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allie’s house

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me, early on in my renovation at the grand apartment

you guys ready for a real #tbt? here’s a little video i took, on my iphone, way back in the summer of 2016, when i closed on my little apartment on grand street. it’s the before tour of all before tours (at least, around these parts). i was just diving into the blogging world, i’d just started my instagram, and i was feeling a wee bit overwhelmed by the immensity of the project i’d taken on with exactly zero renovation experience.

cut to three years later, and i’m itching to do it again. luckily, my sister has asked me to help her redecorate (no, not renovate, at least, not anytime soon!) her apartment, giving me a new project to focus on, and a whole new set of “before” photos to share with you!

if you follow me on instagram, you may have seen these the other day – but i’m re-sharing them here so that i can talk you through them in a bit more detail. in the upcoming weeks, i’ll be sharing full design plans, but design plans are nothing without a little background, am i right?

let’s dive in, shall we? below, we’re standing in the kitchen, looking into the bedroom. this unit is on the top floor of an old house (built in the 1900s, i believe) that was turned into a two family home many years ago. because of this, the house has both good bones (the wainscoting in the bedroom!) and some very weird design decisions (the ceiling tile! the weird kitchen layout!). i’ll get into more detail on our budget later, but it’s a redesign/decorating budget, not a renovation one. if we have some money left over, we may do some small upgrades in the kitchen (flooring – bye linoleum!, lighting), but for now, most of it is staying as is.

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so, the bedroom! it’s my favorite room, to be honest. that wainscoting really gets me. when allie first moved in, she was really into blues and greens, so we painted this room a pretty seafoam green. over time, her tastes have changed, and so we’ll be taking the bedroom in a more neutral direction. it’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do, and we’ll be moving in the white/off white direction.

you may have noticed that there’s not really any furniture in the bedroom as of now. that’s because allie couldn’t seem to make it work, layout-wise, and instead of calling her older and wiser sister 😉 she decided to call it quits and move EVERYTHING into the living room. more on that in a minute, but suffice it to say, this room needs help. luckily for us, the fact that it’s empty means we can a) paint it ahead of time and b) store all our furniture deliveries in here ahead of install day.

IMG_7459we’ll need to patch the window frames before we add a fresh coat of paint throughout (we’ve already got the colors picked out, and allie is planning on throwing some samples up on the walls to make sure we’re headed in the right direction). we’ll also be getting rid of these curtain rods, and hanging the new ones much higher up (something 2013 sarah did not know!). new lighting will a) modernize the space and b) make more of a statement and c) light the room better (more bulbs = more light!).

IMG_7461this room has a cute set of double closets (if we were doing real construction, i’d knock down this wall to make the room larger and let the light in, but such is life!), but they need a bit of work.

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we’ll start with a fresh coat of paint, and then we’re planning on building out some simple shelving in here, so that allie can actually fold and stack her clothes (right now, they’re crammed into too-small vintage dressers). if i can find someone local and cheap enough (like a friend’s handy husband!), i may actually sketch out something beyond just 3 shelves, but that’s our starting point, at least for now. the bar will come down, as the second closet has plenty of hanging space.

IMG_7462here’s the second closet. in here, we’ll remove the front bar (allie dresses super casually, and doesn’t have a ton of stuff to hang), and find better shoe storage. i’m thinking a back of the door shoe organizer might work best, so that we can free up the space inside the closet itself. she’s in the process of sorting through the bags below – all of which are clothes she potentially no longer needs/wants – to figure out what can be donated. if anyone has any amazingly bright ideas for what to do in here, please let me know! i’m going to be looking around for good DIY closet ideas over the next few weeks.

IMG_7460i’ve also (happily) talked her into getting rid of these blinds. if she wants blinds, we’ll do bamboo ones (like i have in my kitchen), but the plan is for simple sheer white curtains in here, to let the sun shine in. it’s the little things, folks!

ok, moving on. right now, as you’ll see below, allie is using her living room as her bedroom, her dining room as her living room…things are a wee bit weird! for as long as i can remember, she’s liked crowding as much stuff as possible into her spaces, and this space is no exception. our task here is to help allie figure out what she needs in her space, functionally, and then what will make her happy, figuratively.

we painted this space a pretty grey tone when she first moved in, and we’re still pretty happy with it. for both time and budget reasons, i think we’ll leave the paint as is (though i’d love to be able to give everything a fresh coat of bright white, i’m not sure it’s in the cards right now. TBD on that front!).

this space will get, at minimum, new lighting, new window treatments, all new furniture, a new layout, new rug, and new art. so, basically everything but the paint color will change. and if i magically zoom through painting the bedroom in early august, i might just tackle this area too 🙂 i will say this paint color tends to photograph rather dark (i didn’t edit any of these photos, in hopes that they’d be true to life!); in person, it reads a much lighter.

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we’ll start by clearing everything out, and putting the bedroom back where it belongs. one thing that became immediately clear to me during my most recent walkthrough was how much allie needs better storage. this apartment has only 3 closets (but a lot of usable attic space, and a basement!). there are the two in the bedroom, and then there’s one in the dining room. the door you see above leads out into the hallway – but allie never uses that as an entry to the apartment (there’s another door from that same hallway into the kitchen, and she generally enters that way, or through the outside second floor porch (which also leads into the kitchen). that said, if i can make it work within the layout, my goal is to not block this door, just in case she ever changes her mind!

to the right of where she’s got her bed is her desk area. allie works in IT, and is a big computer person (lucky for us, she’s like having the geek squad on demand!). right now, she has two ikea desks creating an L shape for her workspace, but my goal is to figure out how to simplify it down to one. then, we’ll add drawer storage (via filing cabinets from CB2 ), and create a corkboard wall (like this!) for her to pin up art, inspiration, important notes, calendars, etc.

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see that cool looking vintage camera and globe above? those belonged to my grandma and grandpa. i told allie to hang onto them – they’ll make great styling tools when the time comes! above you can also see a mini bookshelf. allie has two of these in her apartment, and while there’s nothing WRONG with them, i want something a little sleeker, and more importantly, taller. when in doubt, follow the manhattan model: build up. we’ll actually be utilizing one of the dining room walls (where the yellow dresser is below) for a big bookshelf.

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the living room and dining room are, ostensibly, one larger, interconnected space, and i’m designing them as such (which you’ll see when i share design boards for this space). oddly, the owners covered up the beautiful wide plank hardwoods with yucky parquet at some point (but only in the dining room!). we don’t have the budget to rip these out and refinish what’s below, so for now, we’ll put a big rug in this space to try and distract from the ugly flooring.

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here’s another view of the dining room, which allie’s currently using as her living room (her couch and GINORMOUS TV are in here). a few of you commented on those ceilings in stories, and while i too wish they could go, that’s more of a renovation situation than a redecorating one. my hope is to make the rest of the space sing, and just let the ceiling tiles blend into the background. work with what you’ve got, and all that.

one thing i do love about this space is those columns. are they a little intense? sure. allie hates them and wants them gone. but i think with a fresh coat of (less shiny!) paint, fresh design, and better art on the walls, we can make this room beautiful. the door you see straight ahead in the photo above is one of the aforementioned closets, and it’s where allie stores things like air purifiers, fans, vacuums, etc. to the left is the door to the kitchen. right now, there’s absolutely zero shelving in there, too. i’d love to get some hooks to mount some of the items above (and things like brooms), and free up the floor space for some baskets or bins (to store things like games, office supplies, etc.).

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this photo is snapped from the kitchen. the closest door is to the left. this space exemplifies what i talked about in yesterday’s post: a mishmash of what was cheap, or what was comfortable, or what was available – but no real design. i’m THRILLED to say we found budget for a new couch, so this one will be getting donated. and goodbye, TV tables, i shall not miss you. we’ll patch the holes above, raise the (new!) curtain rods, and get brand new curtains (window changes will happen throughout the entire space). this room doesn’t have an overhead light, and since we don’t want to tear down the ceiling, my plan is to get a hanging plug-in pendant, and run it up the wall and over the ceiling, then dangle it down, centered over the dining table.

ok, folks – that’s the gist of it! questions? thoughts? brilliant ideas? i’m all ears.

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hello, friends! god, is this thing still on? long gone are the days of me promising to write here more, as i tend to get my kicks on instagram. but sometimes, there are stories that just don’t fit inside the grid. and those stories require resurrecting this here blog.

if you’re here, that means you’ve likely seen me talking about my new project over on the ‘gram. it’s my sister’s apartment (that’s her up at the top of this post!), and she’s been kind enough to let me have my way with it.

that sounds naughty, doesn’t it? what i mean by that is, she’s basically given me free reign to redecorate it. she’ll be weighing in on design decisions, of course, but she’s effectively a dream client in that she trusts me and my taste implicitly. before we dive into exciting things like design plans and budgets; shopping lists and mood boards, i wanted to tell you a bit about the apartment itself, and the situation allie has found herself in. because i think it’s a situation MANY of us find ourselves in in our mid-twenties (and beyond!).

quick sidebar, though: i want to preface this story by saying that i know design is a luxury, and that while you can certainly do it on a budget (which we will be!), it does, most of the time, take money. we’re privileged to have a bit of that to work with (more on our budget in upcoming posts, but it’s not huge!). i feel lucky to have the opportunity to give my sister a space she will love (and she deserves!), and i recognize that we’re lucky to be in the position to do so.

okay, now back to the story. 

recently, while i was in mexico with a few girlfriends, my sister and two of her friends came to stay at my apartment here in new york. while allie is quite familiar with my renovation (she is my sister, after all), this was the first time she’d gotten to “live” in the space for a few days without me or my parents around.

when she got back home to massachusetts, she mentioned to me that being in my home – one that feels finished and thoughtful and homey (i’m paraphrasing here) – made her realize just how much she didn’t like being in hers. i’ll pause to let that break your heart just a tiny bit like it did mine.

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see, home means different things to different people. some people don’t care what their home looks like, so long as it’s comfortable. some don’t care about trends or quote unquote “nice things.” many don’t have the privilege or the luxury to care about either. but what i think it means for almost everyone is a safe haven – a place where you open the door, and you exhale, and you know that for just a moment, all is right in the world, and you are safe.

is good design inextricably tied to that feeling? of course not. but i tend to think it doesn’t hurt.

and right now, allie’s home is missing that.

IMG_7464she’s found herself in a position that many people find themselves in post-college. her apartment is a mishmash of hand me downs, things she got on sale, things she (and i, with less design knowledge than i have now!) picked out years ago that now feel “young” and unsophisticated. nothing quite goes together, nothing quite fits, because there was no real thought put into the overall look of things (and in some cases, very little thought put into individual items). i say this not as an insult to her or any of the assorted family members to whom some of the items originally belonged – this is the way most of us furnish our first apartments!

sometimes i think about the first place i had after college: the futon in the living room that passed as a couch, the folding TV tables that we used as “coffee tables” (and more accurately, places to put our vodka sodas while we pregamed on the weekends), the “bed” i crafted from a mattress atop plastic drawers from the container store (storage!). YOU GUYS, I HAVE COME SO FAR.

and now, it’s time for allie to do the same. to have her “grown up” apartment. and i’m so excited to be helping her create it. over the next few months, i’ll be sharing the process – hopefully finishing with a week in late august in which we unbox and install and style ALL THE THINGS.

in between now and then, here’s what you can expect to see:

  • before photos
  • FAQs (feel free to leave any questions in the comments here!)
  • inspiration images
  • design boards for the bedroom, and living/dining room
  • shopping lists/budgets for each space
  • paint choices and colors
  • sneak peeks on instagram

come back tomorrow for the before tour. i can’t wait to bring you guys along for the ride!