Month: July 2013

An itsy bitsy bathroom

Our house is a work in progress. It’s livable, depending of course of what your living standards are (in this case, a notch better than camping).  We knew going in that it would be a lot of work and we were OK with that. There was electrical and plumbing work that needed to be done. Asbestos that needed to be removed. Rotting floors, crumbling plaster and leaky skylights. Whatever was a safety issue was addressed.  And yet, the thing that gave me nightmares was this:

SAMSUNGThe green bathroom of doom. I don’t know why I obsessed so much about this room, given everything else that needed (and still needs) fixing in our house.  I hate this room to the core of my being. It occupies the side of the parlor floor, a room that one day will be our kitchen. To make that happen, the bathroom will move back to its original location, the glorious 27 square feet of space wedged between the staircase and the green bathroom.

Our first thought was to make it a powder room, since for a toilet and sink, 27 square feet is quite spacious. But then we got to thinking… if we are going to redo a bathroom, why not put a tub in there, too? We both feel strongly it should be a period appropriate bathroom, which means a claw foot tub. We played around with potential layouts:

With tubWith tub is a tight squeeze – similar to what we have upstairs in the shower of sadness.

No tubRemoving the tub would make the room feel luxuriously large, by comparison.

We could add two additional feet to the room if we closed the hallway which leads to the rear parlor (current site of the green bathroom, future location of our kitchen), but removing the hallway access will make our parlor floor very railroad-y. We’re not huge fans of  the no walls/open concept HGTV nonsense, and we want to respect the history of the house – thus the hallway stays.

We found the original medicine cabinet in the basement, which will be re-finished and re-installed. We have some salvage wall sconces, which need to be re-wired. In addition, I’m thinking a small wall of Brooklyn Toile from Flavorpaper:

BROOKLYN TOILE

Hex tile with a simple border on the floor, a subway tile wainscoting (if we go with the tub). We need to source a super tiny sink, a pocket door, and maybe a super cool toilet (not only is it Victorian, but it will save crucial wall space)

Watercloset

 

Right now everything is up in the air. It’s about collecting the right pieces so that the plumbing can be done accordingly. I’m going to guess that progress is going to be slow…

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Digging (a worm) hole

Planting anything in our back yard is an adventure. Over the  years, a lot of junk was buried back there, evidenced by the fact that it’s nearly impossible to dig a hole and  not find anything unusual. Last year we dug up a bayonet, a bath tub and  bicycle handlebar.

This year, I offer up a pick axe, random bits of metal, a giant bolt and a piece of a faucet.

Pick axe

So far we haven’t found the hidden treasure, but I guess there is still hope…

Ironwork

I’m told that our neighborhood boasts some of the largest collection of original ironwork in all of Brooklyn. Rows upon rows of ornate stoop railings in block after block of brownstone homes.

As is the case with pretty much every surface of our house, our railings are caked up with paint and they are peeling. Water is the arch nemesis of ironwork, so it’s super important that the paint be in good condition to prevent rusting.

Our newel posts looked like this:

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Gross, right? The first we* attacked it with our trusty PeelAway 6. It worked OK, but since we were working outside we decided to give harsher chemicals a try (Zip Strip). It worked OK, too – but not that much better. Because the third time is the charm, we tried a heat gun. Our previous concerns of scorching woodwork didn’t apply here, so we went to town:

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Worked pretty well. It was great to see all that detail that had been lost under the gobs of paint.  Here is the after shot with a coat of primer:

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There is still a long way to go to get all of our railing stripped. The newel post itself took about 2 days. The weather has been making progress slower – all this rain makes it difficult to camp outside for any length of time.

* by we I really mean the Hubs. I had nothing to do with this project, other than the occasional cheerleading.

Back Yard 2013

I love having outside space. I missed it so much in all those years of apartment living. A major redo of the yard is in the future, when we build a deck and become all fancy. In the mean time the space is as utilitarian as the fire escape ladder we use to get to it.

Every year I like to plant a tomato plant. Or two. Or five. Trouble is, most of Brooklyn has soil contamination issues stemming from the borough’s industrial past. After having our soil tested and finding out that there were some substances in it we’d rather not eat, the solution was to create a raised bed, and fill it with fresh non-contaminated soil.

Because everything about our back yard is temporary, it really didn’t make sense to spend a lot of money, so we used stuff we already had – a surplus of paving bricks. With a level, a trowel and a whole bunch of pavers, I made a box of sorts. I then lined the bottom with landscaping fabric and filled with the clean soil – all 15 cubic yards of it, carried  through our parlor floor and down the fire escape.

It started like this:

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Landscaping fabric helps keep the new soil separated from the old.

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And became this:

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We also rebuilt the rear fence and added a retaining wall, to compensate for the height difference from the lot behind us. Because nothing is ever easy when trying to get things to the back yard of a row house, all of our construction supplies had to go through the house and down the fire escape:

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The fence and retaining wall were then built into place:

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Came out pretty well, if I do say so myself… Now we wait for the Dahlias to bloom.

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