Author Archives: Evan

FEBRUARY 1 2014

Wow, this week has been a doozy! Between work, the Polar Vortex, a new design project, the Grammys, BIEBER, the Super Bowl shenanigans invading Times Square and Finn I didn’t have a free minute to sit and download a thought.image-1

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▶ I started a new project a few weeks ago. It’s small for now but may turn into something more substantial in time. Regardless, after nearly 9 years living in the city, it finally gave me the opportunity to debunk the urban myth that is the Design Within Reach Annex in Jersey. I’m thrilled to report IT IS REAL AND IT IS HEAVEN, YOU GUYS. In truth their eBay shop has been a great resource for me in the past, but I never actually saw the Annex with my own two peep balls until just last week. (When you live in Manhattan getting to anything outside of Manhattan is a huge production–especially if you’re going to a place where you intend to procure a piece of furniture–so it’s not surprising it took a gig that is providing transportation for me to get out there.) I knew it existed, in theory–kind of like how winning the lottery or the simultaneous orgasm exists in theory–but I assumed it was less like a showroom and more like a warehouse of horrors. Lucky I was wrong. It was lovely inside and the saleswoman who helped me looked like Carmela Soprano, and let’s be honest when you go out to Jersey you can’t ask for anything more, right? I scored their beautiful Tripod Floor Lamp for less than half the list price simply because the shade had a bit of a dent. Most everything else there was in a similar condition as the lamp, with a minor scratch or chip resulting in a steep discount. Holy Holly Hunter In A Hand Bag there were so many other things I could’ve gotten! They had a dozen or so Gubi semi pendants in various colors and sizes, but regretfully I wasn’t in the position to get one for myself this time. Fingers crossed when I go back there will still be a few hanging around!

Within the last few weeks I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my replica Eames, how I feel about reproductions morally-speaking, where to find them, etc. and while I make no bones about having a Feames (fake Eames) I also make no bones about wanting a real Eames, so part of me was hoping I’d see one at the Annex at a reasonable price and convince myself to finally throw down the plastic. Well, I did find a few and the prices were comparatively reasonable but something about a $7,000 chair marked down to $4,500 still didn’t seem like a move I could make. I know, I know…#firstworldproblems

▶ What happened at the Grammys, you guys? I don’t know about you but I thought it was U.G.L.Y and, no sir, it did not have an alibi. Here’s the thing: the producers need to stop trying so hard to make these damn Grammy moments happen. Whoever thought Miranda Lambert and Billy Joe should collaborate on a tribute to Phil Everly should be stripped naked and gently beaten with watery deli meat. WHATEVER but something really degrading needs to be done to those producers, preferably at the hands of Kacey Musgraves. The person who thought it was a good idea to have her perform IMMEDIATELY after Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons (one of the only good performances of the night) needs a thick slice of boiled ham across the face. Was it just me or could Carol King barely contain her bewilderment during her duet with Sara Bareilles, which was really less of a duet and more of a televised master class in which Sara should have just sat there and taken notes. (Side note: WHY was that album even nominated?) And is Pink now only moonlighting as a pop star because it felt like her job at Cirque Du Soleil is taking over what was once a very fun, non-acrobatic career? Wait. I take it back. She’s too far in to come back. If at this point Pink didn’t come out and perform on a trapeze I’d commit harakiri. Well done, Pink. Carry on.

image-4      image-3▶ I went out to New Jersey a second time last week to source wood for a dinning table and some possible planter boxes I’m hoping to make for my patio once the weather gets nicer. The Gypsy Farmhouse is this kooky shack bubbling over with furniture made from barnwood salvaged from Amish farms in Pennsylvania. I was able to snag a stunning barn door table at an unbelievable price, though I wish I hadn’t gone the day after a storm–the property surrounding the house is littered with beautiful old planks dying to be made into something, but I couldn’t get to any of it. If I had on snow boots you can bet I would’ve leaped into the slush like Janice Ian into a big pile of girls. When it comes to DIY-ing I firmly believe nothing worth having comes easily, so it’s a wonder why I set out that day in a pair of converse, so unprepared to get my hands dirty. Live and learn! I did, however, get a fascinating tutorial from Patti, the owner, on how they make table legs from old farm beams. Ugh, how I wish I just had a radial saw and a workshop. My life would be complete. (There’s another joke in there somewhere about ‘making a slatted bench out of rainbows and smiles and we’d all sit on it and be happy’ but one Mean Girls reference is really all a post can handle so I won’t attempt it. TOO LATE.)

▶ I opened my mailbox this week to find Jonathan Adler and his husband laughing smugly on the cover of Dwell and all I have to say about that is really. Really? Is that what I need to be looking at when I’m going to work on the bus in the morning? No. No it is not. I don’t need to start my day by discovering how fabulous and successful Jonathan Adler is. THESE ARE THINGS I ALREADY KNOW. And things that make me feel bad about myself. And yet, there he is looking up at me, tanned and breezy about it all, not giving a fuck about my inferiority complex but instead wading in his infinity pool like he’s on his third afternoon cocktail. Ugh. UGH. The whole thing makes me want to vomit from the knot of self-loathing that builds in my gut each time I open to the article but refuse to read it. Refuse to read it but also choose to only acknowledge the emboldened quotes, which I feel is not really fair of me but the only thing I can do when dealing with someone who says they “use every square inch of the house with tremendous glee and gusto.” Gusto. God damn you, Adler. I hate you and I want to be you.

image▶ Mid-week Finn decided to start Halloween early this year by dressing as the trash underneath my kitchen sink and surprising me when I came home from work. Long story short I wasn’t laughing, but the result was a fresh-smelling pooch and a new locking garbage can from The Container Store. I thought I’d seen it all but I’m continually amazed by the new and inventive ways he discovers to raise my blood pressure. He’s 6 now–that’s nearly middle-aged–and I thought he’d be doing middle-aged doggy things but apparently he’s Benjamin Button-ing back into a puppy. At what point will he just settle down and be content with a Yoplait and an episode of Blue Bloods on a Friday evening? I’m still waiting but until then there are a barrage of cleaning products at the ready.

▶ Times Square, normally a circus, added a fourth ring when the Super Bowl came to town and eviscerated any shred of civility those of us who work in the area try so hard to maintain. Walking out of my office to get lunch was like being overtaken by a giant swell and dragged along by the undertow for three blocks, except this swell was full of drunk people who scream GO BRONCOS and ask how to get to the M&M Store. I’m a big football fan and I can’t wait for Sunday (go Broncos!) but I will be glad when Monday comes and the Ringling Brothers have packed it in and left town.

image-6▶ After a very long week it was so nice to come home to a happy little surprise from Case Study Ceramics sitting on my doorstep! What’s in the box? Spoiler alert: it isn’t Gwyneth Paltrow’s head (sorry, Coldplay fans) but it is a gorgeous planter I hope to have the energy to set up very soon.

THIS IS NOT A HOUSE ON CURBED

Picture 2A big THANK YOU to Hana Alberts and Jessica Dailey, the two fiercely talented Senior Editors/Vixens of New York Real Estate, over at Curbed New York for picking up a story about This Is Not A House that appeared on Apartment Therapy this week! They didn’t have to add their own lovely little write-up but they did and I’m so grateful to these ladies for their kindness and for the great work they do over at their site, which allows all of us New Yorkers the opportunity to sit back with a 12-pack of Diet Coke and pour over the dirty bits of other people’s apartments from the privacy of our own. Curbed is one of those rare sites, along with Street Easy, that offers an equally morbid (It Came From Craigslist) and delicious (Real Estate Death Match) glimpse into warts-and-all city living.

Also it seems I received a nomination for the Microdwelling Hall of Fame which Finn would like to accept on my behalf because he’s into that kind of attention whoring and spotlight pillaging.

If you haven’t already please go check out Curbed now, as well as their other amazing titles Eater (food) and Racked (CLOTHES). You won’t regret it. Unless you believe Carrie Bradshaw actually lived in that fucking brownstone then, sure, you may regret reading and you may start drinking pink wine from a bag and you most definitely will start telling everyone about that time you almost made homecoming court.

PS: I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for their lovely posts and emails the last few days. It’s all too easy to leave a nasty comment when it is in an anonymous forum but it takes real effort and courage to write something kind and of value. So…thank you…and just know I have a fuzzy feeling in my chest even though I’ll probably deny it if you confront me about it because I’m a guy and I have trouble acknowledging my feelings.

PPS: You all are very inspiring so let’s keep on keeping on!

WHAT IS DESIGN?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Recently a friend of mine rather astutely (or shrewdly) told me he thought the whole business of design and renovation said less about how a person lives and more about how they don’t. Specifically he was referring to me and my resistance to process a failed relationship and how it had manifested itself in my apartment.

I said it was a shrewd observation, right?

I once dated someone who was really into astrology. He believed that, although we are all unique in our own different ways, our behaviors are ultimately determined by our signs. He used his apartment as an example. That thing–WOOF!–was styled within an inch of its life. He was a Cancer–the crab of the zodiac–and like a crab, with its soft, delicate abdomen, he thought of his apartment as his shell, the contents of which were the salvaged bits he assembled to protect himself against outside harm.

Now, to me, that kind of logic is one cat-skeleton-under-your-sofa away from appearing on Hoarders: Buried Alive but it was the first time I began to think about design as symptomatic of something greater than just an affection for pretty fabrics and Eames chairs. [By the way, this was not the relationship in question but I thank you, OK Cupid, for your devilish sense of humor.]

I don’t disagree with my friend. In fact I think he’s actually right, even if what he said made me want to curl into a ball and listen to Bon Iver in the dark. Why else do we jump through all the hoops of making an interior hospitable if not for the perception of an inhospitable exterior? Is that too big of a leap to make? Maybe. Do I care? No. I’m feeling very introspective today, so lay back and enjoy this metaphorical Slip ‘N Slide with me. I think a lot of it has to do with control (or the illusion of having it), which I totally admit about myself. Designing my space, designing other people’s spaces: a lot of it is about gaining control and eliminating chaos and feeling like choosing to place a plant here or put a lamp there is a way of coping with the pressures and emotional stresses in life and oh God I’m venturing into teen cutting territory what is wrong with me I should stop before I admit I dumpster dive to feel alive…

[Isn’t it fantastic how I can start off talking about design and bring it around to wrist cutters? Don’t you find that just CHARMING about me? No? Yea, me neither.]

I’m still not sure what design really is but I don’t think it needs to be only one thing, nor does it need to say only one thing about me or how I feel about myself. It says a lot about who I am! I use design to insulate myself from harmful things but I also use it to satisfy aesthetics. And I’m OK with that.

Now enough with the heavy stuff. Here’s a picture of Finn dressed as a sassy devil:

Meow.

THIS IS NOT A HOUSE ON APARTMENT THERAPY

What a thrill it is to be featured on Apartment Therapy today!

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Finn being a diva PER USUAL

I have long been a fan of everything on AT so it’s a real honor and privilege to even be mentioned alongside their content and profiles of other spaces!

This had been in the works for some time, but because I know you all hate spoilers I kept things on the QT. The same cannot be said however for the season finales of Homeland or Downton Abbey so your Spoiler Alert Threat Level Warnings should be set to TANGERINE from here on out, are we clear?

Now, if you’ve linked to this blog from AT’s article and are experiencing it for the first time welcome! As regular readers of This Is Not A House can attest, we do things a little differently around these parts. In the course of writing about rental renovations and affordable DIYs I often ramble and get lost on tangents. There may be times when I equate getting over a past relationship to refinishing a hardwood floor, or mention Target Lady when talking about regrouting your tub, but rest assured I’ve got a steady hand and know where I’m going with this. It takes awhile to get my point across but I guarantee the journey will have been worth it.

So please enjoy! And whether you’re a seasoned pro or an aspiring DIYer please please please let me and everyone else know what you’re doing! I’ve put my contact email in the sidebar and comments are enable on each post. I think the best thing about being a part of this community is sharing our ideas. (hashtag sentimental moment hashtag tear hashtag LUV U GUYZ)

Last but certainly not least, a very special thank you must be given to the brilliant Andrea Sparacio and her wonderful editor, Nancy Mitchell, for their generosity and kind words. Ladies, your tennis bracelets are in the mail.

DISCOVER: SQUARE MARKET

I’ve developed a Mindy Kaling-like insecurity about modern technology. If you were like me and born in the early Eighties you were know as Generation Y–a shallow, more manic off-shoot of Gen X. We quoted Clueless, wore ‘Free Winona’ t-shirts ironically, and peeled the foil off of gum wrappers and used it the decorate our TI-82s. It was a simpler time. Then the word ‘millennial’ started being thrown around and suddenly we were known not for our pop culture reappropriations but for helicopter parenting and technological multitasking. Tom Brokaw became less interested in our VHS copies of Reality Bites or our obsession with Sublime and more intrigued by things like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and a slew of other social media platforms we had now been subsumed in.

Except for me. Born in 1983, I was too young to claim I listened to Run DMC but too old to say things like, “OH EM GEE DID YOU SEE WHAT HE POSTED ON HIS NEWS FEED WTF???” Just the other day a friend of mine had to clarify what it means to tag someone in your Instagram versus what it means to mention them in the comments. They–allegedly–are different things though I still haven’t wrapped my head around it, and If that isn’t a clear enough sign of a generational gap then you must be Michael Douglas on his wedding night.

This is really just a long-winded way of explaining where my well of deep-seated self-doubt comes from, specifically when I hear about new things on the Internet, and how it is entirely possible that I only figured out what Spotify was five months ago.

Which leads me to the actual point of this post: Square Market. Square Market is like Etsy but a little sexier, a little smaller and way hipper. Unlike Etsy, or even eBay, Square Market is a place for small business owners to develop and expand their brands–you won’t find someone selling incomplete dinning sets or rusty egg baskets here. Not that I don’t love sifting through the odds and ends of Etsy, but sometimes you want to browse through a collection of goods that has been more thoughtfully curated, one that doesn’t allow a guy in Iowa selling plastic beads by the cubic yard to dominate 7 pages of your search history. And that’s exactly was this place is. They also encourage buying locally and make it super simple to find artisans in your city, town and neighborhood. The other day I found the perfect kilim pillow from a textile importer in Brooklyn. (Side note: go check out the very handsome and bespectacled Christian Rathbone)

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 12.45.12 AMSo am I late to the game on this, guys, or am I discovering it right at the time when 24 year-olds will be turning it into a hashtag and poking each other about it on The Facebook? (That, by the way, is the zeitgeist sweet spot, my kittens–when something is both trending and on the cusp of becoming totally irrelevant.) Or do I really care? Now that I know the difference between tagging someone and mentioning them in the caption on Instagram, I really feel invincible, like I could lift a mid-sized sedan if a small baby was crushed underneath. Or at the very least a Fiat. Either way knowledge is power and I am like the NSA now so watch out Snapchat.

GOODBYE, OLD FRIEND

I experienced a tragedy recently over the Christmas break. This is not unique, nor is it entirely as dramatic as I’m about to make it, but let’s just say Santa took away as much as gave this year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take it back and set the scene:

FADE IN.

EXT. A QUIET STREET ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE. EARLY MORNING. SPRING.

EVAN, 29, is taking his dog on his morning walk. He is in sweatpants and a hoodie, hair akimbo. He is handsome but not conventionally handsome. Handsome in the way Spencer Tracey would’ve referred to Barbara Stanwyck as handsome. He has sleep in his eyes. He walks slowly though deliberately, as if trying to finish a race with as little enthusiasm as possible. FINN, his dog, SNIFFS the ground as they walk.

Suddenly there is a large CRASH. Evan whips around and sees a potted FIDDLE LEAF FIG strewn about the sidewalk, innards splayed on the curb, and a WOMAN wiping off her hands and retreating back into her brownstone. Evan rushes over, reaches down and cradles the plant’s trunks .

EVAN

(groggy)

What have they done to you my sweet precious child?

With the strength of two underdeveloped six year-olds Evan whisks the fiddle leaf fig up and rushes it back to his apartment. SHRIEKING can be heard. It is faint but high-pitched and definite.

INT. EVAN’S APARTMENT. MOMENTS LATER.

Evan pours soil into an empty planter.

EVAN

Breathe, dammit! BREATHE!

At this point he realizes he’s probably Faye Dunaway-ing this whole scene but he continues anyway. He lifts a watering can and out pours a nourishing stream over the soil and onto the plant’s roots.

EVAN

(in his best Gene Wilder)

LIFE, DO YOU HEAR ME! GIVE MY CREATION LIIIIIIIFE!!!!!

CUT TO:

image_2END SCENE.

Woo boy, that was an extremely histrionic way of saying I found a plant on the street one morning, picked it up and put it in a pot. La-di-da, right?

I will say this though: That fiddle leaf fig was a fucking BE-YOOT. Gorgeous! Even more so since I saw a woman chuck it on the street the morning of garbage day here in New York. After all it had been through I really considered the fact that it lasted all of spring, into summer, well past fall and onto winter an act of Jesus taking the proverbial wheel.

Then winter break came and shattered my great fortune like one of those lollipop hammers in Candy Crush:

image_1It was going so strong! Sure my apartment doesn’t get a lot of DIRECT SUNLIGHT but the only people in Manhattan who get DIRECT SUNLIGHT is (in this order) 1) Donald Trump 2) Sarah Jessica Parker 3) Richard Kind (I know, weird, right?) 4) DeBlasio and 5) Gloria Steinem. THAT’S IT. NO ONE GETS DIRECT SUNLIGHT. And, yes, I was gone for a week but I had a neighbor come in a water it while I was gone. I did everything I was supposed to do! The fact that I was able to keep a fiddle leaf fig–an orphaned fig no less–alive for this long had to have meant something, right?

It meant something alright. It meant my thermostat hadn’t kicked in yet:

imageAlas, the silent killer of the house plant is a slow and steady hiss: The radiator. The bastard! It had gotten so cold while I was gone for Christmas the steam heat in my apartment completely obliterated my precious fig.

I let it go for awhile; its rotting corpse withering before me. I tired to be okay with it, really I did, but the only thing more depressing than a dead house plant is knowing we gave Tom Hanks an Oscar for Forrest Gump, so I took some action and had it replaced:

photoNot what you expected? Well, neither did I, but the local florist on my block had palms in stock and it was palms I got. I could’ve been precious. I could’ve been demanding. I could’ve broken the bank getting a designer house plant that was a littler more trendy, but instead I went for what was cheap and in season. Because you know why? Daddy’s on a budget and these are the realities of life. YES, it makes my apartment look a bit like the safari section of a Ralph Lauren department store and, YES, I’m in danger of some nasty paper cuts, but in the end I have a live, vibrant, green, living, live and LIVING thing in my apartment and it is a sight to behold.

I guess the lesson is this: do what makes you happy as long as it’s within your budget. Fiddle leaf figs, although ‘of the moment’ (hello, Elle Decor, there are other shrubs out there), are also pricey, and if you can’t afford what Richard Mishaan is using in his interiors then don’t sweat it, my friend. A little green can go a long way, no matter what kind of green it may be.

Bring some life into your space and don’t be deterred when it dies. It will be worth the experience and brighten up your day.

BTW: NYC Pigeon Pendant by Three Potato Four. Check them out!

WANT: KEVIN RUSS PHOTOGRAPHY (A CAUTIONARY TALE)

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Ghost ranch, New Mexico by Kevin Russ

You’re not stupid. Neither am I. It only takes one Black Friday sale at Banana Republic to realize anything worth having is not worth its asking price. If it were then that performance fleece (ugh…“performance fleece”) I bought my step dad for Christmas wouldn’t have left your store so easily when just the week before it was 70% more expensive, right insidious clothing conglomerate GAP Inc*? But if I’m a liar may I be struck down where I type and buried in a pair of stone washed carpenter jeans and a striped henley.

What’s my point? My point is this…actually, I don’t really know what my point is because I get easily distracted by tangents, but I don’t believe in paying full price and if you read my blog I can say with the utmost certainty you’re probably someone who doesn’t either. You’re resourceful. Rational. Level-headed. A shrewd bargain hunter with an eye for a markdown and a nose for bullshit. And like you I also see stuff and smell shit, which is why I am hopelessly addicted to flash sale sites. Gilt. One Kings Lane. Fab. Hautlook. I was even subscribed to Zulily at one point because that’s how diseased my head pudding is when it comes to a sale. Daddy loves himself a deep discount.

Four Donkeys (Ghost ranch, New Mexico) by Kevin Russ

That’s usually a good thing (I once got a Nelson desk clock for $40!) but it can also be a not-so-good thing, too. Sometimes my noodle is so focused on the sale I lose sight of the bigger picture. Take the other day for instance. One Kings Lane sent out a GOOP-esque email with the subject line reading something like ‘New Year, New Wall Art!’  and the body was all about discovering emerging artists in a way only my beloved Gwyneth can do. (I may be taking a little too much creative license with that but you get the idea. OKL, I really, really do love you!)

One of them was Kevin Russ, a photographer I’d never heard about until just right then, scrolling through on the OKL site. Now, let me get something out of the way. I won’t succumb to any culture hate-shaming if you don’t, ok? If you found a band you love by watching The Hills? GREAT. Heard about an amazing book from Entertainment Weekly? FANTASTIC. Discovered Portlandia because Fred Armisen was at the premier of Iron Man 3 and you happened to read the caption below his red carpet pictures the next morning on WireImage when really you were just hunting for nudes of Chris Evans? HALLELUJAH. Who cares where or how you found out about these things! Don’t feel ashamed! Besides I live in Manhattan not Brooklyn. My cultural tastes can be a little inauthentic. So, yes, I discovered a photographer I very much enjoy from a daily home decor email blast so what.

OKL: Sale? SOLD.

Anyway, enough of the potatoes and on to the meat of this quickly unraveling post. Kevin’s stuff is gorgeous and amazing and rustic and calming and I was feeling so taken by it all when I thought to myself, I may have just used a credit card at Starbucks but dammit I’m going to treat myself to one of these. But before I did my better judgment kicked in and told me I was being an asshat for not at least googling this business before buying, so I did and lo and behold I found Kevin’s photography on Society 6, the same website I used to find Man & Camera‘s work a few months ago. Comparatively–although I’m sure OKL did his work up oh so very nice–the price point is shocking between the two sites, and instead of buying just one piece I could buy three prints on Society 6 and still have money to spare to frame them. There really was no question, so I went ahead and snagged a few of my favorites. I’m so jazzed to get them in frames and up on my walls! They’re going to look stunning.

And so the cautionary, albeit obvious, sale tale comes to an end. Use your Internet, people. You’re paying for it so why not make it work for you. If you’re like me and working on a threadbare budget you can’t afford not to browse the dark recesses of the web for cheaper alternatives.

Go check out Kevin’s work (all of which is taken on his iPhone WHAT) and browse around Society 6 for other great artists! And continue to buy things on One Kings Lane, too, because they’re great and this post is not indicative of the awesome things they offer on a regular basis. One time I was duped into an end table by He Whose Name I Can’t Mention (no, not Voldemort, just some awful antique dealer in the Village) and they were wonderful throughout the entire return process, even sending a white glove service to pick it up from my apartment. Well done, OKL. You’re in my book 😉

*That was just an attempt to relate to my readers and gain their trust. I’m like you, GAP. I love big business. Do not be afraid to sponsor this blog or give me money. I’ll be your corporate monkey.

NIGHTSTAND DIY

Last month you might remember I mentioned an exciting little nugget of DIY showed up on my doorstep. Well, that mystery package was actually a hunk of beautiful Northern California buckeye burl wood and the DIY in question is a new, sexy and rugged nightstand for myself.

The inspiration came from Morgan over at The Brick House. She did a fantastic color dipping project for Sherwin-Williams’ National Painting Week which I have been dying to do myself ever since I read about it. (By the way, go check out her blog! It’s brilliant and you’ll be much smarter for having given it a look-see. Promise.)

If you scroll down to my previous post about upcycling my Jon Hamm look-a-like lamp the last picture shows what I was working with in the nightstand department. When I moved into my studio I needed a something in a pinch and chose the Mid-Century Nightstand from West Elm. While I like West Elm furniture (my bed is WE and has been outstanding for going on five years now) it didn’t really fit the style of my apartment–I always knew I’d swap it out at some point–and once I found the perfect piece of lumber (from eBay! Who knew?) I finally had the opportunity to do something unique with the space next to my bed.

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The piece came totally raw, so I first started by finding the lowest grade sandpaper the corner hardware store carried (40) a buying a lot of it. I don’t generally recommend buying sanding blocks. If you’re like me and don’t have a lot of storage go with paper sheets instead. They’re just as effective, cost less and are easy to store if you have leftovers. I seem to always have a use for sandpaper, too (strange, I know), so having a little extra is always a good thing. Plus, for this project, you will need an assload.

Then I set about creating a smooth and even surface by sanding with the wood’s grain until my hands became bloody stumps. Even though I new which side would be my top I sanded both sides of the wood anyway. It might seem like more work than’s necessary but if you don’t you’ll have wood dandruff flaking off from the underside of your nightstand for years to come.IMG_4416Burl wood is a fairly soft wood but if you get a piece as raw as mine you’ll really need to work at it to get an even consistency throughout the piece. IMG_4417Also, burl wood is an abnormal growth found on trees, the product of an environmental stress suffered by the tree, most often caused by fungal or insect infection, so you may need to sand deeper than you expected to eradicate any bands of dead fungus or such. (Oh, nature!)

IMG_4418Oh wait, did I mention sanding until your hands are nothing more than oozy little potato buds? I did? Well, ok, I really meant it.

IMG_4422

Seriously sanding Susan

If you’re not giving yourself blisters THEN I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT.

Once you’re done with the coarse sanding and you’ve bound and dressed your wounds, if you can still lift your arms take a finer grade sand paper (120 or higher) and give the whole thing a little love. Nothing nuts, just light and even to smooth the whole thing out. Again, with the grain people. The grain is your friend.

Now, depending on the piece of wood you find–raw, vintage, pre-stained–this step may be different for you. Since my piece was raw (and because I’ve made no illusion to being a patient person) I didn’t use a primer; just went straight to staining. If you don’t have a raw piece of wood, or if you do and are seeking a specific tone, priming never hurts and will always give you the upper hand. I, however, had some leftover stain from a previous project that wasn’t as dark as I wanted so I knew I’d be making several passes with the stuff to enrich the color anyway, regardless of the wood absorbing the stain or not. Leave it to me to not do thing the way you’re supposed but that’s half the fun of DIY-ing. You have to find your groove!

Speaking of staining, I get asked a lot what kind of brush do you use for what and why. Well, friends, this may be wildly inappropriate for me to admit but I don’t really know. Nor do I care. I use foam brushes for just about everything because I feel they’re more forgiving than bristle brushes when you make a mistake. Plus you’re not forced to hunt for runaway bristles stuck in the coat of the thing you’re painting/staining/priming/sealing. For me, it just cuts out the worry of screwing up. So…foam brushes. Forever and always.

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Dark walnut beauty

Stained and drying, I went on to the next step: the legs. For this you’ll need an equal number of galvanized pipes and floor flanges. No, a flange is not one of Pheobe Buffay’s fake names, but what you’ll need to affix the leg to the bottom of the nightstand. The size and length are totally up to you. For this project I used three 1/2″ x 12″ pipes and their corresponding flanges. Home Depot will always have this stuff in stock–look in the plumbing aisle.

Grab a ball of twine while you’re out, too. Jute is best or any other kind of untreated rope. I found a roll of jute at the corner hardware store for $3. Just don’t get anything waxy or plastic. You won’t be able to paint that and also…gross.

IMG_4426Warning: this next part may obliterate your thumbs, so if you actually gave yourself blisters from sanding earlier, well, (1st) Bravo to you, welcome to the club! and (2nd) you may want to wait until you’re healed before attempting the following. However if you’re feeling wildly adventurous throw on that White Snake denim jacket and continue being a total badass!

IMG_4427Screw the flange to one end of the galvanized pipe. Place a small bead of glue (I used hot glue because I’m Martha Stewart and have a glue gun at the ready at all times, motherfucker, but you can use Gorilla Glue or something else if you’re basic like that) at the top, where the flange meets the pipe.

Using your bruised and bloody thumb as a guide tightly wind the jute around the pipe with your other hand, pushing upward with your thumbs every few rotations to make sure everything’s right and tight. I used a relatively thin gauge of twine so it took me about 30 minute/pipe, but if you’re using thicker rope it may go quicker.

Drop a little beadlet of glue every inch or so along the pipe to make sure the jute doesn’t jostle. When you reach the end of the pipe cut the twine, giving yourself roughly 1/2″ on the end to tuck inside the pipe and glue. Maybe do this step with a knife, or chopstick if you have one handy, so as not to burn yourself/adhere your first layer of skin to the pipe.

Once that’s done it’s time for my favorite activity: spray painting wildly and without abandon! Like Morgan did in her post, you can dip the legs in a can of paint, which is probably easier and less messy, but I didn’t have any so I just went full tilt with a can.

The length of the color block is totally up to you. I did 3″ from the bottom of the leg, taped if off and covered the rest of the leg in a grocery bag:

IMG_4428Jute is spongy so don’t be surprised if you have to dip or spray a few times to get your desired color density. Those should dry pretty quickly but you may be held up at this point for a day or two as you wait for the stain to dry before applying your top coat.

I’m not a huge fan of polyurethane in general (it just seems so obviously environmentally egregious) but I understand why we use them, so use it I did. It’s important to seal up your work after putting this much time and energy into it. When you do apply the poly top coat definitely use a foam brush. High gloss polys are very unforgiving to mistakes so a fat foam brush will be your best friend for this next step. I also recommend three to four coats. Seriously. You know I’m not a fan of extra steps but I think you’ll really be glad you took the time here.

Allow each coat of poly to dry fully before taking a microgrit sandpaper (maybe 240) and lightly sand to even out any inconsistencies. And, as always, wear your mask and goggles, ya dopes! How many times do I have to say it!?

IMG_4441Wipe off the poly dust you made from sanding with a damp rag, let the surface dry then repeat the whole thing again until the top of the nightstand has your desired sheen.

Oh right. I already attached my legs by now, so you should do that, too. Screw those suckers on.

IMG_4442Last, pick up some Johnson Paste Wax. It’s like $6 and you can find it anywhere, maybe even at your local drugstore. This will give your studly table a creamy, smooth and delicious finish.

Take your time and work it into the wood. You’ll want to do this every 3-4 months or so just to keep the top supple and sexy. Grrrr!

IMG_4446And that’s it!

I will finish this post by saying this project was CHEAP (because it was) but I won’t finish this post by lying saying it was quick. The steps are easy and require very little skill, but you really need to set aside an entire weekend and then some to complete the process.

I will say, however, that your time will be rewarded ten fold. This thing is a real beauty.

Also, see that nudey portrait in the stunning aluminum frame? I found it the day before, leaning against a tree on my block, while taking Finn on his morning walking. Pretty great, right?

*Cue the Countess*

UPCYCLED: TABLE LAMP

I’m always on the hunt for a new light fixture. I have a preternatural addiction to all things ceramic and glowing. A friend once told me, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, he thinks I will come back as a lamp, and while I find that charming and idiosyncratic it’s certainly not ideal being pegged as the Thomas Edison of cat ladies by your pals. Luckily for my sick perversity, the other side of the double-edged sword that is having an apartment with very little direct sunlight is always having an excuse to enable my bad behavior. This is unlucky for my sense of propriety, however, as I sit in bed and count six–count ’em SIX–lamps in my less-than-300-square-foot apartment.

A few months ago I found a fantastic mid-century stud sun bathing on the sands of eBay and I knew I had to have him:

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WOOF

Is that not the Don Draper of bedside reading lights or what? You could practically smell the Lucky Strikes coming off the computer screen, so I snatched it up and waited not-so-patiently for it to arrive.

A few days later it was delivered and I scurried up to my apartment to rip open the box like a mongoose with a ball of tin foil: all teeth and very little dignity. Once opened I made a curious sound, something like a ‘hrmph’ but closer to a sigh. My gorgeous, curvy electric boyfriend wasn’t as gorgeous as I imagined. Online he was understated and evocative but what laid before me was just dull and sorta lifeless and not at all fresh. Something about the color, the wheat into umber, felt like a huge THUD when I put him on my nightstand.

The day before my mail-order husband came I popped my head into a Pottery Barn and found a super simple yet super classy coarse weave linen drum shade, which just happened to be on sale and which I thought would give the lamp some nice contrast of texture, however it really just made the whole thing monochromatic and flat, so now I was really stuck.

[SIDE NOTE: Can we talk about what a racket the lampshade industry is? First, drum shades are shockingly hard to come by. Even in New York City everything is either tapered or squared or tasseled or embroidered or ruffled or silk taffeta-ed. Since when did Christy Masters and the rest of the A Group start dictating design trends? Then there’s prices! Shades upwards of 300 spanks with most beginning around 75! HUH? And if you don’t want to take out a loan for a little diffused light the only other option is a $15 shade that looks like it was made with Xerox paper and a stick of paste. Where’s the variety, terrible lampshade industry? The whole mess is a hot sack of dead weasels if you ask me. I’ll have to figure out a DIY project for us, the levelheaded and under-served, and post it later. #endkanyerant]

So rather than trash the lamp and accept defeat I decided the give it a facelift. The main problem for me was the color and I figured if I could freshen it up a bit the whole thing could be salvaged.

I started with selecting a primer. When choosing, it’s always easier if you know the top coat of the thing you’ll be painting. My local hardware store had a very small selection of spray can primers so I went with Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover. The canister said it bonds to plastic and since the lamp had some type of acrylic sealant as its top coat (I guessed) I figured this was my best bet.

To help the primer bond to the lamp I took a piece of coarse sandpaper–something like a 60 grade–and sanded the whole thing. ALWAYS WEAR A MASK AND GOGGLES WHEN YOU DO THIS. I know I’m a crazed stickler about this but who knows what chemicals you’re releasing into the air by messing with sealants. Protect yourself!

After I scored the lamp with sandpaper I wiped it down with a damp rag to remove any residue and let it dry. While it was drying I covered the lamp’s brass fixtures by wrapping them in sandwich bags and taping them off. Make sure every milometer of what you don’t want painted is covered so you can really go to town with your spray can and not worry about leakage.

Here’s what it looked like after the first coat of primer:

IMG_3846It’s important not to coat the entire lamp, tits to toes, on the first pass. It will require at least two coats to get a smooth, even finish with the primer, but I’m an impatient jerk and I tried to get it all done in one shot. When you do what I did though you run the risk of the paint collecting unevenly in spots and running. Which is what happened to me. Which is why I began to cry.

If this happens fear not and LET THE THING DRY. Once your horrid, lumpy beast of a paint job is dry you can go back with a very fine grade, gently sand down the imperfections and start again:

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It really pays to be patient and follow directions. Give yourselves a big pat on the back, parents!

One way or the other you will get a smooth and supple finish, however I do not recommend doing it my way. It will only cause you unnecessary pain and heartbreak. Take your time and spray gingerly.

Once the primer was dry (I let each coat dry for an hour, even though the can said it would be fine after 20 minutes, to give it maximum hold) I went in with the color. I used Rust-Oleum’s Indoor/Outdoor Satin spray. Again, I’m not a guru about this stuff. I just knew I wanted something durable and if the can says it’s good enough for outdoor furniture then it sure as hell should stand up inside, right? Also I went with satin because it has a matte finish, which is always easier to pull off for novice painters like myself. Remember: the glossier the paint the more imperfections will show when it dries. If you are not at all confident in your skills (like me), do yourself a favor and paint in matte.

IMG_3848Here’s a good tip to keep in mind: spray paint travels. Make sure to cover a larger area than you think you’ll need when painting. It may seem like overkill to buy three tarps when one will do you just fine but after a few coats and a light breeze those small particles can accumulate to make a big problem. Check out my patio once I finished. I lifted the rug just for some shits and giggles:

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Finn does not approve.

Don’t be like me, kids. Take the time to cover your workspace. You (and your landlord) will thank you.

I gave the lamp four coats in total. That was probably overkill but I really wanted there to be a richness to the satin and a sense of texture to work with the shade. I think two coats should do most everyone else just fine.

Here was the end result:

IMG_3853I think it’s a vast improvement over the original. Now it works with the shade, the brass fixtures and my apartment, and for $14, two cans of spray paint and roughly two hours of actual labor I was able to salvage something old and make it my own. There are a lot of things I would’ve done differently in hindsight (namely, taken my goddamn time) but even when things went wrong they were beyond simple to repair.

WANT: MAN & CAMERA

I stumbled over Man & Camera‘s stunning photography at Society 6 a few days ago and I can’t get them out of my head:

Yoho 1I’ve been thinking about switching out some artwork in the bathroom. I think a few of these could be what I need!CNPP IIArt should be something you don’t mind waking up to every morning. I might not have the most sophisticated taste when it comes to what’s on my walls, but everything that’s there are pieces I love looking at time and again. Also, as I continue to cultivate my tastes and decide what I want and don’t want in my home, cheap artwork really ticks my box.

6809030_13591356-prn01_lzA piece of photography that didn’t break the bank can also be a great hand-me-down gift to friends and family. I love it when someone upcycles their artwork to me.

Go check him out! Pair these super affordable prints with Ikea’s RIBBA series of frames and you’ve got a slick new look for less than $30 each.