Let there be light!

Exciting stuff has been going on here for the past few days. We were both hesitant to bring in any contractors for at least the first few months, just so I could get everything kind of situated and then figure out exactly what needed to be changed and in what order. And I’ve been tackling some quicker projects myself, like painting bathrooms and dining rooms, fixing up the bedroom, and planning some landscaping. But last week we finally brought in two trusted contractors– a carpenter and an electrician. The carpenter, a friend, will be helping out with some more complex projects in a few months, but we put the electrician right to work, changing out four ceiling fixtures throughout the house.

All of the light fixtures that came in the house are OK… most I recognized from the Hampton Bay aisle of Home Depot. Yawn! But some online shopping and three hours later, we’re making progress to eliminate the boring, snooze-worthy fixtures from the house. Obviously nothing in the house was even close to original. I could have gone with reproductions but decided to go with something a little more fun.


Let’s start in the entryway, which is a really small area with a cluttered coat rack and the smallest bathroom of all time. I would have loved to do an entry chandelier here, but the house honestly probably never had anything grander than a single bulb flush mount. So I grabbed a Restoration Hardware farmhouse light when they were on sale a while back. I wasn’t positive if it would go in the living room, entry, or the top of the stairs, but once we held it up it seemed to be a pretty good fit here. And please excuse the mess, etc… this area still needs a LOT of help.


The farmhouse looks great, I think… but we also discovered that we’re going to do a lot of paint patching. Why people don’t remove light fixtures when they paint a ceiling, I will never understand. The entryway will all be painted soon, so we’ll just leave it like this for a little while.


This was also when we discovered that we do indeed have the original 1928 wiring throughout the house (I knew we had it in the bathroom from when I replaced the sconces but wasn’t sure exactly how old it was or if it was safe). The electrician assured me that it was perfectly safe as long as it was in good condition, which it was. He also noticed that the lights all had grounding wires running from the switches, which means someone was paying attention when they started making improvements.


The next light was the bathroom. I had already switched out the sconces and painted, so as a reminder here was the lower part of the room:


You can’t even tell in the photos how bad this light is. But finding a replacement wasn’t easy– the switch in the bathroom only controls the sconces, so the new fixture had to have a pull cord that reached from the ceiling without knocking into/damaging the shade.


I wanted to get a matching porcelain one to the sconces but couldn’t find one with a pull cord, and those can’t be custom ordered. My alternate idea was to get a vintage cut crystal pendant, but again the Etsy shopowner said he couldn’t add the cord. I had to custom order this one in oil rubbed bronze from Rejuvenation, but they kind of screwed it up and without our wonderful electrician would have never been able to get it working ourselves. And honestly, now that it’s up, I’m not so sure about it. I think I need to spraypaint the inside of the shade white to make it look more like the porcelain sconces– it’s just super harsh and bright right now. I also might just order a new shade… we’ll see. At least it’s better than it was.



And finally… the super fun one! When we first saw the house, it had a decent looking pendant in the dining room. Not my style but kinda cute. During negotiations, the seller asked if he could take this light with him, and since we had planned on probably replacing it anyway, just let him have it. He ended up installing another light when he moved out– I guess this was what was there when he bought the house a year earlier. And while it was nice having some type of light in the dining room (as opposed to him just leaving a hole in the ceiling), there is NO way this one was going to stay. Is it the worst thing ever? No. But for such a central room, I knew we needed to do something special in here.

dining room

I came across Stimulight on Etsy and held out for a few months before finally biting the bullet and ordering one. And then it sat in the box for a few months because I knew I couldn’t do it myself. I actually probably would have attempted the other fixtures on my own if I hadn’t known I’d had to call an electrician for this one, but that turned out to be a blessing because I would have been on the floor, crying, wrapped in electrical tape and bruises if I’d tried to do any of this myself. Even the electrician left the house punctured and bleeding. This is a tough fixture to hang! It looks AMAZING though, and even though we knew we would have a dining table under it (and could therefore hang it a little lower than usual since nobody can walk into it), we decided to hang it a little on the high side so that it wouldn’t compete with the french doors  and built-in for visual interest. I think it’s absolutely perfect for this room– I can’t imagine anything better.


The final light was for the office, and I didn’t know if we would actually get around to ever doing this one. I’m going to write a full post about it, so I’ll save the photos for next time.

That’s all for now! I’m super excited to have broken the barrier of welcoming in a professional… maybe this renovation will be easier than the last one after all.


❤ v


Bathroom Progress!

We’ve been in the house for about two months and the first room I’ve really tackled (aside from a quick paint job) is the bathroom. I outlined in this post some of the issues and inspiration, and I mostly kept to what I’ve posted so far.

Here is what the bathroom looked like during our initial walkthrough:


And right after move-in:

IMG_9179 IMG_9185

And here is what it looks like today:

IMG_9315IMG_9346 IMG_9320

Obviously the biggest change is the paint color. It took a coat of Kilz Low-VOC primer and two coats of Behr “Watery” (#HDC-CT-26) on the walls, and a coat of Behr “Snowfall” (#W-F-600) on the wainscoting. The color is lovely and really removed a lot of the caveyness from the room.


After the first coat of primer, it wasn’t looking too pretty (sorry for color balance… removing the two sconces left me with only one (very warm) bulb in the whole room, and I’m not smart enough to take pictures during daylight hours). You can also see in the photo below that the door frame was actually never painted, just either stained white or covered with a very thin coat of cheap paint. It bugged me from the moment we moved in, so getting to the point where I was painting it was such a relief.


Anyways, primer. I should have used a second coat, but I was scraping the bottom of this can (literally) and, being the great planner that I am, had no way to get more for at least a week. So I just let it dry overnight and went ahead with paint.

I also removed every single piece of hardware– towel bars, hooks, ring, pulls, hinges, latches, etc– and patched those holes. None of the (ugly) nickel stuff was in a good spot, so the replacement pieces will all be in different locations. Might as well start off with a clean slate, right?


The rusty, paint-covered old hardware was another fun project.


I don’t want to say that I’m channeling Nicole Curtis, but I do believe that if the hardware has lasted in this house for 90 years, there is no reason it isn’t good enough to stay for another 90. I soaked everything in baking soda and hot water, but what resulted was not what I’d hoped. Instead of being a beautiful polished brass like the hinges in the dining room, the hardware was all rusted out and appeared to have been chrome plated at some point, but now was just a rusty mess.


I sanded them all the way down and found something I’ve never seen before– the latch part was solid brass while the base was steel. Nifty! And even though part of me just wanted to leave it there, the other part really wanted a matching bathroom, so I covered the brass parts with painters tape and sprayed the rest oil rubbed bronze. The hinges were in various amounts of disrepair and were mixed… some nickel, some brass. So I sprayed them all to match. I didn’t really want to alter anything original, but considering half of this stuff definitely isn’t (one of them is broken, two are stainless, two are brass), the least I could do is make it all match and move on (reproduction or even salvaged replacement stuff is expensive!). Meanwhile, I ordered some bronze and ceramic pulls from Restoration Hardware for the bottom half of the linen closet to match.


Once the old hardware was removed and the necessary holes were patched, I went around all the wainscoting with a sharp blade to cut away the dried, torn old caulk. I don’t know what happened in this room or when the wainscoting was installed (definitely not original) but I was just happy to see no visible water damage or mold when I peeled back the boards, and so I cleaned it up, tacked it down with a few extra nails, and recaulked. A few days later, I added a new coat of paint, and now it looks so fresh and clean.


The tub is still a work in progress. We haven’t had any contractors at all in the house yet, so I have no idea what we will eventually do here or really what our options are. So in the meantime I replaced the plastic tension rod with an ORB curved one (to match and give us more space) and ordered a tension caddy for storage. If and when we tile, we’ll replace the tension caddy with wall mounted shelving and maybe replace the shower curtain with a glass door.


The bath cart is Ikea’s Raskog, and the new sconces are from Rejuvenation. New overhead light is coming from them as well– it needed to be custom made because of the pull cord. The ceramic plate cover is from them too– I bought one for the light switch below the right sconce but of course it doesn’t fit so I need to cut down the wainscoting (or just spraypaint the existing plastic one… we’ll see).


And of course the new furniture, which was restored from it’s previous home in a washed up doily B&B


The total cost of everything so far is around $500. Not bad, eh? Most of that is light fixtures… those things are pricey! There is still plenty to do (like re-hanging the towel rods, changing out the pocket door hardware, installing the ceiling light…) but it’s progress at least!


❤ v

New Old Furniture

One of my initial conundrums was filling the awkward spot next to the bathtub with something other than an Expedit (photo of previous owner’s set-up)


I briefly looked around at hook/shelf combinations but really thought we needed closed storage space for things like toilet paper and extra tissues, candles, shampoo, etc. But I didn’t want to spend much since the humidity in the bathroom is usually bad news for furniture. I couldn’t believe when I had the opportunity to walk through an old hotel that had closed and buy a few pieces at bargain-basement prices from the new owner. One piece was actually a TV stand, but it had the right dimensions and closed shelving, so I offered $30 and was accepted!


One thing I didn’t check while measuring was the actual condition of the unit. The lighting was dark and I was rushing around from room to room. When I got it home, I left it in the garage for a few weeks before actually inspecting it.


The condition was pretty appalling. Most of the other pieces from this trek are in wonderful condition considering their age and heavy use, but this one did not have that luck. Aside from being absolutely disgustingly filthy (below is the pile of paper towels used from just trying to clean it with oil soap), the large cabinet had been painted and other parts had been badly patched and stapled back together.



The large cabinet had also been (badly) painted kelly green at some point in the distant past.


But it was still a solid wood piece of furniture, and still a good price. It just meant I had to paint it– something I kind of hate doing to (mostly) unpainted antiques, but there was no way to clean this up.


I sanded it down, removed all the hardware, and spray primed (I covered the cute wooden wheels in painters tape for this step). I used the leftover navy paint from the dining room built-in project (Behr Nocturne Blue #HDC-CL-28)– it took three good coats to be totally solid. I also painted the insides of the drawers…. figured the only way to get it really truly clean was to coat it in paint after drenching it in soap (and then adding liners for good measure).

So much better already!


For the pulls, I wanted to match the style of the furniture, and the bathroom, but also be a little bit playful. Since the piece is so dark, I opted for brass instead of oil rubbed bronze (or cut glass, which was another option and already exists in other parts of the house). I wanted it to be a little bit regency, a little bit MCM, and a little bit deco/colonial. The pulls are from Lee Valley and the knobs from Anthropologie. I love them both.


If you’re wondering about the original hardware, it was 100% crap. Two of the pieces broke as I was (gently) removing them. They are like aluminum foil thickness and also not very nice looking. Out you go! (intact ones will get donated to the ReStore in case someone else needs a replacement or something). The brass hinges and door catch are original, though… just cleaned with some sandpaper and steel wool.

And just for fun, here’s the final cost breakdown:

Vintage TV stand: $30
Two drawer pulls (Leather Hardware from Lee Valley): $21
Three knobs (Streamline Knob from Anthro): $18
Paint (Behr #HDC-CL-28 leftover from the Dining Room): $0
Total: $69.00

So there you have it! I love it, do you?

Full-room photos coming soon.

❤ v

Bathroom Inspiration

So technically, the new house is in such good shape, I feel kind of bad calling any room a “problem”. But the bathroom must have been renovated in a rush sometime in the 90’s/00’s because… egh. The (non-original) bathtub has been surrounded by a linoleum bath fitter, the walls have maybe had some water damage and have been painted a super dark, glossy brown (which turns the large room into a cave), and the leaky, rotting pedestal sink just doesn’t do it for me. It’s the only full bathroom in the house, and there is no storage whatsoever other than the little linen closet on the left wall. The original medicine cabinet is a nice touch but doesn’t provide all the space we need, so we have to get creative.


Aside from stylistically not being our taste (polished nickel fixtures, dark color, Home Depot lighting) it is also lacking function. The right towel bar sits awkwardly close to the toilet and the towel ring too close to the sink. The nook to the left of the shower is also a problem– I have a feeling the Ikea Expedit wasn’t the storage unit of choice in 1928, but it’s an awkwardly sized space so finding a better solution for it will be a challenge. The wainscotting is also in bad shape, as is all of the original hardware. Hopefully I can get it all back to original– or at least working— condition.


Here’s what I’m thinking for our large kinda shabby bathroom with potential (all images link to source/pinterest):

Sand down the walls, paint a different color. Since the white wainscotting is definitely staying, maybe a clean, bright sky blue?

The trim in the whole house is staying bright white and any metal fixtures will be oil rubbed bronze or brass. To keep with that clean and modern, yet vintage and original look, I think the sconces in here need to be black and white porcelain.

And then a vintage nod with the overhead light. Either a colorful farmhouse pendant or a piece of recycled crystal?

The tub is kind of odd. Definitely need to remove the linoleum covering. If the tub itself is in good condition, we can just put in some new rock and tile around the area. I’d like to move the showerhead from the left side to the right so that we can take down that false wall and open up the space a little (no reason to have that wall there)… We could be an industrial window kind of thing? Is that insanely the wrong style? It’s definitely not cottagey but there’s something vintage/deco about it.

If the tub isn’t usable, I’d love to replace it with a pedestal tub and a separate glass shower. A clawfoot would be too ornamental/victorian for this house, but a super sleek pedestal would be amazing.

I want to keep as much of the vintage charm as possible, which includes buying new old fixtures to replace the Home Depot cheapo crap, and finding some new furniture to fit the space better than the previous owner’s Expedit.

That’s all I got for now. Updates and progress photos coming soon!!


❤ v

Sutton Renovation Close-up: Bathroom

The first version of this post was originally posted in August 2011 on the giftable designs blog.

Because it isn’t just as easy as picking out a color and waiting for the “after” photos, I’m going to start outlining each room, the process of design and renovation, and finally what I would change (or wouldn’t) if given the chance. I’m going to upload a ton of pictures with little descriptions, but if you just want the final run-down (or the finished pictures!), scroll to the bottom.

Second finished room! Yay! Here’s how it happened:

The bathroom started off as the worst room in the apartment. Yes, the kitchen was small and gross, but you can always order in, right? The first time we entered the bathroom, there were roaches in the tub and a ton of water damage on the ceiling and walls (it was old and dry, thankfully).

Everything had to be replaced, down to the pipes. So say goodbye to walls, and hello using a bucket as a sink.

We decided to gut the bathtub as well. I’m sure some people would throw rocks at me for demolishing an original 1950s tub, but it was worn down and stained, meaning we would have to have it refinished otherwise. And it wasn’t nice looking anyway. After much back-and-forth, we decided to replace the tub area with a stand-up spa shower. Being the only bathroom, it was a bit of a gamble, but we were pretty sure it would look good enough to make up for the faux-pas.

The room sat like this for a long time. There was a miscommunication about the type of piping required by the building, so we ended up being delayed about two weeks from the very start. After that, the walls and tile went up very quickly.

Unfortunately, it went up a bit too quickly. The beautiful white carrara marble was installed unevenly and extremely uncarefully. Every time I went in, I pointed out bits that had to be changed. It was clear the subcontractor was in way over his head. Yes, the photo below shows dark blue paint from the living room staining our brand new (and unevenly cut) white marble. There was screaming.

It took months until our head contractor finally fired the guy who was doing it. It’s still not perfect, but we decided to cut our losses. It looks OK, until you really look at the details. Nothing is properly centered or totally even, but there wasn’t much we could have done about it at that point.

The next step was having the shower doors installed. These were a bit of a splurge, but since we didn’t have to pay for a new tub we decided to go for it. They’re not only a focal point of the room, but also something we’re going to have to use every day– so they had to be pretty and functional. The ones we picked are a tad industrial compared to the rest of the room, but it’s a nice contrast to the vanity.

Oh, I haven’t even mentioned the vanity yet, have I? Well. I ordered it during the Restoration Hardware bath sale in January. It was showing up as *in stock* at the time. They called to schedule a delivery mid-February, and the day before they were supposed to come, I got an automated call that the delivery was cancelled. I called back and (after an hour on hold) was told it was delayed until April. Since I didn’t think the renovation would be done, I said it was fine (but of course got a hefty gift card in exchange). In early May, they moved it to mid-May (and I got the value of the card increased). Meanwhile, they weren’t issuing the gift card until the sink was delivered– and the gift card was going to pay for our medicine cabinet, so the bathroom reno came to a screeching halt.

The vanity was delivered a few days before we were set to leave for our wedding. This gave us a minimal but working bathroom, so we decided to move in. You can also see in the photo below that we opted for a triple glass shelf instead of doing a cut-out detail to store toiletries. I thought this would pick up the straight lines of the shower door and handle while integrating the detail from the shower body and faucet. I also didn’t think the tile guys could have handled a nice looking cutout and didn’t want it looking shoddy.

The medicine cabinet arrived while we were out of town, and it was installed a few days after we got back. At this point, they could also wallpaper (!!) and install the glass shelves, towel ring, and light fixture.

And so here you have it, our finished bathroom! The only thing missing is a second glass shelf above the toilet which will go up as soon as Pottery Barn mails me the correct hardware :-/

Room Details:

• Tile – White Carrara Marble (12×12″, 1×1″, pencil, and bullnose) from Quality Tile in the Bronx, total for all this plus the kitchen floor tile and grout was $2700

• Shower Door – by Vigo from Mirage Glass and Mirrors in Brooklyn, $1800

• Vanity and Light FixtureShutter Powder Room Vanity and Sutton Grand Sconce from Restoration Hardware, $1600

• Medicine CabinetWhitby Inset Medicine Cabinet from Restoration Hardware, free!

• Glass ShelvesMercer Glass Shelf and Mercer Triple Glass Shelf in Satin Nickel from Pottery Barn, $230

• Hardware – Faucet, Shower Hardware, Towel Ring, Towel Hook, and Toilet from Home Depot, $600

• WallpaperWoods by Cole & Son in Taupe/White from Lee Jofa, $220

Things I’d Do Differently (or Keep the Same):

Hmm, where to start? This room was pretty much a disaster from start to finish.

I would have:

Made sure the tile guy was qualified before I left him alone with $2k in marble.

Figured out what kind of piping the building wanted before the guys had to re-do it THREE times.

Not ordered from Restoration Hardware. Seriously. The stuff looks great but the quality is disappointing and it wasn’t worth the job being held up for months. I purposefully didn’t buy cabinet pulls from them because of the terrible customer service and delays I faced.

Found a narrower vanity. As you can see in some of the photos, the toilet sits oddly close to the sink. This is because it’s really difficult/expensive to move around the hole in the floor that the toilet connects to in a high-rise. In all my calculations, I’d have plenty of room, but I never thought to check about the immovable fixture. There’s plenty of room on the other side of the toilet for a trash can, but it looks kind of lopsided. The drain in the shower is also off center for the same reason, but isn’t as obvious. Oh, and the reason the stove sticks out from the back wall of the kitchen is because of a building pipe right there. So basically if you’re doing a reno in a high-rise, make sure your plans will work with what you can’t change. (I know this sounds like a given, but it’s easy to forget).

Honestly I probably wouldn’t do carrara marble again. It’s really pricey and stains easily, but it will work really well for resale in this particular area. In our next reno (NEXT? WHAT?) we’ll probably go back to ceramic.

And I never in a million years would have changed:

The wallpaper. I love it. It was such a pain to find it (I had to order through a designer friend, and it took weeks to arrive from the UK), but it’s by far my favorite part of the whole room. And yes, I’m aware you can buy it in other colors from Anthro… but I wanted the taupe. So there. It was also cheaper to buy direct.

The spa shower. This was a huge risk, I think, but it’s so goshdarn peaceful in there! Showering in a tub always feels kind of cramped, and we’re not bath people so we won’t miss soaking. It’s still to be seen whether it effects resale, though.

Yay, room #2! Hope you like the transformation as much as I do! Cheers!

Inspiration: Small Bathrooms

This post was originally posted in January 2011 on the giftable designs blog

Finding inspiration for a small bathroom seems much easier than for a small kitchen. Even large homes have guest bathrooms or powder rooms that share about the same square footage as the one-and-only bathroom in many smaller apartments. These rooms are great inspirations for small primary bathrooms because the homeowner is generally willing to take a risk– use a dark or bright color or a finish she would probably not use in her own (neutral) bathroom. Unfortunately, powder rooms are generally minimally functional, at best. The homeowner is assuming that she will very rarely use or even see this bathroom, so necessities like storage go out the window.

[Bold Striped Bathroom via Lonny Mag]

I’ve been hunting trying to find functional, beautiful small bathrooms (or ones that could be easily reinterpreted into small bathrooms) and here’s what I’ve found–

[Cottage Chic Bathroom via DecorPad]

A great small bathroom, like any other small room, finds a balance between form and function. When I see a room with a pedestal sink and a wall-mounted mirror, the first thing I think is “where do you keep your toothbrush?” I personally am a huge advocate for both medicine cabinets and over-toilet etageres. Most small bathrooms have empty space above the toilet for a simple piece of furniture– if you can find a wall-mounted one, it won’t even use any floor space at all. The above photo is a great example! Even though it’s not small, I absolutely love the colors and openness of the space, plus there’s a beautiful louvred etagere and tons of storage space in the bins under the sink.

[Blue and White Marble Bathroom via DecorPad]

I love the blue wall tiles and the clear glass shower enclosure– a great idea for making a small bathroom look larger!

[Calypso Blue Bathroom via Lonny via House of Turquoise]

Although lacking a vanity (or mirror of any kind), this color (Benjamin Moore Calypso Blue) is fantastic and such a great contrast to the bright white wainscoting. I also love the tiny corner vanity.

[Gold and Gray Bathroom, lost my source! Oops, please message me if you know who this belongs to!]

So, clearly, I had a lot of fun browsing, but I was still completely stuck about what my new bathroom was going to be. I love the idea of dark slate mosaic tiles (a la but didn’t think our tiny, window-less bathroom could stand up to such a dark color. The only thing I was sure on was this vanity from Restoration Hardware. The color and style are incredible, and I think it’s unexpected for a small bathroom to have anything but a white vanity or pedestal sink.

Then I found this bathroom. It is so playful and adorable, I wish I could just move right in.

[Whimsical Bathroom by Paper Dolls for Boys via Flickr]

I recognized the wallpaper immediately– Woods by Cole and Son, and then I saw that it also comes in a beautiful Taupe/neutral color that would look great with my dream vanity. I did this little mock-up/inspiration board… don’t make fun of the Photoshop skills. The bluish line is where the shower door will be. The current bathroom has a tub but we’re removing it and making it a huge spa shower instead. A bit risky, but I’m excited about it!

So that’s where I’m at. Looks like the reno will be starting in the next few weeks… eeek. Comments are appreciated, as always! Cheers!