Editor’s note: Welcome to the second installment of It’s Just a Heights One-Bedroom, a reader renovation diary. We’re excited to publish Robert Schwartz‘s tale of buying and renovating an apartment in Brooklyn Heights. See the first one here.
“Which black closet pull do you like? This round black one? Or this other [nearly indistinguishable] black pull?”
Being lucky enough to have to make the myriad of decisions for an apartment renovation has taken up almost all of our time and energy; think somewhere between a full-time job and a hostage crisis.
Since the lead time is so long, we started shopping for kitchen cabinets in 2012. We initially looked at custom-made cabinets, the price for which turned out to be 5 percent of the purchase price of the apartment. This one we were total agreement on: Nope!
Then we went the other way entirely, looking at cabinets we’d have to assemble from a big box store based in a Scandinavian country. I was vehemently against this idea, having done this for smaller items in the past. Sitting on a cold floor for hours frantically searching for a No. 9 screw to hold up the sides of the Jattentropp, only to have to go back to the store for replacements was something I didn’t want to relive. But we shopped there anyway. Sitting in the cafeteria, we realized the joke about the store’s name translated into English means “argument” is true.
So, onto one of the big home improvement stores where we got engineered boxes and slab doors in maple at a good price, thanks to a well-timed discount on a new credit card. Onto hardwood floors.
Hardwood vs. engineered? That was our next quandary. Since we had mostly eschewed outside advice on the cabinets, we polled some friends about the floors, the results of which were all over the map and beyond. “We have bamboo. Don’t get those.” “I know someone who got her floors from China. There were filled with formaldehyde.” “Don’t get painted, trust me.” We went to dinner with two friends to pick their brains, but they couldn’t agree on anything. An argument ensued, punches were thrown, the police were called, bailed arranged, and divorce papers filed. In the end, we went with hardwood in a variation of maple, not from China.
Next up was tile for the kitchen backsplash and bathroom floor and wall. Two or six long days in New Jersey looking at tile will bring out the worst in anyone; we were no different. Plus, whoever made the street grid in Jersey had a wicked sense of humor! It wasn’t easy to agree on anything. Searching online only complicated the search exponentially.
Then the samples arrived: Day after day, the vestibule was filled with boxes and boxes of samples. Every conversation at home was about tile. After being unable to agree on anything, one of us (the one writing this blog) just let the other (Evin) make the decision to save the marriage. That’s when things got easier.
All this time we stayed away from the apartment so we wouldn’t make a nuisance of ourselves. A friend had told us to “be visible, but not seen too much.” So, we’d go at night or on the weekends when we knew the contractor wouldn’t be there. We’d leave notes, writing instructions on the wall. One Saturday afternoon we visited and he was there skim coating the ceiling! I casually told him we were considering new doors and new closets and the next time we stopped by, the inside of the closets and the doors had been removed. More things to shop for!
Then a friend recommended we “pay attention to the hinges! They’re really important.” I had never once in my entire life ever thought about hinges. As long as they hold the doors up, I was happy. I told Evin about the hinges and that was a bunch more decisions, which in turn led to even more choices about pulls and knobs, which was more of the weekend spent shopping, which meant more samples. Then lighting. Then paint color. Then radiator covers and window treatments.
As for the apartment itself, things are moving along nicely! The popcorn has been skim coated, the electrical has been upgraded, the new floors are down. The bathroom tile guy is expected any day now, painting is imminent, and the kitchen cabinets, to be delivered in the third week of December, will be our Hanukkah present to each other.
We’re still married so it’s not all that bad! (But thoughts and prayers still, please!)
[Photos by Evin Lowe]
- It’s Just a Heights One-Bedroom Reader Renovation Diary: Can We Take Down That Wall?
- It’s Just a Heights One-Bedroom Reader Renovation Diary: We Pull the Trigger
- Brownstone Boys: When Do You Need a Structural Engineer?