Home Sweeter Home: Part 3 and 4 AFTER!

Alright, dear readers, lest ye forget where we left off, the plan was to re-decorate the bedroom in our sweet little brownstone to create a space that belongs to Sweetheart and I equally, a space that is uncluttered, calming, functional, unified, and interesting. A good place to sleep, but also a lovely place to be. A place that is as bright as possible during the daytime while also being private at night… on the extreme cheap. Whew. Looking around the room (and spending a fair portion of wine-soaked cocktail hours during our recent vacation discussing nothing but this particular undertaking with Mama) I could break down the necessary changes into this list:

1) A window treatment solution that a) lets in as much light as possible while still maintaining privacy at night and b) addresses the many sins of the odd shaped and uneven windows that make that whole wall look choppy and disjointed.
2) A headboard for the bed that sets it apart as a separate entity in the room, encroaching windows be damned.
3) Cover up the shoe-shrine.
4) Edit everything else down to things of heart, beauty, and import.

Soooo… here are the results!

Mama made the curtains to cover the shoe shrine out of a flat sheet from Wal Mart (and also surprised us with a bunch crazy soft and lovely new bedding for Christmas/Hannukah), including the awesome pillow shams that she made and the little bolster that really ties the room together. Mama=Awesome.

For the window treatments, I used the divine Jenny’s amazing pelmet box tutorial, which may be the most inspiring DIY thing I’ve ever seen (it inspired tons of other people too… check out Jenny’s post on reader submitted pelmets here).

The pelmet boxes are deep enough to hide the unsightly privacy shades I installed while still leaving most of the window open to the light. Just what I needed! I also figured that if I had my pelmet boxes go all the way up to the ceiling, and by stretching them across both windows, they’d cover up the gap between the one window and the ceiling, mask the fact that one window is several inches wider than the other, and would create a unified visual line encompassing the bed area (and, hope against hope, make the room look larger??) on an otherwise choppy and weird wall.

Jenny’s tutorial calls for the sort of foam board that you would make a science fair project out of, but I couldn’t find any of that in my neighborhood (what is WITH that, New York?), so when I went to get the plywood for the headboard cut I had the epiphany to look in the insulation section of the Home Depot. I found this pack of Poly Panel foam boards designed to fit in between 2×4’s, each one 14″ by 5′ feet. Since I wanted the pelmet boxes to go flush to the ceiling to mask the window’s unevenness, 14″ was the exact right height. And since the pattern on the (crazy) fabric I chose, Iman’s Punjabi Peacock (which we got at Mood for way cheaper than on Calico Corners) repeated directionally (ie: the feathers face a certain way on the fabric, and that way is across the fabric, 60″ selvage to selvage, instead of longways) I’d need to make three short boxes instead of one long one anyway, so this weird foam insulation pack ($6 for a pack of 6) was the exact right thing.

For the headboard, I chose a really dark blue velvet, which pulled in the same blue that was in the center of the Punjabi Peacock fabric.I rounded off the corners of a pre-cut piece of plywood (thanks again, Home Depot), using a bowl for an outline, a small hand saw and a few beers (not recommended if you can afford power tools), and then wrapped the thing in velvet, batting, a cut up foam mattress pad and staple gunned the whole shebang. It was surprisingly easy and utterly satisfying.I love velvet, and really wanted to try Jenny’s post on tufting, but the amount of velvet that would require was, alas, not in the budget. I also didn’t want it to be too girly, for Sweetheart’s sake, so I ended up going with almost the very simplest silhouette possible.Another late-breaking epiphany occurred shortly after finishing the headboard. Sweetheart and I were out at the amazing Fairway grocery store in Red Hook and the awesome dudes who stock the coffee department happened to be re-stocking the coffee barrels from huge burlap sacks full of coffee. I asked them what they were planning on doing with the sacks when they were done, and they guy said “Giving them to you, if you want them!”. Things like this make me want to kiss New York on the mouth. So, after a giddy trip back home, I opened up the coffee sack with a seam ripper, ironed it, and tacked it up on the wall between the headboard and the pelmet boxes. Unlike a more expensive/labor intensive/semi-permanent wallpaper or paint solution that would cover the entire disjointed wall floor to ceiling, the burlap panel only covers about 5 square feet over that one section of the wall, but because the room is so chopped up (and the pelmet boxes and windows trick your eye to go there) just that small change makes the room look much, much warmer with no money and a few tacks. The antlers? We’re trying them out. So far I think we like them.

Fairway Coffee image from here.


Home Sweeter Home: Part I

After seeing Jenny’s Mom’s sideboard looking so fresh and so clean (almost as an aside in this post about the lovely green wallpaper), I decided to tackle our identical Ikea NORDEN for my first project. I capitalize NORDEN because anytime I say any Ikea name I say it loud and in a bad/deep Swedish accent. Here is the naked NORDEN:First, let me tell you a few things about our apartment. It is the whole bottom (read: basement) floor of a classic Brooklyn Brownstone. The kitchen is HUGE by New York standards (110 sqare feet) and our landlords re-did it a few years ago, choosing the marble-and-cherry wood finish and stainless steel appliances that were so very popular at that time. All the nitty gritty kitchen functiony things about it are pretty great (storage, counter space, big sink, dishwasher [!!!!!], large gas range with griddle etc.) and we cook in it ALL the time. But… it will never look like this:It will never look like this for a few reasons: a)  I am not Julia Child (sigh) b) our kitchen has no windows, it is, in fact, in the very middle of our apartment which is in the very bottomest darkest basement and c) there are no plugs in the kitchen into which to plug such a thing as a standing mixer and/or a lamp so- no-knead bread and overhead lighting it is. But I digress. Since I couldn’t just up and move to France, it was time to paint my NORDEN. For that I needed my Mama. We had ingeniously scheduled for her to come and visit at the exact time when the need to revamp was reaching a critical fever. With her help and guidance, we had two major projects lined up, first take care of das Norden and second, to paint the old secretary that I use for my desk (spoiler: you will be seeing some pictures of this very soon). We went together to pick out paint and decided on these two colors. Martha Stewart Oolong Tea- a sandy celadon we hoped would read less yellow- for the NORDEN, and Gabardine- a blue-green-grey color equal parts “stormy sea” and “I think the man in this suit is a spy”- for the secretary. Even after many inspiration based e-mails on the subject and lots of in-person discussion spent contrasting the colors of my pots and pans, we still probably talked about it for, like, an hour at the Home Depot on Nostrand Avenue next to the Sugar Hill club. We got our paints mixed, bought a few tools and a fair amount of wine and got to work sanding and priming. We had help the whole time:After our first round of sanding and priming, we had to leave the NORDEN in the middle of the kitchen overnight, so we ordered takeout and started in on the wine. About a bottle into it we looked at each other and said: We’ve got the colors backwards! NORDEN must be GABARDINE not OOLONG! In vino veritas. The next morning we started in on the gabardine, and spent most of the day on the floor. We had a very good time down there:When all was said and done, we loved it. We kept looking at it and saying “It looks more blue than green!”, then “it looks more green than blue”:Do I wish my kitchen were different? Yes. Do I wish it was brighter, airier, and not lit by four recessed floods? Yes. But, honestly, I can’t realistically change those things, so instead of maintaining some sort of bitter renters inertia, the simple act of just painting the NORDEN made our kitchen feel absolutely marvelous. Now the cast iron wok and the red dutch oven are friends, the fruits and strange amaros are close at hand, and we feel a bit more human.

More ever-loving thanks to Mama, who- as we’ve already established– never does anything half assed.

Julia Child’s marvelous kitchen from here.

Home Sweeter Home

So, I’ve lived in New York for a while now and, like pretty much everyone I know, I have serious apartment envy. Perhaps envy is the wrong word. Curiosity? Voyeurism? Obsession? I love nothing more than walking down the nicest streets in our neighborhood at night looking into people’s brownstones who left the shades open (look at that molding! what an amazing chandelier! They have PLANTS.). The same is true for online voyeurism- I (again, like pretty much everyone I know) practically refresh Design Sponge on the hour to see if there are new sneak peeks into the apartments of real people, I loved Domino, Martha Stewart is practically pornographic, and my pinterest is pretty much all pictures of people’s reclaimed wood tables, plush velvet couches, whiskey-organization-systems, and (again) plants that the light in our basement apartment cannot support. There are two things that are tough for me, though: unlike most the people who inhabit the amazing gorgeous spaces I suckle, 1) we rent our apartment, and so we can’t paint the floors or mess with the light fixtures or rip out the pre-fab dark cherry kitchen cabinets and  2) at this point (le sigh) Dorothy Draper dressers and/or any sofa that isn’t our trusty futon aren’t in the financial cards for us. The Selby will never be in our place. I think this is why I love Little Green Notebook so much.Unlike so many of the other designey blogs out there, which engender only covetousness, Jenny fosters a grand and wonderful sense of possibility (also, is it weird that I totally feel like we’re on a first name basis?). She has me believing I really could reupholster the victorian settee that belonged to my great-grandmother myself, that careful editing and judicious use of craigslist can make a space look (pretty much) just as good as a space furnished out of Holler and Squall or John Derian, and- most importantly to me- that just because you don’t own your space is no reason not to make it your own. She also always has a bright red manicure when she’s doing semi-manual labor and that’s something I can get down with.After the one two punch of watching Jenny take down temporary wallpaper (!) in her rental apartment and realizing that the kitchen island that Jenny and her mom re-painted here was the EXACT same one that we have from Ikea (but with additional hardware) I thought: I can do this. For the past two months or so I’ve been on a Little-Green-Notebook-fueled, totally low-budget vortex-redux of our apartment. With infinite thanks to Sweetheart, my ever-lovin-Mama, and, of course, Jenny: this week I’d like to share all the changes with you… Stay tuned.

Images from top: here, here, and here.

Nesting Itinerary

WordPress still won’t allow me images (gnashing of teeth! shaking of fist!), so here’s a little narrative:

Expecting a slew of guests for the holidays, sweetheart and I are working on making our Brooklyn brownstone as streamlined and lovely as possible. After my recent jaunt abroad, it’s hitting me that we don’t have very much time! Here’s what we did yesterday to try and make our bedroom nest a little nicer (full disclosure I’ve been obsessing over the amazing Jenny at Little Green Notebook, and this bedroom redux will have her fingerprints all over it… I heart a woman who hearts her staplegun):

-Took the old curtains down, took measurements
-Notice that though windows look the same size, one is two inches smaller than the other.
-Also notice that one is flush with the ceiling and the other is two inches lower. nice.
-Went to home depot, flirted my way into getting wood cut for headboard also realized that pre-made curtain rods for the shoe fireplace (yes, I have a fireplace- non-working- dedicated as a shrine to shoes) are either too short or too long blargh!
-Got some wooden dowels in an attempt to circumvent.
-Drove to East Village and picked up a free dresser for Sweetheart from Craigs List. Had him meet me so I wouldn’t be abducted. Told my Dad that, he was happy.
-Dresser has some pretty serious dings on it, but has good bones and actually nice hardware.
-Many drawers inexplicably full of glitter. NOTE: Glitter is the Herpes of the craft world.
-Drive home across the Manhattan Bridge with the dresser vibrating and rattling.
-Find an amazing parking spot right outside the apartment. Score!
-Neglect to take before pictures in zeal to get things moving!
-Remove drawers from his old dresser, remove old dresser carcass to kitchen.
-Remove my dresser drawers, and wipe the whole thing down (yuck).
-Move my dresser to the other side of the fireplace to prepare for moving the bed to the other side of the room (which I’ve measured will fit).
-Move a big old naugahyde chair and side table into the corner for “holding tank”.
-Move bed across the room.
-Become Aghast at dust bunnies under bed.
-Realize bed on other side of the room “fits”, but won’t allow dresser drawers to open OR bedside table on either side. Also makes the path from the door to the bathroom feel like one of those humane slaughterhouse animal chutes, no bueno.
-Abandon that idea.
-Pour Wine.
-Vacuum thoroughly.
-Move bed back across room.
-Move my dresser back to its old spot.
-Wipe new dresser down/try valiantly to remove glitter
-Apply about 1/4 bottle of dark Old English on it- it looks damn good. May your first dresser be a masculine dresser.
-Put new dresser in dresser hole.
-Banish old dresser to curb. Still there today. A brief pang of “Brave Little Toaster” really, no one loves that dresser.
-Put Naugahyde Chair and side table back on opposite wall.
-Sweetheart begins to make dinner.
-I get out trusty drill and install custom cut rolldown blinds. Like a Champ.
-That’s done.
-I then try to screw into the fireplace. NOT HAPPENING. It’s made of kryptonite. I break my littlest drill bit. Now, really not happening.
-So- I realize I can screw into the mortar at either side, so I do this survival-desert island deal where I screw screws into the mortar, put a brad-type-nail perpendicularly into the wooden dowel/curtain rod and tie a string around the screw and around the nail. This, amazingly, works. Not a long-term solution, but it’s my version of a coconut radio.

The good news: A few steps closer to a streamlined bedroom that will be as “airy and spacious” as a brownstone basement allows.

The great news: The guests that are coming (Mama and Daddy among others) will bring a SEWING MACHINE and have already promised to fashion exquisite pillows, curtains, and valences. BAM.

If and when I ever get the power of pictures back I’ll post some pictures of the whole shebang!

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