Saturday, June 14, 2014

Renovation: Ingrid's Nursery, and a Brief Birth Story

Ingrid Elizabeth, 13 days old.

Hello!  Since I last posted, our daughter joined our family.  We are thrilled to welcome Ingrid Elizabeth, who was born at Lenox Hill Hospital here in New York at 8:30AM on Friday, May 30, 2014.  She weighed 6 pounds, 15.8 ounces, and was 20 inches long.  She was born with a ton of soft dark hair!

The baby's due date was May 26th, and once my pregnancy passed that date my doctor and I agreed to schedule an induction.  I had a healthy, mostly normal pregnancy, but did have a lot of extra monitoring due to my age (36 - which is NOT old, but is "Advanced Maternal Age" according to the folks who decide these thresholds).  Toward the end I also had a great deal of pelvic bone and joint discomfort, so I was absolutely OK with scheduling the induction, particularly upon learning that the baby was moving down, my cervix was getting ready, and that things were generally progressing on their own.  So, we were scheduled to start the induction at 6:30AM on Friday, May 30th.

The last awkward pregnancy selfie I took before giving birth.  I think this was taken earlier on Thursday, May 29th.

Thursday night around dinner time (maybe 9PM?) I started having some pretty intense cramping, but I didn't think I was in labor because the cramps never really stopped or started - it was just a constant dull ache.  John and I ordered Mexican food for delivery and I could hardly eat.  I was texting with friends who all told me to watch out, and to time them, but I honestly didn't think there was anything to time!  I went to bed around 11PM and slept until 1AM, at which point the cramping was too much to sleep through.  I got up, took a shower, and wandered around for a while, still convinced that I wasn't really in labor.  Eventually, I realized that this was it.  My contractions had clear beginnings and endings, so I woke up John and we timed them.  At 3:30AM, they were about 45 seconds long and 2-3 minutes apart, but still varying a lot.  He made me call my OB - I was prepared to just wait it out until 6:30AM when we had to go to the hospital for the induction anyway, but of course he was right.  The doctor told us to head in early, and she called the Labor & Delivery staff to tell them we were on our way.  

The car ride was hard!  I had been doing the breathing exercises and walking around during the contractions, so to have to sit there was no fun at all.  John did great, though, and only ran 1 red light.

We got to the hospital around 4:30AM.  My water broke on its own about an hour later (thankfully - I really wanted as little intervention as possible and that crochet-hook thing they use to break your water looks pretty awful), and after that the contractions escalated crazy fast.  The anesthesiologist placed my epidural around 6:30AM, and then I tried to rest for a few minutes, but my OB stopped by to check me around 7-7:30, said I was ready to go, and that she was going to finish her rounds, come back, and then I would start pushing!  Exciting!

Once my doctor came back, it was go time.  Ingrid was definitely ready to come out, because I only pushed through three contractions - about 10 pushes all together - and it only took a few minutes.  She was born at 8:30AM!  I feel extremely grateful that her entrance into the world went so smoothly, and that I didn't have to be induced.

Our little family, the day after Ingrid was born.  

We brought her home the following Sunday, and have been getting to know each other in the two weeks since.  John and I are over the moon that she's finally here.

Her room came together in the past few days, after my father-in-law kindly installed her book ledges.  As a reminder, here are some "before" shots:

Crammed with crap, before we bought this apartment.  Scary.

After we had some of the stuff cleared out - note the rad old towel window covering and the pile of sticks by the radiator.  

And here's where it starts to improve:

During our contractor's work - we added the overhead light fixture, skim-coated and painted all the walls (the paint color in here is Benjamin Moore's "Calm"), replaced the doors, and refinished the floors.  

Getting started.  We had this jute rug from West Elm in the living room in our last apartment.  The big mirror was in our bedroom - I think it was from Ikea, but I bought it on Craig's List.

The sparkly drum light fixture is from Lamps Plus.  The Graco swingy thing didn't stay in that spot for long - we moved it out into our living room once the baby arrived, because she naps in it during the day.  The dresser is the Hemnes from Ikea, but I replaced the knobs with fun glass ones.   The curtains are from West Elm - they were also repurposed from our old living room.  We got the Babyletto Hudson crib from Amazon.  In this room, I did a mix of gray and elephant stuff with brighter red and orange accents.  It's a little random, but I like it.
Here's how that corner looks now that we moved the swingy thing out.  This is my mom's old rocking chair - she rocked me and my brothers in it!  She had it refinished and shipped out here, and it looks beautiful.  I love it - it's been great for late night feeding time.  The orange and red pillows are Marimekko, and the gray storage ottoman is from Overstock.  I did a little gallery wall back there, with some elephant pictures I had and some other pieces that have red and orange accents.  

A closer look at the crib area.  I knitted that brown-gray blanket.  My signed Christo The Gates print is perfect in this spot.  Oh, the gray crib skirt is from Restoration Hardware.  I'm actually not wild about it, but it's OK for now.  

Looking back at the door.  I had that red and white Marimekko fabric panel in our guest room/office in our last apartment.  My grandparents gave me the cedar chest.

Here's Ingrid's little book collection!  My father-in-law kindly hung these Ikea ledges last weekend, which was awesome, because there's no way I would have ever had the time or energy to do it.  
That's all for now - I still have one last post on our master bedroom and bathroom, but the new apartment tour is wrapping up!  Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Renovation: Hallway and Full-sized Bathroom

Well, we're officially on Baby Watch here at our place, so I figured I better get this apartment tour at least a little more wrapped up before things get busier!

To get to the bedrooms and bathrooms from the living area, there is a hallway.  (You can see the floorplan here.)  I don't have too many "before" pictures of it, because, really, it's just a hallway, but it is narrow and a little dark.  I did find this gem, though.  You can see where the previous owner had hacked away at the wall with some sort of instrument, and, on the left, how he had destroyed the doorman phone.  Awesome.

Hallway "before."  Wall abuse.

Before our work began, it had two separate closets, which were great, in theory.  Except, I hated the way the doors opened out into the narrow space and thought it was wasteful to have two separate closets instead of one larger one.  Part of our plan was to take out the doors and the dividing wall and add sliding doors instead.

We also added a second overhead fixture in here, skim-coated and painted all the walls (again in Benjamin Moore's "Grey Owl," and replaced all the doors.

This is the first turn into this hallway from the living area.  We hung our giant Chuck Close poster in here, as well as John's baseball memorabilia collection. 

I got the brass shelving brackets from West Elm, and used glass shelves (from Ikea, I think) I have had forever.  I have a third set, so we may end up taking this installation a little higher, particularly if John's collection continues to grow!  

Here we are looking back the way we came.  You can see the MUCH better sliding closet doors on the right, with oil-rubbed bronze pulls (from Amazon) that match the rest of the door hardware in the apartment.  The overhead lights are Schoolhouse Electric's Newbury 6" fixtures in natural brass, with these awesome striped shades.  The door on the left there goes into the baby's room.
Looking the other way down the hall.  That is the full-sized bathroom at the end.  We put our desk in this little nook, along with a rug I bought back when I worked at Sotheby's Chicago, and a small green chair we got from John's parents. 

A peek into our master bedroom.

I love this oval mirror, which I bought at West Elm.  

39 weeks, 1 day.  Baby could come any time!  

So, at the end of that hallway (the door behind me in the picture above) is this apartment's only full-sized bathroom.  There is a small half-bathroom off of our bedroom, which is nice, but this is the main one.  

I think I posted some of these pictures elsewhere, but here they are again!  When we bought this place, there was NO WAY I was living here until the bathrooms were gutted and updated.  The yellow tile was ugly and cracking, there was no storage - what is with all of these small apartments with pedestal sinks?  I think it is the most ridiculous thing in so many apartments.  This is New York.  We are crowded.  We always, always need more storage.  So, why in the world would anyone, ever, think pedestal sinks are a good idea?  Here's a tip: they are not.  

Worst of all, everything in this bathroom was crooked.  See how the light fixture is too far to the left above the mirror?  The mirror was centered with neither the light fixture nor the sink.  The shower head was also off-center from the faucet and knobs.  It was enough to drive a person crazy.  Needless to say, our workers ripped out everything except the bathtub.

Full bath "before." At least it was marginally clean?
A lot of the older 1950's buildings in New York have these built-in laundry hampers in the bathrooms.  (We removed it.)  Also, here you can see the terrible floor tile.  
We kept this old bathtub - the only thing original to this apartment we retained - because it is extremely heavy and would have been costly to remove and replace.  We had it re-glazed, though.  We did NOT keep the ghastly subway map shower curtain.  I know you're sad.

During the gut job.  Everything goes.  The guys only kept the toilet in here to use it as they worked - once our new ones were delivered this was discarded. 

Once the demolition in here was complete, it felt like forever until the tile work and plumbing were finished.  Every time we looked in, though, there was progress.  

I chose bright white subway tile for this bathroom, which I wanted to go all the way up to the ceiling in the shower (which makes it look larger and brighter, in my opinion).  This was a challenge for the tile guy because none of the walls and ceilings in this apartment are square, but he figured it out.  We also asked our contractor to add additional overhead lighting - that light in the shower is new. 

The green paper is down because this was when the guy was reglazing the tub.  It looks like new!  Totally worth a couple hundred bucks.  Also, you should know that John and I looked at what seemed like a million bathroom vanities before deciding on this one, which is the Foremost Gazette from Home Depot.  The 24-inch width was a little challenging, as was finding a sink top that both has an 8-inch faucet spread (this was important to us - I don't care for those one-piece 6-inch faucet/knob combos) and didn't look cheap.   We chose a Kohler porcelain drop-in sinktop, also from Home Depot.  I could no longer find the exact 24-inch size, but this is similar/smaller.

The end result is fantastic.  It is bright and white and clean, which is exactly what I wanted, and the dark vanity cabinet anchors the space and adds a lot of storage.  I love the subway tiled shower (which actually has HOT water, as opposed to our last rental apartment, in which the water barely got lukewarm, no matter what time of day you showered).  We had them leave the walls that aren't tiled painted white, which I may change some other time, but am enjoying for now.  

These little marble corner shelves in the shower are great.  They were our contractor's idea, and a good one.

Here's a close-up of the American Standard "Hampton" shower trim kit we chose.  We learned the hard way that the trim kit did not include the valve/shower body the plumber needed to install the whole thing, so we had to buy that separately.  The porcelain handles are really pretty, though, and it all worked out in the end.  Here's the matching sink fixture.    

Now we come to the terrible tale of the medicine cabinet.  Sigh.  This is a long story.

As you can tell from my rant above, bathroom storage is important to me, so I wanted a large medicine cabinet.  I really wanted this vintage-looking one from Pottery Barn, but the small one was too small and the tall one was too tall, so, our contractor gave me certain dimensions to work with, and I found the Nutone 24 x 30 one at Home Depot and thought it would be fine.  Simple.  No sweat.  Well.  

The first one arrived damaged, so John and I hauled it up to the Home Depot in Yonkers to return it, and I ordered another one of the same.  It, too, arrived with a corner cracked off.  Back to Home Depot.

For the third order, I thought I was being smart, so I ordered another of the same model, but ALSO a different one, one that I liked a little better (it had a nicer interior and more shelves), which had (what I thought were) the same dimensions.  We did in-store pick-up for that order, trekked up to Home Depot in Yonkers near closing time on a weeknight, and asked the staff to open the boxes so we could inspect them for damage before taking them home.  Stupidly, even though neither was broken this time, I returned the Nutone one right then and there and decided to take the other one - but then it didn't fit in the hole in our wall.  Yes, it was 24x30, but the "recessed" part measured a touch differently than the original one.  Back to Home Depot, but not before I called up Customer Service ASAP the next morning and asked someone to run around trying to find the Nutone one I had returned.  No luck, it had already been sent back to the warehouse.  At this point, I had been dealing with this for weeks and weeks.  I was at the end of my rope with these medicine cabinets, and the contractor was about to kill me!

If you're keeping track, that's four medicine cabinets that didn't work out.  Thank heavens the fifth one I ordered, yet another of the original Nutone model, arrived without any damage.  But, by this time the workers were finished and we had already moved in!  They came back about five weeks later to wrap up all the loose ends, but I had no mirror until then.

This picture shows how I lived with this bathroom for several weeks after we moved in.  No mirror, and that hole in the wall where the vent cover wasn't yet installed.  

In the end, it worked out, as these things usually do.  Here's how it looked after they came back to finish up!

I don't love the light fixture, so I'll probably change it at some point - it is "brushed steel," which doesn't really go with the rest of room, but I didn't realize it at the time and they had installed it before I looked at it closely.  Oh, well.  It is from Lamps Plus.  

I ordered the toilet from Amazon - it is a Toto Drake Elongated Bowl toilet, in "cotton white."  The color is important, because everything we looked at in the big box stores were sort of cream-colored - nothing was the same bright white as our subway tile.  Our contractor asked someone he knows at one of the plumbing supply places to suggest toilet brands that would match, and they said Toto, so that's what we did!  We bought the towel bars and other accessories from Klaff's, up in Scarsdale, but I don't have the model details anymore.

For the floor in here I went with a grey marble hexagonal tile, which is gorgeous.  It was one of the first things I picked out once I started looking around online for ideas!  We bought all of our tile at Quality Tile, here in the Bronx, and I recommend them without hesitation.
Lastly, I hung my blue Wilco Summerstage butterfly concert poster in here, to bring in some color - our old towels, which we're still using for now, are navy blue, so this poster goes well.  I may also hang some decorative shelves above the toilet but I haven't decided yet.  
I can't believe I spent this long writing about a hallway and a small bathroom.  Ha!  Next up, master bedroom and bathroom, but that post won't be as long-winded.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Renovation: Finished living area!

You can probably tell from my previous posts that the living area in our apartment is in the same room as the kitchen and dining areas - we love the open floor plan. It's not quite finished because pictures still need to be hung and our bookcase hasn't really been styled properly (my mom is committed to arranging this bookcase when she comes to help out with our new baby later in May), but I thought I'd post a little update before getting to the bathrooms and bedrooms.

For kicks, remember what this place looked like when we put in our offer?


The occupants collected these walking sticks, and there were multiple piles of them around the apartment.  We didn't keep them.

This is the area where our bookcase is now.
 This part of the apartment wasn't altered all that much, aside from cleaning out the junk, skim-coating and painting all the walls (we used Benjamin Moore's "Gray Owl" in the living area), and refinishing the floors.

During the renovation.  We replaced the light fixture and baseboards, and painted all the walls.  

This was the day we moved in.  
And now.  You can see I need to hang those pictures on the floor!  The chandelier is the Capiz Round Pendant from West Elm, and I love it.  I have had my eye on it for YEARS, and when we finally closed on this apartment back in November, I placed an order for one.  At the time it was back-ordered until May, but I started trolling Craig's List and found a nice woman down in the Financial District selling one for $100, cash and carry.  Hooray!  
Mabel says, "HI."  I bought my Barcelona-style chairs from a guy in Brooklyn last winter some time, and had the beat-up faux leather cushions replaced with beautiful new cushions through an awesome company called Elite Modern Furniture.  That rug came home with me from one of my business trips to India.  The little round brown pouf is from Lulu & Georgia.  Those bookcases are from Ikea - we had them in our old place.

Haha, right after I put up that picture of Mabel, Mack hopped in and got comfortable.  He wanted to be featured, too!

Here is the sitting/TV area (the chairs and bookcase are to the right behind the tan couch).  We had all of this stuff in our old place, but John did buy an enormous new TV.  I had those FLOR carpet tiles in our old bedroom, but they are so much better in this space.  We are going to keep the floor open for when we have the baby, and then maybe get a new entertainment console and ottoman later on.  The tan couch and coffee table are both from Crate & Barrel, the black chair is from Ikea (we have had that for at least 10 years, so crazy), and the black futon is from Room & Board.

Here you can see the amazing large windows in here.  Sorry for the weird lighting.   

So, that's how the living area is shaping up!  We love it.  Next post - hallway and bathroom!  The master bedroom and nursery still aren't really finished, but we're getting there.  We're finished enough to be ready for our baby to be born, which is expected to happen later in May.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Renovation: The Happy Ending (Kitchen and Dining Area)

Around the time the demolition in our new apartment was finished, John and I headed to Florida for a little baby-moon/Yankees Spring Training/visit my brother and his family vacation.  Our contractor had a week to make real progress on updating the nearly-gutted apartment.  I say nearly only because we didn't go "down to the studs" like they do in houses on those home renovation TV shows - this place has plaster walls and we weren't changing most of the layout.  However, we did gut out the entire kitchen and both bathrooms, and all of the walls needed to be skim-coated and painted.  We also ripped out the crappy old baseboards and updated those.  It was pretty major.

We are still waiting for some odds and ends in the bathrooms to be finished, and I'll do a separate post on our living area, so this (long) post is limited to the kitchen and dining areas.  

Anyway, before we left on vacation, the guys started working on our kitchen, which was so exciting!  We had already chosen tile for the flooring and ordered our cabinets and appliances, so this is about what it looked like when we left.

The kitchen floors are a gray slate - I wanted something dark to anchor the area because the cabinets are white, the counters are Carrara marble, and the walls are also a pretty light gray.  We ordered all of our tile from Quality Tile, here in the Bronx, and I cannot recommend them enough.  We paid about half of what I had estimated using other sources (mainly The Tile Shop), and the service there is awesome.  

Cabinets!  We shopped around for these a little bit, but ended up going with Forevermark cabinetry.  We ordered it through Express Tile of New York, which is up on Broadway in Yonkers (I can't find a website for them).  The guys in there were really nice.  We ended up paying a little bit more than another estimate we received for similar cabinets, but these seemed more durable.  The brand also markets itself as a sustainable and environmentally friendly option, which I went for.

While John and I were enjoying sunny Florida, our contractor and his team were hard at work.

Clearwater Beach.

Traditional picture of John enjoying his first beer of vacation.  I have tons of these.

At a Yankees Spring Training game, where we could not resist this tiny t-shirt that says "Born to be a Yankees Fan."  This kid has no choice.

Here I am, about 29-30 weeks pregnant.  This was the day we went to St. Pete to check out the Dali Museum.  Pregnancy pictures are so bizarre - in this picture, I feel like I look about as big as I am now (at 35 weeks), but in some of the other pictures from our trip my belly looks a lot smaller.  Oh, well.  

The weather got a little chilly, but we didn't care.  Florida! 

Sunset on Clearwater Beach, the evening before we headed home.  I really didn't know what to expect. 
The first thing we did after we flew home was walk over to the new place to check out the progress.  It wasn't finished, by any stretch, but it was getting closer!  The progress was incredible.  Our appliances were installed, most of the cabinets were up, and the walls were painted.  The floors had also been refinished, which made a huge difference.

This picture of the entryway makes me laugh because you can see the little 9-inch wide broom cabinet to the right of the refrigerator.  When we decided to move the refrigerator over here (this was a closet - click here for the "before" pictures), our contractor lost sleep over the dimensions of the space - the 33-inch wide 'fridge left just enough space to be awkward - too much for just a filler, but not enough that the cabinet company had anything that would fit.  He ended up hiring a carpenter to build this little broom cabinet, which is actually awesome.  I keep the Swiffer, dustpan, and step stool in there, and it has a shelf for my large cutting boards.  Genius.    

The immediate view from the front door.     

At this point, we hadn't yet chosen our countertop stone or backsplash, but those were our next steps.  

Here I am looking back at the doorway from the corner where our couches and TV are now.  It is so open! I love it.  Also, sanding and refinishing the floors made a world of difference.  

View from the other side of the kitchen, with the front door in the background.  We chose a suite of LG appliances.  We wanted them all to match, we liked how they looked, and the reviews were great.  We had a good experience ordering them from Prisco Appliances in Mount Vernon - he gave us an excellent deal, and I liked the personalized service.  I love the appliances now - using them since we moved in has been a treat.

View of the peninsula, and a bit of the pantry cabinets on the very right.
Hooray!  We were thrilled.  The next day, a Saturday, we went with our contractor out to Flushing, in Queens, to choose the marble for our countertops.  Our contractor orders a lot of cabinetry and stone from Forever Stone (I couldn't find a good website for them), so we went there.  

Forever Stone.

The inside of the warehouse, where huge slabs of stone are stored like files.  So cool.

After doing tons of research and looking at a zillion pictures online, we knew we wanted marble, despite the fact that it can stain and be difficult to care for.  We looked at two or three slabs (the guys pull the slabs up with a big crane pulley thing), and ended up choosing this one - it has lots of pretty veining.

Later that same week, after the countertops were installed, John and I went back to Quality Tile to make a final decision on the backsplash.  I wanted glass, but nothing too trendyand I had been looking at pictures of blue-ish green subway tile online.  We ended up finding a great option with lots of gray, green, tan, and a little bit of blue.  We picked up a sample to try it out before buying all we needed, but it looked great.

Trying out the backsplash sample.
Then, right before we moved in, the backsplash and faucet were installed!

This was before we put the knobs on the cabinets, but you can see the process.  We chose a Kohler faucet in stainless steel - we didn't want anything with too high of an arch, because you can see how the upper cabinet might have been in the way.  Also, that annoying gap between those two cabinet doors is still there...our contractor is supposed to fix it next week!

On move-in day at the end of March, the only things outstanding in the kitchen were a few electric outlets and the cabinet knobs, but those were quickly resolved, which is why I chose to show the "after" pictures of this area first!  Like I said above, we are actually still waiting on a few things to be finalized in the rest of the rooms.  Behold:

Entryway and refrigerator.  Anyone who went to junior high around the same time I did will recognize that little step-stool - I'm pretty sure everyone approximately my age in my hometown made the same one in shop class!
Looking to the left from the front door.  We had all of this furniture in our old apartment - the dining table and bench are from Ikea, the bench on the left (with the red cushion) is from West Elm, and the bar cabinet is from Crate and Barrell.  We didn't buy any new furniture (yet) for this place, except for baby stuff.  That hallway where I hung our Chuck Close poster goes down to the bedrooms and bathrooms.

Kitchen.  I am eventually going to get some counter stools for this spot, but I haven't found anything I love just yet.  I want something in brass, but not too industrial-looking.  Stay tuned!

Close-up of the marble countertop, which I absolutely love.  The picture sort of washes out the color - it isn't this bright white.  Here you can also see how well the gray tile flooring came out.  The dark floor is a little hard to keep clean, but it is such a small area that it isn't a big deal.
Close-up of the brass pendant lights, which are the Mercer model from Schoolhouse Electric.
Another view of the kitchen.  I chose to mix the metals throughout the entire apartment - I used some brass light fixtures, stainless appliances, and oil-rubbed bronze cabinet pulls and door levers.  I still might hang some art on that little bit of wall by the 'fridge, but I haven't decided yet.

Another view of the room.  The refinished parquet floors just glow.  The guy did an amazing job, and I'm so glad we didn't change the color - we considered staining them, but it would have been a mistake.

Here I'm standing in the living area corner, looking back toward the dining table.  We discussed adding an overhead light fixture above the dining table, but it would have been a lot of trouble and expense, so we let it go.  That big print of the Flatiron Building is from Ikea, and it hung in our old bedroom - SO much better in this spot.  In this picture, you can see the paint color out here really well, although it doesn't always look this dark (these pictures were taken at like 6AM).  I chose Benjamin Moore's "Gray Owl" for this room, partly because of this blog post from Emily Henderson!  With the white baseboards and doors, and light flooring, it looks great.  

Another view of the kitchen.  Again, counter stools are to come later.That post in the center could not come down during our demolition - about half of it is a concrete support beam, and the other half contains my pantry cabinets.  The room is still so open and bright that I don't mind the post at all, and I'm thankful for the extra cabinet storage.

The kitchen from the other side (front door in the background).

Close-up of the backsplash and vent cover, which is on the right-hand side of the stove.  Now that I'm looking at this, the backsplash has more green in it than this picture would lead you to believe.  Anyway.  This area caused our contractor a lot of grief - the layout before we started work only had a tiny sliver of counter space here, no cabinet, and some filler.  We wanted to add a cabinet and counter here, which meant shifting the stove and dishwasher to left by about 8 inches.  Drama!  He got it done, though, and it was worth the hassle to have that space.

The other side of the kitchen, with sink, dishwasher, and stove.  
I'm so happy with how it all came together!  I love it.  For a small galley kitchen, it feels very spacious and actually has a lot of storage and functionality.  After years of reading design websites, watching HGTV, and trolling Pinterest for inspiration, it was a dream to choose all of the materials myself.  I considered hiring a designer, but I knew what I wanted and our contractor helped where I needed a second opinion.

More "after" posts and pictures of the other rooms to come soon!