I Love Lamp: Urban Outfitters?!

Ummmm, can we talk about how Urban Outfitters Apartment is nailing it right now?

When did this start happening?

Also, I admit, it's mostly knock offs, yes? Which of course is terrible. Corporate slave labor robbing artists etc. And it's perhaps not the highest quality. I truly don't know.

The price point though is frankly confusing me. I think of college kids and recent grads when I think of Urban. But what college kid is buying a $3,000 sofa? Is this a part of the whole indefinite stretching of young adulthood well into people's 40s?

I mean, what I am doing looking at it at 32? Oh kettle, you're so black.

I Love Lamp: DIY Basket Lamp

Sooooooooo I removed a bunch of those Home Depot "boob" lights from the house last year thinking that if I did that, the bare bulbs would propel me to replace them immediately. Because surely I couldn't live with all those bare bulbs for a year.

Instead, of course, I've lived with bare bulbs for a year. 


Until today! In the bedroom at least.

Being obsessed with my dining room light and so many things rattan, I wanted a similar woven/basket vibe. However I didn't want to get into the real nitty gritty of installing a directly wired fixture. (I was feeling lazy, I'm not an electrician.) I just wanted something to cover the damn bulbs.

So I ordered a $9 basket from World Market, bent the handles down so they're inside the basket, then tied it to the existing structure with small bits of wire. 

Et voila!

Now to find different baskets for all those other bare bulbs around the house...

I Love Lamp: Renovating the Barn Part One of..... Probably Many

Steven and I have this barn.

When we first moved here, every morning we'd take our coffee and walk around the property and wind up in it, giggling, saying, "Oh my god, we own a barn! How far from New York City life is that?!"

On our very first morning living here.

On our very first morning living here.

Ok, maybe only I was doing the "giggling". But still! It seemed so wild to both of us.

The previous owners used it to store hay and house their oodles of goats. So far, we've mostly used it as a woodworking shop--

Building what would become the bar

Building what would become the bar

Or a novel place to drink beers with visiting friends (and Waldo), even in the dead of winter.

Matching your dog's outfit is super cool, right?

Matching your dog's outfit is super cool, right?

Originally we thought we might want to have the Front Desk and Bar in the barn, but we decided to wait on that. It would entail such a massive (and expensive!) renovation, we wanted to be 100% sure it was worth it. 

So we "temporarily" set up the Front Desk and Bar in Room One and it probably only took about three weeks for me to realize that that's how it should stay.

Pic by Sarah Jane Ellis

Pic by Sarah Jane Ellis

The barn is BIG, and as I've mentioned before, at our maximum capacity we hold only 20 guests, so even if every single overnight guest was at the bar in the barn, plus a handful of neighbors dropping in for a drink, it would still feel kinda empty. And I'll always take cozy over empty at a bar, especially in the cold months (of which we have oh so freakin many).

And, perhaps more importantly, I can offer much better customer service when I'm this close to the rooms.

Pic by Sarah Jayne Ellis

Pic by Sarah Jayne Ellis

Running a Front Desk isn't just checking guests in and out and answering the phone. It's about reading people, anticipating their needs, making slight adjustments for someone who could be enjoying themselves even more.  And it's usually the "little things" that make a difference in a stay at a place as low key and casual as this. A quick reminder of where the trailhead is before you set off, a corkscrew to borrow for the wine you packed, a fresh towel after a swim, a flashlight for your nighttime BBQ-ing. Things that maybe a guest would decide weren't quiiiiite worth trekking all the way to the barn to take care of, but ultimately do make a difference in their overall comfort and fun.

So! In Room One the Front Desk and Bar shall remain. 

Which leaves the barn open to possibilities again!

We've learned A LOT about renovating since first moving here, so it's much easier for us to make a viable plan than when we first arrived. (Not "easy", but definitely "easier".) And after nearly two years in business, we now have a much better sense of what our guests want:

An events space.

We've hosted five weddings, four writers' retreats, two family reunions, and flea market to name a few. And when the weather is good, everyone can spread out comfortably around the property. But if it's raining, well, people are kind screwed. Room One is our only communal indoor space and it has a legal maximum capacity of only 13! So for events, we currently require that everyone rents a tent. Like this:

Pic by Max Flatow photography

Pic by Max Flatow photography

Which totally works! But it would would be much more straight forward, not to mention fun, to have parties and retreats like these in a beautiful old barn. And beautiful it will be. It might not look like much on the outside right now, but it was built some time in the mid 1800s in the traditional Dutch method so the huge beams are hand hewn and it's peg construction without any nails!

spider webs.jpg

So. This is what we're working towards.

Back in April we had a new, metal roof installed because the old shingle one was beginning to leak and that was obviously bad news. It was a big cost, but definitely the most responsible first step towards rehabbing the place.

Our next step was to demo and remove whatever junk had accumulated and whatever interior new construction wasn't load bearing so we could have one big open, flexible space. So we ordered a dumpster and did as much as I think we're capable of in a day. Which was a lot! Literally an entire dumpster's worth:

Most of that is from one part of the barn had this drop ceiling installed:

Which as you can see took a beating from some weather sneaking its way in. It was also filled with wood shavings, so we'd been procrastinating taking care of what we knew was going to be an insanely messy job.

(Btw, I know. Wood shavings?! Mr. Peters, who owned the property before the Schwarzeneggers, was a woodworker, so this must have been his shop and he must have used the materials he had on hand (loads of wood shavings) to make himself more comfortable.)

Yes. It was a TOTAL mess.

Steven did most of the muscling-- having at the ceiling with a crowbar, with a saw. I spent several hours ferrying garbage cans of shavings to the dumpster right outside. Tedious, but worth it! And while we still need to remove the most stubborn bits and take a shop-vac to it all, we're one significant step closer!

Eventually the interior walls, the staircase, and all the loft structure will be removed so that it's one big open space, but we're leaving that to the professionals because there's some serious engineering that needs to be considered with all that.

In the mean time, we hung some cardboard Ikea lamps we'd originally bought for our temporary kitchen upgrade (they were too big for that space, but perfect for the barn) and made a grand "table" out of some of the last of our barn wood and some leftover table horses et voila!

Next up is talking to the professionals about the rest of the demo and some new siding but for now it feels so good be inching our way towards all the good times to be had here on site!

In the mean time, we'll be enjoying the occasional beer in there while still having a laugh at the fact that we own a barn. I know, it's been two and half a years since we moved up here but sometimes I still can't quite believe how much our lives have changed! From China to Mali to San Francisco to Morocco to Brooklyn to--

Here, five miles down a seven mile dead end road in the Catskills. 

Pic by Nat Chitwood

Pic by Nat Chitwood

Yea, I'm ending this post on a glam shot. :)

I Love Lamp: Trees, Herbs, and Office Nooks

Have I ever mentioned that sometimes when I'm gardening (ahem, weeding, let's get real; THAT'S ALL GARDENING IS) I wish I could move plants like I move furniture? Well the other day I decided to actually do just that:

My mom sent us some Japanese Cedars that were on sale which are supposed to grow quickly and densely. Perfect for a natural privacy fence between our house and the Inn guests' BBQ patio. 

So we relocated a few of the more spindly trees we'd planted upon moving in that hadn't done too much in the way of creating a barrier and clustered 'em together on one side:

Then planted the three new trees in the remaining space:

Hi Gary! (He's one of our favorite neighbors and does all our mowing.)

Hi Gary! (He's one of our favorite neighbors and does all our mowing.)

Yes, they are hilariously tiny right now. But supposedly they grow up to 4 ft per year, up to 30 ft total! Also, those sparse looking bushes are hydrangeas that get big and fluffy and beautiful, so hopefully soon we'll have several layers of natural, pretty barriers that will help define and cozify the different spaces.

Yup, cozify. It's a word now. As in, to make a space more cozy.

Then we moved some small bushes from other parts of the property over to the corner of our oh so charming kitchen "patio" and potted some herbs, again, with the idea to cozify that space. This is before:


And after-ish:

I say "after-ish" because we'll see how it grows...

Meanwhile, right upstairs in my home office, I had the obvious realization that since I'm clearly not going to figure how out to properly repair or move the broken, ugly radiator any time soon, I should just paint it so it simply goes away. I also needed to deal with my ever accumulating stacks of (mostly travel) magazines... Not to mention that bag of random crap.

So, out came the white paint once more! (First coat always looks like a preschooler had a go at it, right?)

first coat.jpg

Et voila!

Not the most elegant solution, but an inexpensive one that works! Just a little white paint, some more purposeful stacking, a small rug that came out of hiding, and a throw pillow. 

Now I think it's time to do some reading and writing in one of these two cozified nooks...

I Love Lamp: Sheer Curtains

I've been looking to add a little softness and some more privacy to our bedroom windows.

For the big windows, last year I made us the same drop cloth drape that we have at the Inn

It works great, but obviously you can't see in/out at all when it's up and I wanted something between the "all or nothing" for dusk, or if I'm lounging around on my day off and reading in bed but still want good light and a hint of trees.

So I got some small, $10 tension rods off Amazon and "tailored" (aka snip snipped) two long curtains into four small ones. Two for the large windows:

And one for the small (plus one in my studio, pictured):

 It's cozy and soft and extra alluring right now because it's been warm out and we have the WINDOWS OPEN and there are birds chirping and everything! Oh, spring. Without fifteen different blizzards this winter it feels like we hardly deserve you yet but I love, love, LOVE that you're here.

I'm also realizing I never posted a photo of the small Moroccan carpets I got from Baba Souk this fall that are on each side of the bed. Here's one of 'em:

I'm currently mad at myself about this one because I stepped out of bed onto it with my feet covered in Vermont Bag Balm and there's now a perfect imprint of my foot right in the freaking middle. Not pictured because this is an older photograph and I'm too pissed to find it funny yet. Any tips for removing it? The carpets are of course silk. Sigh.

Anyways. That cozy bedroom is now calling for maybe just a quick afternoon nap...

I Love Lamp: Spruceton Inn, haha!

Guys, can I pat myself on the back for a moment and say that I love the rooms at the Inn? Is that ok? Because I do! I really, reeeeeeeally do! And every time I see them through other people's eyes I get so excited!

Recently the dudes of Guys on the Fly stayed with us and they sent me so many yummy photos. Check out a few below.

Now, come stay with us and see for yourself! 

I Love Lamp: Ikea Hacking My Way To A Dream Closet

First off I will begin with the confession that yes, I am mildly embarrassed that I have an entire room devoted to my closet. But I'm also SUPER EXCITED that I have an entire room devoted to my closet so that's that.

Once upon a time it had a loft for a twin bed that we demo'd

I then painted the room white--

--and basically procrastinated finishing it because it was... the wrong white. Which I'd just gone through with the bathroom so I was over it. 

In addition to not being too pleased with the twinge of blue in the white, I was also having trouble settling on a good lay out. I thought I'd wanted to have these pipe racks for all my dresses and exposed shelves for all my shoes, so I laid things out where they'd be... and lived like that for, oh, NINE MONTHS. This is the only photo evidence because I was so embarrassed:

Not pictured are the piles of shirts, pants, and sweaters to the right. Yes, actual piles. Very nicely folded, but piles on the floor nonetheless.

To be fair, I had a VERY BUSY summer and fall at the Inn. And it's hard to spend any time off putzing around in a closet when it could be spent swimming in the river or BBQing in the garden etc etc. 

But when we came back from Mexico I was like, "Enough of this shit." I ponied up and re-painted the room with the leftover (good) paint from the bathroom and while it was tedious it only took a few hours and it was much, MUCH better. More importantly though, I had the epiphany that I didn't want to look at all my clothes. That the whole exposed closet thing didn't feel boutiquey and cool. It felt loud and cluttered. I really like my clothes, but they look pretty bad all together. Fuzzy plaids with silky florals and such.

So I thought about getting a big armoire, or building shelves within the small closet. But I just couldn't picture what kind of armoire I'd want, or exactly how the shelves would work. So I thought about the other parts of the house that I like the best and what we've done there, like my home office:

Ikea hack with some barn wood! Of course! Duh. A thousand times duh. 

Luckily we had two white Ikea shelves from our studio back in Brooklyn collecting dust in the structure where we keep firewood because we were never quiiiite inspired enough to bring them to the dump. Lazy wins the day! So we brought them up and I cleaned them out thoroughly. 

And rather than trying to get a rod to stay in the shitty not-even-dry-wall situation within the small closet, we simply put one of the free standing Ikea racks we already had in it (which yes, required some mild disassembling):

Steven then braved the cold and went to the barn to make me some barn wood doors for the shelves.

Which we then attached with some pretty basic hinges et voila!

Between the two shelves I managed to store all my pants, shirts, sweaters, scarves, and summer shoes. (Did I mention Steven and I Marie Kondo'd our clothes over the summer? GAME CHANGER. Mother effing game changer guys. Get rid of everything that doesn't give you a little jolt of joy. Just do it!) I also bought some baskets I'd been coveting for a while now from Connected Goods to hold my socks and underwear. I put my jewelry in a few small containers I already owned and hung some necklaces on my lamp for easy untangled access. (Because oh my god how rage inducing is a tangled necklace, amiright?!)

By the window, over the radiator, we hung a simple shelf of one piece of barnwood and two L brackets to be my "vanity".

The bright natural light is amazing and terrifying. It keeps me rather religious about my skincare. 

My favorite part though, is my "boutique" table which was Steven's idea. We were standing in the room, trying to figure out the best flow and I said there was something missing. He was like, "What if you kept your boutique idea and had a little table with fancy lady things that you like on it?"

Yes, I'm pretty sure he said "fancy lady things". Or something just as frilly but either way he was totally right! It makes me feel like my closet is a fancy store, but everything I pick up I already own. Very gentle on the wallet you see.

As soon as he mentioned the table this was the exact shape/material I imagined-- white, shiny, circular, strong but delicate. And lucky for me, West Elm had this in stock and on sale!

I have yet to hang a curtain over the small closet door, but I'm thinking I'm going to use the material from this nice hammock we bought in Colombia a handful of years ago that proved to be more pretty than functional. I'll post a pic once that's up. 

So there it is! Unsurprisingly, having a nice closet has re-inspired me to dress with more care. To wear that chifon skirt even though it's twenty degrees (yes, with leggings under it), or put on a bright pop of lipstick and a bold bracelet if I'm layering myself in grey cashmeres. It can be easy to get in a jeans/sweater/winter boots rut out here. Here's to keeping that up! 

I Love Lamp: Ikea Sinnerlig Light

Apparently I'm one of those people who not only knows about but caaaares about when Ikea produces a limited line with a designer. Because it turns, some of my favorite pieces of furniture are from special Ikea collections. Like this crazy yellow chair from their 2013 PS line:

Or this PS Vago outdoor chair that lives in Room 7 of our Inn:

Or this PS Gullholmen chair that's lived all over our house and currently resides in our bedroom:

Ok, I guess it's sounding like I'm mostly obsessed with their oddly shaped chairs. Fair enough. HOWEVER, I got really amped about their Sinnerlig collection designed by Ilse Crawford.

Natural fibers, earthy tones, clean but comfy lines... THIS IS THE STUFF OF MY INTERIOR DESIGN DREAMS. (Not to mention the plants and the concretes floors from the shoot...) And Ikea has been torturing me for months! Mostly accidentally in the form of Scandinavian design bloggers who all got a hold of this stuff eons ago because Ikea released the line out there first. 

So when Steven and I found ourselves in the Brooklyn Ikea this past week, supposedly just getting a few replacement door mats and lamps and hangers (we entered via the check-out exit and went only to that last part with all the accessories, that's how dedicated we were to having a quick trip!), I simply couldn't resist the Sinngerlig light. 

Luckily Steven dug it too. So we brought one home.

We had to do a little hacking since we couldn't install something with direct wiring right above our dining room table. We got one of those $8 cords (and $16 bulb! they get you with the bulbs) and strung it up with two hooks. I thiiiiink I'm cool with the cord as is. We decided to go with black instead of white and really commit to the whole "I know, you can see the cord" thing. Kinda like girls wearing lacy black bras under white tshirts, ya know? We'll see. Here is is in daylight:

I keep forgetting that we've installed it and every morning it's a fun surprise!

And yes, I'm fully aware how insane that sounds. 

(What is I Love Lamp? This is I Love Lamp!)

UPDATE: A lot of folks have asked about how we got the string bulb through the wire frame. The answer is, we didn't! We just looped the cord around a few times and used a black twist-tie to secure it:

I Love Lamp: DIY Rustic Coffee Table With Modern Legs

When we moved to Brooklyn about 5 years ago, we inherited a coffee table from some family friends that was on its last legs. It also turned out to be a little formal for the rustic look we were clearly hell bent on creating once we moved out to the country. 

Here's a shot from right after we moved in. Right after we'd adopted Waldo actually!

Aw, aside from adorable Waldo, seeing this picture makes me so glad all over again that we painted those built in shelves glossy black and and put all the books in the other room together, not to mention ditched that terrible white Ikea TV stand and generally minimized...

For a while we stumped though. Until Steven hacked some Ikea stools to be temporary tables for the bar--

And then we thought duh! We'll get a hold of some metal legs and use some of the wood we already have!

So we ordered some legs from ModernLegs.com (ignored any impulse to go super trendy and get hairpin ones) and about two weeks later screwed them on to a wooden door we'd snagged at a country auction last year et voila!

Since it's just a beat up old door, we can put drinks on it without coasters etc and generally abuse it, just like our barn wood dining room table that we adore. I'm super pleased with the result!

Now onto finishing that kitchen floor...

(What is I Love Lamp? This is I Love Lamp.)

I Love Lamp: Some Rooms Are Nearly "Done"

I put "done" in quotes because let's get real; nothing in a house is ever "done". At least no house of mine. I mean, just the other day I was laying in bed thinking, "Hmmm, it might be time to update this room."

And then I had the much more sensible thought of: "HOLY HELL CASEY YOU JUST DID THIS ROOM FIVE MONTHS AGO. Relax. You're in bed for fuck's sake."

And so, on that note, here are some rather relaxed photos from two rooms that are nearly "done", aka rooms that we've made some good progress on, for which I still have a few plans up my sleeve.

Let's start with the bathroom which I got partially through only the realize, "Ugh, this white ain't right."

Then Steven went to one of our local hardware stores and one of the employees kept insisting he get Direct To Metal paint. Probably because Steven said he wanted the glossiest paint they had. Needless to say it was blotchy and drippy and weird, so Steven unfortunately got a taste of the same "this white ain't right" medicine I had.

Not one to wait around, he got a new batch of regular old house paint the next day in a pure white and ta-daaaah!

Phew! I'm gonna do some more futzing around with the toiletries/TP set up, get some clear plastic soap dispensers and such for about $20 total just for a streamlined face lift, probably switch out the basket, but we're close. And the most annoying part is done!

The other room I wanna show you is Steven's former studio, where I now have a PIANO! All caps because I am still SO FREAKING EXCITED that I have a piano.

I'm realizing now that the only real change here from the last pic is that we keep bringing over more pillows from other parts of the house to use in the window seat.

As an East facing room, it's turning out to be our new morning coffee spot since it floods with sunshine. (The sun is setting on the other side of the house in these pics so you'll just have to trust me that it's glooooorious.)

I've also still got my eyes peeled for a big fat oriental carpet. My mom said she actually might have the perfect sized one which she was about to put in storage, so fingers crossed that one works out! (My mom's an interior designer with impeccable taste. Pretty much anything sophisticated and/or cool I own is from her. No joke.)

AND today we went to a nearby nursery to get those herbs for the garden that I was talking about earlier this week.

According to the dude who helped us there, it's still a little too chilly to put 'em in the ground, so for the next week or so they will be our kitchen companions. Rosemary, sage, lemon thyme, lavender, parsley, and fennel. We'll go back to the nursery towards the end of the month to pick other greens goodies like kale, chard, and basil once they come out of their greenhouse.

The things I didn't know a lick about until we moved here!

Gardening, generators, and basic plumbing to name a few. Septic systems, circular saws, and how to build tables to name some more. How to electronically file sales tax. How to hire and fire someone. How to fly fish!

Did I mention we went fly fishing last week with local legend Judd Weisberg?

Did I mention I'm really happy we live out here? And that I'm still shocked every damn day by how much I love it?

This is kind of an intense idea to just tack on to the end of a "la di da I love furniture" post, and I'd like to go into more detail about this soon, but essentially I'm starting to realize that moving from the city to the country is kind of scratching that same itch that I used to think could only be scratched by international travel. Which makes me excited because it puts every other "I can only be happy if I [blank]" into question. Which frankly, re-opens the whole damn world.

Like I said-- more on that later. For now, I've some play off hockey to watch! (Seriously. It's Rangers vs. Caps.)

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


I Love Lamp: The Garden Grows

We inherited a big, beautiful garden from the previous owners. Here's a pic of what it looked like the very first day we visited the property:

By the time we actually moved in in December though, it was mostly a rock garden, haha:

And that winter, like this one, was pretty fucking rough weather-wise, so the whole thing took a bit of a beating. The white picket fence especially. So that April, almost exactly a year ago, a handful of friends came up for a work weekend and one of our nine hundred tasks included removing the broken fence and weeding like crazy to make room for the spring growth.

That day we decided that while we loved all of the slate stone garden beds, there wasn't actually anywhere within the garden to hang out. So we removed (and replanted elsewhere) the stuff from the central bed to make room for just that.

We didn't get to it that day, but maybe a week or two later, Steven and I had an Andy Goldsworthy moment and took all the stacked stones from that central bed and laid them flat:

Then brought over a picnic table and voila! Here's our buddy Kate enjoying it a few months later:

As you can see, we left the white posts in from the fence that had been dug in deeply. We figured that we'd see how the first summer went with deer etc to decide what kind of fence we'd need the next year. I forgot about them pretty much all season because the flowers and bushes grow up around them so huge. Here's a pic from one of my days off during the summer which I spent reading (and drinking) in the garden, with guests coming to and fro and never spotting me. Perfection.

After our first summer of use we decided two things:

1. We love plants that basically take care of themselves. The fancy way of saying that might sound more like, "We're re-wilding most of our property and focusing on native species". Which is true. But so is this version of that sentence: "These thumbs ain't so green and we'd rather spend our free time doing other things." So this year, we're planting some pretty low maintenance stuff like rosemary, mint, basil, chard... Stuff we (and hotel guests) can use in cooking, stuff that basically takes care of itself.

2. We want a discrete fence that will keep Waldo in. Because it turns out, deer and rabbits and such weren't so much of a problem (especially because we're not actually growing too many edible things) and it's much more relaxing to simply close a fence door than have to keep an eye out for the pooch to make sure he hasn't wandered off to explore what guests are grilling for dinner that night.

Until quite literally three days ago it was way too cold to even consider addressing #1, so we started with #2. The first step of which was to paint the white posts grey so they would simply disappear.

And I love it already! It looks so good, and took Steven all of an hour at most. Frankly, I don't know why we didn't think to at least do this part last year, but oh well.

Next up is installing black deer fencing. This will require some more digging (which again, we couldn't even consider doing until the ground thawed, which out here is RIDICULOUSLY late in the year) and stapling and such, but once we're done, that should also mostly disappear in the flowers and bushes as they grow up. And then we'll have a wonderful garden sanctuary to enjoy all summer!

We're still waiting for the delivery of those materials, but I'll post some pics as soon as we're done. Til then, I hope you're all enjoying this burst of spring! I sure as hell am.

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

I Love Lamp: New Studio For Steven And....

Last Sunday, our neighbor Robert came by and picked up the mattress from our guest room for his new cottage.

We'd offered it to him because we'd realized that we didn't really feel the need to have a dedicated guest bedroom in the house considering we've got nine of 'em in our backyard:

(No, it's not that green yet-- that's a pic from last summer!)

So what to do with the room instead? We talked about moving the TV up there, hanging some hammock chairs... but nothing seemed to excite us as much as when Steven suggested, "What if I move my studio up there?"

It turns out, as much as he loved having a huge space and a mountain view, it was also a very public space with a distracting view. Our front door leads directly into that room and the stairs are open and right there too. And while you can see the mountains, you can also see where guests park so it's a lot of coming and going.

We tried to solve the privacy problem by rearranging his desks, moving shelves around to create a kind of faux-wall right when you walk in, and more, but nothing ever fully worked.

It looked significantly better when we gave the shelves a few coats of glossy black back in January, but it still wasn't functioning that much better which let's face it, is rather important in a work space.

One of the many things I like about Steven is that when he has a good idea, he acts on it immediately. So yes, we moved his studio that very night!

We had a momentary challenge when realized we'd have to dismantle his desk to get it through the door--

But then we kept going strong! Brought all the book downstairs and made a total mess...

And brought up some of Steven's stuff to his new space. I say "some of" because he decided to bring up only what he uses every day.

I forget where, but last year I read about a family who moved to a new apartment very near their old one (I think it was a duplex and they moved to the upstairs unit...?) and rather than moving all of their things at once, they went to their old place to get their things only when they actually needed them. In this way, after a month or so, it became really clear what they could live without and give away.

Anyway! Steven's new space is nicely streamlined like that. And he loves it! Here's what it's looking like after just a few days of use:

I'm so happy that he's enjoying it so much already!

So what did we do with the huge room downstairs? Well first, we put all those shelves to use and arranged our books:

Next we moved our dining room table in for a belated Seder with friends:

Then we moved it back and I drove to Albany and BOUGHT A BABY GRAND PIANO!

I know, that probably sounds borderline insane and random, but I've been dreaming of getting a piano of my own since, well... since I moved out of my parents' place at eighteen! And it never made sense til now. I kept moving, I lived in apartments, and now, here we are in a big ol' house without plans to move any time too soon so voila! And oh my god, it's only been here a few hours but already it makes me SO. DAMN. HAPPY.

I pulled out all my old sheet music and played through years of pieces. I played my favorite piano piece in the world first, Debussy's Dr Gradus ad Parnassum, and I literally cried.

I'd been looking pretty seriously for the past few months, but it all came together the morning after we'd moved Steven's studio I pulled up Craiglist again and there it was: a baby grand built in 1935, lovingly played by a lifelong musician since the 50's, in great condition, an hour and a half away, and within my budget...! It had to be viewed that day and picked up no later than the next. So when I finished doing coffee for guests I drove straight to Albany, played it for thirty seconds and surprised the hell out of the guy when I turned around on the bench and said immediately, "I'll take it." I hired VIP Piano Movers to pick it up and just like that, it's now mine!

I have to wait about two weeks to tune it-- let it adjust to the temperature and humidity etc of the house.

But it's in tune enough to play around on for now!

I'd love to get a big beautiful rug for the room... the sound is a little bouncy with all the wood, and come on, it would look amaaaaazing.

For now, rug or not, I'm more than happy to simply play an play and play as Steven works away upstairs...

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

I Love Lamp: Bathroom Upgrade Begins

The last room upstairs that I want to do a little DIY changing to is the bathroom. Nothing major-- just a paint job, maybe some new fixtures. A minor face lift that matches our style. Here's what it's been looking like for a while now, minus a few towel racks and TP holder which we removed before I took these photos:

Not terrible. Just a little cluttered and little beige. And more than a little odd that the shower curtain has to be so low because of the angle of the roof. One day I'd like to make that a standing shower with a door but that's "one day", aka not now.

So for now it's a fresh coat of white paint (surprise!) and some decluttering.

First coat went on and things look decidedly brighter. Naturally it was a total pain to paint around the fixtures but I just didn't feel quite up to removing anything that large.

While that was drying I hung a wire rack in the closet just outside the bathroom (where we store our "adventure" gear, aka tents and rock climbing gear etc):

Wow! That might be THE most fascinating photo I've ever posted, here! Hahah! Oh man. Anyway.

Next I put up the second coat and...

It was too blue. I accidentally bought the "high hiding" version of the white that I'd used in the rest of the house and it just ain't right. This photo maybe doesn't do it justice but it makes the sink, toilet and tub look like a dirty cream and it makes the brown tiles of the shower look super dark. I was a little miffed, and lied to myself for an evening pretending that I was fine with it. Watched the sun set from the bathroom window--

And decided to go back to the hardware store next week. If I'm gonna do this I'd like to do it right. Besides, it gives me some more time to find a medicine cabinet and/or mirror which will all give the room a bit more punch while solving the clutter problem.

Not a big deal, just a teeny bit annoying. But I'm willing to be patient about it because I've realized: this and my closet are the lights at the end of the upstairs tunnel, you know? Or as Steven asked me the other day, laughing, "What are you gonna do when you're done painting things?"

I don't want the answer to be "repaint things", so I'm gonna do it right!

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

I Love Lamp: A Dreamy Closet Begins

I am a lucky girl for a bajillion reasons. Including the fact that I have an entire ROOM for a closet...! The previous owners have 5 kids, so all of the upstairs rooms used to be bedrooms. And they had to get creative with space, hence loft beds with storage built in like our former "crazy" room I just had a go at--

But Steven and I don't have 5 children quite yet, so we've got guest rooms and closet rooms, haha!

And while I loved how much space my closet room had, it wasn't actually as efficient as I wanted it to be and had some unfinished bits that needed some loving. Here's what it was looking like pretty much since we moved in:

What I really wanted, was to get that dang loft out. It was bulky and those storage shelves went really far back but were basically unaccessible past a first row of clothing.

Enter, Steven and his tool box. (Yes, I could have used the tools too but Steven was pretty amped for some demo!)

Some parts were screwed in, like the top and some of the front boards, which was great because all we had to do was unscrew 'em and pop 'em off.

Unfortunately, some parts were nailed together. Which mean we just had to get kind of aggressive. And for that, Steven brought out his maul:

Meanwhile, I was filling the former "crazy room" room I'd JUST emptied with every single piece of clothing I own SIGH.

Steven kept at it while Waldo and I mostly got in the way.

Although then again I don't know. Because below is the exact moment he said, "This is totally a two person, one dog job."

And then TADA!

SO. MUCH. FREAKING. WOOD. It took approximately three thousand trips up and down our steep stairs to get it all out of there.

At this point we decided to quit when we were ahead and call it a day. Order some Chinese food. Oh wait, there's no take out here. So we made some instead.

The next morning I rolled out of bed and grabbed a paint brush. White, white, white, shiny and bright on the ceiling, the trim, and the walls. I only took one progress shot:

Then it was time to have a go at the floors that had taken an uneven beating over the years. The other week I did the living room floor with olive oil, white vinegar, and warm water and it looked amaaaaaazing so I did the same thing here.

Yes, the place smells a bit like a salad for a few hours but it's totally worth it!

Next up was bringing all my clothes back into this room. But in order to do that right, I needed to make a plan. Shelves? Racks? Armoires? I thiiiiink I've decided on a combination of one long rack on the right wall, a series of shoe shelves on the left, and a whole bunch of shelves in the actual closet which will have a door.

So I started bringing clothes back in, piece by piece, asking myself each time: Do I wear this? Do I love this?

I had to add the second question because here the usual "Have you worn it in the past 6 months?" strategy doesn't work because there aren't quiiiite as many opportunities in the country for, say, silk dresses as there are in the city. But does that mean I should toss them? NO EFFING WAY.

Still, I managed to eliminate an entire contractor's bag worth of clothes and oh my gosh does it feel goooooood.

So we're getting there. Bit by bit, day by day.

Hopefully I'll be able to show you photos of a finished closet in the next few weeks. And hopefully I'll be able to actually wear some of those dresses pictured above in the next few weeks too! Seems almost reasonable-- I saw my first patches of BARE GROUND today:

And to wrap it up, a little Before and nearly After for you:

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

I Love Lamp: the "Crazy" Room Redo and a DIY Meltdown

While the downstairs of our house has the kitchen and two large rooms, the upstairs is a bit more of a traditional farmhouse labyrinth with low ceilings and a door to a room just about everywhere you turn. Each one of which I've wanted to update. I've been taking it on room by room. First I did my office.

Then our bedroom.

Then the guest bedroom.

Which left two more (I know, I told you, there's like a thousand little rooms upstairs): my closet and the room we'd taken to calling "the crazy room". Yeah. It went from being a small "guest room" to a "closet" to a motherfucking "crazy room". Exhibit A:

No, your eyes don't deceive you. That's a feather boa peaking out. And a child's rocking horse. And sewing machine. And oh THAT'S where the bandaids went!

Sadly, the first step of having a go at this room meant emptying it. Which meant turning another room into total chaos. I chose the guest room, figuring that since "the crazy room" was so much smaller I could probably at least contain the madness to the bed.


But at least the little room was empty!

The pink drawers and tiny floral wallpaper weren't so much our thing, so I figured I'd paint the built-in loft glossy black (my new favorite), strip the wallpaper, and paint the rest white. It would be a new guest room/closet combo with no "crazy" to be seen. A cozy place to snuggle up with a book. A reading room if you will.

The glossy black went on easy enough. Though oh my gosh how BAD does it look with just one coat, right? If painting things white makes them feel clean, painting 'em black feels like you're making a filthy mess. Until the second coat that is.

Anyway! Next up was stripping the wallpaper.

Sadly, I'd thrown out my heavy duty wallpaper stripping formula from my go at the hallway. So I tried a homemade solution of vinegar and warm water which did about as much as if I'd simply wished it off. So I bought some more, applied it and--

...it didn't do a damn thing because much like the hallway, this wallpaper had been applied directly to drywall without any primer in between. Short of renting a power washer, I was screwed. I pulled and scraped and pinched and succeeded in two things:

1. Making it look worse than when I'd started.

2. Working myself into a bit of a fit.

At this point I took a time out to email two dear friends, Dominique and Mary, and vent, part of which I'm going to paste below because I'm of the tribe that believes some good old fashioned honesty on the Internet is a good thing: (And please excuse the excessive amount of f-bombs, I was really frustrated)

I'm just tired of working on this house right now. And so sick of it taking over my "off" time when I'm not working. Because it feels like I'm kind of working all the time then. And it's my own fault that I can't just relax in a messy/dirty place but it's just the way I am. I will literally keep thinking about the room until it's done. Then feeling guilty that I'm so annoyed by this 'white person problem' of sorts.

I would like to punch something. Or go somewhere that's not this fucking house. But I'm not actually violent so I won't punch something. And I can't fucking go anywhere because I have to wait for our wine distributor to deliver and for our florist who's dropping off pre-ordered Valentine's bouquets to come and the snow is so deep I literally cannot even go for a walk around the property. Where the fuck would I go out here anyway??

Plus it seems like I haven't felt my toes in weeks. No amount of Smart Wool socks can conquer this fucking winter.

Yeah. Re-doing this room brought on some pretty epic frustration and bouts of despair which my oh so empathetic and intelligent friends heard and helped me through. GOD BLESS ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION when you're living out in the country.

I felt especially better when Dominique pointed out: "Not for nothing is that famous creepy short story about a woman going mad in a room centered around wallpaper ["The Yellow Wallpaper"]... Wallpaper could drive anyone mad."

So there it was. The "crazy" room was threatening to drive me "crazy".

Continuing my fit, I decided fuck it. I'll just paint the whole thing white because even if put I up a wallpaper of some kind, I'll want an even base.

And it was SO cathartic. It felt like a cleansing of the room somehow. A brightening. And while yes, you could see uneven texture where I'd had a go at the wallpaper, or where the rolls met, it wasn't horrible. I mean, it's not like I was trying to turn this room into a royal receiving suite or something. The room could be 90% ok and that would be 100% ok.

I considered hanging lots and lots of Steven's art on the walls "salon" or "gallery" style, but I feared that would overwhelm such a small and severely angled space. And I didn't want it to look busy and compete with how busy the hallway wallpaper looks.

Several coats of white paint and a few nails later, I settled on this:

If you look closely you can see that not all of those pillows have been fully sewn yet, but it's progress! And like I told Dominique and Mary in a (much calmer) follow up email, the room makes me smile now. And really feels like it's a part of our house. And is a strange testament to Steven's and my bizarre path from Mali (where he made those paintings and where all the fabric is from) to the American woods. All of which makes me happy!

And you know what else makes me happy: side by side Before and After shots!

The view from the hallway:

The loft:

The other corner:

Yes, sadly there is still a bunch of crap piled up in the big guest room because I haven't had the time/will to put it all back in the drawers and closet yet (have I mentioned I'm supposed to be running an inn??). Besides, I'm going to put a fair chunk of that stuff in my closet once I redo that room the week after next. Mwahahahahah!

That's my evil can't-stop-won't-stop with the updating laugh. Well, it's that or the yellow wallpaper really did get to me after all.

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

P.S. We actually got to give this room a run as a guest room last night when my brother came up for a visit. We just popped the little twin mattress that's usually on the daybed near the wood stove up on the loft and bam! A guest room with a door that actually closes, where no one has to walk through to get to the bathroom. How sophisticated.

I Love Lamp: the DIY Wallpaper Saga Continues

So remember how last time I had to stop wallpapering the hallway because I ran out of Encyclopedia pages? Well I got myself another one, Sarsaparilla to Sorcery! And after tossing aside a few unpleasant entries (think: Slavery) I was sure I'd have more than enough pages to finish the remaining one and half walls. And I was totally right!


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

I Love Lamp: Guest Room Upgrade

Can't stop won't stop with the painting over here! This week: the guest room. We've had to do some odd things to that room, like add a chimney for our wood stove downstairs and shorten a window so that one day we could replace the old fashioned porch that was once on the front of the house. So we've been living with some rather unsightly spackling and such for a bit:

And while these photos don't really display it, the grey was showing some pretty serious wear and tear, as happens with paint over time.

I took everything but the bed out of the room and removed the doors, which turned the hallway into a bit of a nightmare.

(It's felt like a weird game of musical chairs over here-- just constantly moving the chaos from room to room as I redo each one.)

Then I got to work painting the trim a glossy white and the ceilings and walls flat white. The process was in all honestly pretty boring, but what can ya do?

Once that was done, I was faced with dragging those ancient white bookshelves back into this pristine new room and that just didn't seem right. But where would the books go?

"On barn shelves of course!" was basically Steven's answer. But instead of using the barn wood planks (of which we don't have too many left), we decided to simply rip out the actual shelves in the barn we'd been using for tools since our longterm plan for that space is demo the heck out of the interior anyway.

(That's them in the upper left corner, shot during the summer obviously. Oh, summer.)

We opted for four and went bottom to top, lining up the bottom shelf with the height of the bed and the bathroom door. Waldo, as usual, was incredibly helpful hung around the entire time trying to eat sandpaper and whatnot.

And ta-da!

Next up for this room is getting a door, but for now I like that you can see the encyclopedia wallpaper from the bed. Not mention, any guest who comes over and needs privacy is staying in the inn anyway, haha!

As usual, let's conclude with a little side by side Before and After because they're so satisfying! Like the static version of a montage. Facing north:

And facing south:

Also, because I might be certifiably insane, I decided to repaint Steven's studio shelves right after this which I'd given a first attempt back in September. And I mean right after-- like the paint brush did not even have time to dry.

I have yet to take some good After shots, but here's a During for your enjoyment:

Steven posted this midway through to Instagram and the audience was divided as to whether or not to continue...

I'll save the After for next time...!

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