apartment progress: finding an old door and kismet.

    April 15, 2021

    In old house stewardship and making slow progress, sometimes it really just feels like I’m waiting for the stars to align. And then sometimes they do.

    I was struck by a bit of restlessness this morning and so when the birds started chirping at 5 am, I decided to get up and join them. Not in the chirping, just in the wakefulness. I’ve been painting the woodwork in the kids’ room this week and I’m eager (read: impatient) to get it finished so I can move on to other projects that have been on my mind: repairing a radiator cover, finding a replacement doorknob for the door into the office, reaching an agreement with a certain child of mine who changes their mind daily about their vision for their bedroom.

    I don’t mean to dump on the trim painting. A fresh coat of trim paint really does make an enormous difference to the overall feel of a room and there’s no doubt that I have the monotony of the detail work to thank for the influx of other project ideas. There’s nothing like glopping more paint onto doorframes to get the creative juices flowing.

    Today I put a second coat on the door that separates our small office from the kids’ bedroom; a six-paneled composite door with a faux oak texturing. Our landlord was kind enough to install it before we moved in and we’ve been grateful to have it, but it’s a bit adrift in an apartment filled with older beauties. As I painted it I puzzled over what, if anything, I might do about the doorknob that’s too big to be replaced by an antique and the fact that the door itself stops three inches short of the floor. (The gap is very useful for sliding notes to working parents and less useful for making any kind of sound barrier.)

    Before breaking for lunch I logged onto our neighborhood Buy Nothing Group to firm up a ball jar handoff and staring at me was a brand new listing for three antique doors, complete with glass knobs, ready for the taking. A few texts and one drizzly skateboard trip by James later, the door is here, with a frame that seems to fit it perfectly and what I hope will only be some minor work to get it hanging.

    Slow and steady progress around as per always, and sometimes, just very good luck.

    PS. I wrote a piece all about The Buy Nothing Project for next week’s edition of Cubby, in case you’d like to sign up and have a read.

    PPS. This morning, as I waited with the birds to dive into painting, I decided to plug our street address into the The NYC Municipal Archive Online Collections. I’ve said here before that the archive’s vast collection of 1940s tax photographs is one of my favorites to sort through and for whatever reason, this morning I realized I’d never looked up our building. The photograph shows covered up bricks on the facade, a tiny tree in an otherwise empty front garden, and a wide open sidewalk where an old oak has since grown so large it’s setting the pavers askew around it. I have no doubt that the shades over the windows in the front door are the same that are still hanging. Would that I could take a peek through the windows and catch a glimpse at the moldings. In case you like peeping into the past as much as I do, here are detailed instructions for how to search for New York City street photos.)

    small improvements: metal shelf pins.

    April 12, 2021

    Our kitchen has two sets of cabinets. One set is quite a bit older than the others. These cabinets are painted white and sturdily wrought from solid wood. They likely date to when the room was first turned into a kitchen and I like to torture myself by imagining they once hung over a giant enameled sink with a drain board and chrome fixtures. The newer cabinets are installed below and to the side of the elders and they’re part wood and part fiberboard and finished in a reddish stain, as you can see. When our landlord installed our dishwasher last fall and needed to build out a box to fit it into place, he gave me permission to paint all the cabinets white to match. I hope I’ll make some significant apartment progress on that front this summer, but today’s post is about making a far smaller improvement with help from the very humble metal shelf pin.

    Even in a so-called minimalist household, spaces behind closed cabinet doors can get unruly. To keep things in check, I like to do a quick overhaul every few months where I take things down, dust them off, and make sure there’s not a hidden jar of chocolate-covered almonds somewhere that I’ve forgotten about. Over the weekend I was tackling the cabinet next to our stove when I was reminded for the fiftieth time of its wobbly, wonky cabinet shelf and finally decided to open my toolbox and do something about it.

    I’ve had a tiny cardboard box of replacement metal shelf pins in my toolbox since I bought a set of twenty for one of my first adult apartment nearly fifteen years ago (an apartment that did have a giant enameled sink). Missing or broken shelf pins in less-than-perfect cabinets are just a fact of life in old rentals and having lived in my fair share over the years, I’ve found simple replacements to be perennially useful. Unlike chocolate-covered almonds that need to be gobbled sooner than later, there’s no expiration date on metal shelf pins, so I swapped the bent and broken plastic shelf pins holding up our wobbly shelf for the sturdier metal ones I already had and just like that, we’re wobble free around here.

    Moral of the story and metaphor for life: Use the stuff you already have in your toolbox.

    Other things:

    Our gooseneck kettle.

    Our butter dish.

    Our shelf riser. (I tend to steer clear of organization-specific products, but in an awkward, deep cabinet that’s short on shelf space to being with, this shelf riser from Open Spaces has been the perfect thing to offer a little more breathing room and I like that it’s pretty enough to transition to a different spot should we ever need to move it.)

    The shelf riser was a gift from Open Spaces. This post includes several affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.

  • my week in objects (mostly).

    1. these morning glories. {and the moonflowers, too, for being a week bigger.} 2. these supplies. {despite the world’s slowest progress.} 3. these walls et cetera. {for looking better today than they did yesterday.}…

    April 9, 2021 2 Comments
  • apartment progress: window treatments.

    I’m puzzling through window treatments at the moment. Window treatments is such a funny and stuffy term, but useful, too, covering the range of shutters and curtains and blinds and shades and other things…

    April 6, 2021 46 Comments
  • my week in objects (mostly).

    1. these seed packets. {and alyson for choosing them.} 2. these eggs. {and getting to devil them.} 3. these shoots. {for popping up.} 4. this detritus. {because i can’t keep track of the abandoned…

    April 2, 2021 6 Comments
  • archive dig: springtime projects.

    It’s spring break here in New York. Childcare is in short supply, the need for low-stakes projects to keep kids occupied is high, the springtime impulse to clean out and start fresh and pay…

    March 30, 2021 2 Comments