A Williamsburg Studio Full of Impressive DIYs & Renter Friendly Fixes — House Call


Name: Eva, her fiancée and their cat
Location: Williamsburg — Brooklyn, New York
The basics: 6.5 years, rented | 450 square feet

Eva has been in her studio for almost seven years, which is like 64 in renter’s years. But it all makes sense when you consider she’s acquired two of the most covetable New York real estate finds: a space to oneself (at least, until your partner moves in) and a very chill landlord. Making the most of aforementioned chillness, Eva and Delaney have filled their space with temporary fixes and impressive DIYs.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I’ve lived in this studio apartment for nearly seven years, and my fiancé moved in with me almost three years ago.

At the time, it was an emergency. I had been living in a one-bedroom on the south side of Williamsburg for about three months, when an unfortunate renter’s situation (foreclosure, broken heating, and, finally, broken plumbing) forced me to move in one weekend. This was the closest apartment I could find on Craigslist—I told the broker I wanted it as soon as I walked inside.

It turned out to be the best thing ever. The apartment itself is unremarkable (oh, what I’d give for some crown molding or a fireplace), but my landlord is extremely laid back and let me have pretty much free reign over making changes.

Once my partner moved in, we really started making the space feel like our own. We even embarked on a small “kitchen renovation,” which included painting the cabinets a dark blue-grey (with my landlord’s blessing!), adding copper drawer pulls, building a light fixture from copper piping, and building copper pipe rails to hang pots. We also scored a cheap cabinet off of Craigslist which we painted the same color as the cabinets, and that serves as our “built in” pantry. Lastly, I used contact paper to cover the countertops, and it very closely resembles the wood butcher block of our dining table. (The butcher block was the kitchen table in my family’s home when I was a baby, and had been sitting unused in my parents’ basement for years until it was brought to Brooklyn.)

Other than our Target bed-frame, everything in the apartment was scored on Craigslist, bought from a vintage/thrift store, or made by my fiancé, Delaney.

I’m particularly proud of all of the things we’ve scavenged or made. Among those: Our coffee table, which is Delaney’s best attempt at a mid-century slat table, our over-sized desk (which we scored along with the matching mid-century chair off Craigslist), the book case over the desk, which Delaney built, our children’s school desk, which Delaney found on the street and drilled holes in the back of so we could put our stereo inside, our mid-century sideboard from a vintage place down the block, and my mid-century dresser, which was a Craigslist find as well.

Delaney has also tricked out the bathroom with custom shelving with copper piping, built a shower curtain rod from copper piping, and is in the midst of building extensive closet shelving all from wood he’s found on the street (one of the best things about the apartment is the closet, which is a giant walk-in thing that’s built underneath a staircase, so it has plenty of depth—we would not be able to fit our stuff in this apartment otherwise).

One other wacky detail: When we replaced our bed frame, we also got rid of an old box spring. Instead of putting it out on the street, we hacked it up and used the wood (after it was sanded and stained, of course) to line our windows. The windows have a nice depth—almost like a window seat—and are now an attractive people-watching spot for our cat, Scout.

What is your favorite room and why? Well, since it’s one room, that’s kind of a trick question! If I had to choose my favorite area, though, I’d say the kitchen, which I’m quite proud of (due to all the reasons above).

Kitchens are always one of the worst things about rental apartments (seriously, when I scan Craigslist looking at other places, I’m always turned off by the kitchen). I’m not partial to anything that looks new or luxurious, but I’m also not partial to cookie-cutter kitchens. Usually, there’s not much you can do about it. But due to an easy-going land-lord and some non-permanent changes (using contact paper, and replacing light fixtures), I’m happy with what we’ve been able to make of the situation.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing we found, in all honesty, is wood that Delaney scavenged on the street. As I mentioned, he’s currently in the midst of an extensive shelving situation in the closet. But also, it is his obsession, his hobby, and basically a deep compulsion. I joke that every night when he comes home, he brings more wood (which is not much of an exaggeration). He also uses sanding, drilling, and nailing as an excuse to take a break from law-school duties—but he just graduated two days ago, so that reasoning is about to be moot. Anyway, you can imagine how much fun that is in a studio. (Any time he does work, it essentially requires the entire apartment to be vacuumed and dusted.) That said—I’m not complaining! I basically get carpentry work for free. It’s my dream to one-day buy a fixer upper that we can entirely renovate together.

Which fictional character would be most at home in your place? This is a tough one. My first thought was Don Draper (due to all of the mid-century stuff), but it’s definitely not fancy enough for him. Maybe Diane Keaton in Annie Hall.

Eva’s words of wisdom: I know everyone always says this, but take your time adding things to your space. Everything we have has been accumulated over the last seven years, and the apartment is constantly evolving as we evolve.

Adding things from your travels or your family is also a must. We have various throw blankets from Mexico, arrows from South Dakota and Wyoming, and a vintage photo of my dad in which he looks like Bob Dylan (or some musician from the ’70s, basically). These are things I’ll bring to any home I move into in the future, and I imagine they will always make the space feel like mine.

Also, if possible depending on your living situation, I highly suggest doing some DIY work. It’s shocking how satisfying it is to build something for yourself—on the cheap—that makes your space more inviting or functional.

Thanks, Eva!

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