and how it’s “better to do it now than later.” both of these sentiments are true and relevant. they are also expensive.

real talk (even when my heart doesn’t want to hear it): i do have a budget. that budget has a little wiggle room, because as unrealistic and green as i am in this process, i know that nothing ever costs what they say it will cost. but a budget exists. and i have to stick to it. and that hurts. i mean, WHO DOESN’T WANT A BREAKFAST BAR?

it would be helpful if i was just the tiniest bit handy, or could build literally ANYTHING on my own. which reminds me that in 7th grade, i was actually REALLY good at woodworking class, and that i made an entirely wooden car that still “drove” really fast, and a multi-sided photo box for my parents that they probably have buried in a box in my basement.

unfortunately, i am not just not handy, i’m also basically the world’s greatest idiot when it comes to ikea assembly, which means that even if i go for ikea cabinetry to try and cut costs, lord knows i’ll be paying people to put them together and install them.

the bottom line here is this: renovating things is expensive. renovating things in new york city is REALLY expensive. like, the kind of expensive where it hurts your soul and every dollar feels like someone shot a dagger straight into your heart. and even if i don’t want to admit it, 50% of my budget is going to go towards things i can’t see. like plumbing, and electrical, and subfloors. ouch.

the bright side? i’ll know that behind my freshly painted walls are some realllly fabulous, safe electrical wires that are prepared to handle all the gorgeous light fixtures i plan to install…

…that is, if i can find any in my budget.




you know what has amazed me the MOST about this process? not how much money i’m forking over. not that i’m signing my name on 9 million pieces of paper.

that this process is so. effing. complicated. no one really reads this blog right now except a few of my (very dedicated) friends (hi guys! you’re the best), but maybe someday, someone will stumble upon this post, knee deep in the mortgage application process, and think, OMIGOD, I’M NOT ALONE.

so, without further adieu, here are 5 things no one tells you about the mortgage process.

  1. not all banks are created equal. this sounds like a “no duh” situation, so let me elaborate. when you initially set out on your mortgage journey, you’re likely working with a) a bank recommended to you by your broker (my situation) or b) a bank recommended to you by a friend who has been through this process before. here’s the thing, though. those two options are all well and good, but they’re not necessarily the options that will get you the very best rate. see, all banks set their own rates. and those rates change not just daily, but sometimes hourly. so at any given time, you may find yourself asking: am i going with the right bank? could i find a better deal somewhere else? banks are businesses, and just like any other business, they need to make money. so they want you to sign with them, because it means you’ll be paying them your quoted mortgage amount (principal) and THEN all the interest on top of it, over the next 30-odd years. in short: they can make some serious money off of you, so they’re going to talk up their services, and their rates, as much as they possibly can. that’s not to say they don’t have your best interests at heart – sometimes, they do – but for the most part, you need to do what you’d do in any other important situation: do your research, and trust your gut. and then ask a shit ton of questions.
  2. not all paperwork applies to you. as soon as you officially start the loan application process, banks are required by law to send a TON of forms your way. these are called “mortgage disclosures” and almost all of them are legal documents filled with completely confusing legal jargon. reading them, and trying to decipher their meaning, is like attempting to read a book in another language, and then being asked to write a book report on it. and here’s the kicker: though the government requires that the banks send you all this info, not all of it applies to you. as in, your set of loan disclosures might include 30 forms that say “sign and date and send back ASAP” – and yet, you may only ACTUALLY need to sign and date 4 of those 30. nowhere will it say this, you won’t know until you ask. my advice? as soon as you receive your loan disclosure forms, ask your mortgage broker for a list of which documents you MUST review, which ones you MUST sign, date and return, and which ones are purely for, you know, “pleasure” (because who doesn’t like to read legal documents in their space time?). 
  3. your pre-approval is not a guarantee. your pre-approval letter, which you’ll need to submit an offer on a home, is based on a few things, but mostly, the income you tell the bank you have, your monthly expenses, and your credit score. what no one tells you is that your pre-approval is just that: a PRE-approval. meaning, it does not dictate that you’ll ACTUALLY be approved. that will come later, once you’re bared your financial soul, had to account for every single late payment you’ve ever made, and basically promised the bank your first born child. it’s some epically biblical shit, you guys. i swear, i have never felt so self-conscious in my life. i feel like a fraud, like any minute now, someone’s going to tug the rug out from under me, i’m going to go flying, banana peel style, onto my butt, and they’re going to yell, “PSYCHE! YOU’RE NOT CUT OUT FOR THIS! YOU LOSE! NA NA NA POO POO!” your best path forward? to make sure you have all your ducks in a row, financially, before you apply. that means checking your retirement accounts, checking and savings accounts, paying off any remaining student loan debt and credit card debt (within reason, if possible), and basically, making sure you’re as financially sexy as possible so that the bank is all, WE WANT HER!
  4. you’re going to be terrified. this is sort of a continuation of the above, and also, sort of goes without saying, but all anyone has asked me since they heard the news has been, “are you SO EXCITED?!” and yes, i am SO EXCITED. i am also SO FUCKING TERRIFIED. maybe it’s buying in new york, maybe it’s buying a co-op, but there are still so many stages of this process that need to happen before i can even BEGIN to truly feel the excitement and the gravitas of what i’m doing. that’s not to say i’m not happy, but just that i feel, in equal measure, totally terrified. i’m scared what it could fall through. i’m scared of being rejected. i’m scared that it’ll be more money than i anticipate, and that i won’t be accurately prepared. i’m scared that i’ll do something wrong, or misunderstand a piece of paperwork (or, even worse, not understand it at ALL). while my parents (and in particular, my uncle, who is a business whiz) have been completely supportive and insanely helpful, they’re not here, sitting by my side, as i sift through all this paperwork and make big decisions that directly impact my future (and the future of my potential offspring, if i have them). i’m doing this, little old me, all on my own. and that is some scary shit.
  5. you’re not alone – and yet, you are. when i first started this process, i didn’t really realize just how many people i’d have on my team. there’s my real estate broker, eric, who went with me to open houses, sent me listings, helped me submit my offer and then a counter offer, is helping me put together my board package, and has generally been available to answer questions. then there’s andy, my lawyer, who worked with the seller’s attorney to review the draft contract, make revisions in my favor, and then walk me through the final version (which i signed to put the place in contract). then there’s doug, my mortgage broker (not to be confused with my real estate broker) at wells fargo, who has walked me through every single step of the loan application process, churned out dozens of pre-approval letters for me in record time, and has also been around to answer the 9 million seemingly innocuous questions that have been keeping me up at night. and that’s not all. there’s also doug’s assistant, amy, who, well, i’m not sure what she does. then there’s teresa, also at wells fargo, who works as a liaison between doug, who “sold” me the mortgage, and the unnamed underwriter, who is reviewing my application and will ultimately decide my destiny. and that’s just BUYING the place. there’s a whole other set of people assisting with the renovation. and yet, despite having all these people to talk to, and all these people to listen to, at the end of the day, it’s my decision. it’s my decision what type of loan i apply for. my decision that kind of tile i put in the bathroom. it’s my decision whether i pay to bust down a wall and open the place up, or save money and keep it as is. and that’s, you know, kind of a BFG (big fucking deal, for those not familiar). i wish someone had told me this: that despite all the help you’ll have, you’ll still be alone, at the end of the day, in your own head, just like you always are, trying to decide what’s right. since no one told me, i’m telling you. LEARN FROM ME, FRIENDS. SAVE YOURSELF. 

and there you have it: a long, rambling account of all the things i wish i’d known before i started this process.

the funny thing? despite how complicated this is, despite how stressed it has made me, despite how worried i am that something will fall through, i feel this underlying current of peace. this underlying sense that i can do this, no matter how hard it is. this underlying sense that at the end of the day, it’ll all be worth it. and that’s all anyone really needs, right? an underlying sense of peace?

now, if only i could apply that peace to, you know, the rest of my life.