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bathroom

IMG_2538“so, is your apartment, like, done?”

this is a question i’ve been hearing a lot of lately. it’s the question people ask me when they haven’t seen me in a while, or when i’m a friend of a friend, or when they’re generally not sure WTF else to ask me about (hey, at least it’s not my love life).

it’s also a question i’m not exactly sure how to answer, because while my home is “done” in the sense that there are no more breakfast bars to build, no more brick walls to seal, no more huge projects to take on, design is never really done. and there are about 10 things that, in an ideal world, i’d redo or do differently.

this is not, of course, what i say to friends of friends. i say, nicely, “it’s done, yes. mostly!”

and then the conversation sort of trails off, because lord knows the average bro doesn’t exactly care to chat about the ceiling medallions i never got around to installing, or how i don’t think my kitchen lights are quiiite bright enough.

then again, lord knows the average bro probably doesn’t want to talk about much of anything. and that’s why i write this blog not for them, but for YOU, my dear readers–the tiny little group of internet friends who could talk about tile for days on end.

so, let’s talk, shall we? i thought it might be fun to run through my “to do” list, and discuss what’s next.

5 things i’d still like to do in the grand apartment: 

  1. figure out my kitchen lighting situation. the lights i bought are pretty, but not perfect. and i want perfect, goddammit! i have a feeling that my solution lies in purchasing new pendants and getting around to installing the under cabinet lights i bought from ikea, oh, six months ago (#slacking). it was a big mistake not to go for under cabinet lighting originally, but sadly, i can’t go back in time, so ikea it is. IMG_2483
  2. get a cushion made for the entryway bench. though i own a sewing machine, my skills are below average, and i am most certainly not good enough to make the piped cushion of my dreams. when i designed the storage unit, i had visions of this super chic bench that was cozy and cushy and outfitted in an indigo or suzani or some other uber cool fabric. and while i have multiple indigo cloths sitting on a shelf just waiting to be made into pretty things, i have yet to make a move. as a side note, i have checked on taskrabbit for seamstresses, and haven’t found any. if you know one, please send them my way! Grand Apartment Entryway
  3. install my ceiling medallions. back when i was in hardcore renovation mode, i got really into the idea of pairing antique-looking ceiling medallions with my modern light fixtures. i even went so far as to order them, and order the glue/caulk to go with them. and then i shoved them in the bottom drawer of my dresser, and they’ve sat there ever since. of all the projects on this list, this is most likely the easiest one to DIY (i ordered precut medallions, so i literally just need to stand up there and glue them on), but for some reason, i just can’t seem to motivate myself to do it.
  4. figure out the bathroom walls. you may recall that for a hot second, i thought about painting my bathroom black. this nearly gave my mother a heart attack, so i took a step back. here the thing: in all the pretty design photos i see online, white on white on white looks bright and beautiful, but in real life, white grout quickly looks yellow, and white tile on white paint just looks a little…dingy. i am VERY clean, so it’s not so much about actual dirt as it is the way that the two whites (tile + paint) play against one another. i thought about doing wallpaper (i LOVE my wallpapered entry), but worry about the lack of a ventilation in the bathroom ruining it. i’ve considered going full on hoarder gallery wall (and have collected some art for this purpose), but haven’t taken the plunge. and then of course, there’s the option of painting: black? grey? some other obscure color (i am obsessed with the wall color at catbird in williamsburg but haven’t been able to identify it…)?
  5. solve the bedroom lighting sitch. when i decided to build out a rather large closet in my bedroom, i knew it would mean cutting down on the amount of space i’d have for bed, nightstands, etc. but i didn’t think about how it would affect the lighting in the room. as of now, i have a table lamp on my dresser, and sconces on either side of the bed (i chose a ceiling fan over an overhead light, which i don’t regret). ideally, i’d also have some sort of floor lamp to cast extra light into the room, but i haven’t found the piece or the place for it. i’ve toyed with the idea of getting rid of my nightstand and getting a larger console-like piece for that side of the bed (i could stick another table lamp on the other end of it…), or getting matching nightstands with table lamps instead of sconces, but i have yet to nail anything down. IMG_2664

so, there you have it: 5 things i still need to do (admittedly without a ton of resolution around HOW/WHEN to do them). tell me: would you be interested in seeing more drawn out posts around these “design dilemmas” and my thought process on solving them? or are you more in the camp of, THIS SHIZ IS BORING, NEXXXXXT?

 

 

IMG_1899HEY. HI. HELLO THERE! HOW ARE YOU? i know, no one wants to hear the story of the amateur blogger who got too busy with her day job and dropped off the face of the earth. but it’s true truth, really.  i know it’s been a while since you heard from me, but life got away from me, and i spent a few months living life out in the world instead of on the internet.

SO SUE ME.

that being said, a few VERY KIND strangers have commented that they’d like to hear more about the grand apartment, and when kind strangers ask for something, you must give it to them. so here i am, attempting to fill you in on the last few months, and promising, yet again, that i’m back for real. (yes, i’m aware that you haven’t heard a peep from me since december).

here’s some real talk: around the same time i moved into the grand apartment, i got promoted at work. i worked my ass off to get there, and i pushed hard for the promotion, and then i got it, and for a little while it was like, this is it? same shit, different title? then the new year rolled around. and we hired someone to work below me. and then we hired someone else. and guess what, you guys? MANAGING PEOPLE IS HARD! i know, i know, DUH, SARAH. but let’s just say i wasn’t exactly prepared for doing my workload and supervising someone else’s at the same time. so i spent the first few months of this year buried in the weeds, trying to keep my head above water (a new feeling for me, if i’m being totally honest. it takes a lot to bury me).

at the same time, i experienced a bit of renovation burnout. the apartment wasn’t (and isn’t), 100% done, but i was OVER IT. over with bugging contractors, over with dealing with the asshole who screwed up my countertops, over with handing off huge sums of money to people who rarely did things exactly right and/or in the timeline required of them.

IMG_1924so i took a break. i took some time, and i just LIVED. i didn’t order anything new. i didn’t put up my ceiling medallions. i didn’t seal my brick wall. i didn’t schedule the reinstallation of my f’ed up countertops. i just went about my life, and it felt good.

great, even. sometimes i forget that this entire process unfolded within a single year (and that the bulk of the hard work took place within mere months). GUYS, i was TIRED. physically, emotionally. so i did the very best thing a person can do when they are tired: i rested. i put my to do list on hold, and i just told myself it would all happen someday, maybe even someday soon. but it didn’t have to happen today.

IMG_1892and that revelation? it was so freeing. i am a person who thrives on the ‘go go go’ mentality. i prefer to be busy. i like when things aren’t just done, but done right. i like them to be done fast. sometimes, i can’t sleep until they are done. but that, folks, is a recipe for disaster. especially when you’re working a (somewhat stressful) full time job, juggling a gut renovation, trying to work out 6 days a week, volunteering on the side, and trying to have a social life in between. suffice it to say, i haven’t been on a date in a LONG ASS TIME.

so i gave myself some time to just be. to write if and when i felt like it (it turns out, i didn’t), to do projects when the opportunity arose (guess what? i still haven’t painted my door), and to just live my life, as T.I. says.

IMG_1949that’s where i’ve been. living. but i’m feeling ever so slightly rejuvenated, and inspired by the lovely strangers who have commented and said, “come back, we miss you!”

SO HERE I AM.  i have so many things i want to tell you! so many posts in my brain that i want to write. like the one about the 5 things i’d do differently if i did this again. or the one about the giant centipede that came crawling out of my exposed brick last week (and why that centipede means i need to SEAL.THAT.BRICK.ASAP). or the one about how my bedroom still doesn’t feel quite right.

IMG_1846starting is hard, but in the spirit of moving forward, i’m going to do just that: start. below, you’ll find a few snapshots of the grand apartment in its current iteration. it’s not 100% there yet (is it ever?), but it’s close. and it has finally, miraculously, started to feel like home.

if you’re still out there, world, thanks for sticking with me. thanks for reading, and for hearing me out. i love you, for reals, for ever (and ever and ever).

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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: 

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here are some inspiration images:

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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!).

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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.

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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

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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.

grandapt_before_hallway3

i’ve been watching HGTV for about 15 years now, and of all the things it’s taught me, the most important one is this: when you look at a home, you can’t fixate on the little things (paint, tile, lighting, furniture). you have to look at “the bones” of the place; ie, the moldings, the windows, the ceiling heights, the square footage. bones, for the most part, can’t be changed. but the little things can.

i can’t count how many times i’ve seen a woman on house hunters throw up her hands in disgust at a pink tiled bathroom, squealing, “ew. THIS TILE! this is SO NOT US.” at which point, the camera zooms in on the aforementioned pink tile, demonstrating to us viewers just how horrifyingly ugly it is.

here’s the thing, folks: pink tile is FIXABLE. as are puke green walls, or a bathtub so covered in rust that you can’t even tell it’s white.

which is what i had to tell myself the first time i walked into the grand apartment.

deep breaths. this is ugly, but it is fixable.

my broker, knowing my pinterest-heavy heart, had warned me that what i was about to see wasn’t going to be pretty.

“it needs a lot of work,” he said, “but it has potential.”

(this is a thing that brokers say to you when they want you to look past the fact that the electrical hasn’t been updated since 1936 and that the refrigerator has a sign on it that reads, “DO NOT OPEN. THIS MUST STAY CLOSED.”)

i first saw the grand apartment on a cold and windy night after work, and let me tell you, it is not smart to see a place that needs a gut renovation when it’s pitch black outside. see, darkness makes everything ugly look even uglier. daylight, by contrast, helps to smooth the rough edges; sunshine adds a sheen to even the worst 1970s linoleum.

i have to be honest, potential isn’t what i saw when i first walked in. i saw ugly, dated, and worst of all, SO dirty (a type A/OCD girl’s biggest fear). the cracks in the ceilings made them look like they could cave in at any moment. the only room with a true door was the bathroom, and the tile in there was gross enough to give me serious nightmares. the bedroom had no closet, the only lighting in the apartment came in the form of bulbs that dangled from the ceiling and could be turned on by yanking a piece of string, and the kitchen cabinets were straight out of an early 1900s tenement museum.

i tried to see the apartment like chip and joanna gaines would see it. i tried to channel the property brothers. but in my heart of hearts, all i felt was disappointment. disappointment that this ‘amazing lower east side 1BR’ was sort of a bust. disappointment that it would truly require a gut renovation. disappointment that the renovation would probably be out of my budget.

so i took a weekend and slept on it. and what do you know? as soon as my head hit the pillow, my brain turned into a pinterest EXPLOSION. my inner monologue was all, subway tile crystal doorknobs crown moulding tin ceilings and omg what about a farm sink i’ll need a lot of cabinetry and i wonder if i need a new kitchen aid mixer can i afford a smeg fridge how many burners do i need on the stove can i tear down the linen closet to open up the kitchen and create a breakfast bar how many types of penny tile are there how much does a clawfoot tub cost?

clearly, though my rational self was worried, deep down, i knew: just like my broker had said, this place had potential.

so i went back to see it again on a sunny day, and here is what i saw:

grandapt_before_entryway2 copy

standing in the living room, looking towards the entryway. that’s shitty linoleum you see beneath eric’s feet, but underneath it is relatively well-preserved hardwood from the 1930s, when this building was built. neat, right? if you look directly behind eric, you’ll see an ollllldy mc olderstein built in cabinet and drawer situation. there’s even a cutting board that pulls out of it! i don’t think i’ll be saving any of it, but it’s neat to think about all of the families that lived here over the years and stored their non-perishables on those shelves.

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standing in the living room looking at the entryway. when i first saw this archway, i was all, ‘awww, charm!’ except then my broker pointed out that it was fake, and we could bust it open to make a semi open-concept living/eating area. it’s hard to see in these photos, but i’m hoping to open the wall up to the right to add a breakfast bar, and maybe transform the space to see above into a giant (i use that term lightly, it’s manhattan.) hallway closet.

grandapt_before_LR

the living room, as seen straight on from the entryway. it’s not enormous, but it’s workable, and it gets great light. i’m thinking i’ll refinish the floors in a darker, ebony-like stain (all the better to hide the imperfections) – but they’re original hardwoods, which makes my heart happy.

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the living room, as seen from the entryway, a little bit to the right. the floors can be restored, and i haven’t decided what to do with that odd trim. probably tear it down and add crown moulding on both the ceiling and the floor. as you can see, i’ve got space for a couch along that long wall, and hopefully, a little dining area at the right. the TV would go opposite the couch, and i might be able to squeeze a little extra seating along the windows. i wish i had the budget for a brand new sectional, but mama needs new electrical, so, current couch it is.

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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. the paint on the walls in here (okay, on all the walls) is PEEL CITY, PARTY OF THREE. but my contractor has assured me we can remedy it by thinning, scraping, and removing all of the years and years of bad paint and replacing it with smooth, beautiful, any-color-i-choose paint. isn’t it nice that the previous owners left a dorm light for me? #blessed.

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the kitchen is definitely tied with the bathroom for “the worst room in the place.” that fridge literally has a sign on it that cautions you NOT TO OPEN IT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. i have to wonder: are there body parts in there? am i about to be on an episode of SVU? regardless, it ain’t pretty. the stove is super old, but in a cute country kitchen type of way. i don’t think it’s safe to use; otherwise, i’d try and save it. some of the other units i saw online in this building had amazing giant farmhouse-style sinks in place. it looks like this kitchen had an “update” in the seventies and got that fugly looking thing you see at right. if anyone knows of anywhere to get a farmhouse sink (used!) in the NY metro area, HIT A SISTER UP.

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! the square footage in here is pretty tiny, so if i can afford it, this will be the one place where i splurge on tile. nothing like some marble hexagon business all up in your footsies, amiright? more than likely, i’ll end up with inexpensive, but classic: subway tile all around the tub, penny tile on the floor (white with black grout, maybe a black border), a pedestal or mounted sink, and a new toilet. just close your eyes and imagine a black clawfoot tub in here…ahhh, bliss.

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standing in the bedroom, eyeing the linen closet (which will likely be knocked out to open up the kitchen) and the little bathroom. how about that medicine cabinet, folks? rough, right? but again, you can see that in its heyday, this little bathroom served its purpose. cleared out and freshened up, it’ll be a little beauty.

grandapt_before_moulding copy

taking a look at the doorframe between the back hallway and the living room. it appears all of the doors in the apartment beyond the bathroom door were removed and discarded (whatever happened to privacy?), but you can see that the moulding was, at one point, really beautiful. it’s simple, but i’ll take simple over my 1950s BORING doors any day. this too may be going away to open up the kitchen…but i’ve got the same thing around the bathroom and bedroom doors, so it will get preserved someway, somehow.

SO. that’s the before. god, i LOVE a good makeover. let’s just hope that my “after” is so freaking spectacular that someone puts their hands over my eyes before i walk through the front door and says, “SARAH, ARE YOU READY TO SEE YOUR NEW HOUSE?!” i can’t wait to squeal with delight at my so fresh and so clean clean NEW HOME.