IMG_1949there are many things i think i did wrong in this renovation. but hey, it was my first time on the job, and let’s be real: there was a slight case of amateur hour going on in these parts. i did my best, certainly, but there are many small things that i’d change if i could go back and do them again.

one of those small things, as it turns out, i can still change! and that’s my kitchen lighting. see, before i embarked on this renovation, my mindset was more, “ooh, pretty lights!” and less, “i need an actual lighting plan.” in fact, i didn’t even know a lighting plan was a thing. no one tells you these things, you know? you only hear about them while you’re listening to the chris loves julia podcast and it’s too late to make a change!

{sidenote: i am obsessed with the chris loves julia podcast, and you should be too}

anywho, suffice it to say, when the contractor and electrician told me two flushmount lights would suffice for kitchen lighting (and told me i really didn’t need under cabinet lights and that they would be way more expensive), i listened. and they were wrong. turns out, i could have used a lot more lighting in my kitchen. i should have coughed up the extra dough for under cabinet lights.


i should have added more task lighting, and more specifically, i wish i’d added library sconces above my shelves, like the kitchen below (i also wouldn’t say no to that gorgeous simple gold pendant above the sink).


i DEFINITELY should have gone for three flushmounts instead of two. and most importantly, i shouldn’t have gone with exposed bulbs in the kitchen. exhibit A, folks (my kitchen):


as i pretty quickly learned, those sort of cool exposed bulb flushmounts are all well and good–when you don’t really need them to cast off a lot of light. they’re hip, yes. they look cool, yes. but functional? not exactly. i’ve tried a large variety of different bulbs in these babies (if you’re curious, they’re these from the young house love for shades of light line), and unfortunately, they simply don’t cast off enough light for a busy kitchen bee like myself. additionally, because there’s no glass shade for the light to bounce off of, they tend to be a little bit harsh when they’re on. NO BUENO.

but as my girl carrie bradshaw says, COULDA SHOULDA WOULDA. i didn’t know what i didn’t know, and so i made some mistakes. luckily, the one above–the type of flushmounts i bought–can be fixed. YIPPEE! i’ve been living in the grand apartment for almost 5 months now, so i think it’s safe to say i’m somewhat settled. and being settled for that amount of time has given me lots of moments to ponder what type of lighting i should do next. as of now, i’ve landed on doing a traditional schoolhouse style. i know, i know, so predictable. but i think they’ll work, height-wise, and for the most part, they’ll allow for a higher wattage than the ones i have now (which are limited to 75 watts).

i have my eye on something like this:


two of them, obviously – but you get the idea. as of now, i’m not leaning towards brass (the kitchen is black and chrome, finish-wise, and i think adding brass might be a bit too much).


i sort of had my heart on the above style (which you can find at schoolhouse electric), but with the black and white striped shade (i’m thinking the stripes will play nicely off the my floors), but it seems schoolhouse is no longer making that colorway. SADSIES.

which has led me to go back to the drawing board, and scope out a few other schoolhouse style options.



too blah?

Z000235_A5805_A0028too art deco?eadd8334e507d4253502486363f87e17

still too harsh, what with the clear glass?

as you can see, i’m having quite a bit of trouble deciding. thoughts from the peanut gallery?! help!

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.


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).




one of the things i wanted most in my kitchen was an apron style farmhouse sink like the one pictured above. for sink novices (don’t worry, i was one as of 6 months ago), apron style refers to that overhang you see at the front of the sink. unlike undermount sinks, which are essentially dropped into the countertop/cabinet, apron sinks show a little “apron” around the front, which gives them a cozy antique farmhouse feel.

before you say it, yes, i know that i bought an apartment in new york city and not a cozy barn in the woods of vermont, but i grew up in the woods (ish) of massachusetts, and i love me some cozy farmhouse feel. my apartment isn’t big enough for the real markers of country house chic (giant wood beams, brick fireplace, wide planked hardwoods, oversized industrial pendant lights, etc.), but a farmhouse sink: that i could do.


as you may recall, my design plan for the kitchen involved white cabinets, stainless steel appliances, a badass encaustic tile, and wood accents (again, adding a touch of farmhouse to the space!). i figured that a farmhouse sink couldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars, and once i settled on my design plan, i started hunting around.

GUYS, i could NOT have been more wrong. sadly, this happened to me many times during the renovation process. things ALWAYS cost more than you think they will. such is life, i suppose. as it turns out, farmhouse sinks (nice ones, at least) start at around 700 and go up to 2k. TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A PLACE WHERE YOU WASH YOUR POTS AND PANS! i’m sorry, am i washing 24k gold in this shit? that price is ridiculous.

what’s a girl to do when she has her heart set on a design element that she can’t afford? she turns to the internet, of course! i started pinteresting my little heart out, and came across this blog post from one of my favorite design blogger, jenny komenda of little green notebook. jenny, too, wanted a farm sink, but she wasn’t willing to toss two thousand bones down the drain to get one.

lucky for me, jenny had a solution! it started with I and ended with KEA. god bless the scandinavians, amiright? the fine folks at ikea had a DOUBLE farmhouse sink, and it cost a (relatively, comparably) minuscule $312.

NOW we were talking.


once i figured out that ikea had what i wanted, i researched some more. how did people style the ikea sink? (very nicely, as exhibit A above proves) did they like it? (most did!) did it scratch easily? (so long as you had barkeeper’s friend, you were fine) was it too big (my contractor said yes, i couldn’t really see it without actually seeing it in person)? was the double bowl annoying? were the grates in the back annoying? (for some, yes)

here’s what my research revealed: the ikea sink was not perfect. some felt the back grates were annoying, that water and soap scum pooled in them. some felt the single bowl was too small, the double bowl, too big. some thought it was too hard to keep clean (i mean, it IS white). but for the price, most people loved it. like, really loved it.

i was sold. so a few months ago, i dragged my ass to ikea on a wednesday night (more about that solo excursion here) and i ordered the double domsjo, which was indeed REALLY f*cking big (37″ long!), but was also really pretty. there it is below, styled in one of those faux ikea kitchens that i love so much.


that was approximately 4 months ago. i’ve been living in the grand apartment for almost 2 months now, and i’ve had my sink connected for about 6 weeks of that time. and so far, i am VERY happy with it. it’s enormous, yes, but that doesn’t bother me. i do the actual washing in the left bowl, and stack the “to be washed” stuff in the right bowl. i keep my dish and hand soap on the grated area, and i just wipe it down every day or so. it doesn’t really seem to get that dirty (though i am somewhat of a neat freak). i’ve only had to clean it with barkeeper’s friend once, and that was only because it got a little greasy after my candle-making adventure.


here it is looking beautiful with a gigantic bunch of fresh eucalyptus in it. ain’t she purty?!


here’s a full, totally unstyled shot of the sink from the entrance to the kitchen. it takes up quite a bit of space, but as someone who cooks a lot and therefore makes a lot of dishes, that doesn’t bother me. i haven’t had any trouble with scratches, and i’ve washed that insanely heavy dutch oven you see there atop the stove in it multiple times. all in all, i am very happy. mostly because it’s bright white and beautiful and if i close my eyes real tight and then open them again, i can almost kid myself into thinking i’m in a cozy farmhouse where a fire crackles in the room next to me and the beds are layered with down comforters and the floors creak with every step.

so: who wants to go in on a farmhouse?!


so, remember like 3 months ago, when i stupidly thought i could “get ahead of the game” and start thinking about floor stains? SILLY, SILLY SARAH. if i could go back in time and warn 3 months ago sarah that basically NOTHING would go as planned and that there is really no way to get that far ahead of ANY of this…

well, let’s just say i would.

anywho. in case you missed the post above (clicky clicky, friends!), 3 months ago sarah thought it was as simple as choosing between “light” and “dark” – HAHA. SILLY, SILLY SARAH! TIS NOT THAT SIMPLE, GIRLFRIEND. turns out that, just like paint colors, floor stains come in basically every shade under the sun…AND YOU CAN MIX THEM. which means that there are essentially ENDLESS possibilities.

my floor guy, lou of finishing touch floors, told me that my first step was to take a look at the minwax website and get a feel for the colors. he thought i might be interested in a shade known as “special walnut” (teehee). so over i went to minwax, where i found this very helpful (read: not helpful at all) graphic.


do you see special walnut up there, number 224? it looks OH SO REGULAR, right? REG CITY. so i turned to my friends google and pinterest, to see what they could show me about special walnut.


….pretty regular. so i decided to hunt around on pinterest to see what others liked. as it turned out, special walnut was, surprisingly, pretty popular (#bland, america). people also had quite a thing for english chestnut, weathered oak, and early american.

so i asked lou if we could see a few (read: a bunch) of samples. and on tuesday morning, that’s just what we did.


lou’s worker, eric, sanding down the floor for stain tests.


amazing how much dirt/stain/grime/life comes off with 5 minutes of sanding, isn’t it? i couldn’t believe how beautiful the hardwoods were in their original oak form. imagining this room being built way back in the 1920s gave me all the feels.

once the floor was sanded, lou wiped it down with water and let it dry, creating a spotless surface for us to work with.


here he is opening all the various stains and prepping them in little plastic cups.


and here they are all laid out. i immediately ruled out the far right and the third from right – too dark. second from right is special walnut, which, not surprisingly, looked REGULAR, just plain old REGULAR brown, on my floors. the middle dark one is “english chestnut” – pretty, but a little too red/dark for my liking. second from the left is “early american” – meant to make your floors look, well, early american. which mine are.


here’s a closer look. so, on the far right, we have a dark brown (i forget the color, apologies!) mixed with weathered gray. on the far left, we have the same mixture, but two parts gray to one part brown. far right might have worked if i wanted to go dark; far left felt drab. second from left is (ding ding ding!) the winner, early american. next to it is english chestnut, which read waaaaayyy too red on my floors (they’re oak, by the way, for those wondering). next to english chestnut was special walnut, looking as drab and brown as they come. apparently, this color really sings on some floors, but on mine, it was like that guy that auditions for the voice and is so horrifically bad that you wonder how he made it past initial casting, let alone got in front of blake and adam.

so, what happens next? after i left, the guys got to work, patching the part of the floor that had been ruined when we took down the wall between the entryway and the kitchen.


remember when the living room/entryway looked like this?!

the “newer” looking floors you see below are, well, brand new. and magically, just as he promised, lou managed to match them to the old ones. he’s warned me that once stained, the new planks won’t be exactly like the old, because the new wood will take the stain differently than the old floors will, but to me, things look pretty damn good.


for reference, i am standing at the very front of the living room; to my left is the dining area, to my right is the breakfast bar (where those cabinets are)

today, lou and his guys are sanding and staining, and by friday night, i’ll have shiny, fresh, beautiful floors. EEK!

just for funsies, let’s take a look at where the living room was when construction started…


pictured at closing – doesn’t it look so much smaller without the brick wall exposed?

and where it is now, with the brick wall exposed, the lighting up, the front wall painted, and the floors ready for stain.


kind of crazy, right? i have a feeling things are about to get GOOD.


throughout this entire process, i have waited for the moment where things start to feel real. the moment where a construction zone starts to feel like some semblance of a home. and earlier this week, that moment happened.

my kitchen cabinets were delivered late last week, and my contractor promised that friday or monday, they’d start putting them up. true to form, after meeting him at the apartment on friday morning and reconfirming the layout, they got to work. and by early afternoon, i’d received photos of the cabinets in progress. EXCITING, right?!

i’ll be completely honest: when my contractor told me “had a guy” who “did cabinets” i was a little bit skeptical. that skepticism only grew when i found out the guy worked out of the back of an ACE hardware store in DEEP brooklyn (literally, i took the 2 train all the way to the end of the line). after exiting at nostrand and walking a few blocks past a target and an applebee’s, i came across a defunct meat market advertising “just killed!” chickens.

i almost turned around. surely, i was lost. signs ahead pointed to brooklyn college, but there was barely a soul on the street.


then i walked one more block, and saw a (small) sign for ace hardware. i stopped, and stared at the chain link fence surrounding the store.

this must be the place, i thought to myself. the place where i get swallowed up into some freaky alternate back in time universe where they kill chickens right in front of you and then ask you if you need semi gloss or eggshell.

there was a small parking lot out front; an old nissan altima was parked diagonally across two spots. beyond that, two double doors opened into a quiet neighborhood hardware store with no kitchen cabinets in sight.

i’d been told to ask for “chew” — but the woman at the checkout desk simply stared blankly back at me when i said his name.

“yo! is there a CHOO that works here?” she called out to the orthodox man working the paint counter in the back, payis dangling down from his hat.

“back here,” he motioned to me. “come back this way.”

suddenly, from the very back of the store, a small man poked his head around a doorway.

“hi sarah!”


chew! he did exist! in the back of this weird orthodox hardware store in deep brooklyn was an asian man who sold kitchen cabinets.

i spent the next hour with chew going over the type of cabinets i wanted (white shaker), ruminating over what size pantry i needed (18″ would suffice, anything larger was overkill), and discussing the pros and cons of soft-close drawers (i hate them, chew said they were standard these days).

at 7pm, ace hardware closed; by 6:55, i was out the door, waving goodbye to chew, who had, in the past 55 minutes, become my friend. chew understood the look i was going for (“you like the farmhouse style! but not TOO farmhouse!”). he knew i liked to bake and therefore needed space for my cookie sheets (“we’ll give you roll out drawers, two big ones, so they can stack! it’s too heavy otherwise!”). he’d agreed to customize a 16″ deep double cabinet for my island (“you need room for the legs!”), and to figure out a way to make the giant farm sink i wanted from ikea fit (“don’t you worry, sarah, we’ll make it work.”)


chew was a god among men. a god hidden in the back room of a hardware store in a strange no man’s land between midwood and flatbush.

he was, in other words, exactly the kind of smart, creative, small business kind of guy i hoped i’d be working with when i decided to pinch my pennies and go with the lowest contractor quote i’d received.

i’d budgeted $8k for my cabinets; shmulik had told me that depending on what i wanted, they’d come in between 6 and 8k. a few days after i met with chew, i received a layout, along with a quote: $7370–almost $600 below my max budget, with wiggle room for any additional filler pieces i might need last minute.

would i have loved to be closer to $6? of course. but i also wanted a pantry, and a small breakfast bar, and the two rollout drawers chew had got me all excited about. so i forked over a 50% deposit, and a few weeks later, a giant load of boxes arrived at the grand apartment.

a few days after that, the boxes were unpacked, and the cabinets went up on the wall.

and just like that, i had “the moment” – the one where i saw a home coming together right in front of my very eyes.



hi friends! i know it’s been forever since i wrote anything, and for the 2 of you who read this for updates from afar, i apologize. i went away for 10 days, and while i was gone, my kitchen floors were installed, sheetrocking started, and an exposed brick wall was discovered (!!!!). i’ve now been back for a week and a half, and i have no excuse beyond simple lack of motivation. but i’m back, i’m ready, and i have photos to show you! LET’S DO THIS THANG.

first off is the kitchen floor. you may recall that i agonized over this decision. the color way of the tile i had my heart set on was out of stock til early october, and so it was either start from scratch, or go with a slightly darker grey. once i’d resolved to go with the darker option, my contractor told me the tile i was eyeing was flat out stupidly expensive, and not worth it, especially in terms of resale value.


i had to ask myself: am i silly for spending $1800 on tile (full disclosure, it would have been more, but my friend nika’s friend alley at chelsea arts stone and tile gave me a slight discount (thank you, alley!)? do i want to go with my heart, and find savings elsewhere (the original plan; i always knew the tile was expensive)? do i want to do the “responsible thing” and go for something more basic and less expensive?

ultimately, i went with my heart. let’s be real, i ALWAYS go with my heart. it gets me in trouble a lot of the time. but that’s a story for a different day. my reasoning was this: while it’s certainly true that i may one day get married and have kids and sell the grand apartment to someone who’s all, ew, i hate that cement tile, i want to rip it all out and start again and may i please have $5k off the asking price to do so?, it’s also a definite possibility that those things aren’t in the cards for me, and that i will be living in the grand apartment for a very long time.


anyway, without getting too emotional about this whole thing, my point is this: the grand apartment is MY home. not anyone else’s. not my contractor’s, not my mothers’, not the guy down the street’s. i am the one who will pad into the kitchen each morning and brew a cup of coffee, i’m the one who will slave over spaghetti bolognese every sunday in november. and thus, the kitchen tile should be as i want it to be. it should be something that makes me happy (within reason, of course). because that’s what home should do: make you happy.


pardon the crappy phone shot, but !!!

and guess what? the second my contractor sent me a photo of the tile on the floor, i was SO HAPPY. like, ecstatically, gloriously so.

isn’t she a beaut?! picture her with white shaker cabinets (which are being delivered today!), silver hardware, white subway tile….swoon. seeing your vision come to life (and actually having it look good) is a magical thing.



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.


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.


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.


on the left: the tile i wanted | on the right: a very close second

as you may have seen on instagram (hii, are you following @_thegrandapt yet?), i am having a BIT of a tile dilemma. #champaaagggneeeproblems

the tile i so desperately wanted after seeing it in kate arends’ kitchen is out of stock. til october. no can do, folks.* this unfortunate news means it’s time for plan B. i have two choices: to go with a tile that is practically identical, but slightly darker (and a little more in the taupe family of greys), or to go back to the drawing board completely. i am REALLY not into going back to the drawing board, mostly because i am oh so ready to get this show on the road, but also because i really do love the “star” pattern i had already picked out. it’s a statement without smacking you in the face. it’s moroccan-inspired but not overly so. it’s not cheap, but it’s also not ludicrously expensive. it’s practically perfect in every way!

so, what’s a girl to do? visit a tile store, and more importantly, talk to someone who really knows their shit.

enter: chelsea arts tile + stone, and specifically, alison, the owner. i heard about CATS (i mean, has there ever been a store with an acronym more suited to me?! I THINK NOT!) through a friend of mine, nika, who i met in GREECE of all places.


me petting a street kitten approximately 30 seconds before we met nika and peter

nika and i met on the cobblestone streets of paros, one of the greek islands, last september. my friend sara and i were strolling along shortly after our ferry had docked, and i was busy petting every (and i mean EVERY) cat in sight. down the street, we heard the familiar sounds of the english language, and sure enough, soon two friendly folks ambled around the corner. those folks were nika and her friend peter, and they were all, “HI! YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?! WE SPEAK ENGLISH!” and we were all, “WHERE ARE YOU GUYS FROM?!” and they were all, “TORONTO!” we became fast friends, and ended up inviting peter and nika to spend a night with us in santorini.

when nika saw on instagram that i’d purchased the grand apartment and was on the hunt for tile, she reached out and was like:

“yo. you HAVE to contact my best friend alison. she runs the only female-owned tile shop in NYC and she’s the bomb.”

to which i said something along the lines of, OH HELL YES. female owned? #girlboss #girlpower #allthefeministhashtags

at the time, i already had my eyes on the cement tile shop’s “star” pattern–so i didn’t really need a fancy tile shop. but then things fell through, and i decided to reach out to alison, and see if she could offer a little guidance.

as it turns out, she not only had guidance, she had my tile. in a sliiiightly different colorway.


the pattern i wanted, in a taupe-ier grey, paired with marble-look quartz countertops and amazing mirrored glass tile.

alison kindly set up not just one tile, but four, so i could see the full scope of the design and the coloring. and contrary to what all my instagram friends had said (thank you all for your thoughts!), she felt that it would NOT be that much darker overall than the colorway i had originally wanted. in addition, she showed me what it would look like paired with the marble-look countertop i’m planning on getting, so that i could see how the grey would play off the slightly warmer quartz sample.

and you know what? i like it! in fact, i don’t just like it. i might even love it! am i sad that my original choice is out of stock? sure. but i trust alison’s vision, and i think she makes a good point when she says that a) i’m going all white everywhere else, and b) my reclaimed wood will need a little warmth to play off of (which this darker colorway gives me).


alison’s shop was CHOCK FULL (and i mean, to the brim) of amazing tile. that you see above? it’s sourced straight from a factory in morocco. if i had a spanish style home in los angeles, i would be ALL OVER that blue and white situation on the top right.

she also showed me other options for cement tile–but most of them felt either too french cafe, too modern, or too busy moroccan. in my gut, i feel like the “star” pattern i’ve picked out is perfect in its simplicity. it’s graphic, but not overly so, it feels fresh, but not scarily modern, and it’s got a hint of global flair without feeling full on fez.

so: here’s the consensus. i’m sleeping on it, but more than likely, i’ll plan to order the “star” tile in the darker colorway seen above. it’s in stock, alison can get it easily from the warehouse in new jersey to the curb outside of the grand apartment, AND it looks fabulous with the countertop i’ve already decided upon.

WIN WIN, folks.

want to see some more pretty? check out a few snaps from the CATS showroom, and stay tuned next week to see a post on bathroom tile, and whether i’m leaning marble hex or simple penny.






*watch me smack myself upside the head when october rolls around, and i’m still in early construction phase, and i tooootallly could have waited til october!


so, remember all the pretty above? that was my kitchen design plan, which i shared a month or so ago. it included all the finishes, the flooring, the paint colors and the inspiration–but it was missing one crucial piece of the puzzle: the appliances.

as i wrote about yesterday, i AGONIZED over the purchase of my refrigerator and oven (and to a lesser extent, my dishwasher). why? because i love to cook, and so i wanted to make sure i was getting the very best. but also, mama’s on a verrry tight budget, so not only did i want to get the very best, i wanted to get the very best bang for my buck. that meant that although i would have loooved to go all spurge-y on viking and sub zero and wolf, there was simply no way. my finances helped to narrow things down…somewhat. see, there are a surprisingly large amount of appliances available in the median range of things.

speaking of ranges, another thing that complicated the issue was that i was VERY particular about the kind of range i wanted. see the oven below? it can be yours for just $400. and it will probably work JUST FINE. but that ugly back panel, with its ginormous buttons and oversized screen? i did not want that. AT ALL. NO BACK PANEL FOR ME.


this simple fact complicated things. i quickly learned that ovens like the above are called “freestanding” ranges. as in, they can stand on their own, floating in space, unanchored by silly things like countertops. if you want an oven with no back panel, you need a “slide in” range. and that immediately a) slims your pickins’ and b) makes things WAY MORE EXPENSIVE.

of course, me and my stupid expensive taste had to go and ruin things again. instead of $400, i was now in the $1500-$2000 range. YIKES.

that being said, the one item i was willing to splurge on was my stove. see, i’m a girl that LOVES to cook, and loves to bake even more (like, to the point that i’ve toyed with the idea of opening a bakery someday). so while i could live with a not-so-fancy fridge and dishwasher, i simply could not live with a sub-par oven. and i really, really couldn’t live with a freestanding range with that UGLY BACK PANEL STARING AT ME EVERY TIME I PUT A TRAY OF COOKIES INSIDE IT.

my family tried to talk me out of my “no back panel” obsession, but i could not be swayed. so i looked at a few different options. first was this kitchenaid model, which was straight up REALLY, REALLY pretty. i have a longstanding love affair with my kitchenaid mixer, and so i thought sure, why not? kitchen aid is reliable, there’s no back panel, this baby is beautiful, let’s do it.


kitchenaid oven, $1498 | rated 57 by consumer reports


then i started reading the reviews. and consulting consumer reports. and it turned out that for all its beauty, and the fact that it was selling like hotcakes, people didn’t really love their kitchenaid ovens. they didn’t even really like them, in some cases. and consumer reports gave it a 57 (for reference, the highest rated stove on their site gets a 79). WOOF.

the next contender was this GE model, which was relatively well-rated by the folks online. commenters liked it, but consumer reports gave it a 73 (not terrible, but also, not great). i’ve had GE appliances in my rental apartment for the past 7 years, and they’ve held up great. GE is generally known to be a reliable brand, but a deep drive into the online reviews revealed that GE wasn’t what it used to be, and that many people had issues with their newer GE appliances, this stove included.


GE cafe oven, $1598 | rated 73 by consumer reports

of course, there was also the fact that it simply wasn’t as pretty. out it went.

the final contender was the very first stove i had fallen in love with. it was a samsung model that was as pretty as the kitchenaid range–AND it had better reviews! unfortunately, it was also the most expensive range by about $200. but i mean, look at it. it’s BEAUTIFUL!


samsung oven (the winner!), $1798 | rated 77 by consumer reports

that’s some restaurant style shit right there, amiright?! but a budget is a budget, and i was determined to stick to mine (i had given myself $1600 for the oven). so i had to find $200 somewhere else.

that’s where the fridge came in. i needed a 30″ model (#apartmentliving), which narrowed my choices down quite a bit. but i also really wanted a french door on top, bottom freezer design, which narrowed things down even further (most french door style fridges are around 33″-36″ wide; a fine size for someone in suburbia, but not for a single gal in new york city). my top choice was this samsung model, which i first came across at home depot and fell in love with almost immediately.


samsung fridge, $1298 | rated 74 by consumer reports

it was oh so sleek on the outside, and oh so functional on the inside. there was an ice maker in the freezer (non-negotiable in my book), and it boasted 21.8 cubic feet of storage in its itty bitty 30″ body. but it was also sort of pricey. i was ready to take the plunge, but before i did, i decided to run my choices by a home depot online chat associate. being the amazingly helpful person that she is, my new friend elizabeth informed me that there were a few very similar models i could look at before selecting the samsung above.

one of those was this LG model, which was basically identical, but also, $200 cheaper! HALLELUJAH!  SEND THE LITTLE ANGELS DOWN TO DANCE AROUND ME! i had found my $200 savings!


LG fridge, $1098 | rated 75 by consumer reports

i immediately freaked out to elizabeth about how excited i was to find this fridge, and thanked her PROFUSELY for her help. i’m sure she was all, someone get me off this online chat, this woman is a crazy person, but really, i was so thankful! home depot, if you’re out there, your chat associates are seriously the best, and have been SO helpful throughout this process. it is RARE to find good customer service out there, and so far, HD has hit it out of the park.

so, i now had the oven and the fridge covered. that left the dishwasher.

my parents raised me to be a bosch girl, all the way–they are the undisputed leaders in dishwasher land. but here’s the thing: i was already buying a pricey oven. and while many dishwasher brands are all, “IT’S SO SILENT YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW IT’S RUNNING!” “CLEANEST DISHES EVER!” “SHORT CYCLES” the reality is that all a person truly needs is a box that washes their dishes in a relatively short period of time. silent is nice, sure. so is a stainless steel interior. but i have been washing dishes in a white plastic GE box for seven years now, and i don’t feel as though i’ve missed out on any of the amazing benefits above.

would it be nice to never have to hear my dishwasher? i mean, i guess so – but i don’t really mind the sound of running water. if i close my eyes, i can almost pretend i’m sunning myself under a waterfall instead of sitting on my couch watching house hunters.

all of this is to say, i felt very strongly that i did not need to spend $600 on a dishwasher (yes, that’s what nice ones cost, and that’s the STARTING POINT! crazy!). but $400…$400 i could do.

and lucky for me, this whirlpool gold (which a salesman at PC richards told me was basically equivalent to buying a bosch!) model was on sale at home depot for that exact price.


whirlpool gold dishwasher, $400 | rated 75 by consumer reports

was it the fanciest? no. did it have a stainless steel interior (which would have cost an extra $100)? no. but as consumer reports said, “if you only run your dishwasher while you sleep, you’ll find lots to like in this low-priced whirlpool, which had superb washing, drying, and efficiency.”

SOLD! as a bonus, consumer reports informed me that whirlpool was the most reliable dishwasher brand. SOLD AGAIN!

so, as a reminder, here’s where i landed:

samsung oven: $1798 on sale at home depot (originally $2499)

LG fridge: $1098 on sale at home depot (originally a staggering $1799)

whirlpool gold dishwasher: $399 on sale at home depot (originally $599)

total price for kitchen appliances: with tax, i ended up paying just about $3500. if i hadn’t bought during a sale, that price would have skyrocketed up to almost $5k. can i get an amen for buying on sale?

do i know, with 100% of my being, that these are the VERY BEST APPLIANCES for my budget? no. but i don’t think i could ever know that. here’s what i do know: minerva at home depot west 23rd street told me that i was buying well, and that i had made good choices.

and guess what? all any newly-christened 30 something wants to hear is that she’s made good choices.


sometimes, when my mother wants to demonstrate that things are really taking off, or really going well, she’ll utter a rather funny phrase: “now, we’re cookin’ with grease!” it rarely applies to any instance where a person is actually cooking with grease, or doing anything kitchen-related.

but for today’s purposes, it actually DOES! because guess who pulled the trigger and bought her kitchen appliances this past weekend? that’s right, this girl. after spending the past 2 months reading review after review, soliciting feedback from family, friends, coworkers and even random strangers on instagram, i finally settled on my choices, and took the plunge.

back when i thought this process would move merrily along, i figured i’d purchase my appliances over memorial day weekend, the rationale being that summer holidays were bound to produce big sales. but memorial day came and went, and i still hadn’t closed, so i wasn’t about to go march my ass into PC richards and plunk down a couple thousand dollars on an oven.


instead, i spent the next month researching appliances. i posted on facebook, asking my “real adult” friends to tell me about what they’d owned, what they’d loved, and what they wouldn’t buy again. i read the reviews on like a FIEND. i had daymares of buying the wrong fridge and having it quit working within the first few months. i agonized over whether to splurge on the more expensive oven.

here’s what i learned:

  1. read the reviews, but don’t put all your stock in them. for every 5 positive reviews of any given appliance, there will be one negative one. happy people are less likely to share that their happiness online. but angry people? disappointed people? LET ‘ER RIP. at the end of the day, you have to read the reviews, but go with your gut. my general rule of thumb was to look for appliances that had a high 80% and above approval/recommendation rating. you know, 4 stars land. anything less indicated an issue, but a 5 starred item with a few negative reviews? those people probably got a lemon.
  2. someone else’s favorite appliance might not be your favorite appliance. initially, i had my heart set on a matching kitchen aid series of fridge/oven. i’d seen them on a design blog i read, design manifest. i figured if kitchen aid appliances were good enough for naomi,  a one woman design powerhouse who does a LOT of kitchen projects, they were good enough for me. but i did a bit of digging, and it turned out that the kitchen aid reviews weren’t great. naomi bought hers because they were beautiful, but guess what? she’s not a huge cook. so while pretty is great, pretty doesn’t bake good cookies. functional does.
  3. the “big names” aren’t what they used to be. i spent a good two weeks going back and forth between this samsung oven and this GE one. i’ve had GE appliances in my rental apartment for the past 7 years, and they have yet to let me down. GE = reliable, right? so said the man i spoke to at a western mass appliance store, who (with no shame, mind you) also told me that the only people buying samsung appliances were idiot millenials who “liked the fancy name.” and yet, the GE oven had consistently worse reviews than the samsung model, was rated lower by consumer reports, and straight up wasn’t as cute. so i decided to go with the samsung, which i truly loved, and guess what? when i got to home depot to order it, my girl minerva let me in on a little secret: since they moved all their manufacturing to china, GE isn’t what it used to be. and samsung? surprisingly good. SCORE ONE FOR ME!
  4. sometimes, stuff breaks. but that doesn’t mean you need to pay $250 for an extended warranty. look, there is no way, and i mean, actually no way to guarantee that the appliances you buy will not break. sure, you can read 900 reviews. sure, you can check up on how easy it is to find a repairman in your area. sure, you can spring for the extended warranty. but you cannot control whether your appliance will or won’t break. all you can do is be prepared when it does. a little bit of sleuthing revealed that despite extended warranty plans seeming like god’s gift to appliance buyers, they’re generally not worth it. here’s why: first, just because things can break doesn’t mean they WILL. more than likely, your appliance will run just fine. second, those seemingly magical extended warranty plans? they’re not actually run by the nice folks at home depot. they’re outsourced to places that, unlike my friend minerva, don’t give two shits about you and the fact that you took a day off for your maintenance appointment. third, almost all appliances come with at LEAST a year of parts and labor warranty. and most appliances, according to my home depot associate, break within 18 months, if they’re going to break at all. so you probably don’t need to drop an extra $200-300 on that 5 year warranty. if something’s going to go wrong, it’ll probably go wrong pretty early on. but that being said, 18 months is longer than a year, which brings me to my next point.
  5. your credit card = an extra year on your warranty. in my extended warranty research, i came across an AMAZING PIECE OF INFORMATION that legitimately made my day (#adulting). get this: many credit cards (including mine, chase sapphire, hi chase i love you!) will add an extra year onto the manufacturer’s warranty of your appliance (and not just appliances! many items!) if you pay for the purchase in full with your card. 1 year manufacturer’s warranty = 12 months coverage + 1 additional year of manufacturer’s warranty covered by chase = 24 months coverage. BINGO! there’s your 18 months, and then some! CAN I GET AN AMEN? that is something AMAZING SHIT RIGHT THERE. all told, 3 year warranties on my three appliances (fridge, oven, dishwasher) were going to come out to just around $500. i hadn’t budgeted for that $500, and i didn’t really want to spend it. but my future guilt – the guilt i’d experience if something DID go wrong and i hadn’t bought the warranty – gave me serious anxiety. this benefit from chase gives me an extra year of carefree cookin’, and if something DOES go wrong by year 3? well, that’s why i have a savings account.

so, what did i buy? that, my friends, is a story for tomorrow. but WAIT TIL YOU SEE MY OVEN! SHE SO PURTY!