Tag Archives: designonadime

FREECYCLED: SCHOOLHOUSE BENCH

There are a lot of things I’m painfully unaware of in the moment. When I order popcorn at a movie theater and leave with a buttered crotch–that’s one. When I’m texting in bed and forget about gravity (ouch!)–that’s another. When I’m caught picking my nose by the person in the cab right next to mine–WHICH WE ALL DO BECAUSE WE HAVE MEDICALLY-DIAGNOSED IRRITABLE NOSTRIL CAVITIES AND THAT’S A REAL THING–well, sure, that’s probably another good example of how I’m not always aware of my surroundings. The exception is when I’m on the street. That’s a different story. On the street there is garbage and garbage makes me happy and garbage keeps me focused. If you don’t know by now how much I love garbage and the potential I see in it then you must just be here for the silly dog pictures.

It was one of my first winters in Manhattan when I went to meet some friends for a CWC (classy woman’s cocktail). The night before it snowed almost a foot and the city was enveloped by a thick, white blanket of powder, like a layer of butter cream frosting over a sheet cake. One margarita became nine and what was intended to be a night cap turned into a sloppy stumble home at 3 AM through the dark streets of West Harlem, which should tell you something about what a fearless terror I was at 22 years old. Speaking of, I would like to take this opportunity to formerly apologize to all of the five boroughs of New York City for the emotional and physical distress caused by 22 year old Evan. He roamed the streets at night, inebriated, sifting through your garbage. He aspired to be Cry Me A River Timberlake but could only pull off Like I Love You Timberlake. He said things like “chill” and “that’s bananas”. He didn’t have much regard for his personal safety and when he rode the subway he always had a scowl on his face. He acknowledges that after three pitchers of tequila he really should’ve just taken a cab and called it a night but instead he did cartwheels up and down 137th Street, listening to She Wolf on his iPod, and he’s real sorry about that.

Drunk, damp and cold I barreled ass over tea kettle down the street, exercising the limits of my healthy buzz, when out of the corner of eye I caught a bright yellow table leg poking up from the snow, buried beneath a black Hefty bag and stack of AM New Yorks. What I dug out from that mountain of trash would eventually follow me from place to place (to place to place to place) for the next 8 years:

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Battered and bruised but brilliant (alliteration!)

Even through my double vision I could tell this thing had good bones. It was beat to hell but it weighed a damn ton. The top was bespeckled with all kinds of things: paint, plaster, stain, polyurethane. One of the legs was missing a huge chunk from it, but the cross braces were in good shape so structurally it was sound, which I tested by laying on it in the middle of the sidewalk (22 year old Evan’s idea). I found it 3 blocks from my apartment–I’m not sure how I was able to haul it back home–and my arms had given out by the time I made it to my front door. I woke up the next morning and marveled at my accomplishment, yet still slightly unsure of how this bench got to be in my room. Go figure. Most people have a drunken night and wake up with a strange person in their bed. I have a drunken night and end up with strange furniture. I’m proud to say that since this time I’m a little more socially acclimated–but only slightly.

Because the circumstances surrounding the bench were so unique it moved with me to each subsequent apartment. When I moved into my studio and got some outdoor space I made a pact to finally give it the facelift it deserved. Sanding can be a difficult business to tackle indoors. You can do it, for sure, but the prep work and clean up is drag. I’ll have to write a post on that later because it can be done. Whether or not anyone actually wants to do it (or read it) is another matter entirely.

Initially my plan was to go very simple and elegant with it; strip it entirely, use a delicate maple stain to highlight the wood grain, upholster the top with black leather and brass nailheads. It was a good plan, it was, but things kind of went south when I ran a sheet of coarse sandpaper over the top and found out how deep the different layers of paint and stain actually went:

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That right there took Daddy roughly 90 minutes of hard, finger-paralyzing labor. Ugh.

So I changed my plans. I think it’s great to go into a situation with your guns blazing but leave yourself some room to edit and scale back. Be practical and don’t get down on yourself for cutting corners if needed. The original design for the bench would’ve been stunning if it was executed but it also would’ve taken 10+ hours, and if you’re a weekend warrior like me that’s several weeks of work. Nah-uh. No thank you, sir. Next!

As a compromise I decided I would sand down the entire the top. The struggle was real on that poor bench’s face and it needed some love, no doubt about it. I couldn’t cut a corner there. However the legs and braces were in good shape, so to save myself some time I would lightly sand down any rough patches, prime and repaint in a darker color, most likely black, to cover any blemishes I couldn’t remove with the paper. The leather idea I threw out because who am I Finn Juhl? GET REAL, EVAN, YOU CAN’T UPHOLSTER.

Here’s what it looked like after the first coat of stain. I went with Minwax Dark Walnut instead of maple since I knew I would be painting the base a deep black and needed a wood tone to compliment:

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I had to make several passes before I was satisfied with the color. Also some woods are far more porous than others so if your stain doesn’t take right away just persist! You’re not doing anything wrong. For this project I went with five coats in total. By coat three I had achieved the dark walnut look but I wanted a deeper tone so I kept slapping that shit on. With a foam brush. Have a mentioned that before? TEAM FOAM BRUSH. I hate bristle brushes. They need to go somewhere far away–like hopefully where Woody Allen’s films from 1987 to the present will go–and never ever come back. I also use a rag when I stain, too, to wipe down any excess, so don’t forget to bring one of your old camp t-shirts with you. It helps ensure I can be as sloppy as possibly when applying the stain and I don’t have to worry about streaking or pooling.

For the base I went interior semi-gloss from Behr, but only because I had some extra lying around. This is hardly an endorsement for Behr. Unless one of the good people at Behr is reading this. In that case you can make the check out to CASH. Please email me for my address and thank you in advance!

Here is where I ended up:

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For a garbage bench salvaged from the bowels of uptown Manhattan I think it has been done justice. Sadly I had to part with it just before the Apartment Therapy shoot but I was able to find a friend who could take care of it for me until I get a little more room. All in all this project cost a whopping $9, which was the cost of one of the ‘ritas that sent me off into the night when I first discovered it all those years ago.

Now, for the people who are here only for the silly dog pictures, thank you for putting up with all of this nonsense. Your reward is a Finn in a shearling:

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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.