Category Archives: DIY


In Breaking News To No One, Manhattan apartments are small, and at 295sf my place is tighter than a prom night virgin. However cramped it may be I lucked out by having an enormous amount of storage space. My kitchen, miniscule as it is, has two large banks of deep cabinets capable of holding spill-over from my closet. My bathroom is the same; a large cabinet under the sink and an equally respectable drawer above the loo.

But no matter how much storage one apartment has living in New York means space is at a premium and nary an inch can be wasted.


Exhibit A

Submitted into evidence for the jury’s review is Exhibit A: The Space Above The Toilet. Doesn’t it seem like such a waste of good space?


Exhibit B

The defense concurs.

“Objection,” says the prosecution, “on the grounds of installing a shelf in such small quarters seems silly.” They take a moment before adding, “Ikea doesn’t even make shelves that size!”

“Screw Ikea,” bellows the defense. They high-five each other in grand fashion.

“Strike that from the record,” orders the judge. The jury looks on.

The prosecution motions that the court recognize the holes and damage to the walls the defense will make with said shelf.

“Irrelevant,” screams the defense. “That’s why they invented spackle!”

The judge eyes the defense. Only he can say ‘irrelevant’ and he wants them to know it. So he squints. Hard.


Exhibit C

The defense is ordered to proceed with their case. In it they outline their trip to the lumber yard in Midtown, where a shop steward from Dyke’s Lumber kindly cuts the defense a piece of wood from their pile of scraps to measure because they asked so nicely. The defense also emphasizes this wood was free.

The prosecution unsuccessfully stifles their laughter. After all the defense did say “dyke” and “wood” in the same sentence and they’re only human.


Exhibit D

The defense demands the prosecution keep their cool, and they continue with their case. Although the wood was free it was still very rough. They’d like the court to recognize their efforts sanding the raw wood, first with a coarse grade then with a finer one, because it took a lot of work and their arms were tired after.

“Ninnies,” yells the prosecution!

“Eat me,” cackles the defense.


Exhibit E

The defense continues, despite being a little weirded out by the use of the word ninny.


Exhibit F

After the wood was sanded and cleaned, a generous coat of dark stain was applied to the shelf in question. The defense submits into evidence a foam brush to show the court they know what they’re doing. Only a jerk would use a bristle brush for this kind of work. The defense not so coyly looks over at the prosecution. The prosecution is too busy deducting the amount from the security deposit of the soon-to-be botched shelf installation and they miss the accusatory stare.The defense asks to approach the bench.

“What is it,” the judge says, annoyed. The defense admits this next part is a little shady, but since the weather was bad they had no other choice. The shelf had to be spray painted and it had to be done in the bathtub.

The prosecution catches wind of their whispers and screeches, “Mistrial!”

The judge looks down his glasses at the prosecution and tells them to shut their talk boxes.

The defense assures the jury a window was open and that as long as they weren’t huffing from the can it’s all gravy. The jury cringes at the phrase ‘it’s all gravy’ but seems to be OK with their explanation.


Exhibit G

Nearing the end, the defense mounts their final push. At $4.99 a bracket this shelf has racked up the infinitesimal debt of 10 bucks. Whatever their peers must be thinking they can’t deny the value of a shelf that cheap.

The jury is slack jawed.


Exhibit H

Submitting their last piece of evidence, the defense begins their closing argument.

“BOO-YAH!” They pick up a microphone–from where no one knows–and drop it on the floor, walking out of the courtroom and letting those little saloon door thingies sway to and fro behind them.

The prosecution doesn’t know what to say.


Exhibit I

One by one the jury stands and slow claps.

The bailiff, who should really just stand there and say nothing, takes a look at the final piece of evidence and says, “WHAAAAAAAAAA.” Most people in the courtroom take this to mean he’s impressed, though with the bailiff you never really know.

The judge bangs his gavel. The prosecution bangs their heads,


Exhibit J


We all make questionable choices from time to time. I’m not immune to them. When it comes to design I’m prone to them. Throw in a flash sale site and just wait for the plague of locusts. Let me explain…

I have a rule: My first reaction is usually wrong. What I think is my inner Jeff Lewis encouraging me to buy the set of decorative deer antlers from Pottery Barn is actually just my inner Duarto Feliz hiding in disguise, trying to run afoul of my better judgement.

Which is how I found myself on One King’s Lane one night, clicking ‘Complete My Purchase’ for a collection of hand painted arrows. Yep.


Beauts, aren’t they?

I had this grand idea of displaying them in a rustic ceramic vessel and it would be all ‘Ralph Lauren meets Michael Bastain in the Great American West’, but since I was home alone no one was around to tell me that was dumb and I was an idiot.


Such is the curse of online shopping. One minute you’re a guy without medieval weaponry in his home and the next you’re Katniss Everdeen.

It was out of feeling ashamed for having wasted $30 and the poorly crafted Robin Hood joke I had to endure thanks to my neighbor in 1B (“What did Maid Marian say to Robin Hood?” “You make me quiver.”) that I decided I needed to find another use for these puppies.

So I turned to my beloved patio, on which I had just added some potted plants and a small Boston ivy I got from the florist down the block. The ivy had been growing steadily and I was using nails and zip ties to help it crawl up the fence.

IMG_4083A few weeks earlier I had drawn up plans for a planter to run length-wise across the patio, resting on that little lip there, to hold 12-15 ivy seedlings, but when I priced it out and weighed the cost…well, I went with the shitty vomit trough you see above. (As if you need reminding, you can read my rant here as to how I came to that conclusion.) I wanted the entire north wall to be covered in green and although that wasn’t going to happen my little ivy was making significant progress on its own. It just need a helping hand.

IMG_4088In the formed of lattice! There was very little construction involved, if any. I put a nail at each intersection (9 total) and fastened the arrows to the nailheads with zip ties. Then I gave the ivy a little boost by tying it to the arrows and voila! From laughing stock to Merry Men in about 30mins.



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?