design, Life, Our Home

Our Home – The Kitchen

The kitchen has been the hardest room to work out in this apartment. Not only is it tiny, it came with only a sink and the accompanying cabinet. That space under the sink was literally the only built-in storage in the entire apartment when we arrived!

As with all the other rooms, the kitchen had been freshly repainted, which was a blessing, but was still sporting a strange little makeshift wooden counter covered in worn and peeling contact paper. I ripped it out before we even moved our things in. Here are Romain’s quick iphone snaps of the empty space when we signed the lease:

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Forgive his ghostly reflection. That window is the only source of outside light in the space and it looks onto a dingy open space between the buildings, getting no direct light what-so-ever. So apologies in advance for the poor light in all these pictures.

In French apartments, more often than not your washing machine goes in the kitchen and you bring all your own appliances with you. We had a fridge and washing machine but our previous apartment was an exception to the rule with a built-in gas stove-top but no oven. So for a few weeks, we lived in your new space with only a small counter-top oven for cooking. Luckily it was August and we were more than happy to eat most meals cold. Once the stove arrived, we started to really see how the space would function, not that there were a million possibilities! Here’s a picture with a tired pregnant girl for scale.

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Ugh, what a sorry sight. We lived like that with no countertop until months after Élie was born when we finally had the time to construct a hinged counter to allow our top-loading machine to open, and to add two critical Ikea cabinets, one of which was the Rationell cabinet which I think has been discontinued? But the open storage wasn’t as functional as it could have been and Romain built boxes to turn the open shelves into drawers. Now there is so much I can store in this sliver of space!

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Fast forward, here is where we are today.

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So much better than where we started! Now even the tops of the machines store platters and baking dishes under the counter – every tiny space needs to be working hard here! But we aren’t done. The counter needs to be replaced now that we have a different front-loading machine, eliminating the need for a hinged counter. A piece of this may be cut for the counter next to the stove. Also on the list: priming and painting the open storage shelving, toes kicks, and the drawers of the Rationell as well as finding hardware for them and building out a coffer on the back of the countertop to hide the water shut-off and, eventually, spice bottles.

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This wall of open shelving has been fantastic! We use everything on here in the everyday so dust is never a problem and unloading the dishwasher is so easy, especially since the shelves and dishwasher, on opposite sides of the room, can both be reached without moving. Tiny. Kitchen. They will be painted a pale gray color whose sample is on the right on the bottom shelf. The jars hold grains and flours.

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The under-sink storage was difficult to access because a pipe runs along the wall on the right and into the cabinet. You can see in the first images, a notch was cut out of the right door to let the pipe pass but this meant that the door would only open about halfway which was so frustrating! Then Romain had the genius idea of making them large pull-out drawers instead of doors which has made them a thousand times more useful. We built three drawer boxes (one on the right for the trash and cleaning supplies) and two on the left (for pots and food storage) and attached them to runners. The doors and the knobs will be replaced; while you can’t tell in the pictures, the doors are impossible to paint and even after four coats are showing through so we decided to save our sanity and grab some Ikea kitchen doors.

You can also see that I covered that window with an organza panel from our first apartment together to soften the view. We installed an wall lamp and the function is perfect (it swings side-to-side to let the window open) but I think I’d like to find something with a translucent shade.

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The fridge generated another big project: a big drawer to bring it to eye-level and create even more storage. Like the shelves and other drawers, it is waiting on paint and hardware.

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By the stove, I hide our pans and trivets and even a bag for the glass recycling on a row of hooks behind the door. On the door itself, a hook holds a tray for bringing dishes between the kitchen and living room. Hung below the level of the window panels in the door, the only thing visible from the hallway and when the door is open are our AHeirloom Maine and France cutting boards, used at our wedding. We use them a lot for serving little treats and cheeses and cured meats for lazy weekend lunches. On this side of the kitchen, I need to figure out a backsplash solution for above the stove and a way to hide the pesky vent hood cord hanging down on the right.

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While it may never be as grand as these spaces because a renter can only do so much, here are some of the images that I was inspired by:

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1. 2. 3. 4.

(While I try and be a stickler about linking to original sources, two of these images, 1 and 4, seem to be from sites that don’t exist anymore but did when I pinned them.)

Airy, simple, white, gray, metallics, linen, wood, and lots of open, easy-to-access storage! If only I could get some of that natural light too.

xo,

A.

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design, Life

Our Home – The Bedroom

While grand compared to the studio apartment we lived in previously, our current two-bedroom apartment is not huge and lacks the two floor to ceiling closets we had in the entry of our studio as well as the basement storage room. In fact, this apartment came with nearly zero storage. When we moved in there was only the cabinet under the kitchen sink. Not shocking given this building was built at the turn of the century but what it meant was that we had to change our “oh just put it in the closet and we’ll deal with it later” ways and not only pare down but be as inventive as possible to create function from just four walls.

For the past year and a half I’ve almost always had a bag hanging around being (not so slowly) filled with things I wanted g.o.n.e. It turns out that it is rather addictive. But I’ve been so grateful for it because I’m thrilled that we are getting into this mindful habit at this point in our lives. I feel like it will make it much easier to stay in the habit through the years to come. I’ll talk more about what I’ve learned from the experience another day because I don’t know about you but I find it fascinating!

Despite those challenges, we adore our home here! It fits us nearly perfectly, perfectly for our lives right now, and that makes us so lucky. So with that little bit of background about the challenges we’ve tackled since moving in, I want to introduce you to the space, where it started and where it is now and where I’m headed with it. Starting with our bedroom.

Our bedroom is the largest of the apartment’s rooms. While it may have been better to have the largest room be the living/dining space, the apartment is laid out off a long central hallway with the two bedrooms and the living room on one side (exterior side) and the kitchen and bathroom on the other (interior side). The kitchen and living room are roughly in the center and facing each other so the rooms at either end of the hall (on either side of the living room) are our bedrooms.

Since this apartment is older, we really lucked out and have marble mantles in our room and the living, hardwood floors, high ceilings, and wonderful moldings on the living room ceiling. Here is the bedroom empty before we moved it. We’ll have to make due with iphone images because I was too busy trying to find things in boxes to really document each room (also, we left for a two and a half week vacation one day after moving).

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These are standing in the doorway and the corner opposite the fireplace, respectively. There is really only one obvious place for the bed to go, along that wall to the left in the first image.

Since move-in day we’ve come a long way and this room is the closest to being done. I’ve been very careful about what I’ve added in here because it has had such a calm, unfussy, and comfortable feeling since we first moved in and so little was actually in the room that I’ve wanted to preserve that. Here is where it is today and keep in mind, these are progress shots and cleaned-up but not styled. My lens isn’t right to capture wide shots of the space so these are a mix of iphone and camera shots.

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Walking in the door, you see the fireplace (love the black marble) in the corner of the room and Romain’s guitars hanging on the wall to the right. This is the wall we see when we’re in bed and I love it. Before he got his electric guitar, we had a longer picture ledge on the bottom with the long narrow framed etching that is now on the mantle balancing out the smaller upper ledge. We replaced it with a second short ledge when the second guitar arrived and it is loaded with images from some of our favorite places (my hometown, the Louvre, Yosemite and Muir Woods from our honeymoon). Combined with the guitars, it may just be the wall that is the most representative of us in the whole apartment. (Also, that is Albert’s basket you see there on the low cabinets, where he snores away the night!)

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Turning to the left, our bed takes up the opposite wall with a dresser and a large Ikea PAX unit on the adjoining walls.

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My side of the bed has a thrift store table for a nightstand and a little corner for a chair. I have plans for another chair to live here once it is refinished. I need to reinforce my nightable though as you can see it is listing a bit to the side (which is less evident in real life than in the picture). But is survives the cat tromping on it so it is at least that sturdy.

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Taking up the wall next to my side of the bed is the PAX wardrobe. I made a sort of ‘crown’ for it to hold a hidden curtain rod (no space for doors to swing) and tossed it up there but ideally it would have some simple crown molding attached and be painted white. I’ll start with just painting it and sewing a curtain for it rather than that linen sheet and we’ll see from there. Also, that laundry bucket has got to go!

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Romain’s night table stumped me for a while. He (strangely) needs more night table storage than I do and it also had to be something that would let us open the dresser drawers. One day I screwed this leftover wooden drawer set to the wall and it is kind of perfect in terms of function. I need to think of a way to dress it up and finish it though because it’s completely raw. He also has the dresser on his side of the room with a lamp I wired from an old glass jug.

There isn’t a ton left to do in this room but there are still some important details left to pull it all together and make it sing. Here are some of the images I have been going back to for inspiration for the feeling of this space:

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Simple, clean, unfussy, airy, and warm with a mix of natural textures and more polished ones, old pieces and new, black and off white with our signature greens and blues – a retreat from the city outside. The rooms here were freshly painted a barely there gray right before we moved it, that was a stroke of luck! I’ve just recently ordered this piece of fabric from Etsy for the bed cushion and Romain said it looks like it’s always been here. A vote for perfect fit if ever I heard one! I just need to sew it (it’s simply wrapped around the pillow here).

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Then the head board needs to be made. It will be a simple clean-lined rectangle covered in the same natural linen as the bedskirt – another brocante find. To give you an idea of the texture, here is an extreme close-up:

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Then I have a fun plan for a big statement above the mantle which I’m keeping under my hat but here’s the inspiration (in the background), from the incomparable Lauren Liess:

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After that it is finishing details: lining and hemming the curtains, installing the rings and clips on the curtain rods, tweaking art on the bed wall, sewing the curtain for the PAX and painting its crown, and installing reading lights on either side of the bed, maybe these:

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That’s where we are with the bedroom. It doesn’t sound like a lot to finish but our hands are busy chasing after this little assistant! I’ll introduce his room next week.

Élie

xo,

A.

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