Posts Tagged ‘budget’

I made a roman blind. I did. And if I can do it, anyone can.

Like at the start of any DIY project, I looked at Pinterest. One roman blind is pretty much the same as another, although you do need to work out if you want the material to sit inside the window frame or over it.

Once you’ve got that sorted, you get to the fun bit – choosing the fabric and going to Home Depot.

I wanted something bold, bright and modern as the middle room of our railroad (our bedroom) can get a little dark, even though we do have a window.

I found my fabric on sale at Fabric.com. It’s called Small Talk Azalea and it’s by Waverley.

Here’s a picture of the H1B and the bebe buying the dowels:


(Yes, that is a napkin around my daughter’s neck. It was used as a bib in Eataly, where we went for some impromptu wine, cheese and prosciutto before going to Home Depot. We didn’t realise she still had it on until we’d left the building.)

Then I hunted around for some good blogs for a how-to guide – like this one and this one.

I was really inspired by Ciburbanity – a blog that I love for DIY projects and the writer’s beautiful, made-from-scratch home.

Eventually I used this one – Hodge Podge by Markova Design – for its very clear instructions. Don’t be put off by the 35 (!) steps – the writer is deliberately over-persnickety in the instructions so there is no doubt about what to do.

Here’s the result:

IMG-20130504-00134 IMG-20130504-00135

I love the pop-y pink and the bright design that still looks a little classic, like Victorian screen-printed wallpaper perhaps.

Excuse the dreadful pictures – I’ll take some more when the sun comes out!


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It’s been quite a while since I posted but, you know, had a baby and they take up quite a lot of time. But now we have our head above water, have got into a bit of a regime with naps and my part-time-work-at-home work, my attention has turned back to our apartment.

My last post was about creating a nursery in the corner of our splendid bedroom, which is just the loveliest room; drenched in light that goes from sunny yellow to a spectacular palegold in the afternoon and evening. I loved to lie in bed and look at the clouds drifting across the open-shuttered 12ft windows, above the roof of the pretty Gothic Brooklyn church across the road.

That is, I used to love it, because that room now belongs to the baby. All 300 sq t (or whatever it is – bigger than many Manhattan studios I’m sure). It was easier for us to move out into the middle room and make what is now known as the ‘nursery’ for our little Rajah.

Anyway, more on that later.

My current obsession has been searching for a cocktail cabinet to go in between our kitchen surface and bathroom doors. I’ve been scouring Pintrest, Craigslist and other haunts to find something that will fit the small space (34″ wide and about 60″ absolute max). Our budget, as ever, is super tight. $300 would seem like a push and would have to be perfect. Goes without saying, have found lots that are out of budget but fab.

The spec is that it needs to have drawers to hold our napkins, shelves to hold bottles of booze, and a cupboard to hold glasses so I don’t keep shoving them into our kitchen cabinets and risk chipping/smashing them. If they had a display area so I can rummage through the Brooklyn Flea for some pretty cocktail glasses, so much the better.

Here are some that I’ve loved:

This pretty cabinet is called a Chimney Cabinet and was designed for small, narrow spaces in the days before fitted kitchens. I would strip this and paint some bright, solid colour, like yellow… It is within budget(ish) at $325 on Etsy.

Chimney Cabinet

Anything yellow, I love. This is are remake (I think – might be original) of a Hoosier Cabinet Bar and is $1,195, on eBay.

$795 from Ebay. It’s German, and very pretty.

Mega cool. From the 1940s. Found on Pintrest.

The winner (so far) is this little ‘dry sink’, which I stumbled upon when looking online for something else. It doesn’t look like much in the pictures but it fits the space perfectly and I LOVE the colour options. I’d like it in solid Tangerine or Yellow. $200.

Shown in Old Black with Beadboard door

The company, Sawdust City, based in Wisconsin (with good shipping rates), has some great storage solutions. If it wasn’t for the colour options, they could be a bit meh, but with the bright colours, I think it will look really good. You can put a sort of wiremesh on the doors, which looks good and a bit retro-industrial.

The bonus is the sinked top – as we could happily put all our bottles of booze up there without danger of a small person banging into it and knocking them off.

** Update: both the H1B and my stylist friend said, non, to the sinktop. And now I can see they were right. I lost my mind because I found something that would fit the space. Am now on a search for a cool bar cart a la this one from Etsy:


Arko Bar Cart

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There’s no doubt about it; by Manhattan standards our 1,000 sq ft floor-through Brooklyn apartment is BIG. But we still only have one bedroom. So as soon as we found out about the junior (now six days over due), I was worrying about where to put the little thing.

The H1B maintained that babies have survived for centuries sleeping “in a drawer” but I was hoping for something a little more ceremonious for our first child.

One option was to convert our middle room (currently the TV/lounge) into a kid’s room but I didn’t want to lose any adult relaxing space plus it wouldn’t be practical as we’d constantly we walking through the area.

The best option was to try and corner off some space in our massive bedroom. But the question was how to also retain a semblance of privacy/personal space for all of us?

I stumbled across this brilliant one-bed solution on CasaSugar.com – of a rather clever conversion of a corner of a room using some dry wall stacked on to of an Ikea bookshelf unit, with funky curtains that can be drawn across to block out any light at night time.

You can see here how a clever friend of the couple used plasterboard and dry wall to make the room divider look like a proper wall. Clever, no?

Bingo! Except our high ceilings are waaay too tall for any attempts at using dry wall to make the box look like a proper room. It wasn’t within the H1B and my scope of DIY prowess and we didn’t want to have to pay someone to come in and do the work. Plus, we weren’t sure our landlord would go for it anyway.

But we stole the Ikea bookshelf idea and have create a nursery nook  behind the door.

I think it’s worked out pretty well. We can put up a curtain across the ‘entrance’ when the baby is a bit older and needs more dark to sleep. For now, I like it open for the airiness and access.

As a reminder, this is what the room looked like when we moved in:

Bedroom as it was when we moved in

And this is what it looks like now:

The bedroom

We tucked the ‘nursery nook’ behind the door to the right:

Showing room divider/Ikea shelves and crib with door to middle room open

The bookshelves provide loads of storage space for the baby’s clothes, nappies etc etc etc. I even labelled each basket with some cute mini chalkboards from Etsy in a bid to stay organised and avoid frenzied searches for matching tops and bottoms or favourite onesies.

Room divider and changing table

The quilted wall hanging was a project I was working on when I was clearly nesting and had loads of energy. I really wanted something to brighten up that big dark door (that goes through to the hallway but we don’t use except for moving large objects around – like the 9ft Christmas tree we had in December). It took me, like, forever on my rickety budget sewing machine from Target (a Singer Promise if you’re interested), but I think it really looks pretty.

The fabric is from Carousel Designs and I learned how to do the pinwheels and prairie points (I had no clue what they were called before I started either) from various YouTube videos and googling.

The tags for hanging can be easily removed so it becomes a quilt or playmat.

Quilted wall hanging I made to brighten up massive brown wooden door to hallway (not used)

Excuse the indulgence of a close up – but it did take me about a month to make

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Redhook public swimming pool, Brooklyn

Am terribly excited. Red Hook outdoor pool opens tomorrow for the summer season. Wherever I live, a decent outdoor (or indoor one for that matter) pool is one of the first things I look for. While most people look for good transport or quality schools, my postcode priority is somewhere I can cut through the water, cleansing my soul of life’s dust and grime. (Am with Jesus on that one.)

In London, I used to take a train 30 minutes from one side of the city to the other to go to London Fields Lido (although, in truth, spent most swimming sessions in Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre).

In Sydney, I was spoilt rotten by the number of amazing outdoor swimming areas: the glorious saltwater pools of Bondi Icebergs and Bronte beach water hole (I weep for them in my sleep) or one of the many fancy lidos on the harbour… not to mention the ocean of course.

Best outdoor swimming pool in the entire world: Bondi Icebergs

My attempts to find a decent pool in NYC have been varied and interesting. When we first moved to Brookly, I googled what I thought was the nearest place to swim and ended up taking the subway east to St Johns Recreation Center, which is essentially in the projects. It was like a Soviet bunker and looked like it hadn’t had any public funding since about 1983. The actual pool was spotless but the rusting grate on the bottom looks pretty menacing and the falling down air con unit in the changing rooms and black indelible mould in the showers did challenge my liberal values somewhat.

Since then, I’ve been swimming at the local ‘Y’, on 9th Street. It’s pretty good but small, only three lanes and about 25 foot long. But it’s not often crowded and there’s saunas and steam to make the 25 minute walk worth it (I can get the bus there too). I do think it’s quite pricey, at around $60 a month; especially given that I make it there about once a week.

So, anyway, can’t wait to try out the Redhook pool, which the teacher in my pre-natal yoga class was also raving abou yesterday. It’s free – amazing – and massive, bigger than an Olympic pool. And they have all sorts of strident rules about only being able to wear white T-shirts in the pool area and no inflatables… but that means you are much less likely to have to swim through a bunch of 10 year-olds playing murder ball with a beach ball and getting hit on the head.

Today is 5 weeks until my due date (gulp) and I intend to spend A LOT of the next hot, NYC summer month in this public pool. At last, a visible sign of some good use of our tax dollars.

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When we first moved into our grand but unfurnished Brownstone apartment we had to break down what to buy when.

First was the bed (although we are still waiting to order because of the delay in getting the H1B’s social security number – god bless whoever invented the Aerobed, which is currently a bargainous $58 on Amazon).

Next urgent priority was a table and chairs for the kitchen.

Other than our Aerobed, the only other seating we had in the house was a step ladder, which had been “borrowed” from the communal storage area and still hasn’t found its way back.

We had to take turns; and using it alongside the breakfast bar it was surprisingly ergonomic:

Eat your heart out Charles Eames

… but not a long-term solution, especially if we wanted to have people around for dinner, or actually speak to each other ever again.

There are many exquisite furniture stores in New York, not least the massive ABC Home on Broadway north of Union Square (opposite Fish Eddys, which is a brilliant bargain hunt of a store for crockery, cutlery and glassware).

But with a budget of around $1000 for table and chairs ABC Home was strictly for inspiration only and instead I went to West Elm and CB2, which is like a much cooler, better-made Ikea.

Unlike the bed, which I knew I wanted to be traditional, made of iron and high, I was open to different ideas about the kitchen table. Modern, glass or industrial metal, my only specification was that it had to be extendable as I’d like it to sit in the corner next to the fireplace and big windows and then extend it out when we have people around.

Ideally, I was looking for something that would fit four people (around 45″ square) but extend to fit six or eight.

Here were some choices that made the shortlist:

Dylan Table from CB2

West Elm Extendable Angle Leg Table

West Elm Extendable Paul Oebach Table

None were quite right – either they seemed not that well made (West Elm’s more economic options were veneer or a bit wobbly and the shop stock was very chipped and battered, which didn’t give me much confidence as to its longevity), or too big (I loved CB2’s fashionably distressed wood and industrial metal Dylan table, but it’s a 80″ long and $899).

Next I tried Film Biz Recycling, which is a not-for-profit set-up that hires or sell props and furniture from film sets. If I’d wanted a 1960s television, a fake Louis IV armchair  or a stuffed gazelle’s head I’d have been in business but unfortunately there were no suitable tables or chairs.

So onto the antique shops and I headed over to the strip of shops on Atlantic Avenue between Smith and Bond in Boerum Hill. This area has long been known for its furniture shops but in the last five years or so it’s become a haven of vintage cool too.

(Award-winning vintage fashion boutique Mafalda is worth checking out – if  I hadn’t been furniture shopping, an Arran sweater and black leather mini skirt would have been mine – as well as the kooky Dry Goods, which I blogged about previously, but hadn’t visited – it sells quaintly kitsch homewares and pet supplies. Rothschild is a good rest stop too – had very good sticky ribs and glass of super smooth Rioja.)

Horseman’s Antiques was my first furniture stop – four floors of tables, beds, chairs, wardrobes and sofas stacked together in a dusty commune. It’s well worth rummaging around (and you do need to rummage) but I found it crazy expensive and the shop assistants not that helpful by New York standards (there are no prices on the items but a code, which you have to take downstairs to the main desk so they can – reluctantly – look up the price). They also have an eBay site, which might be easier to browse.

Town & Country 352 on the opposite side of the road is smaller and has a more navigable layout and again specialises in mid-century designs.

I’d walked past Sterling Place a few times. It’s beautifully curated gifts, coffee table books and homewares made it look beyond our budget, but this is where I found our table and chairs. The owner Rob sources his furniture from estate auctions like most other antique shops but doesn’t put unrealistic mark-ups on his products, preferring a higher turn-over of goods I guess.

We bought a pretty and solid 1940s round Chestnut table, with two leaves, that fits the space perfectly for around $500 including tax and delivery. And a set of beautiful high-backed wood and wicker dining chairs from the 7th Avenue Park Slope store for a brilliant $408 including tax – and Rob had taken £100 off the chairs because he wanted to clear them out for the Holiday stock and delivered them for free because we’d paid for delivery of the table already.

Table non-extended

Nice pins

Sterling Place Park Slope

This Saturday we are going to check out the famous Hell’s Kitchen antique and flea market on West 25th street. Can’t wait.

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Markets are a distinctly New York experience and none more so than the Green Markets, which are the hippest way to buy food in New York.

Cheaper than most of the astonishingly expensive Manhattan stores, such as Gristedes or Whole Foods (though I found that Amish Market was better value when we lived near Tribeca), you have the bonus of the food being seasonal and local.

Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket

The Green Market Organisation was set up in 1976 as a way for small producers to get their food to the consumer. The first market bought together 12 farmers at a lot at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan although there is no longer an active market at the site (the closest is 59th street and 9th avenue).

The buzz of the stall holders, as well as initiatives to help those less well off (such as the EBT stamps), as well as all the photo-worthy local produce make them well worth a visit as a tourist destination too.

If you go no other time of year, make a visit on the market days prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas when the atmosphere will be genuinely festive. I’m looking forward to the pre-Thanksgiving market at Grand Army Plaza on Wednesday, even though I’m not actually cooking or having people around for dinner!

Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket

Grab yourself a coffee and a pastry and have a wander around. Even it’s a pound of crisp red apples from upstate New York, a cup of hot apple cider or locally produced honey, make sure you buy something – you are supporting the local farmers and small holders and the community.

Now there are 53 markets around the NY area – the biggest market is at Union Square on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.







Here is a list of the markets with local subway stops and days (go to grownyc.com for full details and information) :

175th Street Thursday 
106th Street / Stranger’s Gate Saturday 
97th Street Friday
92nd Street  Sunday
82nd Street Saturday
79th Street Sunday 
57th Street  Wednesday & Saturday
Abingdon Square Saturday 
Bowling Green Tuesday & Thursday
City Hall Tuesday & Friday
Columbia Thursday & Sunday
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Wednesday
Fort Washington Tuesday
Inwood Saturday
Mount Sinai Wednesday
Port Authority Bus Terminal Thursday
Saint Mark’s Church Tuesday
Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal Tuesday & Friday 
Stuyvesant Town Sunday
Tompkins Sunday
Tribeca Wednesday & Saturday
Tucker Square Thursday & Saturday
Union Square Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday
World Financial Center Battery Park City Thursday
Zuccotti Park Tuesday
Fulton Youth of the Future Youthmarket Thursday 
Lower East Side Youthmarket Thursday 


Bay Ridge Saturday 
Boro Park Thursday 
Brooklyn Borough Hall Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday 
Carroll Gardens
Cortelyou Rd Sunday 
Fort Greene Park Saturday 
Grand Army Plaza Saturday 
Greenpoint McCarren Park Saturday 
Sunset Park Saturday 
Williamsburg Waterfront Saturday
Windsor Terrace Wednesday
Williamsburg Thursday 
Brownsville Youthmarket Tuesday & Friday 
Cypress Hills Youthmarket Friday
Kensington Youthmarket Saturday 
Lafayette Youthmarket Sunday 


Astoria Wednesday 
Atlas Park Glendale Saturday
Corona Friday
Douglaston Sunday 
Elmhurst Tuesday
Jackson Heights Sunday 
Socrates Sculpture Park Saturday 
Sunnyside Saturday 
Ridgewood Youthmarket Saturday 

Bronx Borough Hall Tuesday 
Lincoln Hospital Tuesday & Friday
New York Botanical Garden Wednesday
Parkchester Friday 
Poe Park Tuesday
Wholesale Greenmarket
Monday-Saturday, 2-8 AM
Kingsbridge Heights Youthmarket Friday 
Learn It, Grow It, Eat It Youthmarket Wednesday 
Marble Hill Youthmarket Friday 
Riverdale Youthmarket Thursday  


Staten Island:
Saint George Saturday
Staten Island Mall Saturday
Stapleton Youthmarket Saturday 

No idea what a rutabaga is - but they sure are popular

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NYC might be the city that never sleeps, but you’ll need to crash eventually. While we shipped out most of our belongings (via K2 Moving – who I’d recommend), we didn’t bring out a bed – partly because we weren’t sure what kind/size of place we’d be getting and also because we rented out our home back in the UK furnished.

I think a good bed is one of the most important purchases a couple can make. Not for those reasons, smutty mind, but because a good night’s sleep can create all sorts of harmony in a household. And with the high ceilings and generous square footage of our Brooklyn brownstone, I thought we could get something quite grand.

Our first stop was Sleepys – a top-of-the-range place with all sorts of fancy computer equipment to determine what firmness of $6000 mattress would support our lumber and slumber. So, we played around on that for a while and, like all good bargain hunters, then took the NASA-grade information (me, slightly firm; H1B, firm – and definitely not the weirdly goopy Tempur-pedic memory foam for either of us) then went to find somewhere cheaper…

Ikea was an obvious budget choice (there’s one in New Jersey and one in Brooklyn, to which you can get a shuttle ferry from Wall Street Pier, which is free at the weekend, $5 weekdays) but I wanted something a bit sturdier and made of iron to suit the vintage/traditional feel of the apartment.

Next stop was Pottery Barn – which is a middle-class cornucopia of 1000 count thread sheets, twinkling Christmas decorations and sumptuous sofas in look-I’m-so-wealthy-I-can-afford-white linen covers.

I liked this one – amusingly called the ‘Adrienne‘, which made the H1B do some comedy Rocky air-punching in the 69th street store. It was £799 reduced to $699 online.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky

Under the raised (and perfectly plucked) eyebrow of one of the immaculate male attendants, we then shadow-punched our way a few stores down to Raymour & Flanigan.

What is it about mid-range furniture stores that feel so 1990s? Must be all that polished leather, mass-made art and glass-topped tables. However, the staff were excellent, unpretentious, and didn’t flinch when we said we wanted something more reasonable than the top-tier mattresses (even after we’d bounced up and down on every single expensive one, Bill made us feel like we were indeed actually very clever for going with the cheaper option).

We ended up buying a mattress, box spring and the Winslow bed frame ($329) from the store (Pottery Barn don’t sell mattresses or box springs – just the frames) for just over $2100 ( including tax and delivery – and build), via an interest-free 12 month repayment plan.

The sensible pricing, one-store purchase and old-school chivalry of Bill and his colleague Carlton helped seal the deal but I suspect the final decision to hand over the cash was largely down to them finding the H1B’s Rocky impressions funny.

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