I’ve been saying since the beginning that Brooklyn Homemaker is not a food blog, but a blog highlighting all of my interests and activities. As much as I love cooking (and eating) I also want to share my interests and abilities beyond my skills in the kitchen. Looking back, I realize that about 95% of what I’ve posted so far have been recipes and stories about food and how it relates to my life, but I promise that every once in a while you’ll see something else from me.
The truth is that unless we move to a new apartment, I will probably always post more recipes than other topics. I cook every day, but after three plus years in this apartment I’ve done most of what needs doing here. It’s (mostly) at a point where we’re happy with it and don’t need or plan to change much. I am the kind of person who doesn’t stop at perfection though, so odds are that there will continue to be the occasional changes and updates to our humble little palace and the decor and furnishings within.
Today though, I thought it might be a fun departure to let you into my home and give you the grand tour.
First, the before photos:
Our apartment is what’s referred to in New York, and most large old cities, as a “converted railroad.” For those of you non-New Yorkers, a railroad apartment is long and narrow, like a train car, with windows on either end. There are no interior windows because the building is sandwiched up against other buildings, so the only exterior walls face the front and back of the building. When most railroad apartments were built over a century ago they usually had two bedrooms at one end, with a living space in the interior, and the kitchens and bathrooms on the other end. They were built as tenement housing for low-income families, and the bedrooms were set up so that you had to walk through one to access the other. Today though, most of these apartments are rented to young people with roommates that don’t want to have to walk through one another’s bedrooms to access the rest of the apartment. Many have been renovated to move the bedrooms to either end, with the living space moving into the interior. Hence the term “converted railroad”. Our apartment was most likely converted in the mid 90s, based on the materials used for flooring and fixtures.
When we moved into this place it was a real mess. These photos are terrible and don’t do the level of UGLY justice at all. I’m really really sorry about these photos, btw. We never planned to share them with anyone other than each other, but here we are. It never occurred to us that I might someday want to share them on the internets, but at this point I’m just glad we thought to take any before photos at all.
We signed the lease after the first of the month and negotiated to not start our lease until the 15th. Our lease at our previous apartment didn’t end until the end of the month so that gave us 15 days to get in and do what we could before moving in. We painted practically every surface; walls, ceilings, baseboards, you name it, in every room but the guest room. Sorry, but you won’t be seeing the guest room today, but if we ever do decide to paint in there you’ll get very familiar with that space.
Before we moved in the place had been “freshly painted” with the cheapest ugliest white paint money can buy, with no effort to take tacks or nails out of walls or patch any holes before breaking out the rollers. They also didn’t bother to put down drop-cloth before painting and we spent plenty of time on our knees trying to clean off all the paint splattered on our hardwood floors. The kitchen was especially disgusting and took two full days of scrubbing and bleaching and scouring and crying to get it to a place that didn’t make us want to vom. Don’t even get me started on the backyard. Words can’t describe the level of gross that was happening back there, but I’m going to save that for another post.
The thing is, we knew this apartment was going to be a project when we took it. The part of Brooklyn we live in is still (relatively) affordable but we knew that any place we were going to find in our price range was going to be a project. We knew we wanted a first floor apartment with access to a backyard because we knew a puppy was in our future, and even with all the work this place needed, it was worth it to us. If this place were in a different neighborhood or was in the state it’s in currently, it easily could have gone for twice what it did when we signed the lease. And, let’s be honest, I actually love a project. As much as I love complaining about it now, I enjoyed every minute of the torture involved in making our apartment what it is today. I only wish I were putting this sweat equity into my own home instead of improving someone else’s property.
So, without further ado, our apartment:
This is our living room. We chose a pale grey paint for three of our walls, and decided to break it up with a dark turquoise, if that’s a thing. It reads as navy in photos, but I promise it’s a dark blue/green. We also painted a black faux picture rail about a foot below our ceiling to visually break up the space and add interest to the walls. We did the same thing in our bedroom, btw.
Our sofa was the first piece of furniture we bought for this apartment. We picked it out and arranged for delivery from Macy’s before we even moved in. Down the line we might want a sectional, but I like the style of it and it looks nice in the room.
The mid-century end tables were found at Junk in Williamsburg. They were in kind of rough shape when we found them but were cheap so we didn’t mind giving them a little love to bring them back to life. Refurbishing them could have been another post, but this happened before Brooklyn Homemaker and I didn’t think to get any good photos of that process. I basically followed the steps as laid out over at Manhattan Nest, and once I had the materials it was actually fairly easy and made such a difference in making those old tables shine. The one decent photo I did manage to get was of the brass handles, and what they looked like before and after cleaning them with Brasso. It turns out that the main ingredient in Brasso is magic. Behold:
While I was cleaning the tables I noticed they were made by the Lane furniture company and, after some research on their serial numbers, I discovered they were made in 1960. They’re in such great shape for their age and they were such an amazing score for the price.
This gallery wall is made up of old black and white photos of our families and it continues to grow as we find cool new frames and ask our parents and grandparents for more photos.
We used to have a dining table and chairs in this space but we never used it and it usually wound up as a place to collect coats and bags and mail and crap. We probably sat and ate at the table once or twice in the whole time we had it, and the rest of the time it was just a placeholder that always looked like hell. The seating area that’s there now is so much more comfortable and attractive and wonderful. It’s really wonderful. Really.
The yellow chair on the right is a vintage mid-century platform rocker we bought at a yard sale upstate, and the blue chair was a wedding gift we bought each other from West Elm. Also from West Elm is the bar cabinet between the chairs. We just got this and we totally love it. It fits perfectly in the space and ties the room together in a way we’ve never been able to do before we found it. It also houses all our wine and cocktail glassware and gave us an excuse to start hoarding bottles of fancy booze. Woot woot.
Since moving in we’ve added this storage cart and metal Ikea shelving in the kitchen. This kitchen has a serious lack of counter space and storage for anyone who cooks regularly, and especially for someone who likes to cook the way I do. The shelving and cart have helped alleviate both those issues, but haven’t cured the storage problem completely. A lot of our serving ware and specialty gadgets have ended up hiding in our guest room.
You’re already familiar with the chalkboard backsplash, but I thought you’d be happy to see it again.
I like to collect vintage kitchen spring scales. The most recent addition is this beautiful rusty old egg scale Russell gave me for Christmas. It was used to weigh eggs to determine their size for sale. So cool.
Here’s our boudoir. Oooooh.
Hunting is big in my family and, while I’m not a hunter myself, I do enjoy some taxidermy. Say hello to Barnard. Doris and Betty also wanted to say hi, so say hello to them too. The chandelier was painted white when I bought it but I thought our bedroom could use some color so I picked up a can of spray paint and went to town. Hot pink town.
Those lamps by the way, here’s what they used to look like:
When Russell saw them at the Salvation Army we actually had an argument about whether he could take them home or not. I refused to let him buy them, and we left without them, but about an hour later he won and made me go back. I refused to let them into our bedroom until he let me paint them, and he was reluctant but eventually agreed. He took a trip to see family in LA one weekend and one can of glossy white spray paint with primer later, they look like fancy white porcelain and we get compliments on them all the time.
God they used to be ugly though. Russell still insists they looked better before. He’s out of his mind. So ug.
That black skull is actually a piggie bank, and I love it more that you’ll ever know. The dresser was given to us by a friend when we moved in. It was painted white by someone who gave it to her, but when it came to us it was looking a bit too chabby chic for our taste. I painted it with some black lacquer oil paint and I think it makes our room look really chic.
So, that’s our place. Thanks for visiting!
I’d like to invite you into our bathroom soon too, but I’m saving that for another post. You’ll just have to wait to find out why.