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

“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…..

I’ve got wood!

Well, the kitchen’s got some wood. After doing the countertops, the next project to be done was the backsplash and tiled wall. It was a horrible tan floor tile and was long over due to be ripped down. The tiles came of relatively easily, but a few spots ripped up the drywall behind. leaving it patchy and large areas of thinset still on the wall. They weren’t in horrible shape, but not good either. To get the walls to the point of taking a new tile evenly would definitely be a project in itself.

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Originally, I had planned on doing all subway tiles for the backsplash with a dark grout. Classic and clean, much like the kitchens below, which had always been the inspiration for mine, with the dark lower cabinets and the concrete countertop.tumblr_mv4rcwhtKR1qf82imo1_500

tumblr_mtoxkrsqtM1qf82imo1_500 tumblr_n2n5oyQUNF1qf82imo1_500 Since my concrete counters didn’t quiiiiiiiite turn out looking like these, and the whole kitchen was starting to feel a little industrial, which is not really the best fit for a cabin in the woods. The combo of the condition of the walls, and the industrial vibe made me think I needed to go a different direction, which is where the wood idea came in. I figured it would warm things up a bit and it would be easy to install. After some googling for inspiration, I found a few options that I thought would look good.

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My initial thought was salvaged wood. I figured it would be cheap, a bit grayed out to go with the rest of the kitchen, and I liked the varying lengths and widths. The trouble was, where to find all this. I know in upstate NY, there’s a ton of places to get old wood, but the trouble is taking the time to find and clean up enough of it to do the whole backsplash and wall, in total, about 40 sq feet. There’s actually a company called Excelsior just down the road from the Hill House that specializes in reclaimed wood, so I figured this would be perfect. They’re only open monday-friday, which is a bit of a bummer for a weekender, but it just happened to work out that I had a monday off, so I made an appointment to check out the wear house. I found tons of great options, and got an emailed quote the next day. Perhaps I’m totally naive, but I was kind of shocked at the quote I got, which was about $7.50 per square foot. It still would have been only about $300-350 to do the backsplash, but this seemed like a lot of money for what was basically trash. There are literally hundreds of falling down houses, barns, chicken coops, in the area that have tons of exactly what I needed, but again time = money, so I guess that’s why this would have cost that much. The people at Excelsior were super helpful and great to work with, but I’m too stubborn (cheap) to pay that rate for what I could have ripped off of my friends dilapidated garage.

BUT, I’m also lazy and was tired of having the kitchen in shambles and didn’t want to wait until I could source all this shit, so it was time to consider other approaches. I had read on other blogs that people did horizontal paneling, or floors with ripped down sheets of plywood just face nailed to the surface, and thought that this could look okay, it would be much more basic looking but would be easy to install and would add some textural interest at least. A quick trip to Home Depot later, I had my solution, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. In their lumber aisle, I found some really nice pieces of cedar. This cedar wasn’t red like most I had seen before and they all had a really nice grain pattern. They were less than $6 per 8′ 4″x2″ board, which meant it would be less than $90 to do the whole kitchen. I figured that even if I dint end up liking it, I could always paint it white like I had planned, or I could stain it darker or a different brown.

IMG_5017I borrowed a friend’s nail gun (best invention ever!) and used a circular saw to cut the boards into random lengths for a staggered pattern. They all look a bit rough and rustic, with holes from the finishing nails and some gaps where the boards or wall weren’t quite straight, but I don’t mind, it’s a little more like the reclaimed look than a polished finish. They totally give the kitchen a warmer feeling and add a bit of an organic element back in so it’s not industrial feeling. They even some how make the concrete counters look much better to the point where I’m not ready to rip them out and put in some kind of expensive marble. YAY!

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For now, the wood is unfinished and I really like the color and matte finish on it. It being a kitchen and messes happening, I’ll probably need to put some kind of finish or sealant on it for protection, but I don’t want the wood turning reddish or going yellow like with a poly. So for now, here’s my naked wood. IMG_5031

Spring and Curb Appeal

All the snow has finally melted and I can finally see what the property actually looks like again! I closed on the house in October, so I’ve really barely seen the property when everything was green and blooming. Besides removing all the silk flowers that were shoved in the ground around the house, and removing all the plastic yard ornaments and tchotchkes, I’ve done absolutely nothing to improve the outside of the house.

This past weekend we finally got to start to clean up the yard and break out some new patio furniture. The astro-turf that was covering the front and back decks has been ripped out and the decking seems to be in pretty great shape. Picked up some of my favorite outdoor chairs from Ikea and a few large planters that will soon have something amazing and interesting in them to frame the porch. There’s now a few bushes in the front planters as well. Some Blue Junipers in the front for some low coverage and some Yellow Euonymus in the back for a bit of height and year round color. I wanted shrubs in the front so when it’s winter 6 months out of the year, the front of the house won’t look so barren and dead like it did this winter.

*Side-note the bottom step is not as fucked up as it looks in this picturefront20140425-172951.jpgI bought these house numbers before I even closed on the house. It only took me 5 1/2 months to put them up. At least now people will be able to find the house without driving past and circling back.

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This little door to the garage hadn’t been opened in about 30 years and was half buried and blocked by some sort of wild shrub. It’s far to cool to be non-functional, so I dug it out, removed the shrub and made this mini blue stone entranceway so it stays functional. 20140425-172627.jpg

 

With the yard clear of snow and leaves, you can actually see what’s growing. There’s a flower bed in the back by the porch that has a variety of little things popping up.20140425-172642.jpg

 

New fire pit in the backyard, just doin it’s thang.

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Tony planted a little herb garden off the back and edged it with stone from the yard. Let’s hope it doesn’t get eaten by deer and bunnies.20140425-172730.jpg

Hung the new hammock too. There are two trees in the backyard that are perfectly spaced for a hammock, it’s like they were asking for it. hammock deck

Even managed to squeeze a mini hike into the weekend. There’s miles and miles of empty forrest behind the house. I love that I can hike out of my back yard for hours and never see anyone.
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Hopefully within the next few weeks all the trees will have popped and everything will be green again. I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to get my feet in the creek without losing them to frostbite.  Spring is here goddammit even if it’s still 40 degrees out.

8 Things You Didn’t Know About The Hill House

1. We have no idea when it was built. All papers say the 1960s but the home inspector said it was probably built in the 1940s. I guess a trip to the county clerk’s office is in order. 20140501-144905.jpg

2. It was originally a brick house. The house was sided with wood at some point. The garage on the other hand, is the opposite – a wooden structure that was covered in brick and made to look like a carriage house. Confused now?20140501-145148.jpg

3. It backs up to this creek. ‘Nuff said.20140501-145338.jpg

4. It once used to be part of St. Ann’s Church.  With the house serving as the rectory (we think). Dilapidated outbuildings dot the property, including an old chicken coop, and cellar built into the hill that used to hold the sacramental wine for the church. Super creepy.20140501-181249.jpg

5. The Master bedroom and kitchen are additions These two rooms were actually porches and turned into the rooms they were today probably around the same time the exterior brick was covered in wood (to match the additions). We think that the original kitchen was either in the small nook ( where there was once a wood stove) or in the area that now serves as the laundry room. Confused again?20140501-182108.jpg

6. It has these beautiful floors. I mean why on earth would someone cover these floors with deep pile baby blue wall to wall carpeting? That’s what we had to rip up. Which means we had to touch it. Yuck. 20140501-182310.jpg

7. The interior windows and doorways are trimmed in Red Oak. Can you say ka-ching?20140501-182120.jpg

8. There’s blue stone everywhere along the property.
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My Favorite Design Finds for The Hill House

This vintage cabinet was just $50 from the local Salvation Army in Kingston. Got it home somehow thanks to some borrowed ties (also from said Salvation Army) that we used to secure the trunk of the car with.

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I’ve come across some really cool weekend house appopriate art at local antique dealers as well as eBay. These wooden framed prints from Hudson, N.Y. were $35 each and are perfect for the kitchen/dining area.

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Having a bunch of artist friends doesn’t hurt either. Cost for these? Priceless, of course.

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Came across these amazing orange pots at Lowes – they were marked down to $2 on clearance. And they’re orange. Sold.
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Ikea has been our salvation – providing inexpensive and easy to incorporate pieces that work well with decor of The Hill House. This Nesna bedside table is just $14.95. And I may have bought 2-3 “just to have them.”
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Ah, Craigslist. This antique chest of drawers cost us $120 – and the guy we bought it from even wound up delivering it to us since the thing was too damn big to fit in a Camry. Tarva bed frame from Ikea was $129.
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This Vittsjo shelving unit from Ikea set us back $40. The units come in a variety of sizes.
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Another Salvation Army treasure (although it has been deemed as a questionable purchase in an earlier post) – this rocking chair cost us $25. We’ve been lucky to get there on days where furniture is slashed 50% off and hasn’t been totally picked through. Oh,  for all of you Upstaters –  the Kingston location rules!
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This Noguchi coffee table knockoff was tucked away in a corner of an antiques store in Saugerties, N.Y. Of course I snagged it. And a major deal at just $50. Grabbed the rug (also $50) from a local discount store in Kingston called Ollie’s.
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This antler-adorned cuckoo clock made its way from Dan’s Brooklyn apartment to Kingston. It’s perfect for above the fire place and I think it cost something like $10 from Urban Outfitters. 20140209-155808.jpg

Anything from Restoration Ware’s Luxe faux fur collection. It’s everywhere at The Hill House – couch pillows, slippers and a super warm (maybe too warm) bedspread. Annnnd, super excited that this will soon be joining our Lux collection!20140209-155942.jpg

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