Studio Styling

Gramercy Bed Fave

I recently staged an apartment for sale, transforming a studio on Gramercy Park into the kind of place I’d like to live.  Over the course of two weekends, I moved in some favorite pieces of furniture, then layered in “life” with new accessories and pieces I’ve collected over the years.  By the end of it, I converted a once-disheveled bachelor pad back into an airy space for one.

This space also happens to be my old apartment – my first – purchased over a decade ago, as a youngin who knew little about real estate (and less about co-ops).  While living there, I tried my hand at renovating, redoing the kitchen (Dad, your backsplash is still lookin’ good!) and made other updates with storage solutions and new lighting.  The space suit me well for many years, teaching me in my 20s and 30s about living simply, minimalistically, in 450 square-feet.  

Gramercy Console - Cropped 3

Now that I’ve spent a few days converting it into a “listing”, part of me wants to move back in.  It’s not necessarily because of the neighborhood charm or the space itself, but because of how I felt the day I completed the task, after hours of styling, steaming, arranging, and photographing.  Letting myself sprawl out under the ceiling fan, legs aching, I looked around and felt proud of the results, a ruthlessly edited mixture of some of my favorite things.

But the added bonus was what I didn’t see:  there was no clutter, no mail to open, no to-do lists, no TV to turn on, not even a good music option.  And how freeing!  I popped open a cookbook and let my mind drift, less focused on to do lists, obligations, worries, and more focused on good memories from my time there, what I had to let go of, what I hoped for the future, and where I was.  Turns out that paring down and getting rid of visual clutter allowed me to get rid of mental clutter and be more mindful.

To be clear: I am not a minimalist.  I like my things too much: my book, my old photos, my peep-toe heels from another life, my seltzer bottles collected from near and far.  But I’ve gained a better understanding of the power of eliminating the other “stuff” that can sap my energy, and allow space for more joy to creep in.  I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book, but I have a feeling this was part of her gist.

I suppose that’s at the core of what I’m doing now, letting go of certain things, whether big (an apartment) or small.  It’ll make space for whatever is to come.  Freeing, indeed.

Gramercy Bedside 1

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Starts & Finishes

Hardware newI have a habit of starting many things at once.  Case in point: the 8 books on my nightstand at varying stages of doneness.

It’s not that I don’t finish them (I do), or that I become disinterested (I don’t).  It’s just that there are many things I want to get my hands into: things to paint! plants to plant! And I want to start all of it now.

One of these was a kitchen renovation I took on last year.  While I didn’t do anything structural, it was pretty involved, and it’s still only about 85% done.  (Did I paint the lower cabinets gray yet? Nope. Will I? Maybe). And I’ve been beating myself up over the fact that it’s not done, focused on the list of to-do’s to get me there.  

That’s something I’ve always grappled with:  the list mentality that goes along with any project.  Too often I’ve caught myself thinking “I must finish XYZ and check these tasks off before I can relax.”  

But I’m learning to be in the moment and focus on the “process of doing”, not just the end result.  Chalk it up to making bigger life changes or a heightened awareness of the swift passage of time (yikes).  I’m trying to be mindful of where I am this minute – instead of focusing on some imaginary finish line.

As it turns out, most tasks in this reno have been a blast:  picking finishes, accessorizing, styling.  Paying attention to these smaller moments is where the magic is (in kitchens, and in life).  So that’s where I am, enjoying the decisions I’ve made, big and small, that have made this space mine.

Some highlights below:

1. The FloorsFloor 1Ah yes, my heavy-duty, smooth and buttery encaustic clay tile floor.  It may be a favorite element, and what likely made this project stretch on for months vs. weeks (it took me awhile to choose a pattern).

The motif is baked into the top clay layer, so after years of wear, the pattern won’t wear away.   I chose the Atlas II from Cement Tile Shop because it feels part farmhouse, part modern.  The charcoal and milk colorway paired with a white grout imparts a faded-out look at the seams that I love.

2. Area RugMaker:S,Date:2017-10-20,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

This guy!  $30 at Urban Outfitters.  Every space needs a black accent for drama and depth.  This also hides all manner of spills and sins.

3.  Backsplash Tile

Speaking of, I was drawn to this ceramic tile because I was wanted a clean and minimal graphic like subway tile, but a bit more unique.  This 2″ hexagon from Home Depot is a nod to the asphalt blocks I see on my runs (walks?) along the Brooklyn Promenade, a little something inspired by the neighborhood.

4.  Greenery

Plants simply bring  warmth to a space in my opinion.  Succulents are nice on kitchen counters because they’re tight and their leafiness won’t get in the way of cooking.  And brightly colored planters allow for a color scheme that can change with the seasons.Maker:S,Date:2017-10-20,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

5.  Hardware

This is where I got to add some “jewelry” to my design.  I chose the simple dimpled Mid-Century Knob for the cabinets, and the squared-off Greenwood Pull for the drawers, both from Schoolhouse Electric.  I love that they’re handmade in the US from recycled brass.  The faucet is the Trinsic in champagne bronze from Delta, but the “wet bar” version, which works better in smaller spaces.  It’s also quote sexy for something rated so highly for longevity and functionality (note: it is totally normal to rank the sex appeal of a faucet).

6.  Accents / Kitsch / Doo-dads

Keeping in line with the brass, I added some character with a few small brass accents.  I know the brass trend may have peaked, but I personally cannot get enough of it. You could say these additions speak to two of my favorite kitchen activities:  crafting cocktails and popping open a brew. Maker:S,Date:2017-10-20,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y The plaque is from a road trip to that took me and a few friends through Malibu a few years ago.  I may mount it on the island to make a real “I’m on a ship!” statement, but for now it rests in a book nook.

7. Custom Grill

Alright, last brass thing (promise).  This custom grill covers a non-functionining heater and replaces and old, heavy steel grate.  This picks up on some of the graphic qualities of the floor but in an old-school Grecian pattern.

Grill

8.  Wood Elements – utensil holder, cutting boards, countertops

To balance some of the stark white and harder surfaces like the white wood cabinets and Caesarstone countertops, I used a 2″ thick walnut for the island surface, and echoed the finish in the form of a teak utensil holder and natural wood cutting boards.  The cutting boards are in constant rotation and do double-duty, covering the electrical sockets when not in use.

 

So, this is all she wrote for now, the highlights from a journey still in progress.  There could be more updates coming your way in the form of new accessories and details, but hopefully I’ll be too busying enjoying them to report back.

RESOURCES:

UrbanOutfitters – area rug

Anthropologie – planter

Whisk – teak utensil holder

Malibu Farm – brass plaque

Delta – sink faucet

ArchGrille – custom grill

Schoolhouse Electric – cabinet hardware

Home Depot – Merola Hexagon Tile

Cement Tile Shop – floor tiles

PH Architectural Woodworks –  all custom cabinetry and millwork

Waking up a Dull Corner

IMG_2461When you’ve been living in a place for a year plus, some of the details that you found unbearable at first seem “not so bad” after awhile.  I definitely experienced this (hello, 100-year-old rusty bathroom heater!)  That’s how I felt about this corner of my living room.

To be fair, the before picture is from the previous tenants.  But I think some of my recent updates have transformed this nook into a happier little enclave.

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after

This area had some nice things going for it:  built-ins on the north wall to the left, a nice cool gray wall color (Natural Grey by Behr), but based on pure apartment functionality, it was overcome by wires and power chords, not to mention my smallish (aka “man poison”) TV.  And for the past year I’d been using this Pottery Barn apothecary coffee table (below) as a console.

Apothecary Table

It’s a gem my sister passed along 9 years ago when she departed the city for the burbs.  It packs a punch and has served me well over the years, storing everything from a collection of clutches, iPod chargers, playing cards, old passports, and nail polish (you sensing a slice of my extra-curriculars?)  And I sadly have to let it go.  I’ve swapped it out for this West Elm console.  Predictable?  Yes.  But there’s a certain originality to this piece:  the shape is industrial but not cold, warmed up by the varying tones of wood.

I also needed to fire up the walls.  I had purchased this Gray Malin photo a few months ago and just had it framed.  I worked with the guys at Make a Frame in Cobble Hill.  They did an awesome job, and helped me choose a light maple frame and bright white matte.  And while I had to remove my death grip on my wallet to pay for it, it was worth it.

The photo itself speaks to my love of symmetry:  the umbrellas strike a nice repetition, and the pinks liven up the living room, so much so that I felt the need to add a pink-striped sarong (really!) from Anthropologie as a stand-in throw blanket on the gray chair.  Lesson here:  even clothing can be an accessory given the right context.

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Some other upgrades:  adding a tree.  I chose a fiddle leaf fig with big, glossy leaves, in an effort to bring the eye up and take advantage of some of the apartment’s vertical space.  I’d really love to keep this one alive.  (Apparently you need to “dust” your plants and give the leaves regular care, just as important as watering.  Who knew).

I also found a solution for those unruly wires.  This framed blow-up poster from a page out of Gourmet magazine makes a great shield that covers the mess, and it’s lightweight enough to be moved around when needed.

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Some light accessorizing rounded out the project.  The console needed color, so I pulled in a potted oregano plant and a green seltzer bottle to pick up the shiny tree leaves, fitting them snugly in a simple white tray.  Some trivia: the bottle was $18 at my local Housing Works thrift shop, presumably on sale since it’s chipped on the bottom.  #nobigwhoop  Score!

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I’m happy with the nook.  It’s a treat for the eyes, and my changes added some nice storage too.

As for the man poison?  I think my TV will remain a humble 26″.  I’m still looking for this guy, if you know where I can find him….

Summer Luminaries

It turns out I’m a lantern lady.  Actually, “luminary enthusiast” sounds better.  I’m not much of a collector in general, but my lantern count has hit double-digits.  I’ve collected some great little vessels over the years, even before I had an outdoor table (or indoor table for that matter).  My favorites are the ones found in old second-hand stores, or on the cheap.  A sampling:

I love them because they remind me of nights spent at the Jersey shore, when family dinners culminated in front porch nightcaps.  My mother would – and still does – light every wick possible until the porch glows from afar (fire hazards be damned!)

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This weekend I added to my collection with what is probably my favorite score yet:  blue glass lanterns with beautiful bronze detailing, a steal at $6.99 each at The Christmas Tree Shoppe.  (It’s not just for holiday decor!)  I stuck with the same turquoise hue as some other pieces, and I’m excited to light them.  (And to my past roommates who coined me #FireMarshallKate, you’ll be happy to know I’m still just as diligent with my extinguishing duties).

Shoe Storage Upgrade

In my scurry to move forward on new projects, I’ve been remiss in posting some of the nice little moments that have come together in my apartment.  One of my favorite nooks is this one by my front door.  It’s a chair + crate combo that’s nice on the eyes, and also holds and conceals my shoes.

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The chair is CB2, and the wood crate is a find from Maine during a drive home from my friend Kim’s wedding.  A few of us stopped by some antique stores in Wells, and I founds this Hood Dairy crate for $28.  It dates back to…well, I’m not sure.  But it’s old.  And I was drawn to its red check pattern, and of course its crustiness.  I think this montage is a good reminder that mixing old and new is easy, as long as you can find the similarities that tie the pieces together.  In this case, the red tones do the job.  I may add wheels or sliders, TBD.

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OH and my friend Silvia scored a mink that day and we got a $20 discount for paying cash and bundling our purchases.  wooo! #effectivenegotiation

 

On a Mission: Carpeting

One of the lessons I’ve picked up about design schemes is to start with the floors, and work your way up from there to create a cohesive space.  Ie, find a good carpet that you love, and pull from it, letting it dictate the color palette and style of the room.

I was set on finding a coral carpet, the perfect shade of bright, “off red” that would complement my accessories and breathe life into the living room.  I had my heart set on the below Brooke pattern from Madeline Weinrib in Pink, but not only is it overpriced, the 8×10′ has been out of stock for awhile (probably a sign):

Brooke Carpet in Pink

So I just Zipcar-ed it out to the ABC Carpet & Home Warehouse this weekend in the Bronx and was blown away.  What a place.  It’s spilling with cast-offs from the pricier flagship store in the Flatiron, and there’s a full floor devoted to rugs.  Here are three frontrunners I pulled:

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They’re all close to what I’m looking for, but not close enough.  But they say those with an open mind are rewarded!  I found a cute lamp (on the floor, above) that’s already made its way onto a bookshelf:

ABC Lamp

…and a new coffee table as well.  A mirror-topped neoclassical shape that brings a strong masculinity to my space:

Coffee Table

You’ll notice it’s resting on my current carpet.  Babysteps..

Housing Works Hustle

One of the challenges of moving from a studio apartment into something a bit larger is “filling in” the space.  And doing it in a way that feels organic versus rushing to accumulate lots of accessories at once.   The biggest project will filling up my shelves.  What once seemed like a respectable book collection now looks pretty darn paltry on the open white space that’s swallowed them up. I’ve collected some special accessories over the years (hello favorite seltzer bottles!) but it’s time to hunt for more.

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Luckily, I love the hunt.  And I’ve never been one to rush things.  (You’re welcome to apply this analysis to my love life. I certainly have).  Anyway, rather than scooping up an “instant”  accessory spread at a West Elm or elsewhere, I’d rather build an arrangement over time to add a patina that matches the age and character of my place.

I’ve always loved scavenging through stores like Housing Works and Vintage Thrift for good finds, but it’s hard not to pick up too much “junk” for someone like me who both loves a good deal and refurbishing random stuff.  I’m trying hard to be ruthlessness in my editing; if I don’t absolutely love something, it doesn’t make it through my front door.  I got lucky today at Housing Works in Chelsea and found the pieces above, all at what I’d consider a bargain ($47 total).  Yahhtzzee!

Candlesticks

Candlesticks

The candlesticks I’ve incorporated onto the mantle, and the trash bin I’ve repurposed as an umbrella holder by my front door.