Thursday, May 4, 2017


We are still sitting with out thumbs up our rears waiting on our plumbing inspection. Paperwork was lost by the DOB, filed incorrectly by our previous expediter, refiled correctly by our new expeditor then lost AGAIN by the DOB. It has been 4 months. Ahem, 6 months. I have been sitting on this post for two months in the desperate hope that something would change.

As there is no good news yet, I am turning to other projects. Alas, piecemeal is the word of the day, nay, year. I did end up buying a compound miter saw for myself, that sort of helps with the sting. I'll start putting in baseboards and trim work where I can and simply wait on the walls that are still open to fashionably show off our plumbing runs. Perhaps I'll just leave it, start a new craze in residential deconstructionism, start my own renovation company in NY, cry sad tears every night because my soul is bleeding. On second thought, perhaps I'll stick to my upcoming gigs. I've got a Sondheim concert coming up, which is always so upbeat and sure to chase away the ... damn. (Don't get me wrong, I do love it, gritty realism and all.)


Doors. We have apartment doors.

The glass is covered in a protective film and they still need door hardware, paint, and to be hung. But it is a step forward. And yes, do not be deceived, those paint swatches are indeed pink. I have recently been informed by a new friend that the color I am aiming for is called millennial pink. Not to be deterred by the name, I am still planning on painting the inside if our apartment front door in... cough... a millennial pink tone. Both of the outsides and the interior of the rental until get a semi-gloss black, Benjamin Moore's Onyx, same black I used on our kitchen island. Here are some reference shots of where our kitchen and island are today. I can't remember if I've shared these yet. There are still trim pieces and toe kick that need to go in but so far, so good.

I have also spent some time figuring out final trim and shelving for the kitchen. After a great deal of obsessive behavior, which included building mock shelves from cardboard boxes to determine depth and placement, I pulled the trigger on some very pretty iron brackets. They had been lingering in my online shopping cart for several days while I researched how to install floating walnut shelves in lieu of using brackets. I serendipitously ran across a photo of some one's pantry sporting the brackets and made an impulse buy. 

When in doubt, build a completely unstable mock up of shelves
using boxes and the wrong size lumber. 

Inspiration photo from Instagram @mrslaurenash

Oh yes, and I can't forget the hours of paint stripping, sanding, patching, sanding and refinishing that have gone into our interior doors. I am pleasantly surprised by some of the doors' transformation. I am particularly enamored with the basement door which had a pale green haze on it post stripping. On a whim I decided to follow through with staining it. The tint has simply warmed up the dark walnut stain (Minwax Dark Walnut). I am embracing the age of the doors and letting them dictate how they will be ultimately restored. The wood is old and each door will have its own character. 

Basement door transformation.
Note the red and green cast to various panels of the door in the lower left photo.

For instance, the hall bathroom door had me temporarily stumped. It stripped and sanded down seemingly perfectly. (There she is on the right, sanded and patched up.)

Until I went to stain her. Whomp whomp. Seems the interior of the door was painted originally and said pain, sealed off some grain in sections of the oak, even after removing the paint.  I took a look back at the in progress photos and was reminded of the goopy white paint that was indeed the undermost layer on one side of this door. It is a veneer door and sanding it down further is not in the cards. Oh well, the door wants what the door wants. She returns to her natural state of sanitary white, which I'm ultimately pleased with.

The photo that reminded me of what she looked like mid project.
Yup, there is the white goo.

First pass at staining - nope

Close up of ugly stain job and my 'ah ha' moment

First primer coat. (Apply thin layers for smooth results.)
The side of the door facing the hallway took the stain like a champ.

Similarly, the door that will now be our pantry door (door to the left of the photo above), turns out is a pine door that was painted, and painted, and painted. It was a replacement door when the original pocket doors between the dining room and bedroom were removed and the space closed in. I suspect from old hardware marks and holes, that the two matching doors with Florentine glass that are now going into our master bedroom, were originally there. Anywhoo... that door gets paint too. It got sanded down all nice and smooth, primed and will be painted to match our kitchen cabinets as it is going into the old space where the blueprints show a dumbwaiter originally lived. I have some glass panes to replace in both this door and the hall bath door. I am hoping to find some old glass for the bathroom and will use basic clear glass for the pantry as I want to obscure all the glass in the same fashion later. 

Pantry door evolution

And then there were the two super skinny doors that were of various finishes and paint colors. One was on an upstairs closet that was all of 9" deep. I took the door off and will either put shelves in it or leave it as an open nook. The other door was an access door to our roof. They are exactly the same size, and serendipitously a perfect fit for our new laundry closet on the 1st floor.

One door loosing it's covering of poo orange paint

Faux stained finish on the door underneath, stripped door on top. 

Freshly stripped, repaired and sanded.
There were a mind boggling number of large holes in these doors

Here is the first coat of stain, I ended up doing a second round
to get a better match in tone to the other doors. 

I'm excited to have them in a more visible spot in the house.  I am spending my free time while working for Natchez Festival of Music hunting for missing door hardware and knobs. Maybe I'll find some other goodies to bring back to the house too.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Out of Town

I've been back in NY for a few weeks now. From the day I got back it has been nonstop. Good things are happening but first, a recap.

I was in Florida singing in St. Petersburg Opera's production of Elixir. It was a glorious month of singing and running along the beach. I was preparing for my first 30k and my first trail run that followed on the heals of my gig.

But first, Christopher and I went to DISNEY WORLD! He has a lot of out of town gigs coming up this spring and we desperately needed a break from the house. Reality got a bit unbearable, so we went full on Disney. We spent a week on property and ate our selves silly. We tried to hit up a bunch of restaurants and dining experiences we'd never tried before and likewise, tried something new at the parks and resorts each day. I typically don't seek out anything golfing related but we tried the Winter Summerland putt-putt courses and I had a great time. It was easy enough that I didn't feel like I was struggling all the time. I suppose it was designed to make it more kid friendly; they succeeded.

After our week of gluttony, we headed to Steamboat Springs, CO for snow shoeing then to Moab, UT for the Moab Red Hot run. Dude. I am hooked. It was the most single physically demanding event I've ever taken part of and the most scenically spectacular. I found myself turning off my music and enjoying the land as I ran, climbed, walked, struggled, across the rocks and sand. I even managed to beat my expectations of finish time. I can't wait to try something like it again. I am currently on the hunt for my next trail run. Suggestions are welcome.

The day after the run we spent oogling at and hiking around (I did a little limping) Arches National Park. 

 Then, home again home again, jiggety-jig. Back to resubmitting paperwork, lost AGAIN by the DOB. Shame on them. I can't even begin to wrap my head around how they are allowed to get away with continually screwing up with no repercussions. They are being careless not only with buildings and projects in the community but with people's lives. I'm beyond disgusted but onward. And onward. Fingers crossed good news is just around the corner.

Until then, I have started working on our interior doors and will be working on restoring our front door and surround once the weather warms up a bit. I'm now working for a door restoration company in the area and learning a lot of fun things like reveneering, glazing, etc. I'll be paid to work on our doors too. Not a bad set up, plus I'm enjoying the work.

I'm headed into tech week with Loft Opera here in the city but hope to be digging into tiling BOTH kitchen back splashes and reglazing some interior doors in the next several weeks. Until then here are some photos of the progress at my folks' Bed-Stuy reno.

bathroom tiling progress, new trim work, new flooring

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Renovating Remotely

I'm not complaining, far from it. I have been living it up singing with St. Petersburg Opera Company in their production of Elixir of Love. The new year has been good to me artistically and physically. I have had the opportunity to step away from 24-7 work on the house and have been singing and also training for the Moab's Red Hot 50/33k. If you aren't familiar with this crazy potential catastrophe of a race, you aren't alone. I only heard of it this past year, 2016. Before my father was suddenly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, we had planned to go hiking through Arches National Park together. After a rocky relationship, I felt like we were beginning to connect as adults, building something we could both feel good about. Then life screwed the pooch. He passed in a matter of months and no one was prepared for him to go. He was one of the most active, fit and healthy people I have ever known. He was on Portland Mountain Rescue Team for heavens sake. This man cycled like a speed demons and flew through the air on just his feet. His love for the mountains and adventure was spiritual. I have always loved running but never pushed myself in the way that is now necessary to complete this race. I feel I owe it to myself to go to Moab, and commune with nature, and loss. So I'll be sharing this awesome run with my other dad, my step dad who is also an amazing man and athlete, and whom I feel super lucky to have in my life and to bond with over sweat and tears. Well shit. That didn't go anywhere near the direction I intended to take it. Here. Look at the puppy.

Now look at the awesomeness that is the scenery on my runs here in St. Petersburg, FL.

And now back to the scheduled program. Yes. Renovating remotely. I didn't think it possible to have more doubts or to second guess myself more, OR to obsess more. I now have hours to obsess. Did I mention I am training for an ultra trail race? Weekly long runs (18-22 miles) offer up HOURS of distraction free obsession time. Even more when I can't manage to get my legs to move any faster than a sloppy trot. Thankfully I decided to anticipate a few things before leaving town. I took the master bedroom closet measurements to The Container Store along with my plan. Someone assisted me there and put it all into their system, sourcing the components and there I let it sit until their yearly Elfa sale kicked off. It would have been cheaper to build it all myself from lumber, but there were two obstacles to this plan. 1) There are some crucial studs missing in the walls. The lesson here, is you can't do anything other than watch the contractors while they are working. The walls missing the studs I need to easily mount a clothes rod, are new walls. Indeed, the newly framed closet does not include strategically placed studs. I blame myself for not thinking to ask for this, instead I just assumed a plan and drawing of the closet would do. I know, I know, assuming makes an... you know. 2) Time. I am short of it and boy does the idea of having something completely measured, cut and ready to assemble appeal to me right now. We are two years deep into living like animals and I am ready for anything to end it. I want to unpack for heavens sake. The box marked "Christmas Gifts 2015" kills me every time I run across it. So with no further ado, the closet plans:

It isn't the easiest to decipher, but just trust me, it will be awesome; a small walk in closet in NY with double shelves up top for out of season storage, a tower of shoe shelves, drawers for Christopher's clothes (I prefer a dresser), a place in the actual closet for my performance gowns (as opposed to stashed in other random closets throughout the house), a valet rod, a spot for a rolling laundry bin and a slim step ladder to reach all the glorious upper storage! Gasp! The trigger was pulled. Elfa went on sale and it is all now delivered and hanging out in our bedroom waiting for me to return home and install it. 

The electricians have been working on the house as well. Christopher has been awesome with the video calls, helping lay out locations for our floor outlets in the two bedrooms along our masonry party walls. The electric is complete for the most part now, minus a small punch list, until the walls are all closed up and fixtures go into place.  I now have to make a few design decisions that I have been dragging my feet on. Part of our historic restoration plan included salvaging or replacing the two ceiling medallions original to the house. One of them only had a quarter survive upon our moving into the house. The other was in the entry and right where the new apartment entry doors were placed. I have been hunting for medallions that reflect the classic Italianate Revival aesthetic. Our home was never overly ornate and was a middle class home with two apartment units in the home. The style should be decorative but natural or geometric, not overly ornate as to suit the home. So I am looking for something, plain yet layered, decorative yet restrained. Once I determined the ideal size (room length x room width / 7), I have it narrowed down to these three. 

1. Ekena Millwork 21 in. Reece Ceiling Medallion

2. Ekena Millwork 24 3/8 in. Traditional Reece Ceiling Medallion

3. Ekena Millwork 20 1/8 in. Berkshire Ceiling Medallion

I am 98% sold on number 2 for our master bedroom, but torn between 1 and 3 for the living room and dining room. There will be two of them in this space, one in the dining bay near the windows and door with the chandelier, and another on the other end of the room with the acero fan.  I love the slightly more ornate characteristics of 3 and how they play so nicely with the shades on the chandelier. I however worry it will be too much and think I should go for number 1 with the simple layered curves that look cool with our trim.

And for something even wilder, my current carpet ideas for the steps going down into our wood paneled basement; thoughts, comments, flashbacks?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Kitchen Update

Might as well start with an update that has nothing to do with the kitchen, as the title states. It is our new - old pocket doors. The house originally sported a set of glass pocket doors separating what was then, an interior bedroom and the dining room. Somewhere down the line, someone decided to take it upon themselves to remove and sheet rock over one of the doors, then added hinges to the other. 

We moved the wall further into the bedroom and combined our living and dining space into one, rather than having the "parlor" at the front and the dining at the rear of the house. And in doing this, we had some fresh new framing in which we created new pocket doors. They aren't quite finished, but it is good to see more sunlight making its way into the bedroom.

And now onto the kitchen update. As my 4th Ikea kitchen build, it seemed to go by much more quickly than the previous three. But perhaps it is simply the knowledge that it is the last big kitchen build. 

It all went fairly well, that is until I attempted to hang the cabinets by my self. I think I was in a low blood sugar fueled delusional haze when I hoisted my first cabinet up 9 feet into the air, rested it on top of the ladder and expected all to go smoothly. 

Needless to say, that cabinet spent the night on top of the ladder. And in the morning, I wrestled up some help from Christopher and together we managed to hang all the uppers. 

I was then able to continue on with the base cabinets while he was in rehearsal that evening. 

I built out the fridge cabinet with some 3/4" plywood I wheeled down the block. We are lucky enough to have a contractor's supply store up the street from us, and I was lucky enough for them to let me use their giant wheelie cart and sail two giant pieces of plywood home. 

When Chris got home he hung the doors while I finished installing the drawers. 

The next project was building the island. 

I attached a platform built with 2x6s to the floor, after many micro adjustments in placement. I added some panels, which will get painted, and built out a dishwasher enclosure. We are almost there. 

My mom was in town this week and we took a tour of various stone yards/fabricators. I've had several (ahem, 5) years to think about counter top material, so I was only moderately immobilized by the fear of making the wrong choice. 

Here's our piece of Danby Mountain White Marble. 

Up next, super ugly bookcase gets a budget (free) makeover. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

More floors

Wednesday - All the wood flooring is laid and ready to finish. 

We have floors everywhere including inside our walk in closet. 

Friday - Minor setback: I received a tragic text while away for the week; a bleach bottle "exploded" on our new floors. I find it a little hard to believe that in a 60 degree room, a bottle of bleach spontaneously popped, but that was how it was presented to me. Regardless, whether it was an explosion or a pneumatic nail, there is a pile of sawdust on the spill and several extra hours of work. Oh well, nothing new. I am currently fighting the Expediter so a little bleach spill is small potatoes. 

Tuesday - Sanding has commenced upstairs and is finishing up in our unit tonight! Bye bye bleach spot! We love our floor installer. He is working hard tonight to finish all the sanding so that he can put our first coat of sealer down tomorrow! No stain for us, we're keeping it light and natural. 

Tuesday UPDATE - Whoa. First coat is going down tonight!! 8:30pm and he's still rocking!

Next Week - Build and install kitchen cabinets and then source our counter top. I can hardly wait. I got the building itch and already put together our bathroom linen cabinet. I just can't wait! Hopefully I will be an Ikea box building machine this weekend. Until then...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Flooring progress and 1st floor work

Busy, busy bees have been at work this past week. The flooring installers have made some major progress. It has been exciting for it to all come together and see how it changes day to day.

Day 1 - 2nd Floor Apartment livingroom, first pieces

2nd Floor Apartment progress looking from bedroom into living room

2nd Floor Apartment - living room installed
2nd Floor Apartment - bedroom finished

I experienced how much quieter it is underfoot while switching off all the lights upstairs after the craftsmen went home. I hadn't even thought about "quieter floors" as a perk! It is logical of course as a new secure layer has been installed on to what was a single layer of gaped flooring. We never had a squeaking issue per say, but it was a bit like my joints after a long run, softly creaky. But no more! The floors are on turmeric (happy hippie Advil)! It was a little eerie, I am sure to get over it quickly though. 

While the floors went in upstairs I was trying to finish patching up our window woodwork in our first floor living room. 

The wood paneling  below the windows were in better shape than upstairs, but still cracked and mottled with mystery holes. I swear, someone once upon a time, had a twitchy trigger finger and a power drill. The trim work however is new, as the old came off in order to insulate around the new windows, and was then salvaged to finish out the upstairs apartment in entirety with matching original trim. So much of it was already missing from our unit that it made the most sense to preserve it all in one unit, upstairs where it was needed. I am feeling pretty good about the results. I still have one final run before calling them FINISHED. 

It was pretty dreamy painting clean, new trim. Shhhh, don't tell. 

The flooring installers have since moved onto our unit and things are getting exciting!

Living Room sneak peak

Do you love the view of our storage room filled to the brim next to our living room? The fridge is indeed currently operational. Our bedroom however has been relocated completely into the basement as they started laying the floors in there today! 

Yes, that is early 1990s vinyl used as underlayment for the floors. It was already there, in good physical shape (mentally I can't comment), and a bit cushier than what is going in elsewhere. It is flat, even and tight, spandex for the floors. The floors are being nailed in so it didn't pose a problem to leave it, no more heat gun glue floor removal for this gal.

While the work continues upstairs, we are currently living a 6 year old's dream as our basement living pace became a giant pillow fort this week. Our mattress has become sleepover central as it is set up on the floor between the couch and floor. Sophie Dog is in Hog heaven.