Apartment Life

Since getting the Hill House a little more than a year ago, I feel like I’m basically never at my apartment. For the most part, that’s fine. When Friday comes around, the only thing I want to do is get upstate, and on Sunday, I just want to come back as late as possible. But, between being gone all weekend, and a crazy schedule during the week my apartment became a place to sleep and shower and a dumping ground for my stuff. I was never there to clean up, re-organize, even put my laundry away, so it quickly turned into a slum and I hated being there even more.

I made a little list of some things around the apartment that I wanted to do to make it a place I wanted to be again. Nothing major, but a few little DIY’s to make me want to live there again.I decided to start with my bedroom, since it’s where I spend the most time.

All the light fixtures in my apartment are from 1990 and were the cheapest/lowest grade available at the time, so I want to start swapping all of those out for something a bit nicer. I have 9′ ceilings, so I went with a hanging pendant. I found this one at Lowes on sale. I think I’ll need to get a medallion for the ceiling or something to avoid repainting the whole thing, but still an improvement!IMG_5613

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There’s a little alcove area in my room that makes any kind of furniture placement difficult. It’s ended up as a holding place for lots of bulky and unattractive things. I thought this would be a good place to do some built in shelves and make the alcove seem more purposeful. The problem is that it’s only 8″ deep, so rather than rip down all the boards, I went with a standard 9″ width. They stick out a bit but I don’t mind how the shelves look and they can always be changed later.  IMG_5439I put a 12″ wide shelf above my TV so I would have at least one that was wide enough to hold some bigger bins and boxes. I thought that putting shelves so high up might make the room feel smaller, but it does the opposite, it makes you realize how high the ceilings actually are. IMG_5515I picked up the baskets from Target and from Lowes. They don’t all “go” together but it works and I have more than enough storage for the crap that was in the corner before. IMG_5617

This shelf/hooks thing I found at Home Goods for $25, it’s perfect for holding my clothes that I’m too lazy to properly put away and will look chicer than covering my bike in laundry, which is how it’s been for the past year.

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 Definitely making some progress. With all the new storage space it should be easy to stay organized and keep at least my bedroom from feeling like I’m a real life version of Marjory the trash heap from Fraggle RockIMG_5668

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“Finishing” the kitchen

The kitchen is finally together! Everything that I hated about it when I moved in is now gone forever, and I’m very happy about that. The appliances older than me, the laminate counters, the blue floral wallpaper, the dark wood, the sun bleached and peeling linoleum floor. Let’s take a moment of silence to remember the past.

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The counter tops and replacing the tile backsplash were the last two major hurdles in the kitchen. Through the whole process, as soon as one project would be finished, everything else would look even shittier by comparison. It was finally time to get it all “done” once and for all. This kitchen gets a lot of action, and it’s really hard to cook in a construction zone. Now that there are no more big projects to get done in here, I no longer have to stress about making coffee in the laundry room, or going to the diner for every meal.

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The reason I’m calling this “finished” instead of finished is that the backsplash behind the stove and hood is still not done yet. For now it just has a piece of cement backer board up to cover the damaged wall from the tile demo. I actually don’t mind how it looks as-is. It kinda goes with the countertops. Obviously it will be tiled over and finished off, but I’m in no rush, and am still debating over tile choices. There’s also some little touch up paint spots to be done, but nothing that would really disrupt use of the kitchen, and nothing that’s crying out as hideous anymore.10389679_10205279438254601_3495290950865964672_n10624695_10205279439654636_3412310410330428571_n

So there it is, in all it’s glory. Now on to the next major project…..

DIYuck – Concrete Countertops

Have you ever seen the Debbie Downer skits on SNL? If you haven’t do yourself a favor and watch them now. That’s what this project ended up being. A big fucking Debbie Downer. I’ve made every face Rachel Dratch makes in those skits while looking at these countertops. I think this is my first DIY-Fail. Well, maybe not a fail exactly, but this project definitely didn’t come out the way I expected and I don’t think I’m happy with the results. Womp womp.

DebbieDownerI was really excited about covering the existing formica countertops with Feather Finish concrete and had planned on doing it from the moment I bought the house. It’s a DIY I had seen on like a million blogs, like this one, this one, this one and this one. They all look awesome, easy, cheap, everything you want out of a DIY. My countertops were none of those things except cheap.  I’m not sure where this project went wrong.

Firstly, I used Henry Brand Feather Finish (made by Ardex) which was available from Home Depot, instead of having to order it online. Most of the other blogs used the real thing, which seems to be a much thinner consistency than the Henry product. But at least one blogger used the Henry stuff with better results than I had, so maybe that and the dry-time was part of the issue. Maybe I didn’t sand enough (5+ hours!) maybe I sanded too much? Who knows. They came out MUCH more textured looking in color than I was hoping for.

Here’s the before pics. There were two different countertops, one was a fake butcher block pattern on laminate, and the other was a weird fleshy tan color. They were in decent shape, so they had been livable for a while, but they were time to go. Also, check out the awful, floor tile backsplash. Everything left from the original kitchen was a weird skin tone. As part of the prep for this job, I tore the tiles off the wall where the counter top connected. There had been a backsplash piece of laminate that went up the wall too, that had separated from the counter, leaving a gap so it got ripped out as well.

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The skim coating of the concrete went on pretty easily. The rounded edges and vertical pieces were a bit of a challenge, I ended up just rubbing the concrete on with my hands. *pro tip, always wear rubber gloves, concrete ruins your hands. IMG_4539.JPGEverything was looking good, the color was a nice consistent gray, everything was evenly covered, I was optimistic. I did about three coats of concrete over everything. The coats were drying quickly, so I waited maybe 5-6 hours between coats a couple times, maybe this was mistake #2 and I should have waited longer? The problem with DIY at a weekend house is you are always up against the clock to get your project done before sunday night. Otherwise, what would take 2-3 days ends up stretching out over a month, which is exactly what happened with this project.

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When the sanding started is when this project seemed to fall apart. I started with a power sander and a 60 grit sand paper to knock down the higher points in the concrete and quickly switched to a 150 grit. The weird textures started to come out in the concrete which I hadn’t seen on anyone else’s blog! You could see trowel marks, scratches, all kinds of patterns. There were a few spots that had gouges that I needed to patch, or some of the vertical areas where sanding went all the way through, back to the counter tops. When I patched these areas, they were really obvious when I started sanding again.  A few areas started to come through as that pretty, polished cement in a nice consistent color, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the whole countertop to that point. The more I sanded didn’t seem to be making any kind of impact.

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The pics below are the “after” for this project. Not so pretty. I finally resigned that the color wasn’t getting any better and this was as good as it gets for now. On the positive side, they were smooth, solid and felt nice. They just didn’t look so nice. I used a gloss concrete sealer for 3 coats. I was hoping this would just darken everything up and make it look better, but it didn’t really help anything. I then did a coat of carnuba wax over everything to help them be extra water resistant. IMG_4994.JPG

IMG_4995.JPG Here’s a close up of the detail so you can see the weird textures and patterns. You can see some of the spots that came out nicely polished, you can see some of the ugly patch spots. Overall NOT what I was hoping for or expecting. I’m not sure why everyone else’s blog DIY’s came out so differently. These might not be around for very long, maybe I’ll rip these out and put something nicer in, or maybe I’ll eventually try a concrete stain and see if that will improve things. Whether these are an improvement over the crappy laminate is up for debate. IMG_4945.JPGSo, this project took forever, was a mess (concrete dust ALL over the house) and then the end result sucked. Basically the complete opposite of what I was expecting. DIY-FAIL

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Progress and Questionable Decisions

Lots of progress happening at The Hill House. Few project’s are “done” but lots are started and it feels good that the house is getting there. I feel like there will always be 100,000 projects, but chipping away at things feels good and feel like small victories. Basically the way I’m looking at home repair is that anything is better than what was there before. Baby steps.

I replaced the light outside the back door, which is the door we use most often. The new one isn’t exactly what I had in mind for the house, but it was $14 at Wal-Mart and it’s a hug improvement over the light that was there before. This one has a dusk-to-dawn sensor as well, so no more stumbling with a flashlight when I get to the house late on friday nights. The woods are fucking DARK at night. 20131219-211352.jpgThe horrible blue, metallic, floral wall paper is gone in the kitchen. The cabinets were all custom built red oak, which was a bit of a shame to paint over, but with such low ceilings and dark wood, the already tiny kitchen felt like you were cooking in the back of a closet. The upper cabinets will be “Swiss Coffee” by Behr, the same color the walls will be. Having the cabinets and walls above them the same color all the way to the ceiling should help make space feel taller. Lots of other work will be done in the kitchen, I’ll do a full post on that later.
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This is the other side of the kitchen, where the table will go. Bigger and brighter already.20131219-211309.jpg

You can’t tell, but there’s a toilet under there. This is the small half bath. I thought this would be a good “test drive” for renovating the main bathroom. Last weekend I stripped the wallpaper. It came off easily and in full sheets, but left a rough glue all over the walls. I scrubbed them with hot water and they’re perfect and ready to be painted now.
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Part 2 of this post is about some of the questionable purchases that have made their way into the house. Some were impulse buys, some were meant to serve an immediate function, but they’ve all left me unsure of if I love these things, or hate them with all my guts.  The first one is this weird old lady rocking chair. I sort of hated it at first, but I think this one is growing on me. It’s the perfect size for the space, and the orange fabric goes well with the living room. Plus it was cheap!

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I got this painting in the basement of a bookstore in Kingston. It’s huge (36×48) and it was $12, so I figured I’m not losing much if it ends up in the trash. It’s very kitschy, but I’m not sure if it’s in a good way, or a horrible way. The frame is awful, I think I’m going to spray paint it gloss black and see if that takes this painting from something that would be in the lobby of a library to something kitschy-cool. This might end up in the trash, or at least the garage sooner rather than later.
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This side table is from Ikea. It was supposed to be a plant stand, but for $6, I couldn’t pass them up. I got two of them before I even had the house, knowing I’d need stuff to fill the space. I originally thought it was really cool and medical looking. Now I think I hate it and it looks like something an old person would put by their bed to poop in. For now, at least one of the tables is serving the purpose as a night stand, but I now can’t wait to replace it. I’m sure it’ll stick around and be useful as an actual plant stand, or something. But I’m pretty sure that I think it’s fucking ugly. 20131219-211709.jpg

Xmas List

If the Hill House (we’re calling it that apparently) had a list for Santa, this would be it.

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Luxe Faux Fur Bean Bag from Restoration Hardware $200

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Nest Wifi Thermostat From Nest $250

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Nespresso Citiz with Milk Frother From Amazon $255

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Cube Clock from MOMA Store $38

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Walnut and Leather Bench from Overstock $185

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Le Labo Santal 26 Candle from Barney’s $60

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Bear Print by Sharon Montross from The Animal Print Shop $25-$3500 (I’d like 30×40″ please)

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A.P.C Post Poo Drops from Aesop $30 (for guests, obvi)

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Whiskey Ice Balls from Fab $16.50 for two

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UE Boom Bluetooth Speakers from Amazon $180

But, there is no Santa, so this wish list will end up turning into a shopping list…. sigh.

Blogspiration part deux

Since my first blogspiration post, I’ve found a few new blogs that have quickly become my go-tos for all things house related. The more blogs I read, the more I’ve gravitated towards ones that are really all about home renovation. These three are some of my faves and have become great references. I’m basically going to steal all their ideas.

Manhattan Nest: Written by a young gentleman (like myself) who lives in Brooklyn (like myself) and just bought a fixer-upper in Kingston (like myself). Unlike myself, he does this general sort of thing for a living, and he has a much larger house and much more of a project. I never had the nerve or patience to take on a project like this, but I’ll eagerly read all about his experiences, and steal all his brilliant ideas.

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Ugly Duckling House: I can totally relate to the name of the blog. This one is written by a young lady, who is upgrading and improving her first house. What I love about this blog is how blunt and honestly it’s written. Sometimes shit doesn’t work out perfectly, sometimes she fucks things up. She’s not a perfectionist, and that’s awesome. Here’s a picture of her sexy wood counter tops.ImageImage

Door Sixteen: Found this via Manhattan Nest. They’re buddy bloggers with similar stories and taste, so naturally, I would love this blog too. She’s got lots of great links to products and inspiration pieces too. I definitely need to step up my typography and photography game! I love her black tiled floor bathroom.

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Mini Update

I haven’t blogged in a while, had some set backs, missed out on a weekend of work, etc, and basically haven’t had time. This weekend I had my first real guest at the house, my college friend Leyla. This was the first weekend that practically no work was done on the house. It was kinda nice to be able to relax a bit and actually enjoy. 20131112-162302.jpg

The living room is pretty much all set up now. It’s bare-bones, but getting there. 20131112-162637.jpg

We made it down the hill behind the house to Sawkill Creek.20131112-162652.jpg

We got apple-drunk. Local hard cider that I picked up a few weeks back at an orchard in Stone Ridge, which was nice and not sweet and syrupy like other hard ciders. And we also cracked into a bottle of Applejack, that was a house warming gift from some lovely friends. 20131112-162705.jpg

This was the one project we did this weekend. I trash-picked this chair in Brooklyn, brought it upstate and recovered it in a maroon velvet. This is a horrible picture, but the chair actually looks pretty great. 20131112-163116.jpg

This was the first weekend that I had a “real” fire in the fireplace. I need to start stockpiling wood for winter!20131112-164330.jpg

The back yard is filled with bluestone. It’s just waiting to be turned into landscaping. I’m going to spend all spring hauling rocks up a hill by hand. I’m going to be fit-as-fuck.20131112-164344.jpg

The guest bedroom is furnished! (sparsely) but at least it’s functional. 20131112-164407.jpg

More info and updates to come, as soon as I have the time to wrap my brain around another post. Hopefully the next will be better composed.