Sunday, May 24, 2009

Now We're Cookin'

I've never had a kitchen I really like being in.  Not even when I was a kid.  They've always been adequate and appropriate, but never functional and pretty.  Well, this one is a step ahead, simply because I can be in the kitchen while being in every other part of the house too.  I like that.  Mixing drinks or making dinner while still participating in the party.

Our whole condo is just 600 square feet, so a kitchen this size feels big.  There's plenty of cupboard and counter space, a perfect work-triangle, and something else: Room for decorative items!  

There's a narrow little strip along the back, not really large enough to use for prep, but perfect for displaying photos or glassware.  I've always been one to stow everything away - I hate glass-fronted cabinets, for example.  But, suddenly I like the idea of letting it all hang out.  That nook where the teak salad bowls are?  Well, perhaps every once in a while I'll change that out, filling it instead with ceramics or coffee mugs or stainless steel mixing bowls.  Who knows!  While a white kitchen was never on my dream list, it's working for me.  As soon as we replace the awful melamine counter!  

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Top Shelf

We've been here for one week and we're adjusting to a new life.  Limitless are the moments in a day where I stand in the middle of our apartment and marvel.  Everything we have is right there before my eyes - No second floor, no tucked-away bedrooms, no rumpus room in the basement.  All 613 square feet must be focused and planned, organized and kept tidy.  

That said, there are certainly nooks and crannies that don't follow any of these rules just yet.  Our closets are a disaster, awaiting rods and racks and all the compartments we'll need to thoughtfully use them.  We already have a junk drawer in the kitchen, too, but, we'll get there.

We've had some great luck on Craigslist lately - Our couch, a small marble bistro table ($25!  see photo below)  and, perhaps the greatest find, our new shelves.  

So much bang for their buck, at just $150 for the six foot wide, seven foot tall unit, they're made of powder-coated steel and are fully-adjustable.  We've got a lot of stuff (books and knicknacks and globes and photos) - This piece was just perfect for our needs.  Until we found it, we'd planned on having shelves made - wooden and mid-century-inspired.  Hindsight being what it is, I'm really glad that didn't happen.  With all of the other wood items in our house, teak shelves wouldn't have had the same impact.  They'd just be some more wood amongst wood - Who cares?  Steel is unique and unexpected.  

I've made a silent promise to myself in our new home - I won't get stuck in that rut of placing something on a shelf and leaving it there for 5 years.  I hope to swap things out, re-arrange, keep it fresh.  And, so far, that doesn't look like it'll be tough - 26 stories above a mega-city is a dirty, dusty place to be, so I think I'll be removing every item at least once a week to clean.  Blargh!  But all the easier to reconfigure.

We also had our beautiful drapes installed.  They are exactly what I'd hoped - Heavy and luxurious.  The purple velvet corduroy doesn't really read until you get right next to them, which is a nice surprise.  The champagne-coloured sheers are light and flowy, softening the southern exposure.  Like placing candles or plants around your house, sheers lend a natural element when blowing in the breeze of an open door.  They give movement and remind you that there's something going on outside.  I love that.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pulling It All Together: Updated

It's been a whirlwind week.  We went from 1200 square feet of century-old, row house-living to 613 square feet on the 26th floor of a downtown condominium.  Just tonight (at 12:30AM) I ventured out into the city to fetch some Liz Lemon-style night cheese.  Convenience dot com.  It's awfully exciting. 

The move went really well - Jeff and Nick did all the heavy lifting while I hung back to organize, clean, and prepare for rapid-fire unpacking.  I can't live out of boxes, I can't function in a mess.  So, in a matter of 48 hours, I have more-or-less set up the entire apartment.  

The shelves in the photo below were an exceptional find on Craigslist.  They're something you'd find in an elementary school library - powder-coated steel, a mushroomy brown, totally adjustable.  They were a mere $150.  6 feet wide, 7 feet tall.  They are just the right hit of commercial-industrial: masculine and nerdy all at once.  They give the room much-needed height and are balanced by a gorgeous round mirror, placed off-centre above the couch.  We have lots of textures (velvet, wool, tweed, leather, wood, marble) and the steel is a perfect addition.  

More pictures will follow, but while on the subject of amazing Craigslist finds, you can see a round table in the foreground of the after photo below.  A local restaurant was refurnishing and sold their marble-topped, wooden-based bistro tables for a ridiculous $25.  It is the perfect size and easily seats four for a light brunch or a buffet-style dinner.  It's also a great place to work at a computer or jot a grocery list.  While we won't be able to host six for dinner, we can certainly enjoy a meal or a drunken board game with friends.  (Just today, Nick and Natasha came bearing flank steak sandwiches dressed with steamed rapini and an amazing gorgonzola spread, courtesy of her remarkable culinary skills.)  Its edges have a few chips and a worn quality - In a new building with little character, aged and interesting pieces like this lend a sense of history.

We await our drapes, which will really seal the deal for me.  While I love an unobstructed view of the city skyline and the Toronto islands beyond, I can't stand a bare window.  Stay tuned for a drapery update.

Also to come, a How To on those tone-on-tone stripes and a look at our bedroom and kitchen!  

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm Having Contractions

No matter how small the renovation, they seem always to come with giant headaches. Many of our original plans have been systematically scaled-back or, in some cases, eliminated altogether. Turns out there was some critical electrical wiring in the walls of the small entry-closet, so that can't be (easily) removed. Also turns out the cheap, throw-it-up condo walls can't handle the weight of the salvaged doors we scored at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, so back to the drawing board there, too. It's a shame, but it makes you step back and consider: Is this our dream home? Is it worth the trouble, time, and money to make changes to something we'll only live in for a short time? In all cases, the answer is no. So, make it work, but don't invest too much. If the changes won't reap financial rewards upon resale, it's probably best to leave it alone.

So, we went ahead and tiled the front entrance and the "den" (our future butler's pantry) and it looks fantastic. I'm a big fan of dedicated entry-space, and tiling it really created a distinct foyer. Painting is well underway, with Benjamin Moore CC530 (Brandon Beige) on one wall, complete with a tone-on-tone striped effect, and Benjamin Moore CC 520 (Florentine Plaster) on all others. Trim will be a lovely warm white. Losing all those builder's white walls has really changed the mood of the place. Pictures forthcoming!

We went ahead and swapped out the awful mirrored closet doors in the front hall - Replacing with simple bifolds has really helped us hate that tiny closet a lot less. Now it blends in and looks much more substantial. We also had our contractor rebuild the doorframe into our bedroom, so now the door opens out, rather than in. It's a bit counter-intuitive and looks mildly odd opening into the hallway, but when we have guests, the door will be closed anyway. Well-worth garnering us much-needed square footage in our 9X10 foot room.

Anyway. We move out of our house on Friday, so no matter what the state of our apartment, we're inhabiting it in just two days. This room (designed by Queer Eye's Tom Filicia) caught my eye on Apartment Therapy - What beautiful and spare use of colour. That mustard stool/table thing is gorgeous and that painting! I can only hope our space will have the same warmth, comfort and sophistication.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Where the Shit Have I Been?!

Okay, so I know I've been MIA. I know I've been the worst kind of blogger. I don't want to go on about how busy I've been or how everything in my life has changed or how 2009 might be the greatest year on record. And, in that, I won't discuss my nihilistic fears, like, how could all these good things happen without something bad on its way down the pike?

I won't do that.

Instead I'll tell you that we close our apartment on Friday and I got a new job that I'll start on the 25th of May. It's a great step up and a fantastic new challenge and I'll be in charge of shit in a major way. I might go loco for choco-puffs with all this change. Time will tell.

On the home front, our drapes are in production - I chose a lovely eggplant corduroy. The weight and material fairly masculine with just the right hit of softness in the colour. We've hired a contractor and he'll start bright and early on Saturday tearing out a closet, laying down some tile. We hired two strapping young men to paint; that'll happen some time next week. It's all coming together.

I was doing my thrice-daily flip through Apartment Therapy today and came upon Tom Colicchio's (Top Chef) apartment. I love it. Bright and clean, yet warm. Manly and chic, all at once.

I know you haven't heard from me lately, but there are many posts to come while we settle-in to our new digs. Before and after's like you won't believe!