How much do I love you guys? Enough to post the above photo of myself working at my secretary desk as a “before” shot. While the picture isn’t the most flattering of yours truly and I look to be wearing a tunic made of diapers, it is an accurate depiction of the old brown secretary that was/is my desk. This piece used to belong to Buddy and Grammy, my grandparents on my Mama’s side, and in an amazing feat of early 1970’s DIY (perhaps the very first DIY?) they “antiqued” this piece, covering up its nice lines and mid-century-reproduction-quality mahogany with a brown gunk that was meant to look old. It did, in fact make the piece look old. And tired. You can also see that the brownness wasn’t helping the darkness situation in my little “office” corner of the apartment. It was making it darker. Like “locusts covering the sun” darker. This picture was taken around noon, and you can see that four feet in from the window it’s almost pitch black. I might not have feet. After we tackled DAS NORDEN (which you can now see in the background here in all its Gabardine Glory), we now moved this piece into the kitchen for part II of painting mayhem. I love the little details of the inset piece- three curvy drawers, a tiny brown door (my Mama told me she used to say that a mouse lived in there when this was in her house growing up), and you can see where the “antiquing” ends on the inside of the drawer pieces. Yech.
As you may have read here, we had initially planned on painting this piece Martha Stewart Gabardine, and wanted the interior of the piece (the glass curio cabinet and the desk part) to be creamy white. Perhaps that would have worked in an airy loft wallpapered in Cochin from Grow House Grow:BUT, as we’ve established, that is not what I’m working with. SO- we decided that to brighten up the area and to be pleasing to the eye, that our palette would be Martha Stewart Oolong with Pale Yellow (generic paint purchased from the wonderful guys at Clinton Hill True Value). First we took the drawers out, the doors off, the shelves out, saved the burnished brass hardware, and primed the whole shebang:
Then, of course, we let it dry overnight and drank some wine. Are you seeing a pattern? When it was all said and done, it was pretty much perfect:So much brighter, so much lighter, and so much more functional. This is my desk when it’s open, useful storage when it’s closed, and it’s also (by necessity) home to our DVD player/Netflix Machine. I sit at this desk for many hours every day, so, needless to say it’s lovely to love looking at it (I’m looking at it as I type this). The mouse house now houses my mouse and mousepad when I’m not using them:The little curvy drawers that were once yechy are now sweet, lovely, and useful (I lined them with some pages of an old New York City postal-code book I found):And- my favorite part- the curio cabinet up top holds all of my little treasures and miniature inspirations (like my Baracklyn Cyclones Obama bobblehead, an armadillo skeleton found on Cumberland Island, a collection of sand dollars gathered from the Vashon Island mud flats at low tide, a tiny compass from the Marché aux Puces, and the weird little frog watering can that I picked out from my Great-Grandmother’s house when I was 10, to name a few):Pretty darn good.
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.
In which: my mama comes to town and we begin to execute a series of much discussed craft projects (increasingly-ambitious-proportional-to-the-amount-of-wine-we’ve-had) painstakingly designed and overseen by Nipsey Russell the cat. More to come…