Category Archives: Apartment Improvements

A collection of all the little things done to make my apartment mine.

The Bar [Home necessity]

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One of the first things that The Sexy Master Electrician I set up in our new place was the bar. He was not a fan of my ladder turned bar in my old place, plus it didn’t fit in the space anyway. TSME saw a huge moving sale on Craigslist and in the background of a picture of a dining table was the perfect credenza. We got up early on a Saturday to get there when the sale started and almost lost it to another couple. For all of $60 dollars we had our bar.

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Set up for our Labor Day BBQ

We have all the essentials, though we are missing a few mixers that we should add by the next gathering. We have the ice bucket, the muddler, the mixer, the strainer, openers, bitters, pint glasses, wine glasses, and high ball glasses. We need some Tom Collins glasses. The five major liquors, tequila, rum, vodka, bourbon and gin are in decanters on top and the bottles live below with the wine bottles.

The credenza is the perfect size for our little bar with the shelves above. There is plenty of room for everything you want on display and plenty of room to hid the stuff you don’t.  The decanters on top have mostly come from second hand or antique shops. One came with the the sweet high ball glasses TSME found for me on Gilt. The bar book and calendar are from my siblings one Christmas.
UntitledWe keep collecting clocks to go around the space and now we have one for each time zone. TSME complains sometimes that it too cluttered. I think it’s perfect.

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The Island’s New Stain

As you may or may not recall, I have a large list of projects to do in my little apartment. way back in the spring, when the weather finally became warm enough for me to want to work outside and I finished my kitchen island over the course of a couple weekends. I could have finished it in one, but I had other things to do outside so I broke it up between the stain and poly coat. It was pretty easy to do, but a bit messy. You’ve been warned.

Island finished (2)I picked up a dark stain, Ebony, for the top and lower slates, thinking that the grey paint I already had for the base was lighter. It is not. It is the same stuff I used on the little dresser. So I decided to keep it white and maybe paint it later. It could probably use a touch up, but it looks pretty good as is. Plus, the idea of all the taping I would have to do was a bit overwhelming.

As I mentioned before, this wasn’t too difficult of a project, just a bit messy and takes some time to let the stain dry in between. And the taping took awhile too.  So here it is in steps, mostly based on the stain instructions. I highly recommend wearing gloves while  staining!

1. Sand the surfaces to be stained. I started with a larger grit, 80, then went to 120 and finally went over it a third time with 220. There was one spot that never seemed to lighten up, and it was a bit difficult to cover with the new stain. Some sort of oil or something must have gotten on it. Anyway, I gave up sanding it forever, cause it clearly wasn’t going anywhere.

Island (1)2. Clean the surfaces to be stained well. I did this once before and after taping everything else off. And then tape it all off to get ready to stain.

Island (9) Island (3)

3. Apply your stain. I used a normal paint brush to apply it quickly and then wiped it with a rag. After letting it dry the prescribed amount of time, I applied a second coat the same way.

Island (5)Island (10) 4. After the final coat is fully dry, us a poly to to seal the top, following the directions to the T. Let it dry and enjoy! Island finished (1)

A2 Updates

Apt  (1)I know at least one person, okay maybe only one person, who reads this thing has been patiently waiting for me to share plans and some updates on my little Bozeman apartment. There is a pretty big list of to do’s and DIY’s before I will really be happy with it, but it’s looking better with each little project I do. Some of them will have to wait for spring when I can take things outside and paint them after the snow melts.

Apt A2I’ve keep the main color palette pretty neutral in greys and blacks and used accessories and decorative items to add color punches. I’m not sure if they come through in the pictures below, but I like it so far. I was thinking of sticking with one color family, but since nothing in color is a huge item, I have just been using all bright colors. I will admit to being swayed towards the teal/blue family a bit though.

The kitchen and my bedroom are the most complete rooms in the place. I want to hang a few things on the wall in the kitchen and refinish the island. This is priority number one once it warms up enough. Otherwise I love all the little color pieces I have in there. And I kind of want to get another Ikea sheepskin to cut in half and put on the stools. I love the one Melissa sent me!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the bedroom I will need to get a real dresser sooner or later. I also have my eye on some curtains for the bedroom. I love my bedroom right now. Maybe it’s just that I love my new mattress so much, but it is my favorite room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bathroom is probably the next best room to me. I love the color of the rugs and shower curtain Robin basically picked out for me. I am also in love with the shells I found on Martha’s Vineyard that I use for jewelry. I am not a big fan of the wall color, though I think the blue color scheme works well in there and it annoys me less. I just can’t stand the cabinet over the toilet. It is so glaringly white, but it would be a pain to paint because it’s a veneer. I might also paint the little vanity. These are low on the to do list, unless it drives me crazy enough to bump it up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe living room needs the right furniture, which will probably be a while. And the closet in there is so damn big. I am basically ignoring the one door and will continue to put the TV or something in front of one of the doors for now. My birthday present to myself will probably be a flat screen TV, the first TV I will ever buy. My parents gave me that huge box one for now. I also have and idea for a credenza that it will sit on, just need to give my friend the money and go ahead to build it. I would love to get a couch like this in there and move the futon to the office, but for right now it works. I want to really like the pieces of furniture that I get and purchase ones that will last, so it may be slow going.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe office is the mess, it was full of boxes up until a couple weeks ago.  I finally put my “desk” (my old portable drafting board on two sawhorses) before my friend M showed up to stay with me. I had to get the boxes out of there so the air mattress had some place to go. I was going to clean off the “desk” and deflate the air mattress before taking pictures then was too lazy. Plus this is an update not a final showing. I have several things that will go on the walls, just need to get them framed and decide where they are going.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo here is the current to do list:

  1. Get a light fixture for living room corner.
  2. Refinish the island in same grey paint as little dresser.
  3. Finish organizing office- get all boxes out!
  4. Get office art framed.
  5. Get the door that is to be the headboard from home, strip and refinish.
  6. Replace cabinet door knobs in bathroom.
  7. Do something about the light fixture in the bedroom and living room maybe kitchen too.
  8. Spray paint tops of sawhorses- gold? green? purple? ombre it?  or just get a real desk made to match future credenza, top choice.
  9. Get a dresser.
  10. Take off bedroom closet doors and replace with curtains.
  11. Get stuff to organize insanely large living room closet.
  12. Get a tv credenza.
  13. Get flat screen TV.
  14. Paint bathroom walls or white cupboard
  15. refinish library cart (on the to-do list since I got it like 3 years ago…)
  16. Get a modern couch.
  17. Reupholster Nintendo chair- or get a real chair.
  18. Repair trunk.
  19. Repaint bathroom vanity

That’s a lot. I kinda wish I hadn’t written it all out, yikes. Wish me luck and stay tuned for the DIY’s as I go!

Yarn Christmas Tree DIY

xmas tree (10)I love decorating for Christmas. The lights and pretty ornaments just make me happy. In Brooklyn, I didn’t really have room for a tree in my first apartment, so I got a wreath that I decorated the first year. In the end, I continued using the same decorations for then next five Christmases because I liked them so much and they fit in one box that I could stash in the closet. When I moved, the decorations were given to my first roommate, who I trust has put them to good use this year.

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First Year, First Apartment

Second Apartment

Second Apartment

In my current place, I wasn’t even going to decorate. I was home for Thanksgiving and got to help set up the tree there and I didn’t want to spend money on new stuff. Plus my roommate is anti-Christmas and my current home is temporary, so I just didn’t feel like it. In the end, I couldn’t resist.

I don’t know where I saw it, (I tried to find it again and failed), but I saw the idea of using yard to make a tree on the wall. I remember it looked cute, would be easy and not too invasive, so hopefully my roommate wouldn’t care. My version would involve four things: green yarn, blue bows, sparkly snowflakes and clear 3M wall hooks.

I placed the top hook as high as I could reach it and then placed seven smaller hooks equally spaced along the baseboard. I used a bigger hook at the top and smaller ones along the bottom. I tied the yarn at the bottom corner and then wrapped it around the top and back down to the opposite far corner. From there I looped the yarn around the next hook at the bottom and then back to the top, coming back down to the next hook in the row. Once I had looped through each hook along the bottom, I returned the yarn to the top and tied it off.

xmas tree (9) xmas tree (2)Next I twisted the snowflakes on the yarn. This was a bit tricky at times. I was planning on attaching them a different way, but looping the yarn around a top and bottom arm of the flake worked best. In places I just needed a bit more slack in the yarn so that the snowflakes wouldn’t pop off as I put another one down the line. In the end I got them all to stay where I wanted. Some are only looped around the top or bottom, but they stay put. The final touch was tying the bow to the top and waa la! An adorable Christmas tree!

xmas tree (8) xmas tree (5)I made a kiss tree to sit beside it on the end table and all we need now are some presents at the bottom. My roommate really liked it in the end too and was talking about making a fake fireplace she saw to hang our stockings on. So the holiday spirit is taking over our little apartment despite the freezing cold! It’s probably time to bake more cookies.

xmas tree (11)

Extra Lighting

My roommate might be obsessed with lighting.  Seriously.  I think my feeling about lighting, if it wasn’t through a window, in an apartment, was summed up Wednesday night at the Apartment Therapy monthly Design Evening by Isabelle LaRue of Engineer Your Space.  She was presenting her DIY for hiding the hideous typical apartment ceiling lights.  She basically said that, since she is renting, she never thought to put much work in to the lighting, it is what it is and there’s not much you can do about it, or at least you don’t want to spend much money to do it.  I agree, I think it’s like that for many improvements when it comes to your apartment, but I digress. The point is, when my roommate wanted to buy lights, I was like, “ehh.”

The ceiling light: I guess the bike hides it...

So far since he has moved in, we have installed under counter lights in the kitchen, which are very nice, I must admit.  He also lit up this rather odd closet in his room.  He started talking about new lights for the living room, pre-painting, by the way.  We looked at Lowe’s whiling picking out paint for his room, but didn’t see anything good, so we made our way to Ikea last weekend.  After an exhausting trip through the showrooms looking at the lighting, we finally made our way to the lighting in the marketplace to spend god know how much time looking at lights.  Since he wanted them, I wanted him to pick them out, but he does not do well making decisions on such things I’m learning.  I did pick out paint chips for him to pick his bedroom colors from, I should have known after that.  In then end we ended up with two lights, one hanging, Hemma Cord, one standing, Rodd stand, with the same shade,Lobbo, in different sizes, 12″ and 14″ diameter, with compact fluorescent bulbs.

Left: New Hanging Light
Right: New Standing Lamp

They look great, I give him that, and I totally prefer their light to the horrible over head light.  I think I want to go back and get another shade and cut in half and recreate Isabelle’s drum cover.  The only thing I need to do right away is figure out how to get mu roommate to stop walking through the apartment, turning on all of the lights, especially his, and then walking out.  I’m not even kidding.

This was the best I could do in the tiny space to get a picture of both of them together.

New Cushions

About two years ago… actually probably three years ago, my friend K and I went to Old Can Factory in Brooklyn specifically because Hable Construction was going to be selling upholstery fabrics that weekend at the market.  I hadn’t heard of them before that, but I absolutely loved their fabrics. I had been talking about making cases for my couch cushions so I could take them off and wash them. Miss. Princess Chunk sheds quite a bit, makes quite the mess as she drools in her sleep.  The cream color of my couch doesn’t hide her dark hair well and they do not clean off very easy. This pop up sale seemed like the perfect opportunity to find something to make cases for the cushions.

Even though the fabrics were significantly discounted, they were still a bit much for my little budget. Lucky for me, they had “scrap bags” for $25.  I don’t actually remember how many yards of fabric I got, I think it was 2.5.  K sat there with me for ever going over the math and yardage to decide if the fabric would cover the front and tops of the cushions if I used a plain material for the backs.  We decided it would be enough and I bought the bag.

Then it sat in various places around my apartments until last month when I finally did something.  Maybe a year or so ago I brought home some trashed drawing (ie large sheets of paper) that I could use to make my patterns.  I drew and cut the patterns at the same time then put them in the bag with the scraps to wait.  Part of my hold up was that I didn’t have a surface be enough to cut on and I really didn’t want to do it in the floor.  If you think the amount of hair on the couch is bad, it’s got nothing on the floor, no matter how much I clean.  Which, if we’re be honest, I’m not so great at.  Anyway, my friend, Majo, lives across the street and she was will to let me come over and use her big table for cutting.  I finally cut the fabric.  About a month ago.

I was probably lucky that with a little turning and finessing, I was able to cut all the pieces with the pattern in the correct direction without having to sew two scraps together to get another piece.  Yeah!  I did not let them sit for another year after the big step and spent the following Sunday sewing away.  I finished the back cushions and half of one of the ottoms before my machine was being too much of a bitch for me to deal with.  I cursed it out, put it back in its case and banished it to the corner.  I don’t understand why it is doing what it is doing, but it basically refused to advance the fabric and would knot the thread on the bottom.  It had done this before, but not this bad.  I was going to borrow Majo’s machine, but decided it could have one more chance last weekend before it headed out to be serviced.  I put a thinner thread in the bobbin and it managed to work relatively well, only knotted a few times and I was able to complete my covers!

New couch cushions and Princess Chunk acting innocent.

All in all, if I had just sat down and done it, it might have taken me a weekend to finish them.  It’s amazing how long you can put something off.  At least they came out well.  They don’t match the bones of the couch as well as I first thought, but it’s fine.  Maybe I will have to buy another scrap pack at another sale and actually make a cover for the whole thing.  Give me about five years…

A close up of the pattern.

Fresh Paint: Part Two

After tackling the bathroom, well really it was at the same time, but it was finished first,  I moved on to the living room/kitchen.

Before: The Kitchen and the Living Room

 As I mentioned before, I love dark colors right now.  Like maybe obsessed.  So I took myself down to the Lowe’s and picked up some samples colors.

I needed roommate approval and I knew it might not be that easy, this was before he saw the neighbors bathroom.  Even after he was sold on the dark bathroom, he was not too sold on so much dark in the living room and kitchen.  After some debate, and a great idea from a friend, we came to an agreement on the color (s).

I got to have one dark wall that you would see walking in to the apartment and the other yellow walls would be the next lightest shade on the color card. The dark wall has a window cut out of and the white wall behind it just makes it look that much better.  Everyone’s fear of the dark colors making the space seem smaller just is not the case.  I don’t necessarily think it changed the perception of the the size of the spaces, but it definitely changed the mood.  And no, it’s not dark and depressing.  I’d say it’s more calm, more… me.  I guess.  I love it. LOVE it.

After: The Kitchen and Entrance (I think the picture was my unconscious color inspiration.)

After: The Living Room

I feel like the colors in the pictures just look black and grey but they have a hint of purple in them.  I didn’t want just a plan black or grey, I wanted there to be some notice of color.  Both colors are Olympic Premium paint colors in a flat finish.  Again, with how screwed up the walls are in here, the flat finish, definitely helps hid how curved some of the walls are among other issues.  The darker color is Blackhearth and the lighter color is Cracked Slate.  Do you love it too?

My roommate doesn't like to paint, but he was willing to do all the taping. He wanted to make sure I didn't think he was slacking while I was at the gym.