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HOLY GARBAGE PILE | living room looking into entryway/kitchen

once the first day of demo was done, things started moving quickly. work kicked off last thursday, and on friday, i stopped by the grand apartment before work to take a look at the progress. i’d gotten so excited at the photos i’d received from my contractor on thursday that he told me i should come by the next morning–so i could “feel like i was part of the process.” it’s like he read my HGTV-saturated mind!

i won’t bore you with the basics, but here’s what you’re going to see below: the living room/entryway, all demo-ed out, with a short description of what’s planned/where they’ll head next. suffice it to say i am THRILLED that things have finally started picking up, and i cannot WAIT for the next step (designing my kitchen, EEK!).

also, if anyone wants to volunteer to stop by and take a slo mo video of me knocking something down, please let me know. i was too embarrassed to ask shmulik to do it.

so, let’s get down to BUSINESS, and look at some pictures of “my dust and debris” (as my boss so lovingly referred to it).

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this is the living room, in its current state. those drawers you see there were part of the old “built ins” in the kitchen. i would have saved them if they were in better shape, but they were literally sloping away from the ceiling/wall, and had about 12 layers of paint on them. alas, my new cabinets will be shiny and pretty and light and bright. sorry, old drawers. also, see that dark line up towards the ceiling? that’s where the picture rails used to be. i had shmulik take them all down, in hopes of installing crown molding throughout once things have been patched up and repainted. he also stripped the floor molding so that we can start fresh down there (and seal it off so that no roaches get in…YUCK).

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so much garbage. the door frames were metal (you can see them sticking out in the middle right of the photo)

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i decided to have shmulik open up the faux arched entrway between the living room and entryway to allow more light to seep into the space. as soon as i saw these photos, i yelped with glee. already, it feels SO much more open. having a nice wide open entryway is really going to make all the difference – especially once the breakfast bar goes in.

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another shot of the entryway, straight on 

so, let’s talk about this angle. what you’re seeing above is living room to the left, entryway to the right. originally, when i discussed the plans with shmulik, i wanted to replace the closet i tore down on the right (to create space for the breakfast bar) with one in the space above (where that junction box thingamjig is hanging). i thought this was the perfect plan: i’d get my breakfast bar (!!) and i’d still get storage (even more of it!).

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where i thought i could build a closet

these dreams were dashed on friday morning, when shmulik and his guy, george, informed me that if i added a closet in the space above, it would have to extend at least 24″ out. add onto that doors and such, and you’re looking at a depth of 28″, minimum. add onto that the depth of the breakfast bar that will be directly across from it, and i am, as shmulik put it, “making space only to close it off again.” effectively, i COULD have a closet in the space above–but it would mean a tight entryway that would diminish the light i’ve created by knocking down the wall, and make for a bit of a squeeze when people actually sit at the breakfast bar.

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i could put a closet here, but then it would be in the living room. and that’s just weird.

BUMMER. like, MAJOR bummer. shmulik offered to build the closet on the short wall to the left of the entryway (aka, IN the living room), but i said no to that. i want to put a dining area there, and a little closet in the back right corner of the living room would be super wonky. design fail.

if only i were carrie bradshaw and i used my oven as storage! alas, no can do. my new plan is to get a REALLY sweet coat rack (if you see one, let me know), and a nice console table with baskets underneath for extra storage.

i am not 100% satisfied with this plan, but i think it’s my best option. also, it wouldn’t kill me to go a little marie kondo before i move.

any thoughts? suggestions? HELP ME FIND STORAGE. HELP ME FIND PEACE. HELP ME FIND THE SERENITY TO THROW OUT (DONATE) HALF OF MY STUFF. PLEASE.

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baseball cap on one, yarmulke on the other. welcome to the lower east side.

guys, i know it’s been a wee bit quiet around these parts, but that’s because for a few weeks, i was waiting on things like permits and board approval and i didn’t want to bore you with the basics. but that’s okay, because i’m back, and WITH A VENGEANCE! that’s right folks, i have FINALLY started construction, and the first phase of that is none other than DEMOLITION, which i have literally been waiting for since i put my offer in on the grand apartment back in january (i know, i know. this shit took so freaking long).

see, as i’ve told you before (and as anyone who knows me even a little bit knows), i am an HGTV addict. like, check me into property brothers rehab, i have a problem, i can’t stop watching drew and jonathan tear down walls and build them back up again. if you, like me, watch property brothers (or really, any other show on HGTV), you know that “demo day” is a BFD (for my older readers, BDF = big fucking deal). demo day is where it all begins. it’s also where HGTV likes to insert scary/sad music jonathan knocks down a wall in the kitchen only to discover that it’s load bearing and the homeowners can’t do the open concept he’s promised. essentially, demo day is where stuff starts, and more importantly, where stuff starts to go wrong. why? well, you can’t know what’s behind a wall until you tear it down. and that’s what demo day is all about.

my first reality check came in the form of a sewage pipe, cleverly disguised behind the wall separating the entry to the kitchen and the closet directly to the right of it.

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giant sewage pipe that literally runs the length of the entire building. of course i bought the unit where the sewage pipe lives. 

last wednesday, i met my contractor, shmulik, at the grand apartment to discuss plans (mostly, to remind him of which walls we were knocking down. thursday morning, he met me outside my current apartment to pick up the keys (which i had stupidly forgotten the morning before). and by thursday afternoon at 3pm, my phone was dinging with the pictures above. demo had officially begun! and with it, bad news had arrived: behind the wall that i intended to (mostly) tear down didn’t just contain the electrical junction box. it was also hiding a gi-NORMOUS sewage pipe that housed ALL THE POO IN THE BUILDING.

if these walls could talk, they’d have some serious potty mouths.

that was the worst joke i’ve ever made. ANYWAY, let’s get into the nitty gritty, shall we?

where the workers are standing used to be a) a set of “built ins” in the kitchen and b) a coat closet. i had shmulik demolish both to create room for an L shaped breakfast bar that will wrap from the kitchen into the space you see above (out into the living room). the goal was to bring more light into the space, open things up (while i can’t do total open concept, i wanted to create a sight line from the kitchen into the living/dining area), and add extra counter space/storage below.

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another angle of the pipe. it’s enormous. 

that plan was all well and good until they started knocking things down and discovered that the “wall” between the kitchen entry and the closet was there for a reason. a very large, brown metal reason that starts with “sew” and ends with “age pipe.” GROSS. i asked shmulik if it could explode and rain poop all over my pretty new home and to his credit, he didn’t laugh, but instead, assured me that no sewage would be exiting the pipe and entering my new space. HALLELUJAH.

so, what does it mean? thankfully, my breakfast bar can still happen. but the “tiny little pillar” i intended to construct to house the electrical panel (you can’t really see it above, but it’s there) will need to be about a foot wide to house the sewage pipe too. it’s not ideal, but it’s also not the worst thing ever. so my tiny little pillar becomes a rather large column. so long as it hides the poop chamber, i’m satisfied. and if we can make it look cute (maybe some crown molding up top? some art on the wall?), all the better. renovation = compromise, and so long as i still have a place for two people to sit their booties down and swing their legs while they happily sip wine and chow down on pasta, i’m happy.

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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.

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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. 

 

 

 

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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.

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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:

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the dark:

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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: 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.