Hamptons Reno: Paint, Tile, Elbow Grease

photo

Beach plums in bloom

STEAMING TOWARD A MOVE-IN DATE of this Friday at my new/old house in East Hampton, N.Y. Yes, I know it doesn’t look move-in ready, and the fact is, I still don’t have water. But that’s my goal. The phantom plumber was supposed to come yesterday to hook up a couple of fairly important items, including a toilet, but he was sick. Fingers crossed for today.

photo_4

I had two satisfyingly productive days recently. On Sunday afternoon, I put a coat of primer on the plywood floor in the dining/sitting room, above and below, soon to be covered by floor paint, probably white. Quick way to make the place feel cleaner and brighter.

IMG_1794

This first required the painstaking removal of hundreds of carpet staples, most with tufts of carpet stuck to them, a prospect that had been hanging me up for weeks. My daughter got to it last week with a pair of pliers, enabling the operation to proceed, and for that I am very grateful.

photo_3I spent almost all day Monday cleaning the house as best I could without H2O. That was a rather non-green operation involving broom and dustpan, the vac, Swiffers both dry and wet, spray cleaner, and lots and lots of paper towels. I won’t be happy until I get my rubber gloves into a bucket of hot soapy water, but it helped.

While I worked inside, Eric the tree man buzzed and chipped outside, removing tree limbs and a couple of whole trees near the house that posed a danger of falling. It’s not a dramatic change, but to me, the space in front of the house feels more open and airy. (Don’t go by these iPhone shots. I keep saying the place looks brighter, while the photos look terribly dim.)

The kitchen floor, below — 18″x18″ charcoal gray tiles — has been laid and will be grouted today.

IMG_1787

This was the inspiration photo for the floor tiles:

3406322959_3020c36ce5_o

The stove and fridge are being delivered later this week.

The contractor built a wooden base for a deep two-basin kitchen sink top that was left behind in the shed, below, following a magazine picture I showed him. I think it came out better than the picture.

IMG_1790Then I’ll have to say goodbye to all my helpers for a while and forge on alone for the next couple of months. The coffers have run dry, and all incoming funds will be going toward fix-ups at our mews house in Brooklyn. <–That link is to a four-year-old post; the rent has gone up. If interested, contact me at caramia447@gmail. The longtime renters are leaving, and the place requires attention and an infusion of cash.

By the way, anyone need a 9-1/2 foot long liquid propane tank, bottom? Once used to heat a now-disappeared swimming pool, it sits in the parking area like a beached submarine. I got a $4,000 estimate to take it away, so it won’t be leaving any time soon. It’s not in my way, but neither do I anticipate any future use for it. Do I have any takers?

IMG_1786

Hamptons Reno: Kitchen Decisions

photo

UPDATE: Something went kerflooey after I published this post last night, and it disappeared from my WordPress site. I’ve fleshed it out with a few more photos and am publishing it again. Apologies to subscribers who get a second email, and those whose prior comments may have been lost.

I’VE BEEN DOING MY BEST to push the river, and it’s slowly starting to flow. Though yesterday I felt practically paralyzed, stumbling around my far-from-livable house without a clue what to do next. Without water, I can’t clean or paint, and without a sink, I can’t get water. Without the  plumber, who’s been mostly MIA, I can’t get a sink.

IMG_1711

IMG_1783

Without tile, I can’t get a kitchen floor, and I haven’t bought tile yet. I stopped at Restore, Habitat for Humanity’s building-supply salvage warehouse in Ronkonkoma, on my last trips to and from the city, and there saw tile I should have bought but didn’t buy — 12″x12″ ceramic squares in either leathery brown or mottled black. Of the first, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough, of the second, I wasn’t sure of the color. Now that tile is hours away, if they still have it.

IMG_3538

How low can you go? Ceramic tile at Home Depot for 99 cents/square foot, but unfortunately only in white. I want a dark kitchen floor.

The one big accomplishment of last weekend only added to my sense of overwhelm: moving my stored furniture and possessions from the cellar at my previous house into temporary storage in the great room of my new place. There it now reposes, stacked high, much of it wicker or otherwise cottage-y in style, and all wrong for the modern decor I envision this time around. I feel a yard sale coming on.

IMG_1778

But it’s not all frustration: there has been progress in the bathroom, above, though not to the point of a flushing toilet. The tile work is done and looks fine. And I’ve moved on to consideration of the kitchen, an open space about 8’x10′ with plain, hand-made solid wood upper cabinets, separated from the dining/sitting room by a divider made of old louvered shutters, all of it fine for now.

ESG_Table

This week, a carpenter is building a sink base, simple and open, out of 4″x4″s with a single shelf, to support a 48″ wide double-basin sink, below, found in the shed when it was cleared out recently.

photo

I have yet to order a stove and fridge, but I will shortly. My plan for counter space in between appliances involves stainless steel restaurant supply units, above, that can be custom made to size, look cool, and cost ridiculously little. Below, two new IKEA offerings which might work for my purposes, once I’ve figured out more precisely just how many inches I have.

IMG_3549

IMG_3543

I’ve been doing a little searching on Houzz, Remodelista, and Pinterest, and finding inspiration in images like these:

8980addd1396fd8dc1afcc5d0a2142a9

family2.2

Common threads are white walls, dark floors, stainless steel, and above all, freestanding or what is sometimes called ‘unfitted’ cabinetry. After looking at enough such kitchens, the monolithic ‘fitted’ kitchen no longer even appeals to me.

IMG_3532

51q8tzdqnfl-_sl1000_Having left my dining table and chairs behind for my renters, I’m keeping my eyes open for replacements. Above, ’60s plastic chairs seen at Build It Green in Brooklyn, for $50 apiece, and left, classic director’s chairs in white canvas, widely available online for well under $100. Used to have them in the ’70s, and might not mind having them again.

Hamptons Reno Inching Forward

IMG_3486

MEASURING OUT PROGRESS in coffee spoons here at my low-budget Hamptons reno. Can’t even call it a reno, really; it’s more a matter of making sure I don’t get electrocuted, burgled, or die for lack of water. That’s all I ask at this point: safety, not ultimate convenience, and certainly not luxury. That can wait, for years if need be.

Last week’s biggest mood boost, above: the garden seen from inside the house, without filthy old screens obscuring the view.

IMG_1743

The builder who’s re-hanging the awning windows, above, so that they close properly, and doing the bathroom tile work, gave me two days last week. I’m holding out hope for another day this week. He also put Durock (cement board) down on the bathroom floor and started building the shower enclosure wall, below.

IMG_1753

Notwthstanding what I said in my last post about being tired of hexagonal bathroom floor tiles, I got them again. I decided it would be more interesting, since the wall tiles for the shower area are 8″ squares.

IMG_1756

Today the electrician, back from his vacation, showed up and gave me some good news on the electrical front: I have the “Cadillac of circuit breaker boxes,” it turns out. Also, the outdoor lights — half a dozen path lights and two in the driveway — actually work. I just need to buy new fixtures to replace old corroded ones. This is fancy; I’ve never had outdoor lighting before.

The electrician is giving me dedicated circuits in the kitchen, GFI outlets in the bathroom and kitchen, getting rid of Rube Goldberg wiring throughout, and hanging new light fixtures I now have to provide.

And in an effort to get out there and DO something while waiting for workmen to show up, I set up four raised beds in the area where once was a swimming pool. I’m making my own soil by filling them with dead oak leaves, manure, and kitchen scraps. Composting in place, as it were. It’ll take time to become a decent planting medium, but I won’t be planting my vegetable garden this year, anyway. First, a number of tall, sun-blocking trees have to come down — but meanwhile, it’s another place to put some of the leaves I’ve been raking up.

IMG_1742

Shoestring Summer Decorating

IMG_3282

I LOVE VINTAGE RATTAN FURNITURE so much, I once thought of opening a store devoted to it and calling it Bamboozled. I didn’t, for many reasons, but I’m still a sucker for the stuff. It’s sturdy, stylish, and cheap. (Rattan is not the same as bamboo — it doesn’t have divisions — so the store’s name would have been a misnomer anyway).

The problem is that the vintage rattan furniture you find at yard sales and thrift shops rarely has cushions. So my weakness for it often results in my buying something for a pittance that I then discover costs $1,800 to custom-upholster — like the 1970s Ficks Reed set I found on the street in Brooklyn, which now reposes, cushion-less, in my basement.

IMG_3294

I’m very happy with the 1930s stick rattan sofa, above. It was in this house when I bought it, dark green. I painted it white and got cushions from Restoration Hardware that fit perfectly. (The seat cushions are actually floor cushions and not very cushy, but they fit.) It’s on the porch now, along with two wicker chairs and two wicker tables, bought for $5 each at a yard sale (cushions from Home Depot). My latest additions are two butterfly chairs with covers from Urban Outfitters in NYC, the only place I know to get them — fun ones, too (they have a great cabbage-rose pattern, but the graphic blue & white is more beach house).

Moving the stick rattan sofa to the porch left a gap in my living room that needed filling. Well, this morning I went to a nearby yard sale at 9AM and found….another vintage rattan sofa with no cushions, top. It’s a three-piece sectional with nice lines. Hard to pinpoint the era — possibly ’60s or ’70s. Anyway, it was $50 and I saw it would fit the space perfectly. Though mindful of the cushion problem, I snapped it up and brought it home.

Now it happens that I also have, sitting around in boxes from Crate & Barrel, four striped 20″ square floor cushions which I ordered on sale recently for these metal lounge chairs, below (I have four of them, found last summer near a dumpster in Napeague):

IMG_3285

The Crate & Barrel cushions didn’t fit the metal chairs well; they were a couple of inches too small. It seems that furniture dimensions have changed a lot in the past 30, 40 years. Very rarely do the cushions sold by today’s catalogue companies match up with vintage pieces. I was thinking of sending them back, but now it appears I don’t have to.

I set my new sofa under the window where I envisioned it and tried three cushions. Too small. But then I tried all four cushions on the three sections. By jamming them in a bit (and cable-tying the three sections together for stability), I made it work. Keepers!

IMG_3290

I still need back cushions, but that can be finessed.

Along with my $200 classic picnic table from Agway, below, which I love — it’s heavy enough not to wobble on my wood-chip “patio,” and surprisingly not uncomfortable — I’m ready for summer entertaining. Now all I need are a grill and some guests.

IMG_3022