Archive

Monthly Archives: June 2016

IMG_7598

there was a time in my life when i thought i was destined to be the next fiona apple, when i played “open mics” (if you could even call them that) and sang songs about sea glass and other weird emo things at my hometown’s local coffee house.

if this video is ANY indication of my straight up awkwardness onscreen, it’s a good thing that those dreams died quickly and quietly. because let me be clear: i am NOT meant to be on camera. behind the camera, sure. the written word? yes. but projecting myself on the big screen in all my awkward, bumbling glory? hells to the N-O.

that being said, after work yesterday, i biked across grand street over to my new home, introduced myself to the security guard, and let myself in to my new home. and i stood there, all alone, just me, and i felt like that moment deserved some commemorating. i thought about how i’ll feel five, ten, forty years from now, and how i will look back on this time in my life and be proud of what i accomplished. i’ll remember how bright eyed and bushy tailed i was, how convinced i was that i could create something beautiful from something ugly. i thought about how i might want to show my children my first home.

IMG_7556

walking into the grand apartment as a homeowner for the very first time

and so i made a video. because that moment – this moment – is a big one. and i want to remember it. if you can get past my awkward intro, you’ll get to see a walkthrough of the grand apartment–the terrible before–and hear a little bit about what i envision for the after. enjoy! and try not to wince. also, the volume seems to have recorded REALLY low. so turn that baby UP UP UP. 

 

 

 

grandapt_before_LR

the hardwoods as they stand now. they’ll be sanded down, then either stained darker or kept as is.

now that things are finally starting to move along (sort of) in the grand apartment, i’m struck by just how many design decisions i have to make over the next few months. this weekend, i’m hoping to nail down all of my kitchen appliances (BO-RING, and yet also so exciting because i LOVE TO COOK), and maybe even purchase them (heeyyy july 4th sales!). but in the meantime, i’ve got flooring on the brain. specifically, hardwood floors, and what color mine should be.

up until very recently, i had it in my head that i was going to go ebony. you know, go all TNT on this bitch and be like, HEYY, MY FLOORS KNOW DRAMA. but then my mother kindly pointed out that there’s beautiful perimeter details around the original floors (which no, you cannot see above, sorry for the crappy iphone shot), and if i stain them darker, that detail will blend into the background. point taken, mama.

739694d3274d19ea1370217a02779955

the goldilocks of floors. dark, but not TOO dark.

my big issue with keeping the floors as they are (sanding them down will lighten them a bit, but not that much) is that i want to bring some other wood pieces into the space to warm it up (all white stuff = too ikea-ish, an issue i have in my current place), and i’m worried about how the various wood tones will play together. that’s something a real designer would know how to handle, but a real designer i am not. i’m an amateur in the HGTV sandbox, a domino addict who doesn’t know her burl wood from her tiger wood (and i don’t mean the tiger woods). i’m scared that if i go too light, any dark piece will clash, and anything lighter will look like i’m trying to match.

what’s a girl to do when she can’t decide? turn to pinterest, pull some pretty, and TALK IT OUT.

the light:

fa7d99429c83016a722a639a3c8f04f3

 

510cd87a5a41c6ee320425ef3a459c2b
13471b8615c467e827b82a55584698a7

64fb519a4965b4bce31dafa6b214dc51

08de4e13a0bb98e1b3956f3aa9c0f4f5

the dark:

b3c84d51217351aac05e403c1db3d33c

9a812a37a973f65e86fb3ffabe5befa0

712692e64e34ca93aa3ecc793b100f6b

c239f6669332d91c30353b61ccae585e

d3d96929c37d6ea31908d3640f1d1a64

it’s obvious that the darker floors can make the space feel darker – but given that i’m going for white walls and i have a white couch, i don’t think i’m in danger of a caveman style home. that being said, darker floors/darker colors = a space that seems smaller, while lighter tones (and light in general) open up the space.

so where does that leave me? i think in all likelihood, somewhere in the middle. the first step? sanding down my current floors, and seeing where that leaves me. from there, i’ll either go natural, or swatch out some ebony and see how i feel. that being said, i welcome any and ALL advice.

yesterday, we talked about the very scary “before” of the grand apartment bathroom. today, we’re onto the fun stuff: the design plan! SHOW ME THE PRETTY! as i said in my last post, the goal here is to preserve the integrity of the original design, but bring it into the future. that means the same white subway tile, halfway up the wall (though maybe all the way around the shower area), penny (or small marble hex) tile on the floors, and fixtures and faucets that feel close to the era in which the room was originally built.

as a reminder, here’s the current state of things: 

IMG_0022

here are some inspiration images:

cf952642f8b24543428c001ffaac87ad
3374d0a6d4acff8eda0f0d551ff248a7

519dc5f98c65e174ed997a01601ab8ad-1

and here’s the design plan:

bathroom plans

 

i know mixing metals is deemed gauche by some, but as my favorite tote bag says, “I’M A GROWN ASS LADY AND I DO WHAT I WANT.” and what i want is to mix chrome (or maybe nickel) faucets with a gold/brass mirror (as you can see, i haven’t yet decided on an option) and a brass library light. i don’t have enough space for a sconce on either side of the mirror (much to my dismay, i’ve been crushing on schoolhouse electric’s orbit sconce for a loooong time), so one library light above (along with an overhead light) will have to do.

i’m going all white for the toilet and sink (and the walls, too), and then (drumrolllll, please….) black for the clawfoot tub (which i am buying off my lovely work client, who took it out of an old home of hers!).

IMG_5958 (1)

wood accents (these stools from serena & lily) will warm up the space, and i’ll have to find a free wall for some small shelving (unfortunately, because the bathroom backs up to the kitchen, i can’t recess a medicine cabinet). the goal is crisp, clean, and cozy; a space that feels modernized but still pays homage to the past.

can i achieve it? that, my friends, we will have to wait and see.

grandapt_before_bathroom

the bathroom is BAD. but it’s workable. it has space for a toilet, a pedestal sink, and a tub (clawfoot gods, can you hear me?). and there’s a window!

if you’ve been reading along since the beginning, you’ve likely seen the “before pictures” of the grand apartment. none of them are pretty, but the tiny bathroom is among the worst of the bunch (tied with the kitchen; that fridge continues to give me nightmares). see exhibit A, above. SCARY, right? it’s one of those dark, dingy bathrooms that you see on old episodes of SVU and/or in horror movies where the stupid teenage girl is about to be axed to death behind a shitty shower curtain.

IMG_0022

what we’ve got there is a small toilet directly to the left of the door, some verrrry old penny tile with black grout (or is that dirt?) on the floors, a wall-mounted mini sink (that i actually sort of love, may try to save it…), the world’s FUGLIEST medicine cabinet, a mirror that literally looks like it was nailed together by a 5 year old (tiny and not visible in this photo, but trust me) and a tub that is likely crawling with those teeny tiny insects that are so little you can’t see them BUT YOU KNOW THEY ARE THERE.

see that little wooden thing peeking out below? that’s the “mirror” which is legitimately propped up on a nail. it’s maybe 10″ tall. and above the toilet, which is exactly where people like to stand when they get ready in the morning. #hotmess #butactuallysincetheresnoacanditsjune

IMG_0023

basically, it’s grimy. it’s gross. it hasn’t been cleaned in lord knows how long, and hasn’t had a proper deep scrub maybe ever. i mean..that paint job. if you could even CALL it that. and that ‘light fixture’? you turn it on by yanking on that string. OLD SCHOOL.

it’s funny. i looked at a few gut reno places before making an offer on the grand apartment, and i’ve looked at many a rental unit over my 8 years in new york. those who live in more civilized parts of the country would be shocked to see the conditions that many of the city’s bathrooms are kept in.

there was this one place i saw on 7th and C that had AMAZING light but was literally maybe 9 feet wide all the way through. the “bathroom” was all the way at the back of the apartment (it was a railroad, aka you walk right through it), and it was, i kid you not, a toilet propped up on a linoleum step, and then the smallest shower stall i’d ever seen directly next to it. not to be gross, but places like that…if you have a bad poo, it’s IN THE SHOWER. WITH YOU. AS YOU ARE TRYING TO GET CLEAN. i can’t. my germaphobe self couldn’t even walk inside that room (and i so badly wanted that apartment to be doable; i LOVE east 7th street). yuck central. POO ALL OVER THE PLACE.

anyway. my point is that as bad as my bathroom looks now, it’s not alone. it’s merely a small fish in a big sea of ugly fishies that are spread all throughout the city. what’s sad is that if you look past the dirt and the grime, you’ll see that once upon a time, this bathroom was beautiful. my complex was built in 1931, and back then, my apartment was beautiful. that penny tile? it’s probably original, as is the subway tile. and while i intend to rip it all out and start fresh, i want to stay as close to the original design as possible.

tomorrow, i’ll show you what that means.

thegrandapartment_plans

a design plan, that is. that’s right, folks. above is the OFFICIAL CONSTRUCTION PLAN FOR THE APARTMENT I AM BUYING IN NEW YORK CITY.

sorry. just had to get that out of my system. but here she is in all her glory! above is what anjie prepared – all the notes are mine, obviously. let’s dig in, shall we?

i have big plans for my little apartment, including busting down an entryway wall to bring in more natural light, and relocating a hallway closet in favor of a little breakfast bar. i’m hoping to hang two of these above the breakfast bar, further creating the illusion of light and space in a rather small area.

unnamed

showing my friends where the walls will get knocked down and the breakfast bar will magically appear.

all the kitchen appliances are staying in the same spot, which will hopefully save me both time and money. the back wall will be uppers and lowers, while the front wall will house the oven, sink, dishwasher, and bevy of reclaimed wood shelving. like what’s below, but with reclaimed wood instead of marble.

4f4ce5de27984d5fa3b62b788806f3d5

like this, but with wood.

in the main living area, i’ll be creating a small dining nook, mounting the TV and creating a cozy living room area where i can snuggle with penny and watch orphan black marathons til the cows come home. fingers crossed i have enough room for a slim bench along the window for extra seating, or maybe even two occasional chairs (!). the drawing above makes it seem like i might have room for some serious shelving (or maybe a chic sideboard) on the wall opposite the dining nook, but until i can get in there with my measuring tape, i can’t be sure.

in the bedroom, i’ll be adding a floor to ceiling closet (#clotheshorse), and maybe a reading nook if i can swing it. the room is relatively small, so it’ll take some finagling to figure out where the bed/dresser/etc fit best (especially keeping in mind that one of those windows will get a big ass AC unit).

grandapt_before_bedroom1

the bedroom, which isn’t nearly as dark as it looks here. the unit is a corner apartment, which means it gets lots of eastern light.

lastly is my little bathroom, where my pride and joy (a refinished clawfoot tub) will live. i can’t recess a medicine cabinet, so it’s more likely that i’ll go for a statement mirror and some small shelves…but that remains to be seen.

will these plans change? probably. will i cry when they do? definitely. but for now, i can stare at this pretty little drawing with stars in my eyes and see not a shithole that needs a ton of work, not a place that requires mountains and hours or work, but my future home.

and that, my friends, is pretty freaking cool.

 

 

image1

my architect anjie cho and her drafter measuring and taking notes to draw up the official renovation plans for the apartment

you know what’s really exciting? standing in your soon to be apartment with a real, licensed architect, and talking through the official “plans” for renovation. after the disaster that was my first interaction with an “architect” you could say i was a little weary of moving forward. B had quoted me $3k, all in, to draw up the plans, hire an expeditor, and get everything submitted to both the management company and the city. that number sounded REAL GOOD to me.

but then he went all donald trump on me and basically said, “YOU’RE FIRED (as a client)!” and that was that. it was on to plan B (or, actually, plan A). in this case, A stands for anjie cho, another name my contractor gave me after B fell through. unlike B, who i quickly learned wasn’t even a licensed architect (holy shit new york city what kind of place are you?!), anjie is the real deal.

and guess what?! SHE’S A WOMAN! hell yes. no dicks around here (literally and figuratively). my initial interactions with anjie were so painless, i could barely believe they were happening. i emailed her on memorial day while on the train back from massachusetts. i figured i’d hear from her later in the week, once she was back in my office, but gave my phone number just in case.

to my surprise (and delight!), anjie called about 15 minutes after receiving my email, and proceeded to fill me in on a few things:

  1. she’d heard of B. he was a well-known character in the lower east side real estate game. he got the job done, but he wasn’t exactly above board, if you know what i mean. in fact, he wasn’t even a licensed architect. WTF?
  2. real architects cost more than $3k. anjie’s fees, along with her expeditor, were going to put me around double that. but that was the cost to have things done right, and most importantly, by the book (aka the law).
  3. if i didn’t do things by the book, i could risk legal issues when i went to sell the grand apartment later on. HELLO, danger zone, nice to meet you…NOT.
  4. the first step in this process was the management company. they were the ones who decided whether or not city approval was required. and if it wasn’t, i’d save a hefty chunk of change.

it was basically like being baptized. unlike B, who had literally told me nothing and given me nothing, anjie filled a sista in. BIG TIME. she made me feel like i could understand the process, and that she’d help me through it–and that she would do it in a way that would ensure i wasn’t getting screwed. because who wants to get screwed by a guy who’s not even licensed? NOT ME.

anjie was such a breath of fresh air that i basically said YOLO to the increase in price and resolved myself to find some cheaper lighting fixtures and maybe give up my fancy bathroom tile. or at least, to find some freelance work to make up the difference (holla if you need a writer, friends!).

did i want to pay double the original quote? definitely not. but do i want it done right, and only done once? YOU BET. i won’t be able to confidently say this until i’m on the other side, but my gut tells me that when things are suspiciously cheap, it generally means there’s some under the table BS going on. and when things are on par with industry standards, price-wise (and i should note here that i got multiple quotes beyond anjie’s and she was by far the most reasonable, and the one i liked the most), there’s usually a reason for it. it means you’re getting good work done by good people who know their shit. given that i do not know my shit at all, i need someone who does.

so i signed the contract, handed over my deposit, and we GOT TO WORK. well, really, anjie got to work. i just let her into the building.

tomorrow, the fruits of her labors (and my super high level design plan, eeep!).

 

 

unnamed-1

lots of work to be done here. hence, the need for an architect.

when i first started this process, i figured i’d have to deal with an asshole or two. this is new york, this process is complicated, the industry is filled (mostly) with me. assholes were bound to be a part of the puzzle.

still, i hoped to be wrong. and for the initial six months, i was. my broker, eric, is nothing short of an angel. my lawyer andy thinks i’m the most obnoxious person ever placed on this earth, but he has yet to yell at me. and doug, the mortgage broker eric referred me to, is a man with a never-ending supply of patience. he has answered approximately 5,000 questions, assured me that i’m capable and smart, and promised me that not only will he not let me fall flat on my face, he’ll see me through all the way to closing.

those are the good men. but the bad ones–well, let’s just say they’ve made me question my faith in dudes. one of these bad ones is an “architect” (quotes are necessary, i will explain why in a bit) we’ll call B. B was referred to me by my contractor, Shmulik, who has, thus far, also placed himself firmly in the “wonderful and helpful and very much not an asshole” category.

but let’s back up a bit. why, you might be wondering, do i even need an architect? that’s a good question. it’s one i had myself. turns out, when you want to renovate an apartment in new york city, you can’t just bust down walls and go all peter paul and mary “if i had a hammmmmmmer” on this bitch. quite the opposite, actually. first, you have to get approval from the management company in charge of your building, and by virtue, their engineer and architect. then, once management has approved, they can (and usually, will) dictate that your plans are submitted to (and approved by) the new york city department of buildings. you know those permits you see pasted on the windows of construction zones? if you want to renovate your teeny little totally not important to anyone apartment, you’ll need some of the babies below.

6a00e551f492f988340147e3b9c1e9970b-pi.jpg

and guess what? you can’t do any of that on your own. first, you have to hire an architect, who will draw up the plans for renovation, and help you prepare what you need to submit to the management company. then, you’ll also need an expeditor, a person whose sole purpose is to go down to the DOB and wait on line for you, moving your shit along so that you don’t have to wait 6-8 weeks for DOB approval. your expeditor usually comes from your architect, as does an asbestos inspector (also needed for DOB approval).

{for more on this process, see this nytimes article – which nearly gave me a heart attack}

in short, an architect is pretty important. you can’t do it without them. so it’s important you find one that you a) like, and b) can do the job and do it right.

now that we’ve got the basics covered, back to B. B was, i was told, a guy who could draw up the plans and help me submit to the board. he was fast, and he was cheap. those two things alone should have been a giant flaring WARNING WARNING symbol to me, but as a girl who knows she likes pretty things, anywhere i can save money and reallocate it to, say, a lighting fixture, i’m inclined to do so.

i first spoke to him on a friday morning. he was the epitome of a fast talking new yorker, a guy that seemed determined to “educate” me on the phone about all i didn’t know. i wanted to work with him, so i kept my mouth shut when he talked down to me like a stupid child who didn’t know her ass from her elbow. he said he had plans of my unit in his files, and he’d send me something by the afternoon.

the afternoon rolled around, and guess what? nothing came. he’d asked me to email him some info; i’d done it first thing. no response to the email either. i waited until monday to follow up, at which point he made an excuse about being busy and said i’d have it first thing tuesday.

by friday, i still didn’t have anything. that was week 1. the same thing happened in week 2. i’d follow up, he’d promise to get the plans to me, i’d receive nothing. by memorial day, i was fed up. so when i got him on the phone that morning, two weeks after his initial promise to get something out to me same day, i told him if he couldn’t get it to me when he said he was going to, i would find someone who could.

i meant it to come out as a firm but respectful missive. just because i was a woman didn’t mean he could walk all over me. i might be new to this process, but i know when i’m being jerked around.

to say that B did not respond well to being threatened is an understatement. he inhaled deeply, and then said, practically vibrating with anger, “GIVE THE JOB TO SOMEONE ELSE. I DO NOT WANT IT.”

and then he hung up on me. HUNG UP ON ME! what is this, kindergarten?! the only person who ever hangs up on me is my mother, and she’s allowed because, well, you know, she birthed and raised me.

i was so shocked that i literally stood on the street with my phone in my hand, staring at the screen, wondering if that had actually just happened. i waited a few minutes for him to call back and apologize. he did not. so i called my contractor, and told him that if he didn’t mind, i’d need another recommendation for an architect.

lucky for me, he had another name. to read part 2 (and to see the renovation plans!), come back tomorrow.