I Love Lamp: The Kitchen... One Day!

As I attack the rest of the house with white paint, I'm dreaming of a country kitchen...

We've done a very surface level touch up of ours. We began like this:

I painted just about everything white, we put up some barn wood shelving and some hanging baskets (eff you mice!), hung a barn door...

And when we were having the outside of the house done we installed new windows and doors which has been great for the keep-the-heat-in game. But we've kinda plateaued on the rest of the progress front. And on the functional front. Because the next steps are BIG. Like, rip out the ancient linoleum floor big. And the walls. And the possibly sagging ceiling? And OH MY GOD THIS CORNER:

It being a kitchen and all there's a lot of moving parts and complicated elements between all the plumbing and electric and gas and and AND... You have an idea to take out one thing and then you're like, "Oh wait, that's physically attached to this other thing and if we rip that out then--" blah blah blah. And we're reaching our skill limit. I'm good with a paint brush, but I'm not exactly trying to trim out every window over new dry wall I installed, you know?

So in the mean time, like I first said, I'm doing all kinds of planning and scheming for that country kitchen...

(Top photo I've seen EVERYWHERE but cannot find an original credit, second photo is via Mother Mag, third photo is Jersey Ice Cream Co-- of a house that's only about 15 minutes away... think I can just move the whole thing to our house??)

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

Master Bedroom Update

There are a handful of large-scale things we still wanna do to the house, like re-install 2 bathrooms that were demo'd by the previous owners and renovate the kitchen. But before undertaking things of that scale we figured we should take care of all the other smaller projects that we can do ourselves inexpensively. I was so pleased with my office make-over, why not approach the rest of the house the same way?

(By the way, we hung that plant. BOOYAH!)

So Wednesday morning I went to the local hardware store, stocked up some pure white paint, and got to work on the master bedroom.

Here's what it looked like before: (with Waldo showing off for the camera)

Fine. Just a little grey, not entirely pulled together. It didn't really reflect our style since just about every piece (minus the poncho pillows) we'd picked up for free somewhere along the way. Not a bad deal at all! Just not so purposeful.

I did a test corner first to make sure that the cream colored trim wouldn't look dirty next to the fresh coat of white which can sometimes happen--

It looked fine so I proceeded with the rest of the room.

I got about a third of the way through before I had to stop so we could go to the tree lighting down the road at the Community Hall. I felt like such a country housewife covered in paint, rushing around to get a pasta dish together for the pot luck. Though my part in the production was rather minuscule compared to Steven's:

Yup. The town Jew was Santa Claus. And oh my god it was so freakin adorable!

That night we slept in the guest room because otherwise we'd get all paint-high. It was cozy. And I was happy to give it a test-run finally.

Especially because I wanted to see if moving the bookshelves out of the master bedroom there made it feel too crammed.

Totally fine!

Thursday morning I got the roller back out and finished the paint job while Steven and I listened to the new Serial podcast that everyone's been talking about. That made the rest of the job fly by!

At this point I enlisted Steven to help me make and hang two new floating bedside tables to be made out of-- you guessed it-- barn wood!

We used a 10" wide piece and tested it with the objects we'd actually keep on it, and settled on 20" long. Two quick cuts, a few screws drilled into some L brackets left over from hotel renovations and BAM! Bye-bye dust bunny hide-out.

And the room feels huuuuuge now that we don't have the bookshelves in it! We'll probably get some kind of a chair or hamper eventually, and perhaps hang some art again but for now we're both enjoying the serene simplicity of the space.

As you can see though, we decided to hang my fern in there for a pop of green. Steven's caught the hanging plant bug too!

And now I must resist the urge to go nap in this lovely little haven...

One more time, before and after:

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)



Happy One Year Anniversary in the Catskills!

A year ago today we packed up our new Subaru and drove north from Brooklyn to move to the Catskills and open an inn. I remember being the kind of nervous where you feel nothing as we signed the surprisingly few papers needed to transfer the property deed.

Despite the piles on the lawyer's desk, it was done in a matter of minutes.

We picked up Italian sandwiches at a local shop, and two shovels from the hardware store since we'd heard it was supposed to snow the next day. Then we drove to our new house, the thrill of this huge change starting to settle in, our grins growing wider with each mile we came closer to our new home.

We met our first neighbor before we could even get the keys in the door-- Gary, who pulled up in his pick-up truck and welcomed us with an oh so friendly mile-a-minute monologue about "the valley" and all the nice people in it. I remember thinking how Moroccan or Malian that felt, to be welcomed like that. How not NYC.

We walked in every room, opened every closet door we'd been too bashful to invade during previous visits. Kept proclaiming things like, "Oh my god we live in a HOUSE! This is our HOUSE!" We even went down into the basement to poke around. Strolled the eight acres of land. Then had a celebratory beer and photo op to capture the moment:

Our moving truck which was supposed to meet us had broken down in Brooklyn and couldn't be repaired until the next day (which actually turned into the day after that) so we set up camp with what we had.

A crate as a dinner table:

Sheets as a bed:

And some Cretian ouzo to cheers the move with since this whole buy-an-inn-upstate idea had been born over a bottle of ouzo on a beach in Crete:

(Oh, Sougia.)

We ended the night with a bonfire:

I wish I could say we slept like babies, but really we slept like grown-ass adults on a floor with only a sheet to pad us, which is to say, uncomfortably and fitfully.

I remember just how dark it seemed outside too. How much it felt like we were in this lit-up fishbowl. How attuned we were to every unfamiliar creek that echoed through the empty house.

But you know what was so much better than our fitful night of sleep? Waking up in our new home. Making coffee and taking our steaming mugs out into the crisp morning, the dew still frozen on the meadow.

And you know what's even better than that? Being able to do that every day since.

We've put a lot of work into this place as a home and a business since moving here. There were times, especially right before we opened, when I almost didn't believe my own mantra of, "Everything will get done because it has to."

But it did! And through that work, over that time, this place became ours. And now, when we drive down the road and we come up to this house, something inside me says home.

And when I look out our window into the meadow, I think home.

And when I open our creaking door to go to work at the Inn in our backyard, I think home.

Not to mention all the people we've met over the past year who've made this whole experience more than the lonely move to the woods it could have been. And all the friends and family who've visited and even put their own sweat into the place. To all of you I say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! People talk a lot about community but I feel like it's something I'm only just beginning to truly understand thanks to this past year.

And to Steven. Cheers. Thank you. I love you. You make everything an adventure!

And thank god you turned out to be handy with a hammer.

I Love Lamp: Indoor Plants

For the past few weeks I've been obsessing about getting indoor plants. Probably because everything but the pine trees outside are dyyyyyyyying right now (of the normal "oh it's winter now" kind of affair).

It should be noted that my indoor plant track record is spotty at best. I mean, I've killed cacti before. Yes plural.

But I'll change! I swear! To have something beautiful and green hanging in my home office. Because hanging is the other very important part of this indoor plant obsession.

After a little online research (ok fine, after at least two hours of cruising Tumblr, Pinterest, and all kinds of previously unknown to me plant sites) I settled on: the philodendron.

At the suggestion of my florist/landscape designer friend extraordinaire Molly, I checked out what our local grocery store's nursery had during yesterday's trip to town and low and behold there they were!

I came home with this guy:

Which I obviously have yet to hang, but already I LOVE IT!

And because it was one of those days, or maybe I'm just that kind of shopper, I also came away with something else:

A lovely little fern! Which had been the other plant type high on my list. Because for fifteen more dollars, why not have both?

Now if somebody could check up on me in a week or so make sure that I've actually hung up these guys that would be great. Because I'll admit right now: I never finished that poncho pillow.

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

Cuz Yea, I'm An Entrepreneur Now

This summer, a young woman by the name of Mia Sakai reached out to me about starting a company designed to "deconstruct the mystery of building a business from the ground up, one story at a time", POLYNATE. She wanted to interview me, could she stop by some time? Having benefitted myself from kind strangers responding to my 'cold' emails, I was more than happy to oblige, though I have to confess there was a part of me that thought:

"Wait, me? Don't you want business owners? Oh. Right. That IS me now."

And so, on a day so hot and bright her iPad suffered a heat malfunction while recording, we sat down and talked business.

You can read the interview in its entirety here. She asked me really thoughtful and practical questions, and it turns out I had an awful lot to say about how I got here. (Said everyone about themselves ever, I know, haha!)

And while it was kinda surreal to be interviewed as a business owner for the first time, it was even MORE surreal to see my answers all laid out on her beautiful website.

And I honestly got a little dizzy when I realized this was not just a pretty graphic of hotel-esque images but rather, an actual timeline of my LIFE leading up to opening:

I often describe my year at NU Hotel during which I was a Front Desk Agent/ bar tender/ bell hop/ anything-they-effing-needed as a "montage"-- the working-my-way-up montage that I unfortunately had to live in real time with no peppy movie soundtrack at near minimum wage. But here it was! The actual montage! All finally behind me.

Yea, it's still weird. I mean, we've only been open a few days shy of three months. And we haven't even lived up here for a whole year yet. I still say things like, "We just opened". But now comes the rest of it. The running of the business not just planning for it, the continued growth. The numbers that aren't just projections but actual data from actual occupancy reports and such. The payroll taxes and re-ordering of bulk soap, the catching up on laundry, the changing menus and decisions about what types of advertising are working.

I'm happy to report I FUCKING LOVE IT.

Yes, I get tired sometimes. (Did I mention my Friday shift is fifteen hours long?) And yes, I get annoyed and overwhelmed sometimes. (No I'm sorry, I'm not gonna tell the Internet about those guests right now, haha!) But this, all of this, is what I've been working for. And it's making people happy. So happy! And that just makes me want to cry it makes me so fucking happy.

On the tough days I wonder if this is really enough to give the world. A little hotel in the middle of nowhere? But on the good days I know that this is about memory making, about giving a whole slew of people the respite and inspiration they need to go off and be better people. And that's more than enough to keep me going.


I Love Lamp: Hallway

Our upstairs hallway is getting a bit of love. Here's what it looked like Tuesday afternoon before I decided I absolutely needed to fix it that very instant.

Which I totally did in just one day!

Or not.

I know I keep posting "Before" photos and no "After" ones, but that's because we're kinda "Somewhere In Between" on just about every house project at the moment. Which by the way is driving us a little NUTS. I nearly screamed into a pillow Tuesday afternoon when I was trying to open the bathroom window so I wouldn't die from wallpaper remover and paint fumes and for life of me could not do it because it had been painted shut from the outside.

I called my mom and felt better, then Steven used his super strength and opened it for me. Aka, support systems are very much necessary when renovating an old house.

It's so tempting to just want to be DONE with all the work. But what is "done" anyway?

Ok fine, fine, I'll take "very nearly finished", how's that??

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)


Minimum Wage For Artists?

Hyperallergic just ran this fascinating interview with the folks of W.A.G.E, aka "Working Artists for the Greater Economy".

The heart of the idea is to stop the race to the bottom when nonprofits pay artists by basing compensation on the company's overall annual expenses. (As well as the race to the top interestingly enough..)

As someone who has participated in art shows for "exposure" and done excruciatingly low pay design work for nonprofits before, this seems like an amazing idea because at the very least it's a place to start.

A lot of time these companies are good at valuing other services-- accounting, legal, even catering-- but anything remotely "artsy" becomes a too nebulous for them. "What is art worth?" they start asking, when really they should be asking, "What is this person's time and the function of what they will produce for us worth?"

It reminds me of all the important issues Robert Levine brings up in his amazing book Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, And How the Culture Business Can Fight Back.

Check out the full interview here.

I Love Lamp: Saddle Up

When we moved up here 10 months ago, I made a list of things I wanted to fix in the house within the first year. And I wrote it down because it's really, REALLY easy to just get used to things. "We'll fix that soon" becomes "we've been living with that for five years" very easily for even the most design obsessive folks. One of the things on the list was the doorway between the kitchen and the living room.

Back in February we painted the kitchen, made small bar, and hung our barn door to create a separation. But we called it a day before finishing the saddle and frame. Mostly because we weren't quite sure what to do.

But after 10 months of taking an awkwardly large step over this gaping hole, it was TIME.

The old beam is kinda cool, but the bulbous insulation and inevitable dust bunny collections were not. And while the stratigraphy of the frame fascinates every contractor/carpenter who comes through, we were pretty sick of looking at it.

So what to do?

The previous owners left a big stack a cedar barn siding which we've turned into everything from the Inn's bar to the tables to my desk. Not to mention a TV stand, a nightstand, a day bed.... haha! So naturally, we decided that cedar would do just fine as a frame and saddle.

Steven measured, cut the pieces, and drilled some guide holes for our screws so as to not split the wood.

And no, it's not exactly traditional to use screws for this kind of thing, but we've got a rustic enough look going on and down the line we might want to remove the wood and use it elsewhere when we do a deeper kitchen renovation.

We started with the top part of the frame.

Moved to the side pieces, several of which we had to notch to fit the irregular shapes going on.

And then fitted the saddle, which involved some "poor man's planing" as Steven called it. Yes, that's his Swiss Army knife.

He added supports since we didn't want the saddle to bend when you stepped on it. They look like they were installed by a 3 year old with a hammer but the erratic placement is actually quite precise to fit the uneven surface.

And voila!

Steven also decided to add a small bit of trim to the part in the kitchen where the wall otherwise very unevenly meets the frame to finish it off.


I love it, love it, love it. Though it's really kind of bizarre how luxurious having a continuous floor feels. Naturally we keep stepping over it as if the saddle still isn't there. I'm sure we'll happily get used to it soon!

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

I Love Lamp: Steven's Office (Before)

As the exterior of the house is being painted (photos coming soon!), I've been a busy bee (between check-ins and bar tending and laundry and and and...!) brightening things up inside the house. I started with Steven's studio because he got jealous of mine after I'd gotten jealous of the hotel rooms. As you can see, while his room was spacious and full of windows, it was dark and often felt cluttered despite lots of tidying and reorganizing:

It certainly didn't help that his mountain view became a dumpster view for the past three and half months. And while we never took that shot from the inside, you can see here what it looked like from the outside. His windows are the bottom four:

Not pretty.

I painted his built in shelves a blue-ish grey back in January, which helped a bit:

Oh man was THAT a labor of love. So much taping! And awkward climbing and bending! It actually made painting the rest of the room seem quite simple by comparison which for whatever insane reason I decided to undertake the Monday of Labor Day after all of our long weekend guests checked out. Because, you know, that wasn't a busy weekend or anything like that...?!

All the while Steven made some more cedar contraptions which I'm looking forward to showing off next week in my "after" post!

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

So How's It Been?

We've been open over a month now (woohoo!), so the number one question I've been getting lately from friends and family is: "So, how's it been?"

"Great! Everything I'd hoped it would be and more! Tiring! Satisfying! A little nutty! Fun!"

Then most folks rephrase the question or follow with, "No, but really-- how's it been?" and I have to reiterate that really and truly I meant what I said. Often I have to soothe people by listing specific things I like about it all so far like:

"We've met so many cool people! Everyone's been so supportive! Nearly every weekend is full through October! We got our first repeat guests! No one's trashed a room yet! It's so exciting to finally be doing this thing I've spent the past two-plus years working towards!"

"Yeah, but [insert that person's specific worry here]?"

It's quite sweet actually. Because what I'm hearing when people ask me these questions is that they want me to be happy and they want me to succeed. They want me to mean what I've told them and I do. It has been all those things so far, and sometimes I feel so damn pleased that I catch myself wondering, "Is there something that I'm missing? Something else I should be worrying about?"

Sure there is. There's all kinds of tedious bureaucratic stuff that goes along with opening a business that we're still slogging through, but it doesn't keep me up at night the same way any more for two main reasons:

1. We're open! I've got much more immediate and satisfying things to worry about like who's checking in this afternoon, who's celebrating an anniversary this Friday and needs champagne, how to publicize that party we're having next weekend, when the wine and whiskey is being delivered...

2. I "sleep the sleep of the entrepreneur" as my friend Stephanie who co-owns Community Bookstore says. Aka, I basically black out the moment I put my head on the pillow. Poof! There goes all the worry-time.

And now I should take a moment to thank everyone who's come up to visit, who has sent friends our way, who has called and written to ask, "So how's it been?" because actually you are all a huuuuge part of why what on paper should be the craziest 6 weeks of Steven's and my lives has been so damn fun. So thank you! And come back soon, keep sending friends and family and cool co-workers, because this place is a living thing and thrives when its filled with happy heartbeats.

See you soon!


I Love Lamp: Home Office Re-Do

After three weeks of we-just-opened madness I finally had a moment to sneak back into my home office and assess the damage I had inflicted during the chaos of launching. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't pretty:

I mean yeah-- that's a rusty pipe sitting on my desk. Shit had gotten a little CRAZY.

On a certain level I think I was letting the room go to hell because I knew it needed a big reorganizing anyway. And in an effort live a somewhat balanced life, I was also doing my damndest to not let the business physically spill over everywhere in the house. So anything hotel-related that wound up in say, the living room, I started chucking into my office. Like literally throwing then shutting the door.

When we moved in, my home office was the first room I painted. It used to be a dark green which emphasized the low ceiling and made me feel claustrophobic.

When I was done it felt brighter and like it belonged to me so even though it was a bit sparse, I was mostly pleased.

Then I got jealous of the hotel rooms.

And by that I mean, I really wanted one of the beautiful cedar tables that Steven made for our Deluxe Kitchenette rooms for myself.

So he made me one! Which I then carelessly covered in crap as mentioned before. Shame on me.

Til this week that is, when on my very first official day off (hooray for hiring an Assistant Inn Keeper!) I did one of my favorite frivolous things in the world: organized stuff and rearranged furniture. Or as Steven calls it: playing dollhouse with the real house. Ta dah!

I'm in love! I finally like my home office as much as I like the hotel rooms and bar. And I think it was designing those other spaces that helped me solidify what I wanted out of this space: clean lines, good functionality, wild flowers on wild flowers, light.

I hung the NY Times article that Spruceton Inn was featured in behind me. (My parents had it framed and sent to me, how sweet is that??) It serves as a reminder that this whole thing went from being some hairbrained idea of mine to a reality that was covered in the likes of my favorite newspaper before we even opened. It makes me want to keep aiming higher!

I've also got my some of favorite books near at hand--

And an array of useless and useful things that crack me up like a toast rack full of stamps, a swan full of duplicate hotel keys, and a jar full of sentimental objects like my Moroccan host mom's couscous recipe and part of the cork from champagne we popped on opening day.

I'm so pleased, it makes me want to rearrange the rest of the house! Maybe on my next day off...

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)