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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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.

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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.

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….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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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

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my new neighbors are, for the most part, a mystery to me. but one, in particular, i have met. he’s the man next door, and he is a RIOT. my first instagram post about sheldon – that’s his name, don’t wear it out – was such a hit that i thought it might be fun to document my interactions with him as a series here.

if you’d like to read part 1, click here. this is part 2.

this morning, upon arrival to the grand apartment, i saw that the elevator was out. really?! i started climbing the stairs – all five flights of them. around floor four, i noticed that i could hear sheldon talking – presumably, to someone – about the inconvenience of a non-working elevator. another neighbor! i thought excitedly. i’ll get to meet another neighbor!

no such luck.

when i got to the fifth floor landing, i saw sheldon, alone, holding a small bag of laundry in his hands (interestingly, it appeared to hold just one item: a denim jacket that was shockingly similar to the one currently on his body).

“are you the elevator repair man?” he asked.

“no, i’m not. i see the elevator is out – have you called the super?”

“are you sarah?”

(he remembered! so the man has a good memory)

“i am sarah, yes. hi, sheldon.”

“you move in yet?”

“no, not yet.”

“when?”

“probably about a month.”

“i didn’t go in there, you know, into your apartment. last time we talked, i know i said i wanted to go in, but i didn’t go in.”

“that’s good, sheldon, because there are workmen in there.”

“no boyfriend, right?”

“no, sheldon, just me.”

“i know we can’t go out, you and me. i know that. but we can be friends, right? you and i can be friends? i just want someone to talk to.”

“yes, sheldon, we can be friends.”

“good, because i need a friend. see, my mom’s in the hospital, 6 weeks they got her in there, and no bed! so it’s just me, i’m sleeping in her room, but i’m all alone and i just need someone to talk to. so i can talk to you, right?”

“sure, you can talk to me.”

“we don’t have to go out – i know i’m too old for you. i’m 72! that’s old, right?”

(i did not answer this question, not directly, at least)

“but we can hang out, you and me. we can watch tv. i watched the dodgers game last night, you know? and the red sox got creamed by cleveland. you watch sports?”

“not really, no.”

“i had a dream about you, you know, you and me. we went to the movies! and then we sat together on the couch and we watched tv. maybe i can come over sometime, and we can watch tv.”

“we can be friends, sheldon.”

“my social worker is supposed to be at ten to nine, but the elevator is out. how will she get up here?!”

“i’m sure she can take the stairs, she’ll just take it slow. i’m sure the elevator will be fixed soon; maybe you can do your laundry later?”

“yes, i guess i can, yes. and we’ll be friends, yes?”

“yes, sheldon.”

“because i live alone, and i need someone to talk to. and maybe you can come clean the apartment when the aide doesn’t show up. can you do that?”

“we’ll see, sheldon.”

….end scene.

 

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well, folks, we are finally starting to truly get somewhere over on grand street, and with construction (kind of) coming to a close, it’s time to get serious about THE FUN STUFF, aka, the design. the living room and dining room plans, are, for the most part, pretty set – but the bedroom has been, up until recently, up in the air.

which is, in fact, quite a nice segue into how i want the bedroom to feel. see, the grand bedroom is, well, not so grand, especially now that i’ve carved out the entire front wall for a closet. so i need to do everything in my power to make it feel big, not small; spacious, not cramped.

the goal is for the bedroom to feel like one giant cloud, like i’m floating on air, wrapped in the warm cozy hug of this bon iver song i can’t stop listening to.

that means white walls (i’m going with benjamin moore’s “white”), white trim (benjamin moore’s “super white”), white bedding (i have these sheets and this duvet from pottery barn and i love them), and white curtains (i got these from ikea).

i’ve been particularly inspired by danielle moss’ minimalist chicago bedroom (pictured above), though i can’t go quite that kondo on the space (i have a lot of stuff). hence, my goal is to stick to white walls, bedding and curtains, and then add in some warm wood tones and brass to warm up the space.

you may remember this dresser that i found in the basement of my current building – i’m hoping it’ll fit in the back corner of the bedroom.

i’m planning on order two of these urban outfitters sconces (i had my eye on these from schoolhouse electric originally, and may splurge on them at some point, but for now, i need to go more budget-friendly), and spruce up my ikea curtains with these brass curtain rods from west elm.

white sheepskins from ikea will add an extra layer of coziness, and a white ceiling fan will (hopefully) disappear into the ceiling, but keep me cool at night.

and then there’s my bed.

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this one has spurred a lot of internal debate. one of the things i wanted most in the bedroom was a bigger, better bed. for the last 15 or so years, i’ve been sleeping on the full mattress i’ve had since i got upgraded to a “big girl bed”–aka, it’s high time for a new mattress. and given that i tend to sleep spread eagle (this tends to happen when you’ve been single for eternity and the only other creature that shares your bed is your cat), i have been dreaming of upgrading to a queen.

but beds are expensive. mattresses aren’t cheap. and i didn’t exactly build a new bed into my budget.

this is where my fairy godmother, also known as my friend cassie who works at wayfair, comes in. cassie swooped in and saved the day, budget-wise, hunting down numerous light fixtures i wanted from the interwebs, and gaving me her employee discount on them. this, in turn, saved me some serious dolla dolla bills. just enough dolla bills, in fact, for me to rationalize buying a new bed after all.

which turned into a new dilemma: what kind of bed did i want?! did i want a tufted, ladylike headboard like the one above (from alaina kaczmarski’s bedroom), or an antique-esque victorian wrought iron bed like the one below?

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interestingly, when i started hunting for inspiration images of the urban outfitters sconce, i found more than a few shots of the sconce next to–you guessed it–an antique wrought iron bed!

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so cozy, right? picture this with all white bedding, white sheepskins underfoot for chilly mornings, and soft ambient lighting.

IT’S POSITIVELY CLOUD-LIKE! to recap/for visual learners, here’s the plan:

39db8dc97067ec433b62ae5b15609cdbnow: which mattress to buy? i’m going “bed in a box” – so i need your thoughts on casper, tuft & needle, leesa, et al. HELP!

 

 

 

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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.

 

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last week, i spent an evening wandering around the enormously overwhelming aisles of ikea all by my lonesome. i had biked over from manhattan with a singular goal in mind: i needed to order my kitchen sink and my range hood, both of which, the ikea website told me, were “likely to be in stock” when i arrived.

i had assumed that going to the swedish superstore on a weeknight would cut down on crowds, but i hadn’t expected it to be practically empty. ikea red hook is housed in what is effectively an enormous warehouse; take out the people, and it begins to take on a solemn, echoing feel.

by the time i docked my bike across the street from US fried chicken (an eerie looking joint alongside the red hook NYCHA housing project), it had started to rain, a light sprinkle, glistening in the streetlights above. i picked up my pace, partially because i was the only one walking the quiet streets, partially because i worried it would soon start to pour. i felt, just for a moment, scarily, freakily alone. i plugged my headphones into my phone and called my parents. they were at home, starting to eat dinner. i pictured them bustling around the kitchen, warm with yellow light. there’d be a freshly made salad sitting in the middle of their table, and one mom would be yelling at the other to grab the ken’s caesar lite out of the fridge. the news would be on in the background, or perhaps, an episode of madame secretary.

“i’m on my way to ikea,” i said.

“now?”

“it’s raining,” i said in response.

“how did you get there!?”

“i biked, but i had to dock right next to the projects, and now i’m walking alone on a deserted street, so i thought i’d call.”

good mothers that they are, they stayed on the phone with me until i was safely ensconced in the bright yellow and blue womb that is every ikea store in the world (points for consistency, ikea).

as soon as i disconnected the call, i was, again, alone. and much to my surprise, ikea was almost empty. the emptiest i’d ever seen it, certainly. a lone couple sat at the restaurant, sharing a plate of swedish meatballs, heads hunched together, talking quietly.

a woman rode the escalator ahead of me, her husband bringing up the rear, his hand intertwined in hers.

as i entered the showroom, i did what i always do at ikea: i wandered into the faux homes, trying to imagine myself living in them. could i do it, live in a 420 square foot studio? if it was designed by ikea, perhaps.

i opened the kitchen cabinets, peered inside, exited. a few paces ahead of me, two children skidded into the aisle, nearly knocking into me.

“ten cuidado,” their father scolded, “la señora!”

he shook his head, “lo siento.”

it was fine, i told him. here i was, alone in ikea on a wednesday night, in no particular rush.

i arrived at the kitchen area, and snapped some shots of my soon to be sink in situ. flagging down a sales person, i inquired as to the process of bringing one home with me.

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“well, you have a few options,” she began. “if you want to carry it out with you–are you alone?–you can do that, or you can have it delivered.”

there it was again, that reminder, ever so quiet, yet ever so powerful, that i was, indeed, alone. that i was…that i am, doing this entire thing alone.

“it’s just me,” i laughed, nervously. “i don’t think i could get it out of here on my own. it looks heavy!”

“okay, then, delivery it is. just write down the three numbers, and bring it to the home delivery desk downstairs. they’ll take care of everything for you.”

with that, she was gone. a transaction with zero fanfare. a big moment for me (I AM BUYING A KITCHEN SINK FOR AN APARTMENT IN NEW YORK CITY THAT I OWN), just another hour at work for her.

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i looked at my sink, price tag and bin number dangling in front of me. beside me, a couple contemplated a faucet.

just for a minute, i let myself imagine what it would be like to be the couple next to me, to be one half of a full unit. to not be alone in ikea on a wednesday night, stupidly feeling like i have to explain myself to a salesgirl who could care less about why i can’t tote the sink home on my own.

i let myself think about how it would feel to turn to my partner and say, “what do you think? can we lift it? that would fit in the backseat of a cab, don’t you think?”

i gave myself a moment. i gave myself one shuddering breath and a few tears dotting the corners of my eyes, and then i moved on.

i pulled my shoulders back, i took my chin from the ground to the sky, i took a deep breath, and i took myself downstairs to the delivery department, where i gave a nice woman with fabulously glittery fingernails my information, and scheduled my delivery for wednesday the 6th of october.

and then i treated myself to a $30 car service across the manhattan bridge, and i rolled down the window, despite the rain. as we inched across the iron behemoth, i stared out at the city–my city, of which i now own a piece–and i told myself, over and over, that being alone in ikea wasn’t the worst of things, not really, not even a little bit, not at all.

did you know that there are approximately 9 trillion shades of gray paint in the world? me neither, until i started searching for “the perfect gray” online. i don’t consider myself to be any sort of color expert, but i sort of thought i “knew” gray. gray and i were old friends! we’d BEEN THROUGH STUFF together!

we’d first bonded in my current place, when i decided, on a whim one rainy saturday morning, to paint my living room and bedroom benjamin moore’s “silver dollar.” gray and i had been tight ever since. together, we’d learned that white was our bestie and brass was our GIRL. we’d been through multiple iterations of gallery walls, we’d tried a variety of mirrors on for size, we’d hung out with turquoise and hot pink. we’d done it all!

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given our long history together, i thought it would be easy for me to choose the perfect gray for the grand apartment. WRONG! me finding the perfect gray was like an episode of true life on mtv: you think you know, but you have no idea. because as it turns out, “gray” translates to a million iterations, a zillion colorways, and WAY TOO MANY OPTIONS.

in my mind, the perfect gray was a little bit of a goldilocks situation: not too light, not too dark. just dark enough to give the space some heart, but not so dark that it felt, well, dark. i wanted cozy but still bright–a surprisingly hard thing to find, especially when you consider that paint colors tend to look different from wall to wall (and also, from day to night).

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initially, i turned to the generally reliable pinterest, but that simply led me down a rabbit hole of “best grays for your space” blog posts – none of which gave me the answer i was looking for.

so i did the second best thing (and the thing i should have done first): i turned to instagram. thankfully, instagram delivered (let’s be real, instagram ALWAYS delivers). according to my internet friends, the very best gray was benjamin moore’s “stonington gray.” multiple people suggested it on multiple posts, and that was good enough for me.

CROWD SOURCING, FOLKS. IT’S THE WAY TO GO.

word on the street was that stonington gray was a “true” gray. not too blue, not too brown, not too yellow. just plain gray. exhibit A, below.

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i also knew that one of my overall inspiration shots (from danielle moss’ amazing scandinavian- esque chicago place) heavily featured the color.

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so good, right?

SO GOOD. except for the fact that there was a small part of me that wanted to go bright white, EVERYWHERE, a la amber lewis (exhibits A and B, below).

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AH, BRIGHTNESS. LIGHT. SERENITY. HAPPINESS.

to say i was torn is a very strong understatement.

so i did the only thing i knew how to do: i asked someone who knew better than i did.

that someone? a VERY helpful saleswoman at the janovic paint store conveniently located just down the street from my office.

i’ll admit, i was a little bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options at janovic (and this was only the benjamin moore line!). so i was thrilled when a very nice looking woman meandered over to me and asked me if i needed some help.

“actually, you know, i do! i’m, uh, i just bought this apartment and i’m renovating it and i need to pick paint colors ASAP and i thought i wanted gray but i also kind of want white, because i want it to feel light and bright but there are SO many whites to choose from, and i heard stonington gray is nice but i’m not sure if it’s too dark…”

did i mention i ramble when i’m nervous?

luckily, this woman knew her shit. she told me to sit tight, and she’d pull some samples. she came back with a few options: stonington gray (which she agreed would indeed be a good gray for me), along with decorator’s white (for the bedroom walls, kitchen and bathroom–basically everything that wasn’t the living room and entryway), and simply white for the trim (a little bit brighter made sense for trim/molding/door frames).

she waited patiently while i showed her photos of my recently discovered exposed brick, and happily grabbed additional grays and whites for me to look at before i choose two colors to make into sample pots. she explained that stonington gray would be beautiful against the exposed brick, and that it was light enough that i could carry it into the bathroom if i so chose. she also told me that while “bright white” was certainly a thing i could achieve, i had to be careful—too white and things could get “a little bit institutional” up in here.

NO THANKS. THAT SOUNDS LIKE THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT I WANT.

so, stonington gray it was (is).

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it’s rather hard to tell in the image above, but it’s the color swatch on the left, and it’s what i plan to go for in the living room (front wall, back/windowed wall, and entryway). the rest of the apartment will be “decorator’s white” – a white that has just the faintest of undertones (aka, a true white white without seeming institutional). the goal? to have a white that doesn’t make the cabinets or tile look dingy (and vice versa). will it work? WE SHALL SEE.

both the living room and bedroom have been primed, so paint will go up in the next two weeks! EEEK! stay tuned for progress shots!