Archive for the ‘Renovation’ Category

I have been looking for good art pieces for my apartment. Apartment Therapy has great examples of homes that use art decor to really bring the whole place to life. It has several examples of “smart art” rather than pretty art, which adds color to everything and yet gives a unified appearance to the whole apartment. I visited the Affordable Art Fair today to look for such perfect pieces, and had a wonderful time. Some pieces really stood out. Art is very expensive, probably because if a single piece is sold artists have to be able to live off that. I saw a painting in India which cost a little over $2K, and I had a heart-attack at the thought of spending so much. But after today’s outing, that piece seems more reasonably priced. Today’s artwork was not really affordable; the affordable pieces were a lot smaller in size.

The trend seems to be towards acrylic paint on aluminium. Strange choice, but the aluminium gives a totally different and realistic effect of sky and water. I will definitely have an aluminium painting in my place. Another trend is to have vertical and horizontal lines in different colors. Using a few of these together have an impact in adding color to a place, but in terms of actual art I find them lacking. I could easily draw lines in different colors all lined up and put it up in my apartment. Call me ignorant, but it doesn’t seem like hard work to me. Maybe the choice of colors has an impact, but really, do people pay thousands of dollars just for that? A third trend was to have dabs of colors to give shape to something, either a face, or people walking in rainy weather, or something. I found this interesting, but again why pay $$$$ for dabs of color when I could get a clear picture? My taste is more 20th century paintings with architectural effects and classics where the actual theme is clearly painted and you don’t have to guess. I learned to paint as a kid, and it is a lot of hard work! One of the teachers did not have hands, and he actually held the brushes in the toes of his feet – his paintings were breathtakingly beautiful!

My favorite today was David Kessler with Myers Contemporary. His paintings were on aluminium – one was brushed a lot to give the effect of water, and there were others that were less brushed. Really gorgeous pieces, but cost $10K per painting!! The paintings below are acrylic on aluminium, and the water effect at the bottom is brushed aluminium. As I moved to the side, the brushed part shone in the light.

David Kessler

David Kessler

Another artist of interest is Suzanne Howes-Stevens. She literally does her paintings over maps, and the paintings represent that location.

Suzanne Howes-Stevens

Lisa Lebofsky is another artist who paints on aluminium. Her paintings are quite pretty as well with trees, water, and sand, and aluminium as sky and water. In the photo below, eight on the top left corner and two large ones in the middle are all on aluminium.

Lisa Lebofsky

Another of my favorites was Michael Levin affiliated with The Weiss Gallery in Canada. His paintings were on aluminium as well, and most of them depict water. I looked at the painting below for a few minutes, and felt such an intense feeling of calm. I was quite overwhelmed and taken with it because it exuded such an intense sense of calm. I could not stop looking at it! The water reflection of the object is so subtle. I love his paintings – of all the paintings I saw today using aluminium, he has used it to the best effect because the shade of aluminium is natural and overpowers all other colors.

Michael Levin

I loved Philippe Jacquet as well. When I first saw his paintings, they seemed okay and yet I could not stop looking at them. I love the subtle use of colors and the greens. He was an architect and did painting as a hobby. Recently he started painting full-time. His paintings use mainly slate green with architectural elements such as buildings. He uses very subtle elements and colors – main objects (boat, man, building), even though small, stand out because the background is subtle. His paintings are an acquired taste – they don’t stand out right off the bat, but on close observation you understand his aesthetic and find a beauty in his colors. My favorite below is the second one with the building on a single rock.

Philippe Jacquet

Another one that stood out is Marie-Elaine Lalonde. Her paintings are entirely on wood. The website says “silkscreening on wood” – I don’t know the technique. Her work was different.

Marie-Élaine Lalonde

Another one to catch my eye was Vanessa Smith. I would probably put her paintings in a room with either the same dark color as her paintings so the interior depth in her work would stand out, or in a room with all walls in a lighter version than her work for her painting to stand out. What was different was that she used a single sharp color in the entire painting, different colors for some objects, and separate colors (primarily black and white sketches) on the exterior of the house as seen from the window. The layers added depth to her work. It was definitely eye-catching. At first glance it appears to be too dark and her work has a vintage look and feel, but it grows on you probably as a conversation piece.

Vanessa Smith

One artist used blood (real blood) which I found gross BTW and would never use in my apartment. It was just too disgusting and I could not appreciate the gothic “beauty”. The work was in a box-like structure. The front part of that box was transparent, and the blood was splattered in a sunburst look attached to the inside of the transparent piece.

Another artist had very intense paintings. AM liked them, but I could not stand to look at them. They were too intense, deep, and negative. There was some guy being pulled by other beings around him, and he was stepping on some beings that were drowned or something. It wasn’t exactly a painting as much as a sketch in orange color. A lot of his paintings had a similar look and feel. He used a globe in one case, where countries were dark brown with cream veins. The veining itself was unpleasant.

Below are a few others that I liked. I hope the guys doesn’t mind my posting their photo here – not my fault that they wouldn’t move while I was taking this pic.

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I love Manhattan — and living in Manhattan — you can really find everything you could ever want in the city. Problem is, it takes a hell of a lot of money to get there! I have taken some time off to buy furniture for my newly renovated place – no easy feat in Manhattan! I don’t have a single piece of furniture except for some chairs, and a tiny entertainment center. Wires are all over the floor, and I want to find something functional that keeps wires hidden.

I decided to conquer Manhattan. There are three main buildings to visit for remodeling and redecorating – Architects & Designers Building (A&D) on 58th & Lex, Decoration & Design Building (D&D) on 58th & 3rd, and New York Design Center (NYDC) on 33rd & Lex.

D&D and NYDC sell to trade only, and entry is restricted. Last year I was not allowed to enter. This year, I took my architect’s company name and entered the building. None of the stores shared prices – they said I should select pieces and leave my architect/designer’s contact info, and they would send prices to her. A lot of designers make money from them because they (designers) mark-up the prices – even if they don’t mark it up, in some cases shipping & handling charges wipe out the discount.

A&D: The building is primarily for people looking to remodel and can find appliances, tiles, shower enclosures, bathroom fixtures, closet organization, kitchens, and cabinets. The building houses brands such as GE Monogram, Miele, Wolf & Sub-Zero, Davis & Warshow, Woodmode, Hastings Tile & Bath, Poliform, Poggenpohl, Valli & Valli, and Artistic Tile. It also has furniture stores such as B&B Italia and Holly Hunt on the first level. I love Holly Hunt, but my architect has warned me of their prices – not as high as Cassina, but much much higher than Crate & Barrel.

D&D: The building is primarily for people who have tons of $$$ and looking to do custom work such as custom upholstery, curtains, and rugs. D&D mostly houses showrooms with textiles and fabrics. High-end Donghia and Holly Hunt are housed there. The Holly Hunt furniture in D&D is very different from the one a block away in A&D – D&D has a lot of traditional furniture stores so Holly Hunt has traditional pieces there, while its A&D store has very contemporary pieces. For contemporary furniture, a few of my favorite showrooms were A. Rudin, Donghia, Kravet, J. Robert Scott, Stark, and Missoni Home. David Sutherland was mostly outdoor furniture, but the decor of the store was excellent. It had seagrass limestone tiles, and as soon as you enter you feel as if you can smell the sea or beach, and the limestone tile with exotic sea shells added to the look. A. Rudin had the softest leather furniture – a few pieces were made of lambskin leather which had the softest feel, and I felt as if my fingers would melt in the buttery feeling. Stark had very good carpets of all kinds – contemporary, transitional, and oriental. I enjoyed visiting D&D but was very overwhelmed due to the numerous stores and fabrics. It is very difficult to pick colors and fabrics unless you go there with a designer. Not that I intend to return – the prices are too high.

NYDC: The building mainly houses furniture and rugs, with some lighting and home decor stores as well. The furniture is both traditional and contemporary, with more contemporary stores contrary to D&D. A number of showrooms specialize in contract furniture for offices. Some stores seemed sterile with few people and furniture lying around as if deserted. I wanted to check out Nicoletti Italia for Natuzzi sofas but it closed down a few months back (Natuzzi needs to update its site). I liked a number of stores including Dennis Miller Associates, and need to return because I tried to do all 16 floors in 1 hour!! I really liked some contemporary furniture, and need to go back to complete all the floors. It is good to visit NYDC because they have many furniture stores, which gives a good idea of how to redecorate and which colors to use together if you are looking for ideas.

I visited a few stand alone stores as well. Cassina is a high-end Italian furniture store, and has great sofas and chairs. A friend had bought something from there but told me of their ridiculously high prices. I liked one leather chair and it cost over $6.3K!!! They have an annual sale event every year, and this year they have it on Sep 24. I will wait for sale. Lazzoni is a contemporary furniture store located on 18th St. I liked their beds and mirrors, but it was very expensive. A simple side table cost over $1.5K. The furniture comes from Turkey, and at this time people in Turkey were on a 1 month holiday so usual lead time of 4-6 weeks is now 16 weeks! Roche Bobois is located on Madison Avenue a few blocks from the NYDC building. It is a French company and has very good beds and coffee tables. I really liked the furniture, but it costs $$$$$! Coffee tables cost around $3K, and each dining chair is around $1K. Eight years back I bought my coffee table for $200, and it is still intact today!

Jensen Lewis in West Village has good quality furniture. I liked their Calligaris beds, dining tables, chairs, and entertainment centers. Their walnut wood pieces have a warm feel and combined with black lend a very contemporary look. If they weren’t so expensive, I would have bought the entire Calligaris walnut set. Modani on 19th St is okay, with nothing new to offer. The showroom has a black-and-white feel and few pieces. I visited B&B Italia in Soho and in the A&D building. The A&D store is much better with a larger collection, but is open on weekdays only while the Soho store is open on weekends as well.

ABC Home & Carpet on Broadway & 19th St is a large store of 6 floors, and has a Calvin Klein section. It is super expensive, more so considering that the pieces were not that good or new. One recycled bar stool cost around $800. A Calvin Klein sectional sofa cost $18K. AM almost had a heart attack and looked for pieces to criticize specifically with respect to their prices. We walked across the street to Sitdown NY which had decent pieces but looked very cheap. After ABC, AM found the prices to be quite refreshing! Moss is another store in Soho, but specializes in novelty pieces. Not my style. I visited Raymour & Flanigan, but it is too traditional for my taste. There are so many traditional and barn-like furniture stores in NYC, which I found surprising because I thought New Yorkers like contemporary furniture – guess I was wrong. I like all things European.

Bo Concept is another store I quite liked. It has very good and sleek contemporary pieces, but the quality does not seem up to par with Crate and Barrel even though prices are comparable. I am having second thoughts about getting a Bo Concept walnut bed set because its nightstand costs over $500. Its so ridiculous that two nightstands at $1K cost more than the bed at $900! I mean, why is the nightstand so expensive even though its such a tiny thing? Of all the stores, Crate and Barrel has the best quality for the price. West Elm seems okay with reasonable prices. Design Within Reach is another store I visited, but am not too crazy about the quality. Its red Eames chair has appeared in several blogs and is comfortable, but very low. AM did not like it.

I have to yet visit department stores such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. I don’t have high hopes though, because Home is not their specialty. Since we liked Natuzzi sofas, I plan to visit Natuzzi in Soho. I also plan to make a trip to Calligaris and Concept Furniture in Brooklyn, and Room and Board in Soho.

I also made a trip to Paramus, NJ. I visited Ashley furniture, Huffman Koos, Jennifer Convertible, and Ethan Allen in Paramus. Ashley has very traditional furniture, totally not my style. Their rugs were not bad though. Jennifer Convertible was okay, and Google had bad reviews about the quality. I loved Huffman Koos – they had lots of Natuzzi sofas on sale, and it was a good deal because you could get the entire floor model set for $1,200. AM was sold on Natuzzi. I love burgundy and fell in love with a burgundy sofa, but it was being discontinued and I would have to buy the floor model. I found out yesterday that there is a Huffman Koos in Manhattan – yay! Ethan Allen was too country-like and traditional.

I did not go to Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware because they are too barn/coastal looking and not my style.

I am exhausted and cannot wait to get this over with. Its so difficult to make a decision – every contemporary store has a white sofa – how do you decide which one is the best? Once I decide on furniture, I will make a decision on rugs. Most of the showrooms featured neutral colors like beige, cream, brown, and white, with neutral contemporary rugs and low mood lighting. I intend to do simple neutral furniture and have a colorful oriental rug with Indian/Pakistani/Turkish colors and dark base. I love oriental rugs, and although I liked neutral contemporary rugs I think a splash of color would make it look less sterile.

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You would think that with renovation done and having moved into my new place would mean peace of mind. Quite the contrary. I am finding so many errors, and took the day off today to discuss details of errors with my contractor and run errands. I don’t know how to connect speakers into the wall and found someone in my building who will do it for an hourly fee. I had so many more errands to run, and am taking time off to buy furniture. Buying furniture is no easy feat — which places in NY sell contemporary stuff? Very few. Crate and Barrel, West Elm, and Bo Concept are common. I read reviews and went to places such as Moss and Cassina – Moss had novelty one-of-a-kind pieces (at one-of-a-kind prices), and Cassina had gorgeous Italian-made leather furniture with skyrocketing prices. AM liked one leather chair which cost OVER $6,300!!! Seriously! Ridiculous prices! How come they are still in business? No piece of furniture is worth that much.

So yeah buying furniture is no easy feat because there are very few places in the city. There are small boutique-type places but they must be pricey. Sigh!

Anyway, I was done with my errands by 3 pm, and decided to watch Twilight Eclipse. I watched previous parts on Amazon On Demand and liked the movies. This one I watched in the theater and it was so boring. The entire movie is focused on the love triangle between Edward the vampire, Jacob the werewolf, and Bella who loves both of them but loves Edward more. I tried reading the book, but the book was so much worse. The entire book just had conversations between Bella and Edward, silly conversations. I could not even read half the book. The movies are much better because of the action sequences which I love. But Eclipse was so boring, and I did not see the chemistry between Bella and Jacob – her love for him was so out of the blue. Kristen Stewart is so wooden and dull. Her tone is bla, and whether she is happy or sad or in love, she has the same tone. I could not bear to watch or listen to her. I don’t understand how two awesome guys can be in love with the bark of the tree — really — she is just so yawn. I also don’t get that she was all about Edward and now all of a sudden she wants to spend more time with Jacob. It seems like she is double-dating and expects Edward to be okay with it. Argh! I kept thinking, when is this movie going to get over?

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A friend introduced me to a wonderful website that is the best online resource for wood. I love wood in all forms, and the various types boggle my mind. They come in different types and cuts. For floors, common cuts are plain, quartersawn, rift, and rift & quartersawn. Each cut has its own character, and you need to cut it the same way vertically to get a specific visual. While choosing floors and cabinet wood for my renovation, I got so engrossed in the wood types and found beauty in the grains, cuts, and character surrounding them. A part of me feels guilty though that trees have to be cut because customers (like me) create demand for wood.

I got rift & quartersawn red oak floor strips done in my apartment, and they look wonderful. Just the right amount of light and dark without being too grainy like the usual oak floors. I wanted light wood to keep dark areas of the apartment brighter. Also, dark floors show more dirt. Reminds me of something my mom always said — dark or light, the dirt is there, so it doesn’t matter whether you see it or you don’t – the dirt is still there.

Anyway, I looked at various wood types on the site. My architect showed me a gorgeous sample of African Mahogany veneer, and I fell in love with it! I decided to do my kitchen cabinets with the wood with pale green tiles and countertop. I took a risk with green, but I loved the countertop and the sample looked perfect with green.

African Mahogany, also called Khaya, is lower priced than other mahogany types. The veneer, when finished, has a nice shine and looks like a mild version of Tigerwood. Tigerwood has very dark prominent lines/stripes, kind of like a tiger’s stripes hence the name. It is a beautiful wood type, and reminds me of burnt wood in a fireplace due to its dark lines. If you have Tigewood in your place, nothing else will stand out as much.

I love the way my kitchen has been done, and the wood looks stunning. With pale green floors it looks amazing – I did not expect the green floors to look so good. Green is a tough color, and I used a color enhancer to bring out the green. But since the tile is pale green and not bright green, it has a calming influence. I feel like walking on them without shoes and feel the warm-cold floor on my feet! Warm because of the warmth the look adds, cold because well slate is cold! I did all bathroom cabinets in the same wood to keep uniformity between woodwork in the entire apartment. It looks perfect with every tile and countertop.

I am so happy with my choice, and have discovered so many many beautiful things during the course of my renovation. There is really so much beauty in the world! But nature’s beauty is the best. I looked at so many many porcelain tiles but none, not even ones that call themselves “faux stone”, could mirror the beauty and warmth of stone. I forced myself to use porcelain in one bathroom to be practical and it looks nice and modern, but the beauty of stone is just outstanding.

Marble, limestone, slate, quartz, quartzite, sandstone, and granite are some stone types. A common characteristic among stones is that you cannot choose the color they come in – every single stone tile is different. You cannot pick one and think that the entire place will look the same color – there are a ton of variations in all stone tiles. Many people don’t like that, but I love it. It adds so much character, and makes the place interesting. I saw a sample of Travertine and chose it for a bathroom; the actual tiles had many variations and the bathroom ended up being quite different from what I envisioned, but I love it.

Marble looks grand in bathrooms and kitchens and makes a statement, but they etch very easily. So many historical sites in India are made from marble, and the etching adds to the beauty and history of the buildings. People use marble as kitchen counters and it is easy to knead dough on it. It looks gorgeous (no other stone compares), but is impractical. A ton of kitchens have it as backsplash. I love marble Calacatta, which is commonly used along with carrara.

Limestone is very popular in bathrooms and has a very calming influence. It etches very easily from lime, etc. Many historical buildings in Italy and Jerusalem are made from limestone. I think that age and usage add character to the stone. Travertine and Jerusalem Gold are commonly used in bathrooms.

Slate is commonly used in bathrooms as well, and is a tad cold and hard. It is commonly found in India. I like slate on display, but I hate it in bathrooms. All bathroom pics I have seen look so ugly and “heavy” in terms of visuals. The variations are huge. The only slate I like is Burlington which is what I used on my kitchen floor.

Quartz is a type of slate with shine.

Sandstone is not as common, is soft, and can stain. Sandstone has swirls – the yellow one has sand-like swirls and black has water-like swirls.

Soapstone is very durable for kitchen countertops and can be continuous as a sink as well. It looks quite nice too, but is very common. Looks awesome with white cabinets.

Quartzite is one of the toughest stones, and is used in kitchens. It is a good stone, but very bland and light on the grains. I like quartzite because it is not as grainy as granite, but the ones I saw seemed to harsh or dull.

Granite is very grainy, busy, and heavy. I hate granite – I really do – till I saw exotic ones. When I first saw granite and my contractor recommended I use it as tiles, I almost gagged – I was horrified at the ugliness, heavy grains, and busyness. I looked and looked and could not find a “lighter” granite. I thought that I may have to use quartzite or engineered stone in the kitchen. Then I walked into Woodmode on Lex ave and came across the most gorgeous countertop I have ever seen in my life, with heavy variations and shiny speckles. It was so stunning that I moved all the books on the counter and was awe-struck at the beauty. I had to have it. The store people did not share the name with me. So I turned to the Internet and after days of browsing found it. My architect saw it at Walker Zanger, and I was in love! I did not find something as gorgeous, but close. WZ had one of the most gorgeous granite and quartzite I had ever seen. I loved their Chianti leather finish, and wanted to use it somewhere but it was too expensive. It was absolutely breathtaking and would have looked outstanding in my kitchen, but I decided to use my first choice. It made me see granite differently. Granite has layers, fissures, and veins, and some of them have a 3D effect where the veins are a layer below the top of the counter. I started seeing the beauty of granite and its variations. The different types seemed so fascinating, and I found myself drawn to ones with sparkle, and it seemed as if all granite stones had a sparkle somewhere.

My granite countertop is being installed tomorrow – I hope it looks good – I spent a hell of a lot of time, effort, and money on it.

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Move completed!

I finally moved all my stuff to my newly renovated apartment. I love it! My new place is very close to work, and is quite well lit. It was just so peaceful sitting at home, an really your home is your home, and no other place can make up for it. There is smell of new wood and paint everywhere. I have to unpack and its going to be a slow process because I want to get rid of stuff I don’t use. Also, my closet doesn’t have a rod so I cannot hang clothes. I also have to clean properly. The men who came to clean did a poor job, and I will have to clean everything well before putting away stuff.

My kitchen is not done yet, and this week the countertop will finally be done — fingers crossed! I have to buy furniture, blinds, and floor mats. Its like a never-ending thing. I also came across several errors – an outlet is not working, the water goes outside the shower because the door membrane is not able to keep it out, the faucet is too far from the sink so water splashes all over, cabinet hinges have not been properly done, etc. I will prepare a list for my contractor and have him take a look. I wish this was over already!

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I wrote about Bocci fixtures last year. I want to use them over my kitchen island. They are gorgeous, and look like candles floating in water. The problem is that I have to specify the height of each pendant in the fixture. Its extremely difficult because I cannot visualize it, and cannot buy and return because its a custom-order and hence non-returnable. I emailed Bocci but their response was to make the smallest 8″ in height, the largest whatever I wanted it to be, and do the rest in between. They suggested that this is a “formula” that they use. To me, this is common sense. They really should have some recommendations in place, especially because the fixtures are expensive and non-returnable. While it is apartment and taste-specific, they should at least have some guidelines depending on ceiling height.

I sketched and sketched on several pieces of paper to set the correct heights, and am at a loss. I measured up to the ceiling with a tape measure, but still cannot make up my mind. The problem is that my ceilings are quite low, and these fixtures would look best on high ceilings. I still want to make them work though. I wanted to use them over my dining table, but would have to drop the ceilings to accommodate them, so the island worked best. Sigh!

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Apartment coming along

Its been 8 LONG months into renovation and my apartment is finally *almost* done. I will move in next week – yay!!! I have cleaners coming in at 9am tomorrow — AM is not going to be happy about waking up early on Saturday. Both are guy cleaners. I have never gotten my apartment cleaned by a guy before, and am prejudiced – guys in general don’t do as good a job as women, IMO. So I am not looking forward to it, but really to find two cleaners on a long weekend is tough. I am so excited! I am eyeing a dining table at Crate and Barrel and will buy it this weekend. I have an idea of the types of dining chairs I want, but I don’t think I can get something like that. I would totally love to have the couch from SATC 2 — blue velvet! I love velvet, but its too high maintenance.

I posted my kitchen pics on Gardenweb forums, and people love it. Its so flattering!! I cannot wait for everything to come together. I may get apartmenttherapy.com to come over, but honestly given the amount of love and effort I have put into my home, I maybe overly sensitive to criticism and there are so many haters on forums. Sigh.

After moving, there will still be some work left. My bedroom does not have a door – my architect forgot to put one! And the doorway size is small, so it will have to be done after building inspection. Too much of a headache because that area has to have a dropped ceiling and a door frame built. Some closets need to be done as well. Its like a never-ending thing. I am right now all the way upper east, and its so isolated. Once I move back, I will be closer to the park, subway, theaters, & restaurants.

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