Tag Archives: decorating

…out on parole? …still on the dole? …a mole in a hole?

Have you ever had the feeling that you were glamorous beyond your means? That deep down inside there was a fabulous person just screaming to get out… and the key was something bright and shiny? But every morning the alarm clock rings and pulls you from your glitter filled dreams. You plod down the hallway and are confronted by irrefutable evidence that you are not a star. What a rude awakening.

I try not to complain about my apartment… but the flesh is weak… or maybe it’s the will. I don’t know. The neighborhood is great. But my apartment… let’s just say that I’m not a star. What a drag.

Okay, my bathroom. For starters, the entire apartment was painted badly, huge drips all over the woodwork, the lights and the tiles in the bathroom. I don’t even know how someone does this. It looks harder to make this much of a mess than to do it neatly. When I first moved in, I cleaned some of it up, but I eventually got tired of ruining my nails, and I don’t even have long nails. However, I never got around to doing much of anything in the bathroom.

The bathroom has marble tiles on the floor and around the tub, which has a shower in it. However, there is no place to put a shower curtain rod. I got one of those tension rods, but it kept falling down. Have you ever been in the middle of taking a shower and had your hair all shampooed up and had the curtain rod fall down. Water is spraying all over the bathroom, you try to pick up the rod. You bend over and soap is now going in your eyes. You don’t know what to do, so you turn off the water and finish bathing sitting in the tub, cupping your hands trying to pour water over your head to get the shampoo out.

Darlings, this is not how a star wants to start her morning.

Finally, I said to myself, we’re going to fix this!

But what to do about the curtain rod. You see, I’m a renter and I don’t think it would be okay to start drilling holes in the tiles. I don’t worry too much about the walls, because that can always be put back, but landlords get mad about changing things you can’t reverse. Which also brings me to the door. The door is wooden and has never been painted, unless you count those big drips. Frankly, they are average hollow core plywood doors and I would paint them, but as I said I rent. Also, the woodwork is of low quality wood and I’d paint that, too.

Plus, add to all that, there’s a spot on the wall next to the tub that was all mucky because the previous tenants apparently took no care about whether or not they were splashing the walls – or maybe they just decided to shower without a curtain. I’ve been tempted myself. The sloppy painter made an attempt to fix it, but hadn’t primed the area and now, on top of looking like a lumpy mess, the paint was peeling.

Lastly, the water pressure is highly unpredictable. Sometimes, it’s low and then I would have to angle the shower head towards the back of the tub. The next time, I’d turn on the water and the pressure would be higher and the water would hit the wall and spray all over the place, mainly on that mucky spot.

So, it started with the shower rod. I said to myself, there must be a solution. I toyed with a few different ideas, including suspending a curtain from the ceiling. Finally, I decided to use pipe fittings to make a rod that I could attach to the wall where the tile ended and which would sort of cantilever over the tub.

While I was at it, I decided I might as well give the bathroom an entire makeover. My sister came up to help. We had just set about working when it occurred to me that I should take some before pictures. My sister took a couple with her phone.A very boring bathroom.As you can see, “dingy” would be just the right word to describe it. You can see the unreliable tension rod. Below is another angle. We already took the towel rod down, but you can see it’s just sad. The purple was from the bathroom in my previous apartment.

Corner of bathroom showing door.There was paint on the light fixture, the towel rod, the door and the toilet paper holder, but there was not paint over the spackle* filling holes where a previous tenant had hung something. Go figure. But it didn’t matter at this point because we were going to fix all that, or at least try.

Now, my own theory of decorating is if you can’t make it elegant then you should have fun! In the past, I’ve had a bubblegum pink kitchen and a high gloss black bathroom. This time, I decided to paint the walls with a metallic paint. We also painted the ceiling with a high gloss white.

Here is a close-up of the curtain rod solution:

Shower curtain rod and shower head.

The paint on the tiles was already there.

The pipe fittings are from Simplified Building. After I ordered them I noticed that they have fittings for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant hand rails which fit inside the pipe to make a smoother transition on a hand rail. In retrospect, that might have been a better choice. Still, this works, and is certainly an improvement over the rod that kept falling down. Behind it, you can see that I installed a shower head that has an extension arm. I’m hoping this will help a little with the problem of angling the shower head as the water pressure changes. I haven’t used it enough to know if it’s a great solution, but so far it seems to be fine.

Bathroom-through-doorIt’s hard to see in the photo that the walls are in fact metallic, but they are. The color is called “nickel” and is warmer than silver but not as dark or as warm as bronze. I also got a new shower curtain. I would have gotten a sparkly or shiny one if there had been one in the store.

Bathroom-sinkHere’s another angle. In the mirror, you can see what happened to the door.

Bathroom-doorWe covered the door and the door jamb casing with adhesive shelf liner. I’m hoping that it stays in place long enough to at least have been worth the effort to put it on. I’d been puzzling for sometime about what to do with the ugly door.

Glitter covered wall plate.Finally, the light switch cover. It was a cheap plastic one which, like everything else, had blobs of paint on it. I roughed it up with some sand paper, coated it with glue and dipped it in glitter. When that was dry, I put a couple of coats of varnish on it. I’m not sure how long that will hold up either.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with my budget bathroom makeover given the constraints of being a renter.

*Wikipedia informs me that “spackle” is a genericized trademark not used outside the U.S. They say that elsewhere it is called “wall filler.”

When I mentioned that I had once done a mural of wisteria on a trellis, Vastly Curious asked if I had a photograph. I’m not sure where any photos of that particular job are, but here is another one.

A photograph of a small trompe l'oeil mural of a window with a garden view beyond.

My apologies for the roughness of the image, but I scanned an old photograph.

As a child, I liked to draw and was moody, so I was deemed an artistic type and a free spirit. Once you are labeled as a type of any sort, other people project onto you various qualities. Growing up, people made many assumptions about what I would or would not like based on this label. Most of the time, they were right. When you’re young, and don’t yet know much of the world, you accept these assumptions, at least as a starting point.

By the late seventies, there had been something of a reaction against modernism. The sixties and the counter culture’s love of ornament and romanticization of pre-modern societies set the tone. An artist, in popular imagination, would live in a Victorian era house with macrame around the doorways, ferns in the windows and lots of tchotchkes and trinkets. The second town my family lived in embraced this style. Mostly, however, they weren’t artists; they were bobos avant la lettre.

So, when I grew up and moved to New York, it seemed a natural fit to move into a floor-through in Brooklyn with tin ceilings, foot-wide woodwork, and french doors. I lived in two consecutive apartments of this sort in the neighborhood of Carrol Gardens, both built around 1870.

A real estate boom, followed by a real estate bust, suddenly made my rent stabilized apartment in Brooklyn overpriced. Meanwhile, I started working as a decorative painter and was starting, for the first time in my life, to do well. I gave notice and moved… to Manhattan. Cue the theme song to The Jefferson’s

We’re moving on up. To the… the.. west.. uh… to Chelsea. To a dee-lux apartment on the second floor.

Built in 1960, my new apartment was what was often derisively called a “white box.” It was no great example of architecture by anyone’s standards. It was one of hundreds of similar buildings, frequently made of yellow brick, that went up around New York City in the post-war era. It was exactly what I had told all my life I would most hate. It was boring – and I loved it.

The nineteenth century brownstones were drafty in the winter and brutal brick ovens in the summer. In order to not die in a heat wave in the summer, you had to block up your windows with air conditioners which cost a small fortune to run. Of course, now that your windows were blocked up you had no choice but to run them even in the mild weather. Furthermore, they blocked the light and made a long, narrow, dark apartment even darker. My new apartment was easily heated and cooled. Despite the fact that the last apartment had been significantly larger in terms of square feet, the new apartment had more usable space due to the rational layout. Best of all, I could clean the apartment in a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. What a chore cleaning both of those other places had been. Somehow, they always looked dingy.

Did I mention that bit about being a decorative painter? I rag rolled the walls, a white glaze over yellow. I put a Greek key stencil around the ceiling. I got some very nice ivory colored silk and made drapes with a Kingston valance. I thought it looked pretty sharp for a twenty-three year old, if I don’t say so myself. What I realized is that a white box is a blank slate and it’s only as boring as its inhabitant is willing to let it be.

The interior of the living room of an apartment.

Now that I’m older, it looks a bit fussy to me and I guess it’s a little dated, but I think you can see my overall point about a white box being the equivalent to a blank canvas. The drapes are not done yet in this photo. All the furnishings are either hand-me-downs or picked off of the garbage. (Note the kitties!)

So many people, when they saw my apartment, would be surprised. Time and time again, people would say to me, wouldn’t you rather live in a funky place somewhere like Park Slope. Actually, no.