Master Bedroom Progress… for the love of Ranarp

Weirdly enough, the tiny master bedroom of this house is probably the reason we ended up buying it. Not because of the super bland color palate, normal-sized windows, or annoying sloped ceiling, but because of the closet. We had given up the house hunt for the winter (our lease had a clause that we couldn’t move out from Nov-Mar) but I was still curiously opening my Zillow emails, just to see what was out there. Most of the photos of this house made it seem modest and quaint, but not super special.


But a photo of the corner of the gorgeously done master closet really made me take notice that someone had truly put some effort in, so I dragged M to the open house (even though he wasn’t interested when I showed him the listing). Sure enough, we left in silent agreement that it was the one. Not because of the closet, but because of all the other little touches, the layout, the neighborhood, and the feeling of relaxation we got while inside.


(For the record, that’s a sliding barn door… the top bar pulls down to eye-level, and there are 12 drawers and another cabinet on the left side that you can’t really see in this picture. All the drawers quiet close. All extremely unusual for a 1928 Sears kit house that is otherwise mostly well-maintained yet original.)


If this closet hadn’t been there, or even if it hadn’t made it into the top 10 photos, we probably never would have ever stepped foot here, and yet here we are.


Anyways, ramblings aside, I didn’t expect to do much in here. The closet is great, even though I would like to take all the pulls off and spray paint them to look enameled… but that’s it. We just moved in our furniture and ignored it.


Then while M was out one evening, I made a snap decision and broke out the primer. Our headboard is kind of sage-grey-beige and I hated how it clashed with the lavender-gray-blah walls.


I had already grabbed a paint chip of Behr’s #HDC-AC-23 Provence Blue and knew it was the way to go. It’s a little on the dark side, but it’s still coastal looking and light, and it made the white trim pop. Two days later, I had primed and painted two coats. We put the bed back where it belongs and, once again, I thought it was done.


And then a few weeks later we brought home a Ranarp floor lamp from Ikea for the living room. It’s really perfect for a house like this– visually light yet not bland, a little unusual, and with antique touches like the black and white braided cord. When I saw that there was a sconce in the collection too (and that it was $20!), I added it to the ever-growing list and eventually picked up two while we were visiting M’s parents in Virginia a few weeks ago. I also ordered this “No Sleep ‘Til Breuckelen” print which combines M’s love of weird maps and the history of New York with our house’s Dutch roots. I think the wall needs two other pieces to flank the print… it’s a bit too small right now.


The Ranarp sconces were ridiculously easy to install, even though everyone’s favorite blue-and-yellow store fails to package them with screws or anchors. Luckily I had some extras and the whole project only took about an hour.



I absolutely love the detail in these sconces! Good job Ikea!


The only thing that’s left in here is to spray paint those cabinet pulls a black gloss and order the curtains. I’m waiting for West Elm to run a sale…. pretty please?


Anyways, I love the room and the journey it’s taken so far. What do you think?


❤ 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:

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And here is what it looks like today:

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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

Dining Room Progress

Although the dining room totally wasn’t at the top of my list of worries, it does happen to be an easy starting point. The whole room was just kind of boring. Dreary gray walls, a window facing into our neighbor’s kitchen, and a yawn-worthy (yet cute) built-in. Since I hadn’t painted anything in a while, I thought this would be a good place to dig in!


First things first, the built-in (behind the open patio door in the above photo– I suck at “before” pictures…). Before I even unpacked, I was painting this guy. It is so adorable and I’ve always dreamt of having one! In order to make my mostly-light-colored ceramics pop, I chose a dark navy blue (Behr Nocturne Blue #HDC-CL-28)



I didn’t prime, so it took about 4 coats, which was stupid. This is why we start on small projects :). I also removed all the doors, sanded, repainted, and cleaned the glass, which had so many layers of grime and paint, I needed acetone and a razor blade.






I soaked the hardware overnight in baking soda and hot water, and the following morning the paint just fell right off and revealed gorgeous polished brass! Well that was easy!





Probably the quickest and easiest improvement so far! I quickly polished them up with some Simichrome and they look killer. 

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I put everything back together and touched up the white trim with Behr Snow Fall (#W-F-600), and then filled ‘er up! The arrangement isn’t right yet… I need more storage in this room to hide some of the more boring pieces and accumulate some new white ceramic things (animals, hopefully!) that will pop.


Next order of business was the dark walls. This room doesn’t get the best light in the house, which is pretty amazing considering the two large doors to the patio and the full-sized window. But it faces west directly into our fence and a neighboring house, and north into our yard. So the dark gray was a little… sad. I went with light, bright, BM Revere Pewter (#HC-172)… which I guess is what everyone is painting everything right now. Once it was on the walls I kind of hated it. It’s growing on me, so we’ll see if it stays or not. I wanted to keep the color neutral so we could do something fun with the art and lighting in here… but in this lighting, the greige is more beige than gray.



And an outtake… the puppy decided that she needed to go out at this exact moment. Or maybe she was trying to model for me?


All this paint plus a new dining set… I think we’re really making progress. I got a shipping notification for our new chandelier yesterday and can’t wait to put it up and finish up the room! Eventually I’m planning on having a carpenter complete some woodwork so the built-in will go to the ceiling (which would mask our new amazing Sonos speaker) and we’ll add some crown molding throughout the whole house.



❤ v

The Sutton Apartment: Before

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

Welcome to our first place! It’s still full of the previous occupants’ hoarded belongings and needs a lot of work, but it’s in a full service building (with a laundry room! No more carrying 50 lbs of laundry a quarter mile every month!) and it’s in a nice neighborhood. When we walked in, we were stunned by its condition, but once we did the math and realized what good square footage it had, we were sold. It was in pretty shocking condition, but nothing a good ol’ renovation couldn’t fix!

Here is the series of snapshots I took the second time we walked in (I didn’t take any photos the first time because it was dark and I was too busy screaming and begging to leave). I’m also including a photo of some rooms once we got them cleaned out. If you get lost, the floorplan is in an old post here.

[living room. worn down parquet floors, major spackling/sanding and window replacement needed. all the outlets are two-prong and painted over a hundred times.]

[kitchen. appliances, cabinets, and laminate countertops from 1953 (fridge replaced sometime in the 90’s). water damaged and roach infested. to us, this is the most important room, and there wasn’t much room to cook in the 7×7′ space. it looks a lot better than it actually was, believe me.]

[foyer- coat closet on left, kitchen straight ahead. became our kitchen extension by knocking down the right side and top of the wall.]

[dressing room. heavy wood sliding doors (on the left wall) were impossible to open and filthy.]

[bedroom. worn down parquet floors, major window replacement needed. broken closet doors, no functioning outlets.]

[bathroom. major water damage on all walls and ceiling. rusty tub full of bonus roaches (I didn’t include them in the closing docs but I guess they wanted to stay), outdated/broken fixtures. you can see the extent of the water damage in the bottom picture. thankfully it was all from a previous incident and dry when we got there.]

[all outlets were two-prong and painted over a hundred times.]

[windows. once we got all the old belongings cleared out, we realized there was condensation between the panes of glass. the building also required that we replace the window unit air conditioner with a through-the-wall unit (replacing the heater below). so that promised to be a super fun project!]

So there you have it. Obviously the renovation was a necessity. We closed on it in early December 2010, got all our approvals by late February 2011, and finished the bulk of it mid-May 2011. Each room posed its own challenges, so the next few posts will outline individual room renovations and final (renovated) photos. It’s amazing what you can do with this many blank, white walls!

❤ v