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…..

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

Not So Ugly

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The Ugly House is now mine. With some hard, fast work, it’s not looking so ugly anymore. Within the first 2 hours after getting the keys at closing, I had ripped out all of the carpet in the house, with the exception of the master bedroom. My real estate agent knew how much I hated those carpets and gave me a carpet cutter as a gift at closing.

The floors under the carpets were about 100 times better than I had hoped for. They’re not perfect by any means, but they look pretty damn good. (This picture makes them look super nice, they aren’t)

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The next piece of annoying bullshit was that there were no less than 100,000 staples in the floor that held the carpet pad down. And by in the floor, I mean, balls deep in the floor. Tiny, little, rusty, staples, like an inch deep into the hardwood, and they snapped off into tiny needles if you tried to grab them with needle nose pliers. I had a bit of a panic moment when I was looking at how many rusty needles were sticking out of the floor. I envisioned what an impossible task it would be to get them all out and be able to get the floor to a point where it wouldn’t cause you to bleed out immediately if you stepped foot on it. Not to mention the two rows of tack strips surrounding every room that would shatter and splinter when you tried to rip them up, causing me to only be able to tear them out in 4 inch segments. Fun.

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I took a deep breath, and did what I do best. Google things until I find a solution. A few DIY blogs later, I discovered a suggestion that I use locking vise grips (which I have!)… For the staples that snapped off, I bought a tiny little tool, like an awl to sink the pointy ends of the staples down into the floor so they’re less stabby. I have no idea what this tool is called, but it looks like a pencil, with a long, thick lead. These things, along with a pry bar with rubber mallet, CHANGED MY FUCKING LIFE. Lesson learned: the right tool for the right job… That’s an incomplete thought, sounds like there should be more to that saying, but whatev.

After about 12 hours total of pulling staples and tack strips, the floors are finally done. Maybe some day I’ll sand and strip them, but they’re fine for now. After moving two car loads of stuff, and spending hundreds of dollars at Wal Mart and Ikea, the house is pretty much outfitted with the essentials, and ready for me to move the rest of the furniture in. It’s starting to look like a house and is no longer so ugly. Just getting rid of the old lady shit and the rug has made such a difference.

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It’s so nice to be done with the whole house hunting and buying process. No one ever told me what an emotionally taxing pain in the fucking ass it would all be. But it’s done. I love the house, I love Kingston, and it couldn’t have worked out any better. I guess things really do happen for a reason. On top of all that, my monthly payments and closing costs all came in lower than expected, which removed a lot of my stress and anxieties about being house poor. There’s a lot of work left to do, and lots of projects that I’ve already started. I need to be better about taking pictures of the “before”. I usually end up starting a project and then kicking myself for not taking a before shot. I will also try to be better about blogging. Baby steps.

Ugly House: UPDATE

So…. I’m buying the Ugly House. It’s been a few weeks of inspections, appraisals, lawyers, contracts, financing, begging etc. No one told me buying a house would be so annoying. I now feel like I’m finally at a point where this one won’t fall apart, so I feel safe to say that I’m getting this house and that I can start picking out paint colors and it’s not premature. If all goes well, I should be closing in about 2 weeks.

I’m starting to plan out how to turn the inside of this ugly house into something livable in the short-term and something amazing in the long term all while using the smallest budget possible.

In all actuality, the house isn’t THAT ugly inside. All of the owner’s possessions are what really makes the interior a hideous blur. The other big issue is the horrible carpet throughout the house. Step #1 GET RID OF THE HIDEOUS FUCKING CARPETS

IMG_2612Seriously, those carpets will be gone and in piles in the garage before I spend my first night in the house. I swear to the tiny baby Jesus. According to the homeowner, there’s parquet floors under the living room and plywood sub-floors under the rest of the house. I think this is LIES. When I did the inspection, down in the basement, you can see that there’s wide plank, probably pine, subfloors under the original part of the house. The kitchen and master bedroom are both converted porches, so God only knows what’s under there. The kitchen will be tiled at some point, and if I have to have carpet in the master bedroom, I can live with that, as long as it’s not this awful stuff.

I’m hoping that I can luck out and end up with floors that look something like these, or maybe even better.

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Once that carpet is gone, the living room, bedrooms, hallway, and nook behind the fireplace are all basically blank slates. A little paint and some non-oldlady furniture and it’ll be good to go. There’s no architectural interest to these rooms, so hopefully a nice, old wood floor will do it. Otherwise I might need to add some molding, or wainscoting or something. The kitchen and bathrooms will need to be tackled pretty quickly too, but I think some paint and a few new touches will be a big improvement on those areas too. More on those later.

Being a Real Estate Voyeur

While house hunting, you get to peek inside people’s lives… and people are weirdos. I love going through random homes, and with a small budget, they’re rarely nice, clean, or well decorated. Looking through someone’s stuff brings up all kinds of questions about what kind of freaks live/lived there. Below are some examples of some of the spectacular and horrifying things I’ve seen.

The Brady bunch basement.

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HUGE cat glamour portrait
photo 1 100 years of wall paperphoto 2 A little friend in his natural environmentphoto 5Metallic flamingo wallpaper bathroom. The ceiling was wallpapered too.photo 3There were 50+ dead things in this small cabin, as well as the weapons used to kill them.

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And let’s not forget the bug-zapper in the living room from the last post. Seriously, who are these people?? I have so many questions! Are they genius and it’s all a joke, or are they insane? Is this the home of a serial killer and the bodies of 10 women are buried in the crawl space? Would that give me some sort of tax discount? Have they never heard of staging their homes? I swear that I could become a home flipper in upstate NY just by painting and staging a home. I’m sure that most buyers can’t see past a poorly taxidermied coyote to see a home’s potential. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these trash piles and turn it into something great.