Feng Shui Problem Resolved


MY SISTER ASKED ME A COGENT QUESTION THIS EVENING: “So how did you solve your feng shui problem in the bedroom?” Oh, that! I guess I owe her, and y’all, an explanation.

Taking to heart the sage advice of MazeDancer, Katy Allgeyer, and others on this blog, I moved the bed yet again, so it’s back in the niche, below, and out from under the oppressive ceiling beam. Truth to tell, the night before I moved the bed, I slept on the living room couch. I actually felt the pressure of the beam bearing down on my body and simply couldn’t spend another night there. Maybe it was suggestion, maybe imagination, maybe fear of forces unknown….at any rate, since I moved the bed, I’ve slept like an effing log.


I’ve added a white wool shag rug from IKEA and window blinds from Pearl River. With the new credenza for my office supplies, and the velvet-upholstered chair, top, I won a couple of years ago as a door prize at a Metropolitan Home magazine party, the room is getting quite comfortable. Especially when compared to the stark “before” of two scant months ago, below.


Seeking Storage, Finding Brooklyn


THE SITUATION IS DIRE: 11 cartons and 8 plastic bins, holding a lifetime’s worth of family photos, children’s artwork, published and unpublished writing, already pared down to what I consider essentials. Sitting out on the floor of my bedroom in piles, they do not attractive decor make.

And on the other side of the room…


Unless I get some kind of giant credenza, armoire, cabinet, or other closed storage piece –– and I have a 6-1/2-foot wide alcove just waiting to receive one — there’s no point even painting the walls (just as well, since I haven’t decided what color to paint them).


Here’s where I’ve looked:

  • IKEA, where I tried to get my head around the ultra-sleek cabinet, above, ultimately deciding to honor my vow not to buy anything made of particle board
  • Find, a Gowanus warehouse documented in a previous post, where I considered and decided against several rustic pieces imported from India, mainly because nothing was quite the right size for the space
  • Hip and Humble on Atlantic Avenue, which had an armoire approximately the right size and shape, but with cutesy floral carving I couldn’t abide
  • A just-opened and potentially fabulous resource, Film Biz Recycling on President Street near 4th Avenue, a repository for film-set leftovers that just re-located this week from Queens — but I wasn’t parked legally so I just ran in long enough to ascertain there weren’t any armoires in stock


Today, nearing my wit’s end, I checked out a place I’d read about somewhere: Trailer Park, on Sterling Place near 6th Avenue in Park Slope, above, which sells vintage furniture as well as custom pieces made of reclaimed barn wood. The place is so full of the very stuff I used to collect — ’50s lamps, vintage tablecloths, American art pottery — I couldn’t believe I’d never known about it. I brightly asked the fellow in the shop, “How long have you been here?” thinking surely he’d reply, “We just opened last month.” He said, “Oh, about thirteen years.” And I thought I knew Brooklyn!


I admired the 1970s German science posters ($150) and checked out the other offerings closely, but the pieces made of recycled barn lumber by Amish woodworkers, above, were too plain and stolid for me, and the large armoires more than I wanted to spend (about $1,600) — and they didn’t happen to have any vintage ones on hand.

So on I went to Re-Pop on Washington Avenue near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, first perusing their website and zeroing in on a couple of mid-20th century credenzas — not a style I was tending toward, I’m pretty done with that — although in my present circumstances, the main thing is to get something that fits, dammit, so I can start unpacking these boxes before my lease is up.


It was also my first-ever visit to Re-Pop, above, which has been in business about four years, and my first time in that area — Clinton Hill East? — in ages. So it was a revelation to see that the proximity of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is no longer a deal-breaker when it comes to luxury apartments. 275 Park Avenue, right under the BQE, is a converted 19th century chocolate factory, a distinguished brick building that now houses an organic market, Fresh Fanatic, below, and a Mexican restaurant, Mojito, on the ground floor. I can’t tell you how incongruous I find the gentrification of these blocks in the shadow of the BQE. I once considered them irredeemable — but I was wrong about that, too, apparently.


Re-Pop is stuffed with vintage modern furniture at good prices, chosen with a keen eye for mostly non-pedigreed but stylish designs. They have a load of kitschy ’50s lamps, all with original shades. I seriously considered two pieces, each under $600: a long, low credenza of good shape and size, but I didn’t love it as a piece of furniture, and an unusual blonde wood 9-drawer dresser, but I don’t need a 9-drawer dresser.

So I came away without that vital storage piece, but not empty-handed. See my new lamp, below. It works beautifully in the living room, and actually provides enough illumination for reading.


Way White in Amagansett

I HAVE ALREADY ADMITTED to a queasy fascination with the Novogratzes, ever since that unforgettable New York Times article last spring about their 7th child’s christening, filmed for a reality show that will debut next month on Bravo.

They’re the preternaturally good-looking, made-for-TV couple who parlayed a condemned $400,000 Chelsea row house, bought in 1996, into multiple properties and many millions, along with a Ford modeling contract for the entire family and a slew of branding opportunities. They also have a new decorating book, Downtown Chic, from Rizzoli.

Since that first gut reno, they’ve done 11 more and formed a firm called Sixx Design. I admire the risks they’ve taken (not always successful – some of the properties they hoped to flip are now rented out) and their willingness to invest in fringe areas. Their current home, built on a vacant lot, is a rather strange-looking modern townhouse overlooking the West Side Highway; it’s been on the market since last June for $25 million.

One of their latest design projects, here in Amagansett, is featured in the current issue of Hamptons Cottages and Gardens magazine. The stark, cold look of it doesn’t appeal to me at all, but I am intrigued by how they took on this “poorly built ranch,” ripping out all the interior partitions, replacing sliding doors with French doors, creating a new staircase, and more. And they did it all in two months. on a low budget, using chandeliers from Home Depot and kitchen cabinets from IKEA. You can read the whole article here.

Meanwhile, I was glancing through the table of recent real estate transactions in the East Hampton Press the other day, and top of the list is a property on Lazy Point Road in Amagansett, sold last month for $2.3million to a “J. Novogratz.” The golden couple’s names are Cortney and Robert, and I haven’t seen the coverage such a celebrity sale would surely generate on sites like Curbed Hamptons. It could be someone else altogether, but there’s that Amagansett connection. I wonder…could the Novogratz powerhouse be coming to the East End?

Photos: Matthew Williams

Dining Room Do-Over

LAST JULY, WHEN I DID A POST about my friend Debre’s Victorian farmhouse on Shelter Island, her dining room was conspicuously absent. That’s because it looked like this:

Now, though, after a whirlwind pre-Thanksgiving effort, it looks like this:

Part of the project was revamping the credenza, below, from a $150 thrift shop find to something Design Within Reach-worthy. The piece had a bulky plinth on the bottom the full width of the base. “While it held stuff,” Debre says, “it was a heavy, dark blot against the wall.”

So she painted the top and sides white, then knocked the plinth off, used it to reinforce the base, and attached IKEA metal legs that raise the piece up about 8″ from the floor.

As Debre was finishing the job, she noticed the words “KNUD ERIK-JENSEN” on the back of the credenza. Genuine Danish mid-century modern, vastly improved by a clever gal with power tools.

How to Renovate an Apartment in 3 Weeks




NOTHING I love more than a quickie renovation. When a longtime tenant finally vacated the ground-floor apartment of my building in Boerum Hill on January 31 (never having dusted in 10 years, apparently), my son Max and his handy dad swooped in like a SWAT team to unhook the old kitchen sink, install a new one, move and re-plumb the stove, and build an L-shaped half wall that makes the kitchen an entity instead of three appliances floating in space.

p1020848I called a re-glazing company to make the pitted, rusty bathtub like new ($300), and hired an electrician to install a ceiling fan, hang new pendant fixtures in the living room and kitchen, and a sconce in the bedroom (all IKEA), and add grounded outlets in the kitchen and bathroom.

Then Max installed over 100′ of baseboard. He and his girlfriend Alexis (they’ll be moving in there this weekend) spackled and puttied; I primed; she painted two coats of a gorgeous sage green (Benjamin Moore’s Green Tea), exorcising all traces of the previous occupant’s salmon pink.


Total cost: just under $3,000.

In the process, I re-appreciated the ol’ place. The building is 1830s. The ground floor was originally a store; the ceilings are nine feet tall.

What’s left of the original architecture is practically nothing, but the exposed brick wall (very trendy in the early ’80s, when we first turned the former bodega into a rental unit) has a beautifully proportioned fireplace opening.


In the back bedroom, overlooking a garden the tenants share, are the most paint-caked window moldings ever, bottom.

They should be stripped. We didn’t bother, but as I lovingly stroked yet another coat of semi-gloss over them this past weekend (at least the fifth time I’ve done so since we bought the building  — as children! — in 1979), I was conscious of the whole Greek Revival thing: how these fluted columns, lumpy and chopped up as they are, were intended as an homage to ancient Greece, in days when the building and the neighborhood were a lot more elegant than they are now.

What a difference a base makes

That they’ve survived 180 years is miraculous; I’m not getting rid of them now.