5 Days, $500, 248 sf NYC Apt…Go!: Final Day (Finally)

I love New York City.  I just outed myself as a non-resident, in calling it by its full USPS-approved name, didn’t I?  How middle America of me.  Ok, “The City”.  It’s where rich people go to feel poor.  Where else could you spend $3,000/month to live in a closet masquerading as an apartment?  Every time I feel like as if I have too much change in my pockets, I book a flight to Manhattan.  Or take a trip to Whole Foods down the road. Whichever one is cheapest.  And let me tell you, Whole Foods does not often win.

Going from Seattle to The City is a jump in many regards, but the two cities have much more in common than you would think.  Anthony Bourdain compares Seattle to “Brooklyn before there was a Brooklyn”.  This is mostly true, but overlooks the fact that Seattleites, well…they’re really not that cool.  And that’s how they like it. The majority of the population here are like a Who’s Who of Doctor Who fans. My fiancé is one such enthusiast.  He’s planning on wearing a celery boutonniere to the wedding.  I’m just hoping that he doesn’t try to eat it halfway through the ceremony. But the main difference between the two cities is the clientele who shop at stores like Goodwill.  NYC has real homeless people in there, The Emerald City largely does not.  In Seattle, that homeless looking guy that you tossed a quarter to?  Probably the CEO of some software company. He’ll gladly take that penny too, and shove it into his fanny pack.  And that fanny pack was, more than likely, purchased at a thrift store during a half off sale.  Because seven figure incomes just doesn’t buy what it used to.

This is why, while in New York, I sometimes forget myself and strike up random conversations with legitimate homeless people, under the misconception that all of their hardwiring is intact.  For example, on the final day of redoing my sister’s apartment, I stepped into the Salvation Army on 3rd Avenue.  Spotting a gorgeous olive green leather chair, I immediately go over to lay my claim by sprawling myself over the armrests. Looking at the price tag, I mutter to myself, “$24.99?  That’s cheaper than stealing it.  Not that I would ever do that, just in case anyone is listening”.  A middle aged man sporting a shirt with more dirt than fabric hears me and spits out, “Ya got crack?  I ain’t gonna steal it from ya…if ya just give it to me”.  This was when I un-sprawled my limbs and made a quick exit, while telling myself not to make eye contact within the four walls of a Salvation Army in NYC ever again.  But it was a steal of a deal, and I went back later that night to buy the chair.  Here it is.

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I gave it a good wipe down with a wet towel.  Then I thought better of it and disinfected the entire thing with the strongest anti-bacterial cleanser I could lay my hands on.

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The gorgeous detailing in back is definitely more valuable than two Snack Packs and a Fruit Roll-Up in an elementary school playground.  It is a deal like this one that makes thrifting so rewarding.

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After Salvation Army, I hopped on over to its cleaner cousin, Goodwill.  There, I found these gallery frames for $7.99 and $10.99.  I initially intended to replace the print with something else, but ended up kinda sorta really liking the simple black and white photography.  A lot, actually.  I arranged them simply grouped on the living area wall.  I had two random wooden curtain rod ends, so I threw those up there as well.  I may or may not have used a level.

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Here is what the Living Room Area looked like “Before”.

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On Day 5, this is what the Living Room Area looked like “After”.  It’s the same area, just different view, I swear.

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Remember the random stuff I was hoarding from different thrift stores?  Giant thread spools large enough to keep two sweat shops in business until 2015?

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Here they are, living the retired good life as adornments to the coffee table I had refurbished a few days prior.

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And those plaster medallions?  I stuck them on the wall, then realized I measured incorrectly.  So, they were slightly off-center.  In my defense, it was after happy hour. Instead of rehanging everything, I re-centered the entire grouping by adding the wooden spool of leftover twine to the end.  I love it when laziness and creativity come together.

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There is an antique ironing board that my sister has, which we picked up in New Hampshire, years ago.  I really liked the board, but found the backside hardware much more interesting that its plain top.  So, I ended up displaying it, backside forward, as a stand alone piece in the living room area.

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In its previous life, the ironing board was hanging out with a rope ladder that we had found outside of a Babycakes NYC.  This was years before.  I cut the rope off of the wooden rungs and displayed it in a glass container.

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Sitting beside that rope display is the glass lamp base we found at Goodwill.  I placed my sister’s river rock collection under it.  Then I added a lampshade we found on clearance, from Bed Bath & Beyond, for $9.99.

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My sister, she is wonderful.  Absolutely darling.  But she’s not someone you would categorize as being of the overly emotional variety.  She avoids hugs at all cost.  Instead, she’ll give you a hand hug, if she likes you.  Fist shake if she doesn’t.  And handshake if she couldn’t care less.  For really special occasions like weddings and funerals, she will also add in a heartfelt thumb nuzzle with that hand hug. This is strangely comforting, I should probably add.  So, it came as quite a shock when I showed her the finished apartment and she was, how do you say it?  Teary eyed.  I asked her, “Um, this hasn’t ever happened before, so I’m not quite sure how to proceed…but um, are you…are you crying?”.  She quickly looked away and muttered, “No, my eyeballs are just sweating. Those corneas, you know how they just love to sweat.  Sometimes I wonder how many calories my pupils burn while dilating, alone.  Hey, you didn’t get rid of my giant 24 pound wheel of cheese, did you?”.  She told me that she loved what her sweaty pupils were seeing.

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A few days before, I had found a wine rack at Goodwill.  I then placed two terra cotta planters into the wine rack.  I tilted the planters to make it all fit in.  Then I dabbled on some Behr paint in “River Walk” to add some color.

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Home Depot had some plants.  I found one for $3.99 and another for $3.49.  I took them both home with me.  After paying, of course.  Here are the plants in their happy new home.

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I then placed the wine rack planter on top of the existing black table.  To change up the entire look, I took out the existing hardware and replaced it with our free Anthropologie dresser knobs.  She had saved those rings of wood from a wedding, years before.

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This table was placed at the foot of the bed.  Here is a view of the Bedroom Area “After” I had repainted the walls, added window treatments and redone the bookcases.

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It’s kind of a huge jump from the canvas-used-as-window-treatment genre of decor I had witnessed during Day 1.

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Another “After” view.

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Here is the homeless chair I had found tossed out onto the streets.  I rehabbed it with some spanking new fabric and then paired it up with a sexy side of revamped dresser. Let me know if my choice in adjectives is starting to creep you out.  I’m pretty sure it does.

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It’s a rather nice little seating area.  The entire chair/dresser combination is off to the sides a bit, so it’ll be of service to some of my sister’s more socially awkward guests.  If she ever decides to host a dinner party.  But then again, she takes after our dad.  And according to our mom, our dad “cooks, alright.  Your dad cooks from the couch”.  Maybe she’ll have a tuna can opening/eating party.

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This 248 sf area of my sister’s apartment was done in five sleepless, flu riddled days.  You may want to scroll through Day 1-4 to see the full renovation, including the kitchen and green dresser area.  I also managed to redo it for far less than our initial $500 budget. Here is the breakdown of the spending:

  • Paints: $51.88
  • Paint Supplies: $14.99
  • Furniture & Furniture Renovating Materials: $99.98
  • Wood: $11.82
  • Plants: $7.48
  • Fabric: $23.00
  • Wall Art: $27.37
  • Decor: $150
  • Miscellaneous: $48.24

Total Cost: $299.76 (Correction: Apparently, I can’t input numbers correctly on my calculator.  The total is $434.76.  Still under budget but much less money left over for drinks.  Thanks to people who pointed this out).

And a final look at the NYC apartment before I flew out the next morning.  It was time to go back to the unshaven and plaid wearing populace of Seattle.  A place where you can say things like, “Yeah, I’m going to have to decline that invite.  There’s a secret mushroom patch I’ve been foraging.  I kind of want to make a final harvest before chanterelle season is over.  I mean, my famous wild mushroom risotto isn’t going to make itself, girlfriend” and people nod with intimate understanding.  Image

84 thoughts on “5 Days, $500, 248 sf NYC Apt…Go!: Final Day (Finally)

  1. What a great sister you are!! My sister lives in Brooklyn, she has a very nice apartment, too…but she generally flies here to FL to see me! When I do visit there now, I’m in awe of the beautiful architecture of all the old buildings and skyscrapers! Hope you had fun in NYC!

  2. I’m such a sucker for the before-and-after that I just love this transformation. My boys would immediately engage in a game of jump-over-the-aloe from bed to couch. It’s (now) so adorably… small. Where does she put her clothes? Safe travels home…

    • Hi Britt! This is the lucky sister replying:) I store clothes under the bed in pull out storage containers and also in the green and black stand up dressers (jammed to the point that I donate clothes very often).

  3. this looks great! the budget doesn’t seem to add up to me. were there things that you already owned on your itemized list and you just wanted us to know how much they cost?

  4. I just read through your five days of transforming your sister’s apartment and I am in awe! I would love to live inside your brain for a day just to figure out how you come up with all your brilliant, and thrifty, ideas. Fabulous job, dahlink!

  5. Love your attitude! I just spent 8 days sorting, packing, and moving my sis outta NYC. Can imagine the amount of work and labour of love you put in here. Hope she fed you well! Keep up the terrific writing.

  6. Amazing work! I just recently moved into a studio as well – my main problem is finding furniture of a smaller size. Do you have any suggestions? I am in LOVE with that couch where did you find that?

  7. Just read all five days. Amazing work, very creatives ideas, love your writing style. You must have slept all weekend when you got home!

  8. I have to ask about the mini storage box with the six ceramic drawers. I literally have the exact same curiosity that I rescued from my local Goodwill. Do have any idea who originally made it?? Was it mass produced from a Pier One kind of place?

    Also, wow you are an amazing sister.

  9. Really great transformation! The window treatments and the bed-foot table are my favorite parts. Also, keep up the festive adjectives – I’m digging them. ; )

  10. Just want to say thank you for posting all this – so many awesome ideas! I LOVE the window treatments. I also love the idea of using curtain rod ends as wall hooks – I’ve eye’d off the big wooden hooks marketed for walls many times and always been turned off by the price but curtain ends I can do!

  11. OMG I am in love with you! Haha…no seriously….you are awesomesauce. I’m planning a move to Washington DC where a lot of the apartments look like your sister’s “Before” & now I’m totally inspired! Thanks! :)

    • Thanks for reading! Glad you liked it. I’m actually working on an online shop where I’ll be selling some of the furniture pieces I redo. That way, you can have some of the items in your home too. Will keep you posted on that!

  12. I just discovered this blog by linking from Beyond Beauty tips. Because, frankly, I loved your Gravatar. And then your name. And now I have another blog to love! Just not sure, if you are indeed the love child of Bob and Martha, where you got your sense of humor?
    Greetings from the Chesapeake.

  13. I am very impressed. This is actually my old apartment!!!! I’m the one that moved out and sublet it to Rehan, who I believe sublet it to your sister(?)!!

    My friends used to commend me that I had done better than expected in decorating the apartment, but wow you definitely transformed this place! Amazing!!!!

    • Thank you! It was such a fun apartment to work with. I love all of the old vintage grates and hamper. The only problem we ran into was not being able to move in furniture during the night. Hopefully, you didn’t have as much trouble when you were decorating!

  14. hi! amazing before and after! i particularly love how the kitchen came out! just curious tho as to where you placed the flat screen in the before pictures? lol

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