Category Archives: DIY


My patio and I have a weird relationship.

Private outdoor space in Manhattan is next to non-existent, especially if you’re like me and work hard to stay financially afloat every month. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have it. So lucky, in fact, that I have fallen in love with it. Ass over teakettle in love. But my love has come at a price. Since patios like this are a rare find it’s unlikely, when it comes time to move, I’ll find another one like it, which makes wanting to furnish and make it my own a real challenge. Why pour a bunch of money into lawn chairs and hammocks and canopies and A SLIP-N-SLIDE when in a few year’s time I’ll move and have no use for any of it? It’s a burden I can’t shoulder right now and for that I hate the patio I love. I resent it for being there and myself even more for falling for something I know I can’t have. I am my patio’s jealous mistress.


Finn shares my wistful feelings about the patio.

Hm. Well, I did the best I could with what I had. I scraped together some chairs from the local hardware store, bought a durable outdoor rug on clearance from One King’s Lane, potted a few succulents and found a small bistro table on the street during garbage day (classy). It was fine but it still didn’t feel like I had imprinted on the space in any meaningful way, so I decided to get to work.

The top of the bistro table had a dark walnut finish. The (I would assume) polyurethane finish had cracked and flaked from years of neglect and the legs were dirty and sad.

First I started by sanding the top down, obliterating the polyurethane coat and wiping out the stain. It’s important to note, whenever you’re sanding a piece of furniture and you don’t know where it came from (or even if you do) WEAR A DUST MASK AND PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR. You don’t want to breathe in any microscopic fibers because you will get chlamydia and die. I started with something coarse, like 40, and once all the coats were sanded and I was left with bare wood I went down to 220, just to smooth everything out. Sand with the grain and remember, Kemosabe, it is a slow, tedious process, that sanding is. If your arms feel like they’re going to pop off at the joint, rot and wither away, you’re doing it right.

I wish I had taken pictures of the whole process, but I’m new to this whole blogging thing and didn’t think about it in advance. I promise I’ll get better as this thing goes on.

Next was a fresh coat of black paint. I went with Behr’s high gloss outdoor paint. It was a primer/sealer all-in-one and since I’m lazy that seemed like the best bet. You can start with a interior matte black but you’ll need to seal it with a top coat, and for what I needed to do it didn’t seem worth it.



The day I was ready to paint it started to rain so I moved the whole operation inside, which just goes to show anyone can do this, even if you don’t have outdoor space. Just make sure your apartment is well ventilated otherwise you’ll start to see dancing elk on your ceiling and you’ll wake up with a wicked hangover.

I let the table dry for a whole day before applying a second coat. After the second coat I let it dry for another day. I wanted to make sure the thing was good and dry and sealed and ready before I threw it out there to brave the elements. Here’s the final result:

photoIt’s not a huge change but for 15 bucks and little elbow grease I couldn’t have asked for more. The whole endeavor was only a few hours of work and it’s made for a classier, more elegant patio space. And it was just enough to assuage the fear I’d be wasting my resources should I move and have to give it all up sooner than expected.


There are few things in life more obnoxious than signing your first lease only to discover the list of riders that comes with it is longer than the lease itself (forgetting your phone in a cab and stepping barefoot on a Lego are the only two that could be worse).”Tenant shall not paint or repaint any part of the apartment.” “Tenant shall not decorate in a manner which alters the appearance of the apartment.” “Tenant shall not attempt to make the space his/hers in any way and live out the lease term in quiet solitude, staring ponderously at the white walls and thinking about why he/she signed this lease to begin with.”

This is the modus operandi for rentals in New York and so it is with my apartment, too. So what do you do? I’m all for clean white walls but they’re not for everyone, and eventually you need to feel like you’ve left your mark on the space you spend the other 50% of your day in.¬†Check out my bathroom, for instance:


Not cute.


The plant fools no one.

I changed the vanity lighting to chrome top bulbs–a super simple and cheap fix that can make any room feel a little more lux–but that wasn’t cutting it. Then I discovered the extraordinarily beautiful adhesive wall decals from the folks over at MUR. Affordable, modern and easier to put on than jorts in summer, you can slap these suckers (and prints) on your wall without the fear of leaving behind that icky glue residue or chipping the paint underneath (Read: YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT WILL BE SAFE).

I wanted to do something with their Stripes, something¬† vertical and multicolored to give the room the feeling of being much bigger than it actually is, but I know me and I know I can’t draw a straight line to save my life so the thought of figuring that one out made me break into ugly sweats. Instead I went with their ‘Mini’ Southwest collection and I couldn’t be happier:


BIG difference…


…very little effort!

I went with two tones just because I need to prove I’m fancy, though one color would’ve been fine and cut the price in half. Even still, including shipping it was only about 40 spanks. Not included in the price was the bottle of red wine and Paul Simon’s Greatest Hits album I bought on iTunes, but if you’re like me then you know alcohol and music is a given when tackling any home project.

Once I got the measurements down the rest really just fell into place. The trickiest bits were the light socket and medicine cabinet, but the decals are so mailable you can crease them to fit the corners without damaging their appearance. Once they were in place I ran a razor blade along the edge to get an smooth cut and that was that. For the outlet, however, I did remove the face plate (remember to turn off the breaker) to give the stickers the appearance of being painted on.


I’m really pleased with the end result. I think in a year or so I’ll take them down and try a new design, which is completely doable at this project’s price-point and skill level. Sky’s the limit when it comes to this DIY! Who knows–maybe a nifty new blacksplash is in my kitchen’s near future?