Posts Tagged ‘Green Design’

My Pink Bathroom Update

In the spirit of preserving the past with a contemporary twist, here is the completed update on the Pink Bathroom project. As a quick recap, this idea started with a visit to the Save My Pink Bathroom blog. As it turns out, there is an entire community of enthusiasts fighting to “save” their mid-century pink bathrooms. As Pam describes her mission:

“This little website grew out of mid-century home lovers’ concern that pink bathrooms were being ripped out of post-war American homes way too hastily. How sad it is, to catch a TV makeover show that rips out a perfectly beautiful vintage bathroom… Seems like a bunch of the rest of the world — well behind our curve — actually dislikes mid-century pink bathrooms.  They will regret what they have done.”

Often here in Flatbush with our turn of the century homes it was a mid-century decision to “modernize” the bathroom in the newly popular pink color. The tradition of the pink bathroom emerged from the former first lady Mamie Eisenhower, in office 1953 –1961.

Looking at them now, they are totally dated, but with the wrong date stamp for our late victorian houses. Fiscal prudence often dictates embracing the pink bathroom and working with what you have, and I have grown quite fond of mine.  It must be the fourth pink bathroom I have had since I started householding. For a low-cost, low-environmental impact project, here are my tips on saving your pink bathroom – or redecorating any bathroom for that matter.

I was missing a few pink bullnose tiles that had fallen out and broken years ago, and pulling the medicine cabinet out of the wallOlive Design Bathroom damaged a few more.  As per my previous blog on this, I sent one of the samples to Chippy Scaparelli at World of Tile. She sent back 4 tiles that were a perfect match.  Thanks to Pam for featuring that tip on her site.  My contractor, John Duval, replaced the missing tiles and you can’t tell now which ones they were, it is seamless.  I opted to have the contractor regrout the entire bathroom.  What a huge improvement, it looked brand new, sharp crisp and clean. Worth every penny, and my contractor was amazing in keeping the mess contained- he wiped down the stairs as he was leaving so it wasn’t tracked all over- I was very impressed.

 

I discovered that “clear” in powder coating is 1. More expensive and 2. Not clear at all but a weird taupey/gray.  It looked awful.  The folks at Evernu Metal were kind enough to offer to recoat it in white. It wasn’t what I was going for originally, but it looks fresh and pretty against the bright white new grouting.  The inside I painted turquoise, just for fun.

I knew what color I had in mind for the walls, and in the spirit of both thrift and environmentalism, I went down to my shop in the basement and mixed up just the color I needed using various leftover paint samples.  Mixing left over paint is a great alternative if you don’t want to discard it or wait for the yearly collection of hazardous waste materials that the city sponsors. If you don’t have any leftover paint from previous projects, go to Build-It-Green NYC, arguably the best source of paint for a low-cost project. They have gallons upon gallons of paint in their Astoria warehouse.. many for $5 a can. They get their supplies donated from surplus construction and renovation projects, so if you can’t re-use your own paint, re-use theirs! (P.S. they also have another location in Gowanus, Brooklyn). Another place with the same ethos is Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore for those of you located in Westchester, Long Island, and beyond.

The shower curtain and window fabric that I used was made from yardage I had hand screened printed while an apprentice at the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia after college. The colors worked well with both tile and wall color, and I liked the funky pattern in here- and bonus point, I already had the fabric, and was glad to see it used.

My pink chandelier was up-cycled from a table lamp part that I converted into a hanging fixture, and painted to match the bathroom.  The ceiling in the bathroom is dropped and made of some sort of acoustical tile that had seen better days.  I had routinely painted it gloss white in the past to freshen it, but I took the opposite tack here and made another “mary mix” paint from the samples stash, and came up with a nice charcoal gray.  It looks dramatic, and helps hide the flaws in the ceiling.  The dark color seems to make the ceiling float up and away

As with most projects, this one took about twice as much time as initially anticipated. Overall, I am pleased with the outcome and loving my pink bathroom!

 

Would love to hear your comments on my Facebook page on how you’ve updated your own bathroom with a budget and environmentally conscious approach.

 

Refurbishing An Old Lamp

Brooklyn Interior DesignI have been making lamps from recycled and vintage parts for a number of years and love the creative buzz that comes from taking interesting parts and making something unexpected, beautiful and functional. But sometimes you stumble on a vintage lamp that just needs a little loving care and restoration, some updated wiring, a pretty shade.  I found this lovely piece heading toward a dumpster as one of the houses near me was being emptied for sale, its owner having moved to smaller digs.  I loved the classic shape and underneath the dirt and rusted parts, I knew there was an amazing lamp waiting to happen.

First I ditch the cord; chances are on a lamp this old the wire is shot.  My rule of thumb is that if when I bend the wire it feels like it is going to crack then it gets replaced- or if it predates polarized plugs and both of the prongs are same-size.  I buy wire and plug sets from a parts supplier, but if you are doing it yourself you can get wire and snap on plugs from a hardware store.  If you don’t know how to wire a lamp, there are lots of places to get it done.  I recommend Ricky from Lamp Warehouse. (Lamp Warehouse recently downsized when it changed owners, but they were savvy enough to keep Ricky on as the repair department.) While I do my own wiring generally, I bring him more complicated things like chandeliers and multiple socket fixtures and he does a fantastic job.Brooklyn Design

Looking at this lamp, I love everything about it and don’t feel much need to embellish, but I do see one area that needs improvement.  The socket for this lamp is set right on top of the ceramic base.  In order to site a shade properly you might miss some of the prettiness of the full lamp piece- or alternatively have some of the socket exposed.  Usually you want a shade to come down to the bottom of the socket. Also, the harp saddle (which holds the wire “harp” that supports the shade) is the old fashioned type- it can’t be changed for size unless you take apart the lamp.  I replace it with a universal saddle so, I can change harp size without having to take off the socket.  I take the lamp apart, unscrewing it from the top socket (on some lamps its easier to get from the bottom- wherever it gives most easily) and disassemble. My dad taught me this trick- if there are a lot of small parts- and with many lamps there are, line up the pieces carefully in the order you took them off the center rod.  Then, after cleaning or refinishing each piece, put them back on in the same order. I hate getting a lamp all put back together and then finding another piece on my workbench.  When re-assembling my vintage lamp I find a rod from my workshop that is about an inch longer;  when I am putting the lamp back together, I will add a 1” brass  “neck” to the top. This gives me a little clearance from the bottom of the shade to the top of the lamp, you will see more of the lamp and it doesn’t “squish” the lamp shape if I want to cover the whole socket with the shade.

Brooklyn DesignWhile the lamp is apart I scrub it thoroughly and let it dry.  The old ceramic can take a lot of cleaning and is very durable.  Sometimes under all the dirt you find a flaw, this time I think it was probably a gap in the original glaze, but I don’t want it to catch dirt so after the lamp base is dry I carefully put a little clear nail polish in the ding and it fills it nicely and evens the sheen so you don’t even see it.Brooklyn Design

When you are ready to run the new wire, make sure you start through the “wireway” hole in the base, so the lamp will sit flat on the table.  When all is assembled, felt the bottom so that it doesn’t scratch your table. I tighten with a socket wrench, tight enough so it feels stable, but with glass or ceramic you have to make sure you don’t put it together so tightly you crack the pieces.  Sometimes where metal check washers meet the ceramic I use a rubber washer to cushion it so I can tighten it more without damaging the base.

Brooklyn Interior Design

Finding the perfect shade is another story that will end up as a blog one of these days….My workshop has come to critical mass with vintage parts bursting out of all my cupboards.  Keep an eye peeled on my Etsy store as I add new lamps over the summer, and plan for a Fall Lamp Salon.

Brooklyn Interior Design

The Recycled Garden

It occurs to me that, when operating correctly, gardens are really about recycling.  In an ideal world we use the discarded leaves and grasses and turnip tops and return them to the soil. They help nourish the new growth, the season ends, the next year we enrich the soil again, with last year’s nutrients.  Whenever I am showing people my grassless garden, more often than not it will end up with a tour of the compost pile(s).  For several years running now, I have held onto every leaf that fell into my yard, and tried to compost them.  By the end of the fall season, the piles are admittedly a bit overwhelming and I have occasionally had to resort to satellite compost piles in the yard…. but by spring it has always cooked down to a neatly managed amount.

I generally have several vintages of compost going, the 1st year pile and the 2nd year pile, which goes on the garden in the form of new dirt.  Because we get a lot of roots in the pile, I end up sieving the compost to ”make dirt”.  My daughter helps me with this and we get appropriately dirty in the process.  The first year pile gets turned several times -we just did it a few weeks ago.  Turning helps to consolidate the pile and in spring we usually need to add to it so turning helps to get it packed down.

My artist friend, Christine Hughes shares my enthusiasm for compost- here is one of a series of compost drawings that she has recently done.

There are leaf piles and then there is kitchen compost.  I love being able to keep my food waste down by composting.  In an effort to promote this diversion from the waste stream, black plastic composters were being distributed by the city a number of years ago, and I use mine all year long, trekking out in the snow to empty the tub I keep on the counter.

But for recycling, nothing beats my mom’s garden.  I helped her stake her plants last year, and the assortment of poles she used to do this consisted of every mop or broom handle she had used in the last 10 years. There are various repurposed containers around with plants in them, but her real claim to recycling stature is the garden itself.  When my parents retired to this home in Maryland 25 + years ago, it had an in ground pool.  Neither of them ever used it.  Figuring that it was perfectly sited for sun and convenience to the house, my mom had it filled in and created her dream garden. From the back deck you can see the oval outline of the concrete walkway that used to surround the pool.  She has enjoyed it far more thoroughly than she ever did as a pool, and the concrete surround makes it accessible even in mud times.