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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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img_8903oh hey, hello, HIII. i know, i dropped off the face of the earth for, oh, about 2.5 months. but in my defense, i was busy doing some hardcore nesting, and i was still ALL ABOUT THAT INSTAGRAM (as always).

lots has happened since we last hung out. i’ve moved in (on halloween weekend, oy)! my counters went in (they are not quite right and will cost 1700 to fix. OY)! my tile and kitchen shelving went up (YASS)!

i have my heart set on doing a professionally photographed, real, true “home tour” once things are done for realsies, so for now, you’ll have to settle for little sneak peeks here and there.

ANYWHO, one of the things i have managed to check off my list is wallpapering the entryway, which is pictured below (scroll down if you’re impatient). i went with this one, and i am straight up obsessed with it. it’s whimsical and glamorous and statement-making without being too loud.

but let’s back up a bit.

here’s the wall pre-wallpaper. nice, white, simple, but it didn’t pop. i worried that it would get easily scuffed, what with everyone and everything (humans, cats, packages) coming in and out of it every day. i also wanted something to play against my amazing worlds away light fixture, which is mercury glass and is my favorite thing in the ENTIRE APARTMENT.

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i toyed with painting it the same grey as the living room, but that felt like a design letdown, especially when i’d gone and splurged on that vintage persian rug and had spent all this dough to custom build out the entryway storage unit you can see peeking out in the left of the photo above.

i was feeling all uninspired and conflicted, and then i came across this post, from my latest interior design blog obsession, chris loves julia. HELLO, ENTRYWAY OF MY DREAMS! how freaking cute are those oversized brass hooks? (they’re from pottery barn)  how fierce is that paper?!

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suddenly, the way forward was clear: wallpaper was the answer, and wallpaper only. so down a wallpaper rabbit hole i went, pinning the shit out of paper designs and stalking the hygge & west site.

initially, i was eying the rifle paper line. i am an anna bond fan girl and love literally everything she puts out–but it felt like her papers might be just a biiiit too busy for my little wall. i didn’t want to compete with the rug or the light fixture, i just wanted a little bit of pop.

then i stumbled upon this paper. it’s by julia rothman, who is based out of brooklyn (what what), and it’s the most magical. i’m bookmarking it in my brain for my future nursery (if that ever comes to pass), because it’s got this amazing childlike feel to it without being, well, only for children.

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i’ve never installed wallpaper before (or had it installed), and after having a few conversations with people more experienced than myself, i decided NOT to DIY this, and to hire out the job to someone who knew what they were doing.

after deciding not to DIY, i asked my friend holly for her wallpaper guy (her apartment is that of a real grown up and is gorgeous and FULL of beautiful wallpaper!), and gave the man a call. as with pretty much every subcontractor i’ve dealt with in this process, mitch was a wee bit out there, but he knew his shit, and quoted me $350 for a morning of wallpapering, along with a time slot for the following week.

in the spirit of full disclosure, $350 isn’t pennies, at least, not to me. especially given that the paper itself was $150. that being said, under $500 for a beautiful entryway that will make me smile every time i walk in the door feels worth it to me. sure, it’s a plane ticket to mexico, or 10 spin classes, but hey, COMPROMISE, am i right?

i know i couldn’t have done it myself (at least, not well), and the security of having it done right (especially when the paper wasn’t cheap) was worth it to me.

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here’s the paper guy prepping “daydream” for the wall. is that a portrait of a man who knows what he’s doing or WHAT?! this is what it looked like when he started rolling out the paper on his “wallpaper table” (#industryterms!). it’s also a shot of the moment in which i started freaking out about just how goddamn pretty this paper was. as you can probably tell by the look on his face, he was anxious for me to get the hell out of the apartment and be on my merry way to the office, but hey, when a girl’s excited, she’s excited.

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and RIGHTFULLY SO, if i do say so myself. because now that it’s installed, i’m in straight up wallpaper heaven! it sounds silly, but somehow, doing this wall has made the space (and the apartment) feel way more “finished” and therefore, way more like home.

next up: going all chris loves julia on the space and adding adorable “S” hooks from anthropologie (no longer available, but similar to these), plus my favorite oversized antique gold mirror.

ps: this wallpaper experience has been so positive that i’m thinking of doing my bathroom, too. stay tuned for inspiration shots and my paper picks for my tiny little porcelain palace.

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one of my “must haves” during my apartment search was the ever elusive “pre-war charm” — i wanted an apartment with history, an apartment where the walls told stories and the floors were worn with wear.

happily, i found that charm in the grand apartment. original door frames include some seriously intense molding, the bathroom door contained an old crystal doorknob (!!), and the floors were beautiful old thin oak.

and then, of course, i discovered the brick in my living room. you’d think i’d have been satisfied at that point, but no. i wanted MORE CHARM! so i asked my contractor to install crown molding on top of the kitchen cabinets and around the living room walls.

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my next goal? to hang ceiling medallions around my three main lights in the living area (living, dining, entryway) to make those light fixtures (my splurgiest, coolest ones) truly pop. for example, how cool is the one above?! i love how it turns a (still very interesting) light fixture into a true statement. medallions are a little more baroque paris than pre-war NYC, but i still think they can work in my space (which is obviously a lot less impressive than the one above, on ALL levels).

here’s what i’m thinking (light fixtures have already been purchased, for dining area, living room and entryway, in that order).

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the plan is to order them unfinished, then paint them to match the ceiling color. once they’re up and painted, you’ll never be able to tell they’re not original. and at under $50 a pop, they’re a relatively inexpensive way to add some serious D-R-A-M-A.

 

when i first saw the entryway and kitchen of the grand apartment, they looked like this.

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dated, closed off, and very dark. none of those were words i wanted associated with my new home, so when my broker, eric, told me that he thought i could knock down the wall above, and the closest behind it, to create a breakfast bar, i was ALL EARS. there was no turning back. i could see the (almost) open floor plan in my head, and i wanted it. bad.

on day 1 of demo, the area above looked like this.

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the closest had been entirely torn out, as had the arched wall between the kitchen and the entryway. here it is from another angle (pardon the shitty iphone photos)

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see the space above on the left? across from where the worker is standing? that was now just a weird open space–a space where my broker suggested i put a nice console table and a mirror. that would have been lovely, except that by tearing out the closet, i’d lost any sort of coat closet situation, and that simply wasn’t going to fly.

i asked if we could rebuild the closet on the other side (in the space above). we could, he said, but that would be stupid. see, i’d just spent all this time and money tearing out the old closet to open up the space. and by simply rebuilding the closet on the other side, i’d be closing it back off again. POINTLESS. SILLY, SILLY SARAH. SILLY SARAH WHO HAS BAD SPATIAL INTELLIGENCE DIDN’T THINK OF THAT.

i didn’t want to lose all the open space i’d just created. but i did want – did need – some form of storage in the entryway. i needed a place to hang coats and stash umbrellas, a place for rain boots and scarves and extra paper towels. a place for laundry detergent and halloween party supplies and all the other miscellaneous shit that people stuff in their entryway closets.

so i started looking for other options, and i came across this.

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sure, it was a mudroom, but it was a design i could easily adapt to fit my needs. coats could be stashed in the tall cabinets. the cabinets above could hold hats and scarves and other assorted winter gear. open baskets could store other unsightly kitchen and cleaning supplies, and the drawers could fit board games and other random tidbits.

i sent it to my contractor, along with these.

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after meeting with his closet designer (henry of european closet), i received this sketch.

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pretty darn close, right?! the unit will be just deep enough to house both short (on the left) and long (on the right) jackets, the bottom will house a bench (wider than the image below shows it to be (likely big enough to seat two) with storage underneath, and the top will hold extra shelving. the doors will be white shaker, to match my kitchen cabinets, and the molding used in the kitchen will be carried over here to create one cohesive space.

to say i’m thrilled would be an understatement. i can’t WAIT to see these sketches come to life. ORGANIZATION! STORAGE! PRETTY THINGS! YAY!

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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.