*Lyrics from Sara Bareillis‘ Many the MIles from her 2007 album Little Voice. This song was playing on Pandora, and then got stuck in my head (especially the ‘how far do I have to go to get to you?’) as we walked the little-over-a-mile from our current place to our new place, so it seemed fitting. One of the things I had on my wish list was a place to see the sunset from home, and now I’ll have that. And there are “too many sunsets I haven’t seen…”
If you’ll recall, when we originally moved to Brooklyn, it was into a very small flat that we affectionately called a pied-à-terre. At that time we still had our big house, and were actually using The Pied as a mini-home base, mostly so Jeff could work with his office mates in person, and go to meetings easily (and begin the transition of his work life). Once we sold our house, and needed to be down here full-time – and after we moved down one flight so that we could expand our living space to include a huge roof deck – we jokingly called the next flat the pied-à-deux (even though we know full well that’s not at all proper French). It was our second move in Brooklyn, and it seemed like the right way to describe our tiny 350sf (I had previously estimated it at 320sf, but it seems I may have left out the measurement of the bathtub, my office nook, and tiny kitchen closet) domicile that really wasn’t fit to house two adults for very long. Now that we’re leaving our mini-empire, I can’t help but want to name the next place our pied-à-trois.
Please, French people of the world (and Francophiles), don’t hate us for playing with the language. I am, in fact, beginning to learn French (slowly – je ne parle pas francaise très bien) and our new neighbors are from France (like, actual Parisians! I’ll get to practice my language lessons! gulp), so I have nothing but love for the French. Still, allow me to introduce you to our newest residence in our little string, the Pied-À-Trois. read on…
So with my best, my very best, I set you free…*
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*Lyrics from I Wish You Love as sung by Frank Sinatra (though the National Youth Jazz Orchestra performance is cheerful and delightful, and certainly worth watching on a day like today). I considered an alternate title – “I wish you shelter from the storm, a cozy fire to keep you warm” – especially because the entire Eastern portion of the US is being battered by yet another bracing, snow-filled, ice-capped, rained upon bit of winter goodness, but I thought the above excerpt was more fitting. I heard this song ages ago and jotted it down to use at the end of something. Today’s weather makes the timing even more apt.
Le sigh. It’s over. This is the last installment of the Project W AFTER Tour (catch up here: master bedroom, kids’ rooms, main floor part one, and main floor part two). I am so proud and grateful that I got to have a hand in the complete transformation of this now gorgeous home. So, now, pictures! (Get ready, this is a long one…)
Boom. Project W kitchen. Do you remember it when it looked like this?
Sort of major, right? When we toured the space, there was a giant spiral staircase – de rigueur in 1982 – that cut right through what I saw as perfectly usable kitchen real estate. When we first met, the clients – craving brightness, space, and fluidity – wanted to open up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, but I felt that they would lose too much storage space. The kitchen was a galley and, while efficient and completely appropriate to the home, it didn’t exactly ooze storage space. With a tween, a teen, and a big, hungry dog, I knew that losing those uppers would be a risk. read on…
Careful what you say, oh dear, it’s too late now…*
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*Lyrics from Careful What You Say by Class Actress from their EP Journal of Ardency. This song resonated with me for this post because during the process of building/designing this home (and perhaps especially these last spaces), my relationship with my friend (the builder) was, to say it politely, strained. It’s inevitable to quarrel with those closest to you, and likely to happen again with someone else during my career/life. I’m sure it’s happened to you – with your spouse/partner, your client, your family – and I’m sure you hated it as much as I did. I loved this job, and was so completely grateful to have been able to be a part of it, but it took an emotional toll. And I guess I’m feeling a little nostalgic for the good times. (This winter feels really, really long this year.) Cheers to the happy times, to the promise of a new season, and of the hope for smoothing the scuffs and scratches that will just add patina to what I hope is a lifelong friendship.
And the AFTER tour continues… When we last met, I shared with you most of the main floor living spaces for Project W. Today I’m going to share the dining room, foyer, and powder room. When I first walked through the house with Mrs W, we both had the same vision for the foyer: gray, almost concrete-looking rectangular tile that would feel modern, not too dark, yet be easy to care for with two kids and a sweet, but sloppy dog. It took some doing, and some negotiating, and some pretty strong-willed moments (high five, Mrs W!), but we found our tile, and were able to achieve the exact look we imagined. Sometimes less is more, but sometimes you have to invest in a bit more to get more. At any rate, we ended up with a wonderful update to this formerly vinyl-floored space.
Just off the side entry – the mudroom area – is a powder room. Now, this space used to house the original kitchen; in fact, the old house stopped along the wall separating the new kitchen and dining room from the game room and entry hall. So the bathroom that was put in was decidedly from its time (1982).
I wanted to reclaim the character as we did with the master bathroom design, but knew that we couldn’t really spend too much to do so. We had to work with the space as it was for the budget’s sake, and we had to use materials that could withstand lots of traffic. We ended up finding a really reasonably priced ceramic mosaic tile that picked up on the black and white theme we used in the master (I love it when spaces in antique homes, like kitchens and baths, seem like they could have been installed during the house’s original build), which really helped to reinforce that 1920s feel we were after.
Having connected the powder room to the house’s architecture, I wanted to let the dining room really connect to the homeowners’ love of mid-century design. I knew they had some cherry and rosewood pieces that would look really nice atop their newly finished oak hardwoods, but that they needed a wall color that could support all of that rich, warm wood. Probably the most contentious battle with regard to the color palette happened regarding the dining room walls – SW Hazel – which virtually every woman loved and every man loathed. In the end, though, my clients agreed that the initial scheme was what they loved, and they stuck with my suggestion. I love the color. This room floods with light in the afternoon, and can really stand a rich hue on the wall. They are also avid art collectors, and I knew that an art wall would eventually really sing atop this rich but modern hue.
The entire first floor connects visually from room to room, zone to zone, and I think we really created a soft, watery, and flowing palette that is peaceful and soothing. I know that the clients’ soft furnishings, curtains, pillows, rugs, etc., will shift as time goes on, but the harder, more permanent things – tile, flooring, lighting – will enhance whatever additions they make.
I still have one last space to share with you. Stay tuned!
Just hang on, hang on to the vine…*
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*Lyrics from Hang On Little Tomato by Pink Martini off their second album. I heard this while cooking, or washing up, and it completely cheered me up. It’s a sweet little song about remaining optimistic. Lately that has felt difficult, likely in part due to the lack of sunlight (and never ending days of being trapped in our tiny home). But I’m hanging in there, not like a kitten on a branch, but like a little tomato on the vine, waiting until I’m fully ripened before I burst forth with heirloom flavor (I’m certainly NOT a regular tomato – probably I’m one of those weird colored heirloom ones that look awful but are the best tomatoes you’ve ever eaten). How long until summer again?
When we moved back to the city full-time, I had to lose my office. My glorious, large, occasional guest room, sunlit, breezy, private office. Enter one of my daily mantras: it’s only temporary, it’s only temporary. But, while we’re hunting for a more permanent place to settle, we’re still trying to make this one work for us as best it can.
Once we decided to take the pied-à-deux, we had some furniture rearranging to consider. The previous living room layout included a nearly 5′ long niche to the right of what was clearly an old chimney breast. In our prior space, this little nook happily housed our TV and assorted media accoutrements. In our current space, however, that single niche layout was replaced by two niches flanking the chimney breast: on the left, one about 20″ wide, and on the right, one just shy of 32″. Yeah, so, no TV nook here.
Since there is no proper closet in the apartment (it’s technically a studio apartment), and the giant storage unit in the kitchen was removed so we could re-install our dining room nook, we decided to turn one of the niches into a closet of sorts. It’s pretty basic: a rod, a hamper, and some not-so-glamorous odds and ends tucked and stacked behind a chair, but when you’ve got 320-ish sf to work with, you make do. We considered making the other niche, the larger one, into a closet, too, but then we realized that it was just big enough to house a tiny desk, and could therefore serve as my office.
Not the enormous roughly 12′ x 14′ room that I had to myself before, but the 24″ x 31.5″ (that’s right, INCHES) space seems to be just big enough to store my computer, a lamp, some art supplies and books. Just the essentials, but a hell of a lot better than having to throw (or gently place) the laptop on the floor when we want to eat dinner at our table at night. Jeff had a leftover IKEA desk from a temporary employee at his office, so we just took it home one night and tried it out. It fit perfectly. Even fit with a little space leftover that is just big enough to hold a canvas so I can work on art projects at my own pace. What more could I want?
To make the space really work for us, we installed a few shelves made from some simple boards and brackets from Lowe’s. I wanted the space to recede, visually, since it’s really just a corner of the living room, so we painted the shelves the same color as the walls, and chose black brackets. The effect is especially helpful at night, when the dark corner just expands, and the room feels bigger than it really is.
I can’t really do any hand drafting in this mini-office, nor can I really go crazy with painting/drawing. But I can have a little space to call my own, and that ain’t bad.
Well you better be rich, or be real good at cookin’…*
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*Lyrics from Lily Allen‘s Hard Out Here. This video is NSFW (and is controversial, so it would seem), but the message is pretty spot on. Anyway, I wanted to find something to listen to that would compliment this post, but instead I found something that made me want to persevere, challenge the status quo, and fight the good fight, which is just as important. Plus, it’s way catchy, and probably great to add to an exercise playlist. I always like a little ‘tough bitch’ music when I’m feeling less than that, don’t you?
When we moved from the pied-à-terre to the pied-à-deux we brought our kitchen with us, like the good faux Italians we are. Our IKEA cabinets, countertop, and pendant lighting made the trek down one flight to become our new old kitchen. The only real difference between the two spaces is the color of the existing laminate countertops, and the age of the refrigerator (the old place had a brand new one, this one, not so much). We actually had the landlord move our stove down one flight, too, when we discovered (much to our chagrin) that the stove in The Deux was mostly not working (one out of four burners worked, and the oven didn’t heat up at all). Oh, and the other difference is that the upper floor unit had about 18″ more space in the dining area.
You’ve got to give it what you got now…*
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*Lyrics from Mean Streets by Tennis from their new EP Small Sounds. It’s no secret that I love this band, but this mini album is excellent. I dare you not to get this song in your head for several happy days.
I know you’re all still geeking out over the amazing, awesome, inspiring transformations from the One Room Challenge, but do you remember me teasing that I’d soon have pictures to share from my clients’ Project W house? Well, first room, here you go. This is a major BEFORE & AFTER post. Get ready.
It seems like so long ago that I first met with my clients on Project W, and first glimpsed at their terrible, wonderful, overwhelmingly dated raw material of a house that was to become their dream home. It seems like another life ago, not only because so much time has passed (and so much has happened), but because their home has completely transformed. You know those makeover shows where people don’t recognize a loved one, or think they’re in someone else’s home? Yeah, their house is kind of like that.
Take me out of this place I’m in…*
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*Lyrics from Human by Daughter off their album If You Leave. I found this on spotify (naturally) and really enjoyed their acoustic “spotify session’s” version. I recommend you check it out before you hear their original album version. The song felt appropriate for my first substantive post in a while. After all, we’re all just human, underneath it all.
I know. I know! It’s been a long, LONG time since we moved in. Since I shared anything relevant to design. I know. Let me make it up to you?
So, here it is, the Pied-à-Deux: our tiny, sweet, tiny, small, cozy, small, bitty, efficient, annoyingly small living room. And it’s our entryway, and our closet, and my office, and our guest room, and part of our bedroom in that the TV sits on a dresser 2/3 full of our clothing. It’s small. It’s been tough to cope with how small it is, but we really tried to make it as beautiful and practical as possible. And we do like it very much.
They gotta believe that I’ll never forget you…*
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*Lyrics from Ghosts by On An On from their album Give In. I actually wanted to feature a different song, but I couldn’t find the lyrics or make them out well enough myself (which is my kinda music), so I chose their big single. This album was just sitting in the ‘highlights of 2013’ list on iTunes, and I really liked the album art. Sometimes it’s as simple (and stupid) as that. Album is great. Perfect to usher in a new, more relaxed end of summer feeling. Give it a listen on Spotify first. Then purchase and offer to do some errands by yourself so you can listen again.
For the past few weeks I’ve been on a mental hiatus of sorts. I’ve been letting go of my worries about the future, my melancholy about the past, my general anxiety about all things out of my control… I’ve been trying to, at least. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a stress monkey, and the past year or so has been taxing. Don’t get me wrong, lots of great things have happened, but stress can mount even with positive change. So I took a break from thinking, from worrying, from planning, from participating. Sometimes that’s the best course of action while you’re waiting for time to heal all wounds, or whatever.
So, we had a vacation in two parts. Part one (which was actually two separate weeks, on in July, one in August) was in the form of hosting my niece for a summer vacation in the big city. She loves New York, and claims that she “hates the country” (which isn’t really true, but she’s ten, so it feels true to her). Getting to experience the city through the eyes of an exuberant and saucer-eyed child is uplifting, and really helped create the feeling in me that ‘yes, I live here!’ We saw museums, we walked too much (on an injured foot), we ate too much restaurant food, we listened joyously to the din that makes up city summer nights, we sweated, we laughed, we rode the subway like locals, we hung with my local sister, we made up fake accents and pretended to be weird characters, we (mostly she and my sister) sang karaoke, we shared an apartment too small to comfortably host guests, we bonded. It was a great distraction from my own bullshit.
So how’s about spendin’ half a day, underneath a tree losin’ leaves?…*
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*Lyrics from The Nerve off the 2008 album Keep Color by The Republic Tigers. I followed the Spotify suggestions and found this band to be intriguing. I struggled to find an appropriate song for this post – perhaps my tentative reaction to the band is akin to my tentative approach to the roof deck. So maybe I got it right after all. Either way, both the band and the outdoor spaces should prove even more interesting in the future.
I thought it only fitting that I finally share with you some pictures of our outside space here at the Pied, you know, seeing as how we’re officially in the height of summer. It’s been tropical in NYC for the last few weeks, and, I must admit, our valiant attempts to be out there every day, to enjoy the space no matter what, have been thwarted by intense thunderstorms, incessant humidity, mosquitoes, and general hotness. Also, we haven’t really gotten very far with the decorating. Yet.
Naturally, the decorating (and unpacking) inside the flat has taken precedence, and beyond ordering a sofa combo for lounging al fresco, we haven’t been able to make many decisions. We can’t seem to choose an outdoor rug, an outdoor dining table, or an outdoor coffee table, so our time out there is relegated to deep lounging (sans pillows, because we can’t decide on those either). Hunching over our laps to eat isn’t exactly pleasant (plus, we get enough of that inside, thank you very much), and we haven’t been able to properly carve out a little comfy zone for all the things we like to do outdoors. But, I will say, the lounging part I think we’ve nailed.
And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before…*
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*Lyrics from Eva Cassidy‘s Songbird. One of the saddest songs I could think of, yet somehow beautiful, and sweet, and true. I think this song has become a dreaded ‘wedding song’ so now I can ruin it for everyone by using as my ‘leaving the only home I’ve ever known’ song.
**UPDATE: Rain date for the yard sale will be June 2nd, same time, same place. Something tells me that 49 degrees and raining won’t bring the shoppers out in droves. **
FYI: LOCALS We’ll be having a yard sale/tag sale/garage sale next Saturday, June 2nd, from 9-3pm, so come with cash, and don’t be afraid to ask for a deal. Everything must go. Unless we can’t bear to part with it, in which case we’ll be making the fool-hearty decision to store it in the hopes of using in the future. So, yeah, come by and talk some sense into us.
As the rain sprinkles down on the lush and green lawn, lilac scent still hanging deliciously in the air, I look around at the madness, clutter and chaos of our move, and sigh. We’ve spent nearly 6-1/2 years here, more than I can say I’ve ever spent in one spot – ever – and I can’t really imagine not having this spot to come back to. This house, this home, has come to represent a childhood dream realized: to have a place to call home was that dream fulfilled, and one that I am reluctant to give up.