Tag Archives: IKEA

BATHROOM VANITY

I write a wildly popular and critically acclaimed blog that is beloved by nearly every man, woman and literate baby on the planet. You know this. I know this. Your mom knows this. What your mom also knows is that, from time to time, I let things slip through the cracks. I apologize for that. On occasion, I have been known to, erm, forget to update you all on what I’ve been up to. Sometimes I work in secret. Listen, pals, I agree: that’s a terrible habit to have when you’re a DIY blogger who makes a six-figure living writing instructional how-to’s for anonymous people to disparage over the Internet. I blame my parents. Truthfully, I point the finger at them for a lot of things that have gone wrong in my life–missed opportunities, failed relationships, bootcut jeans–and I could go into why they are responsible for all that stuff but that would be long and bitter and not becoming of me. The simple fact is they are not here to defend themselves. They live across the country and this is my blog and I can do what I want, so if I’ve done something to offend you just shake your fists at the heavens and yell through clenched teeth, “DAMN YOU, EVAN’S MOM AND DAD! DAMN YOU FOR ALWAYS BEING THERE FOR HIM! MAY LUCIFER HAVE MERCY ON YOUR ROTTEN, WELL-INTENTIONED AND SOULS!”

Feel better? I do.

So, yea, occasionally I do secret things and occasionally I don’t write them down. But, like you, I’m only half-human. I can only keep so many secrets to myself before bursting at my cyborg seams! Now that Gone Girl is out and I’ve been asked by 1) friends 2) family and 3) random passers-by on the street (who try to tell me I don’t need to yell to be heard) to not let any spoilers slip I’m at max capacity, kittens. I have to let something out! It’s bad enough I walk around pretending like I didn’t listen to the free U2 album a few 18 times or that I’m not all in when it comes to Viola Davis teaching law students how to be ninja assassins or that I’m never THIS CLOSE to having cookie dough for breakfast every morning or that when I finally get my wits about me and make a cup of coffee I’m not just standing at the counter, staring longingly at that tight tube of butter, flour and chocolate, while softly weeping into my scrambled egg whites. I’m so tired of carrying the weight of the world on my narrow, slightly hunched shoulders, you guyz!

So here’s my secret: I’ve been working on my bathroom. I’ve been working on a lot of things, actually–my temper, my communication skillz, my anger when the coffee lady gives me skim milk WHEN CLEARLY I ASKED FOR HALF-AND-HALF, my temper–but my bathroom is getting most of the attention. I’ve been in my apartment for over two years now, which coincidentally is 20 years shy of my age (and not 30 as my birth certificate would have you believe), and I’m getting more than a little fed up with it. The apartment itself is fantastic. I know this and you and your mom better know this. But, as is human nature, after a lengthy period of monogamy you want to ruin the good thing you have by seeing someone younger and sexier. That’s where I’m at with my place. I love it, but when spend your days like I do, working inside other people’s luxury high-rise sky buckets, how can you come home to your own place and not want to make a few dozen changes here and there at the very least?

I started with the bathroom because it’s the most egregious room in the apartment. Most bathrooms of rental properties are terrible. You know what? No. All. All bathrooms. And kitchens, too! THE WORST. That’s just, like, the 7th Universal Law of Man. And if you don’t believe me then I assume you think yours are *pretty nice? Well, I find that kind of ignorance adorable, my little aardvarks, like someone pushing hard on a door marked ‘pull’. You can try to deny it but being a renter (or a first-time homeowner) means you have a shitty wash closet and an even shittier counter top.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s get acquainted with my bathroom, WHICH I CALL MISS JACKSON BECAUSE IT’S NASTY:

CUTE, RIGHT????? Like you in college this was an experimental phase for my bathroom, circa last year. I did what I thought was my best at the time, but even MUR decals and some half-mirror bulbs can’t hide that heinous, generic, store-bought, sloth-turd, slithering succubus of light AKA the Hollywood vanity fixture.

Here’s another shot from even earlier, when I first moved in:

EL OH EL I just love this picture. I put a task lamp on the sink and I’m wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. I WAS SUCH THE COMEDIAN BACK IN THE DAY. No but really 2012 was a year I erased from my mind.

Now, if this were a hearing and I the prosecutor, at this point I would rest, confident that I made my case against rental bathrooms on the whole, but more specifically my own nest of toilet horror. The defense, however, would counter by asserting that questionable styling and misguided decor decisions are to blame, not my bathroom vanity, and that charges should be downgraded from second-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter of my eyes. As the prosecutor I would agree so I would take my two index fingers and tap them repeatedly in a half-hearted attempt at applause, as it is a fair point to make, but then I would present this piece of evidence, highlighting the culprit:

Ignoring for a moment the frightening man-monster I artfully drew, you can see without a doubt the light fixture and medicine cabinet are, in fact, giant assholes. At this point the judge would bang her gavel, the courtroom would erupt in cheers, I would lean over the bar, high-five my students whom I made work on the case for free and then Shonda Rhimes and I would walk hand-in-hand out of the building to a Hall & Oates song. The end. Roll credits, ABC.

But seriously. Something needed to be done. So I got my hammer, took my neighbor’s screwdriver without asking and set off dismantling the tentacled man-monster:

This was me feeling optimistic and grand about the whole endeavor, as you can tell by the fact that I hadn’t yet removed the Hollywood fixture’s mounting plate. (More on that in a second.) An unforeseen causality during the demo was my super-stellar MUR decals. They bit the dust along with the vanity, but other than that so far, so good. I can see what I’m working with and everything seems right with the world. OH JOYOUS DAY!

Now some disturbing news…

Nestled inconspicuously behind the cabinet, on the ledge of a steel frame, was a shekel. “A shekel?” you say. “Yes,” I answer. “Hm, a shekel,” you say again. “Stop repeating what I’m saying and just read the post, jerk,” I scold. I found a shekel behind my medicine cabinet. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about finding a piece of currency in an odd place because HEY we all come home from time to time and throw our money around like we’re Scrooge McDuck taking a lap his money vault. However, on the right hand side doorpost to my apartment is what appears to be the outline of a mezuzah which has since been removed. That, along with the shekel I found and more importantly relocated from behind my bathroom wall, can only mean one of two things: 1) I’ve defiled a Jewish tradition meant to protect my apartment and I’m going to die tomorrow or 2) I’ve lifted a Jewish curse on my home and now I’ll live forever. I’m holding out hope for the latter but if there are any Jews who read this blog please don’t hesitate to speak up as my life is on the line. Thank you.

Back to the vanity. So like I said, aside from the curse on my soul, everything was peaches and baby farts up until this point. It was all breezy. I’ll admit I didn’t have a great fix lined up for this project. I went to IKEA and bought a similar fixture for 15 spanks, and while it still had the same shape it lacked beveled edges or garish-looking plastic aluminum and that was enough for me. Then I decided to hack away at the mounting plate of the Hollywood fixture and shit got real. Really real:

What. The. Fuck.

What your human head lenses are seeing is a junction box installed approximately 5 1/2 inches OFF CENTER. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, OLD-TIMEY PEOPLE WHO BUILT MY APARTMENT? What were they thinking! No doubt this had to do with something obnoxious and asinine like a fire code but all I knew as that a hole slightly to the left of center was not a hole I wanted to tango with.

This ruined my plans for a quick and painless $15 IKEA fixture. Just decimated them. Poof! Gone.

I knew I didn’t want to keep the Hollywood fixture under any circumstance, and that decision meant the wall would have to be patched, even if I didn’t know what was going in its place.

That’s just some spackling paste and a spatula I used to fill in the uneven spots, like the holes where the fixture attached to the wall and the edges where years of paint buildup met the fixture. I let it dry then with a fine grit sandpaper–something like 240–leveled the entire slop bucket out so it was as supple as something that is supple.

Oh, wait! Did I mention this part? I put up a new medicine cabinet. Dur. Hello, Evan.

And how! IKEA. $70. The proportions work so much better than the old one. Fills out the space nicely. Me likey.

Back to the vanity light. Once the spackling paste dried I ran downstairs and stole some paint from my super’s utility closet, rolled it out on a piece of cardboard, huffed a bit and painted over everything so it was all one color:

Not bad, right? WRONG. THAT HOLE IS STILL NOT CENTERED, DUMMY.

What to do, what to do? I looked at a ton of options. A ton. A fuck ton, to be precise, but I couldn’t find anything preassembled that would fit this unique requirement. I decided to take a page from my own book and build one because when the chips are down and it’s the 11th hour that’s the time when you want to forget about reinventing the wheel and rest on your laurels!

Apologies for the shit picture. I’m not Ansel Adams and you’re not an art critic neither!

That’s a variation on the Lindsey Adelman chandelier I (and everyone else) made sometime last year. I won’t go into how I did it because I’ve done that before. You can check out the post I linked to above, or just email me directly if you have any questions. The construction follows the same format as the hanging pendant.

I chose to make my own because the off-centered j-box meant I needed an asymmetrical fixture. This particular fixture, however, with its three sockets feeding into one arm, created some tight spaces to work in, so its important to buy manageable wire gauges to work with. Everyone will tell you to buy 14 gauge–and they’re right!–but if you are creating a fixture like this and you have any more than two sockets running through one arm you will need 18 gauge wire. (Just keep the bulbs at or under 40 watts and you’ll be free from the threat of turning your home into kindling. No promises, though.)

So that’s it! Phase One of the bathroom completed. There are a few more phases to come but I’ll probably be secretive about those, too, until someone shames me into posting about it over social media LIKE SOME OF YOU HAVE BEEN DOING, YOU MONSTERS.

* Should we have a challenge? I love a challenge. All joking aside, if you think your rental bathroom and/or kitchen is decent send me a picture (pre-any work you’ve done to spiff it up, if you can). Prove me wrong. And, no, all you fancy individuals in your turn-key apartments and you exorbitant incomes. You only qualify for this particular contest if your apartment didn’t come with a deadbolt upon move in. How’s that to even the playing field?

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DRESSER UPDATE OR HOW TO RACHAEL LEIGH COOK YOUR FURNITURE

As I mentioned in my previous post my DIY libido has been a little low lately. I look around my apartment and I see a lot of things I want to tackle–bathroom renovation, patio facelift, custom planters, new hallway fixture, new fence, new kitchen cabinets, new doors, NEW EVERYTHING. When you’re a renter like me some of this stuff is realistic and maybe some of it’s not, but all of it is most definitely overwhelming when you can’t to take a step back and break it up into manageable bits. I Want It All Done And I Want It All Done Now is the common M.O. of someone who struggles with patience and rationality and their undeniable lovechild, prioritization. A sane, productive person would look at a mountainous pile of To Do’s and set small achievable goals. Then they’d begin chipping away at it, brick by brick, project by project, until the task is completed, always keeping in mind that the whole is only as great and the sum of its parts. But what do you, the restless, self-doubting, self-sabotaging person, end up doing? Buckle under the enormous pressure to finish everything by planting yourself in bed, hoping to drink red wine and watch Bob’s Burgers but really playing Candy Crush, staining your sheets red and hating yourself for not giving your full attention to Bob’s Burgers.

Of these two types of people, Type A and Type Human Landfill, I will forever be the latter. It’s my birthright. That kind of destructive behavior is never going away.

Here’s an example of the dialogue I have with myself every evening, upon walking in the door from work: 

Smart Evan: Hm, my place looks pretty damn good. Go me! [Grunting] 

Dumb Evan: What are you doing? 

Resourceful Evan: Trying to get this dresser I found on the street through the door! Can you get the other side, Daddy-o? 

Unimaginative Evan: No. 

Sane Evan: [sweating] Whew! That was heavy! I can’t wait to start sanding this down. It’s going to look great over there in the corner.

Stupid Evan: Mother of God.

Rational Evan: What’s that?

Destructive Evan: [stepping into the hallway] I said, there’s a half-painted flower pot over there that should be a fully-painted flower pot.

Rational: Oh, you! I see that but I’m not in a rush, mister man! I’m letting it dry completely before applying a second coat, otherwise it may streak or chip. Duh!

Destructive: I see. And that pile of salvaged wood out by the patio? That must be waiting for a second coat, too?

Rational: No, you silly-ba-nilly! The wood is there for when I start building the fence. But before I can do that I need to get these pots done. And then after the fence I’m going to do this dresser. You are too funny!

Destructive: Ooooh, ok ok ok. Got it got it gooot iiit. Because, like, I didn’t know if you were actually trying to accomplish something or just auditioning for the next season of Hoarders.

Rational: No way, Jose! What’s Hoarders?

Destructive: Yea! You know it’s that show where people can’t stop saving things and it piles up and up and up and eventually they bury themselves alive in their own, like, mausoleum of junk and broken dreams?

Rational: Um….huh?

Destructive: No no no, it’s not a big thing I’m just saying, like, if you need someone to film your submission tape I’m more than happy to do it. We just need a few more paint cans and secondhand wicker dining chairs and you’ll be golden.

Rational: I’m sensing some sarcasm.

Destructive. What? PFFF! Fat chance, Lance! No sarcasm here.

Rational: Ok…

Destructive: I mean, ok, there was a tinsy bit of sarcasm.

Rational: I knew it–

Destructive: –you don’t need any more paint cans or secondhand wicker dining chairs. You have enough already.

Rational: It’s not that bad.

Destructive: Hey, who am I to judge, right? Today I had guacamole and chips for breakfast. Lemme just ask you this: are you really going to get this all done?

Rational: Well, that’s the plan…

Destructive: Because I’m ALL FOR you getting it done, don’t get me wrong…

Rational: …but…

Destructive: …BUUUUUUUT it just seems like, you know, all I see is an apartment full of half finished projects and projects that haven’t even been started and projects that even if you wanted to start you wouldn’t have the room to start because the half finished ones are taking up all the available space.

Rational: I….I can see that, sure.

Destructive: And, you know, I’m just looking out for YOU.

Rational: I…appreciate that.

Destructive: Because, hey, lemme tell you right now buddy it’s not normal to have a shipping palette in your bathroom.

Rational: I AM PLANNING ON BREAKING IT DOWN AND MAKING IT INTO A WALL TREATMENT!!!$%#@

[Pause]

Destructive: Whoa.

Rational: I’m sorry. I’m so stressed. I want to die all of the deaths.

Destructive: Shhhhh. Shh-shh-shhhhh. There there. You don’t need to be stressed.

Rational: I don’t?

Destructive: No. Just sit down. Relax. Drop your bag and lay down on the bed. [Goes into the kitchen]

Rational: Ok.

Destructive: Red or white?

Rational: What?

Destructive: Do you want a glass of wine? To unwind?

Rational: Oh. Sure. Yes, that does sound nice. Red, please.

Destructive: Great. [Returns to the bed] Here you go. Poor baby. You’re so exhausted.

Rational: I really am.

Destructive: Would you like me to turn on the TV, see what’s on?

Rational: That’s perfect.

Destructive: Netflix?

Rational: Mmm, yes.

Destructive: Bob’s Burgers is streaming. Sound good?

Irrational: You’re the best.

And so it’s been going, every night for the past few months. Rational Evan eventually caves and willingly, cooly and numbly falls into the warm, cozy embrace of Destructive Evan’s clutches, or what is commonly referred to in my home as The Cabernet Haze.

It was after this last stretch of The Haze that I realized my creativity boner would need a little Viagra if I was ever going to get back on track and stockpiling old futon frames in the corner of my living room again. What I needed was the movie equivalent of a nerdy girl makeover–low effort, high impact–like when Molly Ringwald pulls back Ally Sheedy’s hair to reveal she has a jaw or when a girl discovers contacts and snags Freddie Prinze Jr. [SIDE NOTE: Try getting that Six Pence None The Richer song out of your head now. I dare you.]

I sat in my bed for a long while, looking around my apartment with a discerning eye, before it jumped out at me as if to say, “HELLO, MORON,” like a stripped sweater in a Where’s Waldo book:

Say what you will about IKEA but this Hemnes dresser has been a stalwart–A STALWART, I TELL YOU. To be unabashedly hyperbolic, it is, without a doubt, the William Wallace of my apartment because for three hundred bucks and half a dozen meatballs no other piece of furniture in this shack is as much of a warrior, OK? (Sorry, Design Within Reach. I’m still available for sponsorship. This post can and will be deleted without hesitation.) But, despite it’s redurlability–that’s durability and reliability (you’re welcome)–I think we can all agree its monochromaticity is a little bit like a wet fart, no? A big brown mess that just kinda runs all over the floor.

Cue Home Depot:

No, this is not the back of an issue of Highlights; the knobs are a different color! What a novel idea, right? I AM A DESIGN GURU.

But seriously–honestly–look at those brass beauties and what a difference they make. Then look in the mirror and tell yourself a well-deserved I Could’ve Done That because you can and you should and it’s ridiculous that for *$20 you can justify having a blog about home design.

Anyway, that’s the show, kids. I hope the heavy fireworks delivered. Knobs. Unscrewing old ones and screwing on new ones. Who would’ve guessed? It may not seem like a lot (and it’s not) but it was what I needed to put that spring back in my step.

*If you can claim you found the knobs were mislabeled the whole abysmally unskilful project can come in under ten bucks, but the money you save you will pay for with your pride. This comes from a trusted source. My pride is worth ten whole dollars.

MARCH 9 2014

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▶ The Oscars were incredibly snooze-worthy, in my opinion, as everyone who was projected to win did win and if I wanted to watch something with a predetermined outcome I would just tune in for the Russian Parliament’s potato sack race during their annual summer picnic. (As if anyone would dare let Putin be a runner-up.) And speaking of jerks who have no business talking politics (me) Jared Leto name-checked Ukraine during his acceptance speech. Now, I don’t want to speak for the entirety of Crimea but I think we can all agree no one there is looking to Jordan Catalano for confirmation that their dreams can come true. UGH. I think it was the Washington Post who said it best by calling that sort of off-handed remark ‘drive-by’ politics. You know somewhere Jane Fonda was turning over in her oxygen chamber when she read that. On the bright side–the side that does not include a 3 minute bit about ordering pizza or calling Liza a drag queen, Ellen–I did win my Oscar party’s ballot contest with a personal best of 21 out of 24 correct picks. Fair warning: in the future, if you hold an Oscar party and invite me over, you will rue the day when I accurately predict the live action and animated short films because my head may explode from shock and the brain matter will ruin your nice sofa. My other misstep was going with Jennifer Lawrence over Lupita and I don’t need to explain myself on that one. I just liked her better. However, if I had known that after she handed out Best Actor to Matthew McConaughey she’d spend his entire bat shit crazy speech throwing shade (scroll down to #10) I would’ve also voted for JLaw for Best Sound Editing and Best Original Screenplay knowing full well I’d lose those categories too. Anyway, my prize for winning was an American Hustle poster, which I have no idea what to even do with so for now it’s nestled away in my closet. If there are any takers please email me your address. I’ll sign it as if I’m Amy Adams and ship it to you.

▶ During one of the many snow days we’ve had here in the Northeast I succumbed to my boredom and said alright alright alright to True Detective, and I am publicly declaring–very cautiously–that I like it a great deal. It’s good. Decent. Let’s say decent, but I certainly don’t love it. It’s beautiful to watch and the acting is superb but I have no idea what it’s really about, aside from white men of opportunity contemplating there own mortality and objectifying women (how original!). Not that I regret having invested my mind grapes in a marathon binge but, folks, tonight’s the season finale and I’m still just as clueless as I was when I saw the first episode. It’s a comment on…spirituality? Apathy? Child abduction? Woody Harrelson’s receding hairline? Who knows. One thing I’m sure of, on a creep scale of 1 to Paul Dano, McConaughey is at Christopher Walken (which is way creepier) and that’s all I really need to capture my attention, even if that monster refuses to remove his shirt no matter how loudly I scream at the TV.

▶ I mention monsters because it seems I have created one in the form of a 12-pound miniature pinscher named Finn. Let me backtrack. A few months ago my cousin called to tell me she had discovered the benefits of coconut oil. In addition to being a culinary fat buster it is also great for your digestive system, and its antibacterial properties make it great for your skin. She mentioned–my cousin being a small dog owner like me–that coconut oil is stellar for your pooch’s coat, too. That was really the beginning of the end. When I got off the phone with her I called my vet. After his approval I promptly went to the market and each day since have been slopping a teaspoon on Finn’s dry food each morning. Peter Paul & Mary, was she right! Since then Finn’s been slinking around like the apartment like he’s in a Garnier commercial. The unintended side effect, however, is that now I have a canine with a sophisticated palette who won’t eat his food unless there’s healthy dose of tropical goodness mixed in. Seriously. I ran out of the stuff the other morning and tried to sneak it by him but all I ended up with was a resentful puppy and a lot of side eye:

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He just stared up at me with that look–that looks that says, “Don’t even try me.” What dog refuses a bowl of delicious kibble? The dog who won’t stand for anything less than a drizzle of coconut oil, as I now know. If there are any dog owners out there this is the one thing I would not recommend you give to your pet. Unless you’re ready for the power dynamic between you two to change then by all means have at it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Finn: 1, Evan: 0

▶ I have been receiving a lot of heat lately for posting some questionably negative comments about Apple’s new Swedish-inspired line of automobiles, IKEA, and all I will say about that is it’s not totally uncalled for, though I feel like I need to ruminate on this topic a little further to give the blogosphere a clearer picture of where I really stand. I am, after all, a millennial and if I didn’t feel the need to tell strangers about how I’m misunderstood then I would be doing my generation a great disservice.  So, please, Johan and Tuva, hold off on firing those angry emails until I’ve had time to expand on my utterly brilliant/vapid thoughts in a post, will you? I promise I will explain myself but I can’t promise it won’t make you want to punch your computer’s face in its face, as I imagine most TINAH readers are want to do when they subject themselves to the silly things I ramble on about. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. If I am getting too up on myself, however, just send me a picture of a cat dressed as a human–which I HATE–and I will interpret the nonverbal communication to mean my jets are in need of cooling. It will be like our secret code word, OK?

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▶ Last week I was invited to an event by bespoke clothier Alton Lane at their showroom in Flatiron. It was a style presentation aimed at teaching men (ha) how to assemble and pack outfits for their upcoming spring getaways (wedding in the Hamptons! Stag party in Chicago! Sight seeing in Montreal!). They do amazing custom suits and shirts and since I didn’t have the heart to admit I’m not a real adult who wears things that button I RSVP’d with my attendance. Not that there was any other option, really, since I knew there was going to be scotch and BLOCKS OF CHEESE. The evening was co-hosted by Mad Men’s costume designer and thank god I was distracted by their showroom’s exquisite decor–brimming with leather-y goodness and rich texture–otherwise I would’ve cornered her and done my best Megan Draper impression. There are few universal truths in design but it is my belief that a well-worn leather cigar chair is a one of them. Can we check on that? If it’s not already it should be inducted into some kind of Hall of Fame and pront-o, Gina. Who can I talk to about that? Anyway, Alton Lane had some gorgeous ones and throw in half a dozen well-placed cow hide rugs and I was in heaven. The warm feeling the scotch gave me helped, too, but mainly it was that post-industrial, masculine aesthetic that comes from pairing rugged, natural textures and dark woods that was doing it for me.

▶ This morning I stupidly agreed to accompany my friend to a BDSM club disguised as a cardio pilates class. To quote the great philosopher Julia Roberts, “Big mistake. Big. HUGE”. When it comes to working out my routine is that of a man from the 1920s. It’s very simple. I warm up on the stationary bike and then I lift heavy objects over my head until I hear something pop. Sometimes I may go rogue and indulge in a stretch or two but that’s only if I’m feeling adventurous. Fitness fads are just not my bag, man. If I ever felt the need to take an antigravity kickboxing ballet class I’d rather sit on a knife and call it day. But my friend got me at a time when I’m feeling a little vulnerable–I’ve been coping with the brutal winter by eating pasta and swilling red wine most nights–and now that the weather’s changing I can only think about getting my beach body back. So against my better judgement I said yes. Our instructor, Kendrick, was great because he didn’t stand for anything short of total commitment. He really put the ‘sass’ in ‘go fuck yourself, you weakling’, which I admire, but I think I’ve seriously broken my body, you guys. There’s something not right about what’s happened to my muscles which I thought were healthy and strong but there was a lunge set somewhere in there that has me second guessing my own physical prowess. When we finished I left waddling down Park Avenue. It was not a good look.

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▶ Out with the old, in with the new! I’m very excited to report my new desk was completed and delivered last week! I didn’t mention this before because I wasn’t sure when it would all come together but it has been in the works for awhile now. THANK YOU to the good people over at STOR New York who very generously built me this one-of-a-kind beauty. You might remember I had a Stash desk from Blu Dot before, but I was never really comfortable with it. It did the job and looked pretty, sure, but I didn’t follow my own advice and rushed into buying it simply out of necessity. Ugh, be damned, hindsight! What an asshole move that was on my part. Once I got it into my place and lived with it for a few days I knew it wasn’t going to be something that would move with me throughout my life. This is a perfect example of how waiting to consider your options will save you time, money, energy and migraines. Not to mention it decreases your consumer footprint. If I had been smarter about it 18 months ago I wouldn’t have found myself in the position of having TWO desks. Luckily I found a guy on Craigslist who just bought a home in Westchester and whose daughter needed a desk for her new room. That makes me feel better about being a bourgeois capitalist pig, but it still gets under my skin that I fouled up on this one. If the adage is Lead By Example then I must be the David Patterson of DIYers. Let this just serve as a cautionary tale, TINAH readers, and rest assured I’ll continue this pity party elsewhere, like at the bottom of a strong vodka tonic.

The scale is almost double that of the Stash desk so I may have to change things up to make it feel like there’s not a walnut Cadillac parked in my apartment. Sadly, my treasured thrift store brass floor lamp may get the boot. It can’t hold its own against the heft of the new desk, though I already have a good home lined up for it should it lose this particular hunger games. I’m thinking–gulp–a hanging pendant? Maybe a Louis Poulsen PH5? Is that too much? Will it fit within the space or just stick out like sore digit? Am I already halfway into my self-deprecating vodka tonic and not thinking clearly? The answer may be D) All of the above, but whatever I get I guarantee it will be secondhand and beat to hell. After this double desk debacle I can’t even begin to think about buying something new.

But here’s the best part:

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Orange drawers! Boom. So much fun.

TALKING PROCESS

It’s Sunday morning here in New York and we are preparing for yet another–and hopefully our last!–winter storm. The streets are empty, the sidewalks have been salted and outside my window the city is enjoying that nice, calming hum of a sleepy neighborhood not yet awake. Walked and fed, Finn has retreated back to his bed for his first of many mid-morning naps and I’ve got a huge pot of coffee making eyes at me from the counter. My apartment is quiet except for the drone of the fridge and the soft, flat footsteps of my upstairs neighbor padding down her hallway. But it’s not any Sunday–IT’S OSCAR SUNDAY–and there’s a lot to do before the big show begins. I must finalize my ballot. I need to decide what I’m making for the party (I’m leaning towards Deep Fried Lupita Nyong’O-reos). I have to chill the bubbles. In a few hours E!’s pre-carpet pre-show pre-everything coverage begins and if Kelly Osbourne and Ross Mathews play Guess The Nominee By Their Collar Bone and Which Starlet Will Win Best Supporting Cuticles and I’m not nestled deep into the arms of a champagne haze HEADS WILL ROLL PEOPLE.

So, during this brief window of Jared Leto jab-free time, before the chaos of the day ensues, I want to answer a question I get emailed about a lot–one TINAH reader Emma asked in the comments section of a recent post (thank you, Emma, for allowing me to Henry Higgins you publicly!)–and that is about process, specifically how I tackle designing a space.

** A WORD OF WARNING **

I am hardly an authority about any of this business, dear readers, but I do know what works for me and since I’ve gotten a significant amount of inquiries about it I felt I should share. What you are about to read below should by no means be considered a rule of thumb but rather a loose set of guidelines upon which your own principles can be applied. Take away from this as little or as much as you find useful, but if you come home to your husband hanging a hammock in your living room do not hold me responsible. All I ask is that you proceed with caution, keep your arms and legs inside the tram at all times and bear in mind these are not the musings of a sane man.

THANK YOU

Gather references

Before I start any project, big or small, I will always begin with reference photos. Specifically I would call what I do a ‘mood board’ but then I’d be afraid you’d judge me for being a pretentious jagweed. I think it’s important to see everything I’m considering all in one place. It really helps to edit myself. Like when I entertained covering my bathroom in some Hinson & Co wallpaper after seeing Steven Scarloff’s stunning feature in House Beautiful, the reference board I assembled showed me how clearly I had lost my mind and saved me from making a wrong turn, both aesthetically and financially. The board doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Most of my references are just print outs and pages ripped from magazines–occasionally I will cut swatches for texture and pattern–so don’t be concerned about the assembly. Just get everything in one place. Gather more than you think you’ll need. Look at it with a discerning eye and consider balance. If your references are feeling too cold soften them up and pull in some texture. If they are feeling too dull bring in some pattern. If you’re new to using color lean towards neutral pieces and inject pops of it here and there. Try to stay way from the need to match pieces together. This is the time to play! Keep in mind this is your design so you are the harbinger of your own definition of good taste. I’ll touch on this more later but remember to pick things you really want to wake up to every day, not things that are trendy or what you’ve read are cornerstones of modern design. Pintrest has been amazing in this way because it allows people like us forage the blogosphere and curate a huge amount of material with zero commitment or cost. I would recommend getting an account and start pinning immediately! You’ll be glad you did. And then link me to your account so I can follow you and skim off your genius OKAY THANX BYEEEEE.

Make a budget

This is a HUGE part of the design process a lot of people overlook or feel they simply don’t need, but a budget is not just for professionals and their clients. Once you’ve gathered your references your budget will help you translate your wish list into reality. I don’t do anything without one. Really. Even if it’s as simple as pulling up my bank account and checking the balance (and crying once I see what it is). A budget is the best way to navigate a sea of seemingly infinite design possibilities. That $5,000 credenza you referenced from Hive will either become a reproduction from a wholesaler, a Craiglist find, a thrift store hunt or a piece from IKEA (or the actual credenza from Hive if you’re fancy like that), and if you are honest about your finances the decision will be very easy to make. Be as detailed about it as possible. Start with a budget for the room and then pare it down, piece by piece, if you can. The goal here is to define your purchasing power so the more specific you are the less stress you will incur. No muss, no fuss!

Don’t rush

I’ve curated my references and have a budget. I have a strong idea of where the design is going and from where it will be sourced. Even though I’ve got all this I still make purchases one at a time, starting with the largest pieces first. In my experience designing a space is a mutable process, one that can change with the introduction of each new component, so allow yourself the time to settle into a decision and reevaluate. This is why I start with the heavy hitters first. It’s much easier to return a chair than it is a bed, and if you get a bed that plays much differently with your room than you imagined you will need the time to gather new references, edit your budget and re-source accordingly the things that will surround it. Don’t feel like you need to get it all done in one fell swoop. It may be uncomfortable walking into a room that’s only half-done, but you’ll be much happier in the long run knowing you’ve picked something lasting and that you adore.

Gut Check

This is specific to my process so feel free to skip this step entirely, but I am not Malcolm Gladwell. There are very few times when I ever feel my first instinct is the right one, so it helps for me to question it. If you are like me you can get wrapped up in a moment or a feeling and if you don’t check yourself you run the risk of turning your home into a set from Mad Men. I guess this goes back to my previous suggestion of taking your time, but I want this post to look like it has a lot of useful information and that I’m smart so I’m going to be redundant and hope you think I have more to offer. But I don’t. It’s really just fluff. Check yourself. Or don’t. What do I care?

Tape it out

If you read the blog you know how I’ve never met a roll of painter’s tape I didn’t love. For those of us with brains ruled by our somatic sense taping down the layout and dimensions of your design can help you walk around in the space before you commit your time, money and energy to anything. I know it does for me. Call it a poor man’s feng shui!

Design with the future in mind

When I design I like to keep in mind the staying power of my decisions. The last thing I want to do is buy a bunch of shit I will only grow tired of and want to replace in a year, so I do my best to choose things I know (or think I know) will move with me throughout my life. I sort of explained my feelings on this here, but it is summed up much more clearly by Graham Hill during his Ted Talk, Less Stuff More Happiness. Graham is a genius about the whole idea of life editing. He just crystallizes it so beautifully. When I transpose his philosophy onto my design process I come up with my own version of a Wild Card. Now this may seem like I’m contradicting myself after getting on my soap box about making a budget and sticking to it but this is the step in which it is OK to break the bank and spend a little more. If you find a piece you can’t live without and you know you’ll have forever…BUY IT. I grant you immunity. That one expensive thing is more likely to stay by your side throughout the long haul than that Hemnes dresser from IKEA which you will probably replace two or three times over in the course of decade. So, yea, alright, I guess I am a giant, blowzy hypocrite. And if the dresser from IKEA is the thing that will follow you from place to place then fine–GREAT–but the takeaway here is just don’t buy anything because you need to fill the space. Allow yourself an investment piece.

The Erykah Badu Factor

Here’s the last rule–ugh, rule. Rule sounds terrible. Commandment? NO. Decree? I’m not a politician. Edict? How royal! Let’s go with that–rule edict of my process. I try to remind myself to always keep things a little bit weird. There is nothing less interesting than a room that looks like it’s been ripped straight from page 74 of a Design Within Reach catalog. I get why it happens; amateur designers like ourselves can get self-conscious about our decisions, am I right? It’s very easy to look to a source of authority and say, “Oh, that is good design. That is what I need to replicate,” but that way of thinking will just saddle you with a space devoid of personality. My goal throughout the whole process is to remain cognizant of what can make the space unique, what  can make it just a leeeettle different than anywhere else. Don’t be afraid of the strange–embrace it! In fact, GET ALL UP IN THAT FUNK. I’m not recommending you reupholster an ottoman in Lycra or buy a duvet cover made of human hair but be fearless in the knowledge that there really is no right way in doing any of this.

Go forth and design!

OFFICE LOFT

Dear Diary,

It feels like it’s been ages since you and I sat down and had some quality time together, hasn’t it? I have been slammed the past few weeks but I know that’s a terrible excuse between two friends as intimate as you and me. It’s just, well, you know, occasionally life gets in the way! It’s been difficult to carve out a few minutes and jot down some thoughts lately. I’ve been working a ton, for one, so you don’t have to worry about that. My social calendar has been surprisingly robust and you know that’s something I’ve expressed concern to you about before. Also I started this incredible new–eh, who am I kidding? There are no secrets between us. Season two of House of Cards came out. That’s where I’ve been, OK? I’ve been consumed by Kevin Spacey and his Droopy Dog impression and I know that makes me a horrible person but you’re supposed to be a safe place for me to express myself without fear of judgment or ridicule so LAY OFF. Remember when I was 7 and I told you I secretly wanted to be Donatello every time my brother and I played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but he called it first so I always had to be Raphael? You didn’t judge me then. Or how about when I was in 6th grade and after I saw While You Were Sleeping I confessed that I thought Sandra Bullock and I, if given the chance, could be great friends? I even referred to her as Sandy and still you remained impartial! So, even though I might’ve put Frank Underwood and his political shenanigans before you, I would really appreciate it if you could extend the same courtesies to me now that you gave me back then. And while I’m coming clean I might as well admit to losing a few days this week to pour over Alec Bladwin’s letter about being a white, entitled male. Whew! There. I feel better now that we’ve cleared the air. Now we can move on.

Anyhoodle, Diary, I want to tell you about a project I started. I’m excited, if not slightly terrified. Some nice, well-meaning (or perhaps misguided depending on how this whole thing goes down) people approached me about designing their new office. These people–who shall remain nameless for the time being but who gave me permission to blab about this to the entire Internet–asked me to turn a 1,500 sf loft-style apartment in Midtown into a fully function workplace and like a sack of dead squirrels against a brick wall I threw myself at the chance.

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Pretty great, huh, Diary? But it’s not all shits and giggles; there are more than few challenges. First, the main working space is enormous (by New York standards). At roughly 15′ wide and 25′ long there is a ton of space the fill, and with high ceilings and open layouts loft apartments are really unforgiving when your goal is to make intimate and distinct moments. That’s right, MOMENTS. I can only be pretentious and sassy with you, my dear Diary.

The second challenge is time. Because this is a place of business I don’t have the luxury of faffing about for a week, trying to build a nightstand. I may not know a lot about professional adults but I do know they need places to hold meetings, take conference calls and do whatever else it is they do that allows them to buy $14 salads every day for lunch. I tend to (surprise surprise) be a little particular about things. If I had my druthers (side note: where did that saying even come from? Druthers? DRUTHERS. It makes me think of Sally Stuthers in drag. Not RuPaul drag but, like, Albert Nobbs drag. Yea, chew on that for a bit and try to fall asleep tonight. Oh, druthers!) anyway if I had my druthers I would look for one-of-a-kind pieces, but I’m well aware that if those druthers were indeed in my possession then there would be an office full of people sitting on milk crates for two months.

The third hurdle is cash-o-la, but that’s just the reality of any project, whether it is for yourself or someone else, so I’m not too bothered by that. It just means, as much as it makes me cringe to think about it, I’m going to have to sign up for an IKEA Family Card. Wuff. But on the bright side if I can find a few gems from the Swedish Meatball House and Table Store I will have also helped myself in the time-saving department.

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The only thing I could think to do was chunk things up. I know, I know, Diary, I, too, hate spaces that are chopped and choked and don’t have a flow but I’m hoping that by doing so the larger space will feel more like a collection of smaller, more private spaces rather than just one big room with a bunch of shit in it.

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Take, for instance, the living room (for lack of a better term). I normally hate the back of a couch to face the entrance of a room but here it cordons off the space nicely, as if to tell visitors and employees it is the HBIC. So I’m going with it. By the way, I guess this is as good of time as any to mention how desperately I rely on painter’s tape. I’m very tactile and it’s an enormous help to see the layout and play with it before having to make any real decisions. A godsend, I tell you.

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They’ve got some great artwork and awards so I was hoping for a few walls of shelving and framing–which is a great and cheap way to look like you’re filling the space when really it’s just smoke and mirrors. Smoke & mirrors: that’s kind of my thing. But you already knew about that, Diary. I wrote about how I wanted to be a magician when I was 11 but changed my mind only when I got a paper cut from a deck of cards.

Anydoodle, that was a few weeks ago, well before Frank Underwood took the Oath of Office of the Presidency and I became sidetracked and subsequently neglected you. Here’s where I’m at now, kitten:

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All things considered I’m pleased…so far. There are a few sore thumbs standing out (curtains, anyone, hellooo) but at least it’s a space where people can conduct business and watch cat videos on YouTube without sitting on the floor.

I’ll quickly run through some of the stuff I found because although you’re just a diary I know you enjoy that kind of stuff. The big set pieces–the couch, the conference/dining table–I really went all out for, and by “all out” I mean I actually paid asking price. You know me. You know how I operate. I never pay asking, not even on a haircut, but when you’re rolling the dice with someone else’s time and money you can’t spend your weekend making offers over eBay. The couch is a tufted-back from ABC Home WHICH WAS ON SALE (otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to snag it). The table I sourced from an amazing little spot in Jersey (I mentioned it here) and although it was by far the most expensive piece it sure was worth the price! I dressed it with some Tobias chairs from IKEA (ugh) to play against the rustic texture of the wood:

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But the coffee table. That is what I’m most stoked about, Diary! Last weekend, in between episodes, I willed myself out of bed, onto the train and deep into the recesses of Brooklyn to one of my favorite thrift stores. I didn’t go for anything in particular but I was feeling down about all the IKEA furniture I bought and I knew I had to add a texture other than Capitalism to the whole schematic. Well, my prayers were answered. Sandwiched in between a china cabinet and a rice cooker I found three lucite legs and some gorgeous brass cross-bracing:

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That thing is sex, is it not? All yummy and vintage and unique and FORTY-FIVE DOLLARS SO TAKE THAT, SWEDES, PUT THAT IN YOUR PICKLED HERRING AND SMOKE IT. Added bonus: the glass top was only $100 from Pier 1 (who knew you could buy cheap glass tops of practically any size from Pier 1?) which brought that whole endeavor well under 200 spanks. I dressed it with some books from home so you’d think I’m extra fancy but you and I both know that’s just a monstrous lie.

As for the other stuff, the carpet is a hand-woven kilim from West Elm Daddy got at steep discount. In addition to already being on sale there was a small run along one of the edges, so I plopped the sofa on it and called it a day. The armchairs I just plain got lucky–they belong to one of the employees! I don’t know if you caught it, Diary, but the planter and palm in the corner there used to be mine. I donated it to the project to add a little umph to the room and I think it works quite nicely. (In exchange I got a new planter but more on that at a later time.) The media console is IKEA. I was angling for a beautiful vintage credenza with plans of refinishing but I couldn’t get the seller down in price so I had to let it go, sadly. As much as it kills me to admit it there are times when you need to accept defeat, and those times are usually when some asshole in Queens wants $400 for his mother’s broken, shitty sideboard. The shelving along the eastern wall is IKEA, too. It’s the one thing I don’t totally loathe because the price was right and the impact is big.

Anynoodle, that’s where I’m at. It’s a work in progress and there’s still more to come, but for now I’m content, if not happy, with the progress. I’m never satisfied and I think you understand that about me, Diary, and if you forgot I will point you to the entry I made after eating two 1-lb bags of Twizzlers during Tree of Life. And I’m sorry once again for giving you the Claire Underwood (AKA cold shoulder). I promise I’ll write in you more often and next time without all the House of Cards references.

Hearts and farts,

Evan