Sunday, October 15, 2017

Closing Up!

We have a kitchen sink that isn't used as tool storage anymore! I never thought I would be so happy to have running water outside of the bathroom. I tell you, never having to wash our multi cooker pot in the tiny bathroom sink ever again feels a bit like I just lost my virginity. I'm not kidding, not even a little bit. I waited so long for something that I knew would be totally awesome, and it was still way cooler than I expected. Plus, I can do it any time I want. I wash those dishes in the dark, with the lights on, when I get home from work, at 4 in the morning when I can't sleep.  I'm an adult damn it, I will wash those dishes any time I please.  I will sometimes just stand at the sink and turn it on and off just for the sheer thrill of it. Not to mention all the dishes my husband washes! Don't judge. 

This does mean we passed the plumbing inspection. We have worker bees buzzing around the house closing up walls and repairing plaster. I was going to go upstairs and take photos to post of their progress, but the house it truly a pit. Drywall dust and plaster everywhere. It brings the strongest of men to their knees. 

I have a punch list a mile long, and getting longer with every task I decide I am capable of doing. I installed two bedroom closets upstairs in the rental last week. Christopher helped with the second one which of course went twice as fast. I only have 6 more to go! Gulp. 

I have determined that I do a pretty decent job installing trim. I hand nailed the trim around our kitchen window. Sure, it looks pretty and I didn't even need to use caulk, but 5 minutes after finishing and assessing my handy work, I ordered a nail gun and air compressor. Bring on ALL of the trim! I've got my short list of baseboard that I'll put in today before work. Ba-bam! Ba-bam!

I also took it upon myself to go grab some sound proofing and fire retardant to insulate the new wall between the stairs leading to the 2nd floor apartment, and our 1st floor hallway. I love this stuff too. It was super easy to cut and install. I could easily do it alone and it stays in the wall cavities without having to pin it or rush to cover it with sheet rock. There is a weirdo part of me that looks forward to putting this in our basement.

Here's betting that next week we have even more updates to share. I expect I can paint our apartment mid next week and bring some semblance of normality back into our lives.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Door Hardware and Overall Update

I just spent 5 hours ordering door hardware - this is after the week of research and indecision regarding finish, style, new vs old, etc. The struggle and triumph over something that surely no one else will notice seems trivial considering all that is happening in the greater world. Perhaps throwing my mind into the obsessive spin cycle does more that distract me from outside anxieties, perhaps it spits me out in a cleaner mental state able to perceive the smallness and at the same time largeness of every decision.

Philosophical nonsense aside, I had a win today. And on a greater scale it stems from a more universal win on the construction front; our plumbing paperwork at the DOB has finally gone through. The plumber has even been to our house, TWICE, and is aims to schedule the inspection within the next week. (Or so we were told, still not sure that'll actually happen). We are a gnats sack away from closing up these walls and living as the fancy folk do, with a sink in our kitchen and a stove for our cooking.

Since pictures of paperwork  or plumbing straps aren't any one's idea if riveting; I give unto you - DOOR HARDWARE!

Top left will go into the two new private entrance doors for our apartment and the rental upstairs. Since the two new doors to the apartments are just that, new, they are bored for new hardware. I found a reproduction appropriate for new install. I went the crazy lady route of unlacquered brass so they would patina along side all of the other hardware in the house. 

The hall bathroom door gets new privacy hardware in nickle and black porcelain to match the finishes eventually going in. The previous set up was a small hole drilled into the door, no latch, nada. Fancy update folks.  We will have a bathroom door that locks. And not only that, we will have a door as opposed to the YMCA style curtain currently hanging in its place. My life is glamorous.

Bottom right are round crystal knobs with brass shanks. I can't wait to get the actual knobs in my hot little hands. After months of looking for old knobs, I bit the bullet and went with reproductions. Outfitting the old existing mortise locks was proving difficult and overwhelming by simply combing through piles of reclaimed knobs. Spindle width, length, missing set screws, and unmatched pairs all led me to reproductions. I was guaranteed that once I knew what I needed, and I need all the knobs, I could accurately order a complete house full of matching knobs. Did I mention that there weren't really any in the house when we moved in? We've got the vestibule brass knobs and one wooden knob for the basement door. Other than that, the only original hardware are the back plates and hinges which I am cleaning up. All of which are very simple and understated. 

So with that in mind, the remaining hardware pictured below seems a bit out of character. But I love it, and I think it makes perfect sense. 

The push/mending plates match the rosette I bought at an architectural salvage 6 years ago on a whim. The rosette works beautifully with the knob and brass keyhole cover that goes back on the basement door. The plates on the left will cover giant holes in our bedroom door which was originally the parlor. It was the first room guest would see, and perhaps only see in the house. It makes sense for it to have a bit more decoration than say, the loo. 

And since I love the design, I sourced reproduction pocket door pulls that will face into our living/dining space, once the dining room. The plain pulls will go on the other side which faces our second bedroom. Budgeting, yo. 

And then we have these nickel beauties that will go on the pantry door, which is painted the same white as our kitchen cabinetry. It can be seen from both the kitchen and living space so I figured I'd go fancy, but keep all the kitchen hardware nickel to tie it together. Not to mention they were 50% off. 

This was probably too many words and what I should have written was:

LOOK AT THE PRETTIES! We are getting our inspection in the next week or two and then will have running water in the kitchen for the first time in over a year, and a stove!

Live and learn. 

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.