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

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Crazy eyesThis is me, circa last day of work (note the last-day crazy-eyes).  But more on that in a bit.

You could say I bought my ticket 8 years ago when I started taking interior design classes.  Sneaking out of my magazine job to head uptown to class, I’d perspire heavily on the 6 train, hoping equally that 1) no one saw me leave work at 5:30, and 2) I’d make it there on time.

It’s funny I used the word “sneak.” I don’t think anyone really cared what I was doing, but I did feel the need to hide my creative side back then out of fear that people would think I couldn’t devote myself fully to work and pursue something on the side.

But over time, things shifted. Perhaps I’ve become more open with sharing that other side.  I owe part of it to working for Google, a company that encourages its people to nurture their side gigs and fly their freak flags.  But I owe some of it to my own awareness, tuning in to the passage of time, aging and my own authenticity.

This has all shone a light on how I spend my time. And I’m not talking about spare time per se; I’ve already tackled the matter of making sure I have it and spend it wisely.   I’m talking about those workday hours that tick by between 9-5, those hours of life we’re told – at least my generation – to make a living.

G View

View from the Goog

Aren’t those equally precious?  Mine have served me well, especially after 6 years at a company that’s made me feel appreciated and rewarded, alongside some of the best people ever.  But I’ve had a nagging feeling that my creative side work was ready for its time.

SO!
I left my job.

I’m now an intern at an interior design firm here in the city.  With a month under my belt, it’s been exciting, humbling, rewarding and overwhelming at once. I walk out at night tired and spent, but happy.

I’ve found there’s a sense of feeling lighter that comes from new and different work.  This new work feels organic to who I am, and allows me to combine things that come most naturally but that I also enjoy: thinking creatively, drawing stuff, solving problems (dare I say #puzzles), and working with people. And I’m hoping this intersection may actually provide a sustainable career.

Don’t get me wrong: I encountered plenty of noise during all of this. But it was my own noise, telling me to stay safe, stay put, because you may not be good enough.

But it’s the other voices that won out in the end. For someone who’s prided herself on self-reliance and staunch independence, I’ve found that confiding in others and being vulnerable about my insecurities has brought more encouragement from friends, family, and oftentimes perfect strangers, than I expected.

It’s funny, this change came slow but fast at the same time: I thought about it for years, and then all at once, it’s here.

I’m drawn to narratives about aging, memory, and the passage of time (see: 85-year old Kate), so naturally I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button a few months ago, for the first time. If you’ve seen it, you know that Pitt’s character Benjamin ages backwards. So while he’s a kid trapped in an old man’s body at the start, by the end, he’s looks like a 20-something, just with a lifetime of experience and knowledge underneath his youthful (smoking-hot) exterior.

At the end, his voiceover reads from a letter he’s written to his daughter. It’s about living life without being afraid to try new things. The visuals show Benjamin working in a toll booth, traveling through India, and living the less-conventional life of an “old” man. His words were powerful enough that I wrote them down. To me, they serve as a reminder to take my own path, and to look at life less in terms of goals and destinations, and more in terms of the journey, a message that came just when I needed it most:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

Kitchen Aspiration

Kitchen Final Option

In my quest to post “polished pieces” and final design projects on this blog , I’ve gone months without a peep.  This is nonsense!

So today I present you with something at its beginning:  my kitchen.  When I moved here 3 years ago, I was charmed by its age.  Plenty of apartments I looked at had sleekly renovated kitchens and modern cabinetry, but they left me cold.  This place was different:  its kitchen hadn’t gone through any changes in 30+ years – for better or for worse.

Kitchen Before 1

Its white wood cabinets are decorated with branch-like pulls that are quirky and actually quite charming.  And the layout is nice.  But it’s ripe for an overhaul, so here we are.  Enter my renderings:

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The best way for me to imagine my space is to put pencil to paper.  While digital drawing tools are great, drafting lets me work out a scheme more organically.  So after drafting a few designs and a rough 3D perspective, I used watercolors to work through the different color and material options.

Kitchen Sketch 1

Painting out four different versions allowed me to get a broad stroke visual of how materials like wood, white granite and dark vs. lighter cabinetry would read in the space and work together (or potentially against each other).

I alternated between white or wood counters, charcoal finished lower and upper cabinets, and white subway tile with antique brass pulls and accents.  The renderings are by no means polished; I got scrappier as I went, quickly getting the color on the page to see the effect.

This helped me visualize potential fixtures and materials, which all nicely bridge the gap between modern and classic, with a nod to industrialism.

So I’m close to a winner:  in lieu of going monochromatic, I’m opting for an eclectic look: dark cabinets on the bottom to tie the space in with the rest of the apartment, with white on top. I’ve also heard wood top counters are high maintenance, so I’ll bring in that look with reclaimed wood paneling around the island, or with porcelain wood tile as the backsplash.

Kitchen option 3

So it’s go time.  But not quite yet:  I’m trying to enjoy the feeling of having made decisions!  Sometimes that’s just as much fun as the execution.

But nothing will be as fun as sitting at a new counter for the first time, rendering something new.

Residential Design Project

I love a good DIY project.  There’s something gratifying about sanding, painting, and just plain getting my hands dirty.  But if I ever want to work with “real” people one day to make the most of their spaces, some more hands-on learning needs to happen.

That’s where my classes at NYSID fit in.  I just wrapped another semester, where I’ve been chipping away at a degree in interior design.  While it’s exciting to create spaces for my own home, or sketch out floor plans for friends, the classes give me structure and training for tackling real-life client demands.  And I do love me some structure.

Dumbo Kitchen Perspective

Loft with “Floating” Kitchen

But yes, my day job in digital media is still very much in tact, and I love it.  But switching gears at night and tapping another side of my brain is exhilarating.  But hard.  And humbling.  I’ll go from knowing a good deal about media during the day….to rolling up at class at night, feeling like a greenhorn undergrad just getting her sea legs.

But I’m learning.  And like any good student, I have my little sketches to prove it.  We completed two big projects this semester, envisioning spaces for “faux” clients.  The first was a Dumbo loft I designed for a NYC transplant finding her roots in the city after relocating from the south. (Imagination seems to be a definite prerequisite).

Over the course of 5 weeks, I carved out a 30′ x 120′ space into specific rooms, paying homage to my client’s woodsy roots and the surrounding neighborhood.  Reclaimed wood mixes with more industrial materials inspired by the neighborhood, like steel and brick.  They all come together in my favorite feature, a “floating” kitchen (below) that brings the elements together, with openings to allow light to permeate the space.

Our final project was a full house, two floors of empty space that needed to accommodate two people “aging in place.”  I remember moaning to myself imaging a space fit for old folks, complete with shower handlebars and hospital-like touches.  But it was a refreshing exercise, and we learned that accessible design can be both functional and beautiful.

LR Perspective

Living Room with Water View

My space for two 60+ roomies, situated on the water, and positioned to make the most of the natural light.  For inspiration, I pulled from their nautical pasts.  Some rooms (like the one above) were designed to evoke the feeling of being on the airy, upper deck of a boat.  Others were designed to feel like the cozy inner cabins, maximizing space and providing lots of storage.

Res II - N. Wall

Wall of built-ins

The full exercise required we choose inspirational images to dictate our designs, as well as all furnishings, fixtures and fabric palettes to round out each room.  A full look at each design board below.  Ahoy!

Fabric 1

Fabric Palette

My parents, my clients

My parents are building a house at The Jersey Shore where they plan to spend their post-retirement years.  It’s not so much in Snooki territory, but in a calmer, more peaceful hamlet in South Jersey.

After 9 months:  progress!  They are getting pretty close to their move-in date, and there are finally walls up and floors down so we can get cracking on the interiors.  I’ve been scooting down there on weekends to see how they’re coming along and to lend my two cents (my favorite part!)

The biggest challenge in their case (and in any case where you’re envisioning a space that has yet to be built) was trying to get a sense of how the interior would come together, especially when they had only architectural plans to look at.  So this summer, to give them a sense of how the end product could look, I took on the living room as my pet project.

I drafted up a floor plan and suggested furniture layout, and converted it to a perspective (below).  I wouldn’t say I was given 100% free reign.  My mom had some solid ideas of what she wanted (and excellent taste, I’ll add):  a navy color palette punched up by a few accent colors, grounded by natural fabrics and woods.  But it was fun to start with a semi-blank canvas.  Here’s what I came up with:

20141102_140834 (1)

Living Room (perspective sketch)

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Living Room (watercolor)

My dad wanted a large sofa facing the fireplace, but I drafted up an alternative option:  two smaller sofas facing each other, both with good access to the fireplace (OK, OK…TV).  I always love this arrangement because it’s more conducive to socializing and doesn’t block off the rest of the room, which flows into an open dining/kitchen area.

We set out to pick a pale neutral gray paint color and chose Agreeable Gray by Sherwin Williams, then ordered the basics:  the two medium length Carlisle sofas from Pottery Barn, a customized wide ottoman upholstered in a navy flame stitch ikat fabric, and we’re still all over the place with the carpet (don’t ask).  We also chose a Minwax stain equal parts Jacobean and Dark Walnut for the floors.

As of now, here’s how it looks:

20140921_164509 (1)

The floors will be stained this week, with furniture arriving shortly after.  And I’m jonesing to make use of my felt furniture sliders (really important for protecting wood floors) and get the sofas perfectly placed.  Once the pieces are in, we’ll think about side chairs, art work, and accessorizing with some “room jewelry” like lamps and sparkly things.  Trip to Homegoods, anyone??

Scalloped Accent Wall

IMG_2063

One of my goals this summer is to create an accent wall behind my headboard.  I’ve contemplated a scallop motif ever since I was inspired by this image from Design*Sponge of a teal scalloped bathroom tile:

Bathroom Title (Source:  Genevieve Gorder, as seen in "Design*Sponge"

Bathroom Title (Source: Genevieve Gorder, featured in “Design*Sponge”)

While I love the repetition of the shape, there’s something about the variation in color that appeals to me; it’s anything but flat.  I’ve since seen inspiration everywhere, and just designed something that’s in line with the scale of my wall.  It turns out, the scallop I’ve been attempting is actually just an arc repeated over and over.  After drafting a few versions, I’m opting for the pattern on the left:IMG_2080

As for creating a stencil out of my drawing, I’ll leave that tedious project for another (rainier!) day.  Stay tuned…

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