City Slicker’s Adventures in Cottage Living

…in which she can’t get a reasonable quote to install her fireplace and sees wild turkeys in her backyard.

Photo: Wikipedia

TIME FOR A LITTLE RE-CAP, I think, of home-improvement progress or lack thereof.

First, my ongoing fireplace dilemma. The Malm stands in a corner of the living room in silent reproach. I have failed to find a fireplace company, roofer, contractor, mason, carpenter, or handyman willing to hook it up for less than $3,000. And just when I thought three grand was bad, I got another quote for $4,700. “What’s the big deal?” say people who don’t do that type of work. Apparently it is. A biggish deal, coupled with Hamptons rip-off (this is not the slow season for fireplaces).

It’s not that I actively miss having a fireplace. My house, happily, is tight as a drum. All the windows have storms, and there must be insulation, because the boiler is not gulping oil as rapidly as I feared. It’s warm and cozy here, and a candle or two on a winter’s night is about all the fire I need.

For now, I’ve decided to keep the Malm (even though Design Within Reach said they would take it back), and put it either on the porch or in the cellar for another season or another house. I got it on sale (about $1,300) and it was paid for months ago, so that’s forgotten. But to lay out another few grand now, when I also need a roof, a driveway, a deck, an outdoor shower, and a new bathroom (in that order), is not an appealing prospect.

The Malm can also be used outdoors next spring and summer, on my future deck, without having to hook it up, which will be fun. So the Malm stays in the picture.

My new roof, originally scheduled for December, has been twice delayed. First, by my deciding I wanted to look into a standing-seam metal roof in lieu of the typical asphalt shingle. I found a metal roof guy, looked at his work, got a quote. It wasn’t horribly more than what I’m spending for the shingle, but ultimately I decided against it, because, as cool as it looks, the roof pitch here is not so steep that it would really be seen much — though the fact that it is greener than the petroleum-based, artificially colored Timberline shingles was a consideration. Then there was a major snowfall, and now I’m going to Spain. So the roof is delayed again till early February, giving me more time to decide between Mission Brown and Weathered Wood. Meanwhile, there’s been nary a leak from melting snow, but the roof is 30 years old and looks like crap, and I’ve already given the roofer a 50% deposit, so it’s going to happen.

I’ve got a 30’x30′ parking court going in at the front of the property, edged with railroad ties and covered in 3/4″ chunks of natural-colored stone, also in early February. That will be an improvement over parking in the mud or on the street.

Indoors, not much is new since my daughter and I painted in October. I’m happy with my living room decor, such as it is, and things like Crate & Barrel dish towels hung as art on the wall of the dining area give me inordinate pleasure.

So the winter is proceeding. My next-door neighbor, whom I see every few weekends, said, “Oh, so you made it!” (meaning through the two snowstorms, I suppose). “Easily!” I replied cheerily, the vulnerable feeling of driving a Honda Fit through deep snow behind me for the moment.

Yesterday, in the late afternoon, I came back from errands in town to find a dozen wild turkeys hanging out in my backyard. That never happened in Brooklyn. Of course, by the time I got my camera, they had dispersed into the woods. But it reminded me, powerfully, that I’m living in the country. And I like it.

Brooklyn Thrift Shop Challenge

I’m dating myself by saying this, but I remember when you could find really great stuff* in thrift shops: Bakelite radios. Art Deco vases for a quarter. Eames chairs for $15. Rya rugs. Higgins glass. Chrome cocktail sets. 1940s barkcloth. World’s Fair juice glasses. *Not all at once

The other day, I decided to find out whether you could find anything at all worth buying anymore.

p1020309I was on a mission.  I was thinking of the empty shelves of the cottage in Springs (left and below) I’m going to contract on next week.  I’ll need to furnish and kit out the place cheaply and in a great hurry, between closing April 15 – fingers crossed, God willing, Inshallah, spit spit – and Memorial Day, which I hope will be the start of my summer rental season.p10203061

So I started at one of my old haunts, the Salvation Army in Bed-Stuy (the one on Downing Street near the Broken Angel House), where, back in the day, I picked up a hand-tinted panorama of Genoa, Italy, for $7; an entire wardrobe of some lady’s super-stylish, big-shouldered 1940s cast-offs, for $20; and a great, swooping sofa a la Vladimir Kagan, upholstered in orange with glints of gold.

The place hasn’t changed a bit. It’s still dreary and depressing, with that thrift-shop smell.

But I held my breath and picked out a white melamine mixing bowl, a set of Oxo knives, and a green wire drinking-glass carrier that might be ‘old’ (total $12). Not very exciting. Then I went into the furniture department and spotted, among plaid couches and utter crap, a blonde wood armchair with webbed seats that I momentarily hoped might be Jens Risom but quickly realized was IKEA.

p1020831No matter. It was $25, in great shape, and will totally work in Springs. I bought it.

I moved on to the Goodwill on Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn, where I had an epiphany: where yesterday’s thrift shops were filled with the products of Woolworth’s and Kresge’s, today’s are filled with second-hand Target, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, IKEA, and Martha Stewart for K-Mart. Which would actually be OK, if the prices were startlingly better for those incomplete sets of dishes and silverware. But they aren’t, which begs the question: why not just go to Target, IKEA, etc. and buy the stuff new?

Still, I bought two turquoise chargers ($4) and four dessert plates with hula dancers that I recognized from Fish’s Eddy ($8, probably the same as Fish’s Eddy).

Thrift shop bonanza

Thrift shop bonanza

Then I made a final foray to the Bendel’s of thrift shops, Housing Works on Montague Street. And there I didn’t buy anything. Why? Because the abundance of well-priced, relatively tasteful stuff (white restaurant china and glasses for $1-2 apiece, a plywood media unit on casters by Blu Dot for $165, all the art and photography books I’ll need to fill those shelves) is such that, when I’m absolutely sure the cottage is mine, I may not need to go anywhere else.