laundry room renovation pink tiles

A year ago, our bathrooms — with plumbing ranging in age from 65 to 100 years old — were demolished to make way for all the new “guts” of the home: you know, trivial stuff like plumbing, electric and heating.

I was horrified by the thought of contributing otherwise useful materials to a landfill, so (in addition to sinks, mirrors and tubs) I asked our contractors to carefully salvage as many of the 1950s pink tiles as they could. We got a nice haul — about 750 four-inch squares.

Fast forward to now, and they’ve sat moldering away in our basement with zero game plan. Maybe I could sell them to a purveyor of all things retro? Maybe a neighbor or a reader would want them? I had no clue what their final destination would be, I was just happy to have saved them from the dumpster. And finally, like a bolt of lightning from Poseidon himself, their purpose became crystal-clear: I can actually reuse them again in this house!


Coney Island Cyclone

The skies are blue, roller coasters are flying high, but my luck just plummeted… the plumbers have discovered that 100% of my sink fixtures do not work.

We expect that when trying to fit modern-day hardware into sinks that are 65 years old there will be a few bumps in the road. And, indeed, the formerly pink sink that we moved up to the third-floor blue wave bathroom had issues. But not with the fit. Rather, the box containing the faucet — which had been specially ordered to fit the sink exactly — was missing some key components. So, the plumber circled the six missing items on the installation instructions, and back I went to the plumbing supply store. All the parts just arrived, install next week.


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Our second bathroom is FINISHED! This month marks the one-year-anniversary of the purchase of our new home, and the anniversary of us surviving 12 months of life in a two-bedroom apartment (with three kids!) following the sale of our jumbo-sized Queen Anne home in Ditmas Park.

When we bought the beach house last summer, we were thrilled by many things about it: the stunning view, the marble fireplace mantel and, yes, even the lucky find of a full bathroom on the attic level. But with that bath’s dark floral wallpaper, a badly cracked floor and a toilet that hadn’t flushed in over 30 years, we knew it’d be a full gut.

It also happened to be the only bathroom with a view of the water, so I was really looking forward to it becoming something less skeevtastic. Initial dialogue with contractors centered around simply replacing the existing toilet, sink and tub.

But once I discovered an enchanting little blue tile at Brooklyn’s Decor Planet, I knew I was heading to Mermaidville on a magical cloud of fairy dust. (more…)

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I ain’t gonna lie, I LOVED the master bathroom before.

Sure, the built-in vanity nook had outdated mirrors with glass and metal shelving (oy, the clinking!), but the bathroom also had a spacious layout, pink tiles rising to the ceiling paired with turquoise trim pieces, a metallic blue floral wallpaper on the ceiling, and an all around old Hollywood glamour vibe.

But it was the surprise siren in the shower that really had me at hello… (more…)

Introducing Brownstoner’s first-ever reader renovation diary based in Sea Gate. It will document the renovation of a 100-year-old oceanfront home on the edge of Coney Island. Our intrepid blogger can also be found at Brooklyn Beach House.


A Coney Island beach house. Yes! They exist.

I know, because we bought one a year ago. If you start at Nathan’s in Coney Island and head west toward the baseball stadium (keep the ocean on your left), in about a mile you will find that the boardwalk and Surf Avenue dead end into gates in the water and the street.

This is the beginning of Sea Gate, a 120-year-old gated community that boasts tiny bungalows, apartment buildings, mega-mansions, and everything in between. And the cool part is — despite the gate — anyone can live here!

After spending a delightful four years in a Park Slope brownstone on 6th Street just off the park, followed by an even more delightful seven years raising our new family in a large Queen Anne in Ditmas Park, I can honestly say THIS is Brooklyn’s best kept secret. (more…)


The first party guests arrive in the newly finished backyard

Editor’s note: This is the latest in our long-running Bed Stuy Reno, a renovation diary written by a Brownstoner reader about a budget renovation of an Italianate brownstone in Bed Stuy financed with a construction loan.

When I finished most of the house renovations last year, there was no budget left for the backyard. Which in hindsight was a good thing, because I needed to recover from all the ills of going through a gut renovation.

Fast forward nine months later and I had enough saved to start my budget garden renovation. My old contractor offered me a great price to complete the work and as much as I like to save money, I really did not want to work with him on this project. I knew that I needed an expert and I wouldn’t have time to watch the project like a hawk. (more…)


It seems that every time a brownstone is listed as a House of the Day, the debate begins. How much will it cost to renovate and decorate? Estimates of $500,000 and over a million are common numbers thrown around. But what about those of us who want to renovate a brownstone and aren’t sitting on $2,000,000?

The naysayers will say if you don’t spend several hundred thousand dollars, then you’ll be living in a Home Depot special. I will say that renovating and decorating a brownstone can be done nicely and on budget with a lot of research and patience.

I also understand that having this entire debate is from a position of privilege — if you’re in the market for a brownstone in Brooklyn these days, whether your renovation budget is $50,000 or $2,000,000, you’re doing fine. But with that being said, here are some tips to help with renovating and decorating. (more…)


Designing the bathrooms in a narrow house was a challenge. One option was to forgo having an office to accommodate a massive long master bathroom. I’ve never been the type of person that needed a huge home or bathroom — and I always wondered who were those people on HGTV that insisted on having double vanities. So the smaller but fully functional master bath won out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The en suite master bath is in no way tiny. It does have a tub and standing shower but there isn’t much room in there except for the necessities and I’m fine with that. The master floor tiles came from a company in California. I searched high and low for inexpensive patterned concrete tiles and there isn’t such a thing.

And the electrician put the bathroom sconce too low. To remedy that problem, I need to a find a horizontal medicine cabinet.

To save on costs, the new guest bathroom is actually an existing bathroom off the hall in the old house configuration. Crazy how much money you can save by not moving plumbing. The downside is that things are really tight but cozy. The Moroccan-inspired floor tiles in the guest bathroom, pictured above, were also pricey but luckily I didn’t need a lot. And at the store where I purchased them, if your designer or architect places the order then you get a 10 to 15 percent discount, depending on the style. The wall tiles are from

I’m debating adding a shower enclosure to the claw foot tub. Reviews from my few overnight guests have been mixed. My mom loved not having an enclosure, as did my friends who stayed over with their kids. But another set of friends said the current setup was awkward. But I must say, I love not sharing a bathroom with guests.

And finally, the half bath is on the parlor floor. Nothing special here, just some turquoise paint, an old gold mirror and some relatively inexpensive floor tile. My one regret on this bathroom is that I didn’t just splurge again and select marble for the floor tile.

The toilets in all the bathrooms are dual flush. Better for the environment and only slightly more expensive than a traditional flush toilet.

Click through to see photos of the other bathrooms.

Our Bed Stuy Reno blogger chronicles a budget renovation with a 203K loan. She also blogs at The Bed Stuy Reno Blog (more…)


The summer has been incredibly busy. The house is about 90 percent complete. Due to budget constraints the garden will have to wait until next year. But the good news is that the kitchen is finished! Last we left off, I had picked out a marble countertop. I’ve been living with the marble for almost a month now and so far so good. Two dinner parties with lots of red wine and accidental lemon spills and the marble is still going strong.

The marble countertop was installed by the fabricator and the entire process took about an hour. At the end of the installation the team applied a professional grade sealant on the marble. Sealant is key to keeping marble mostly stain free. It has also helped that I picked a slab of marble with lots of imperfections. My slab was already flawed, what’s a few stains here and there? Plus it was much cheaper!

The cabinets are Ikea, which I’m less than thrilled with at the moment. I already need to replace one of the drawers due to poor alignment. The dishwasher and refrigerator are both Fisher Paykel and are floor models purchased on eBay at about 60 percent off retail. The stove is NXR and was purchased at Costco. The wood floating shelves were custom made.

Editor’s note: We’re impressed with how the kitchen turned out, especially considering this is a budget renovation financed with a 203K loan. Click through for lots more photos. (more…)


In March, reported big changes are coming to the corner of Knickerbocker and Willoughby, right across from Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick. The two-story church at 260 Knickerbocker Avenue is slated to be converted to an 11-story apartment building designed by Scarano protege and now-prolific Williamsburg architect Nataliya Donskoy, which would make it the tallest building on the park.

We were curious about the progress, and figured it would be well along by now. But in fact, the plans were disapproved this month and there is no sign of construction at the church, not even a rendering or, of course, any kind of permit. (more…)

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As you may recall, in our last installment, I was dealing with the “no-show” plumber and was in the process of firing him. Firing a plumber is actually much more difficult than I thought. The plumber has to agree to withdraw his permit from the job or agree to allow another plumber to work under his permit, or the owner has to send a letter to the DOB outlining his negligence, and after review the plumber could be removed.

Well, my plumber would not agree to withdrawing on his own, and going the DOB route would add weeks if not months to an already delayed job. In the end, I was stuck with him.  He continued to leave work half done, late and unacceptable. In the end, I  ignored his objections and had another plumber finish the work. The real drama may ensue when he has to close the job. (more…)