The Room of Requirement becomes the media room at last! Part one.

Back when we were working with our architect to tweak the layout of garden floor of the house, we looked at a few options.

The choices…

In the end, we decided that we’d plan for a separate laundry/storage room sandwiched between the bedrooms with the option of turning it into a media room later on.


Once the renovations on our living space were completed we moved in and forgot about that room.  We set up laundry on the 3rd floor temporarily while we were renovating that space so we didn’t have to face schlepping to the laundry mat.  Hence, the “middle room” on the garden floor became our Room of Requirement.  In the Harry Potter books, the Room of Requirement is located on the 7th floor of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  When you need someplace to hide something, the room opens for you.  So if you did not know where to put something, it went in there.  We were derelict in our blogging duty of taking “before” photos, but you get the idea.

Then the day came when we had to get our own washer and dryer.  During renovations, we’d changed our minds again and thought we’d put the laundry in the basement and went back to the idea of using the spare room for an office/media room. The basement, however,  wasn’t getting any cleaner now that my spouse had turned it into a workshop.  It also meant another set of stairs to travel when we do the laundry.  So, it was back to the original plan.

The challenge now was how to get the room to serve both purposes.  First, we had to get rid of the half-wall (what were we thinking when we agreed to it?!).

We had not finished the floors in that room yet because we knew there needed to be plumbing installed. Installing a new gas line for the dryer, we knew, was going to be tricky and costly.  We called several plumbers who came out and then either never came, never gave us a quote, or gave us one that was ridiculously high (a common problem with tradespeople in NYC).  If we wanted any liveable space in the room having a giant washer and dryer in the corner would be awkward.  The size of washer/dryers available were also problematic.  With all the small apartments out there you’d think there would be more options for city dwellers.

After much back and forth, we decided on the Whirlpool Duet electric washer/dryer set because they were several inches smaller than all gas washer/dryer sets.  We were concerned about how well an electric dryer would dry clothes but it has worked out fine.

The next step was painting and installing the floors.


After completing all the necessary plumbing, which actually went through the walls and not the floor, we installed the hardwood floors.  This took less than a day and was easy to do yourself if you have the tools.  We hired Keith to assist–he helped us install the floors in the rental unit so he had all the necessary tools already like a nail gun and two hands work more quickly than one.  This room was square and there was no baseboard molding so it was pretty simple.



What a difference nice floors make!


We made a trip out to Kuiken Brothers in Fairlawn, New Jersey to get the molding.  We like their moldings better than anything you can get at Home Depot or even Dykes Lumber, and the service is much better.  We bought colonial casings in primed poplar to match the rest of the house.  There are also really great hiking trails out there near Sterling Lake so we made a day of it.

The next issue was how to hide the appliances.  We could stack them and build a closet but again you are left with something awkward.  We chose the only other option, put them side by side and install cabinetry around them.

We went to our local cabinetry shop, Park Slope Kitchens, where we previously purchased both of our kitchen cabinets.  After we got a price on a high-end modern cabinet, we came down to earth and purchased painted wood cabinets instead.

We had a lot of needs.  We wanted to hide the laundry appliances as well as our printer and internet equipment like the Mac mini and tuner.  We also needed storage for laundry supplies and all household supplies.  If that wasn’t enough, we wanted to hide the cat litter box.  After having an unsightly junk room for years we desired something that would hide our chaos.

After having a junk room for a few years, we desired something that would hide the chaos. We chose the budget-friendly Design-Craft line with maple door and plywood construction.

We worked with one of the designers and came up with a design that, while not perfectly lined up, worked.


The challenges of installation and how to install a self-flushing kitty litter box, that’s another story….




Some finishing touches, finally!

It’s been a while since we’ve published a post but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been working.  The never ending projects and upkeep of a 100+ year old row house still keep many of our weekends busy.

We will soon be finished an external and internal door installation on the ground floor and an exciting TV and laundry room reveal but this week we (me) decided that it is time to pay a little attention to detail.

Our daughter’s room is a perfect example of the transition from child to teen.  There are still lots of childhood paraphernalia hanging around but we’ve recently noticed that dolls and other toys have been surreptitiously moved into the closet.

small bedroom pan finished

The room back when it was empty

So we’d thought we’d kill two birds with one stone by making her room a little more “grown up” and at the same time cover a bare wall.

To do this we used a nifty little App called Mixtiles.  With the App you can create 8×8 square photo tiles that are already mounted on a thick foam core and do not need frames.  It also happens to work well with high quality Instagram photos.  One of my hobbies is taking photos of street art when we travel and they were perfect to use for a teenager’s room because they are colorful and urban.

The wall we wanted to cover was over the fireplace mantle.  This wall is original plaster so Mixtiles photos are perfect since they stick on the wall with removable adhesives and therefore there is no damage and no worries about cracked plaster.

First, I took a page out of my spouse’s playbook and planned where to put the photos using a complex mathematical formula.  Really, I just used my 5th grade addition and subtraction skills.

img_9342 This will also have to serve as the before photo–I always forget to take before photos!

After we had the placement all set out it was easy, just peel and stick.


And that’s all there is to it.  These photos are great because they are inexpensive and when your teen’s tastes change, it is not a big financial investment to change them.  According to Mixtiles, they are designed so you can remove them and stick them someplace else.  I’ll believe that when I see it for myself!

The teen was very happy with the final product:




We did not receive any compensation or product from Mixtiles, we just liked how they turned out.

Brownstone Front Stoop Reno

We haven’t written anything for a while but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been hard at work or hiring other people to work hard!

Last spring we decided that we could not stand our crumbling and peeling front stoop anymore.  The steps got a lot of damage from our contractors bringing in materials in and out of the building and it has probably never been redone since it was built.  As the paint chipped away so too did the materials underneath.

Front of Building

Front of Building when we first bought the place – not in bad shape

Whenever we used the ground floor entrance debris would rain down on us.  Under the stairs was even worse and the smell can only be described as rat death.  There was a large hole that we filled with rocks to prevent rodents from coming up from what we think was the sewer.  When we first purchased our building we did find one dead rat under there.  If that isn’t gross enough, we found animal bones from either rat carcasses or from chicken bones being dragged into there for dinner.


After our interior renovation they were not looking too good.



Ceiling in the entrance was disintegrating.

We took bids from masons recommended to us from a local Google-group that we belong to.  We checked all of the references of the one that we considered and physically went to see the steps that the front runner completed because we’ve learned our lesson on selecting contractors.

The first step in restoring the stoop was to chisel out the brownstone substance (not really genuine brownstone).  Afterwards it looked like this:



Then they clear that away and put a cement scratch coat that looks like this:


Then we waited until the spring for the cement to cure.  We were fine with this because we had stairs that were not leaking and potentially causing foundation problems, and under the stairs was nice and clean.  This process took about four days total for this stage.

When spring arrived the mason came back to put some test colors on the stairs for us to choose and then they put on the finished coat.  They started in the morning and did a few steps at a time so they would be dry by the time we got home from work.  This stage took about four days.



Waiting to dry


Looking good!

stoop done

I took this after photo but not at the right angle to see the neighbor’s damage.

We went with the original design of the steps to match the others on the street.After another week they came back and scrubbed and rinsed the steps and now they look great!

The workers also did a pretty good job of cleaning up afterwards.  They did leave our iron window bars that were under the stair out and someone stole them but we’ve yet to have the perfect contracting experience.  If you put anything metal out front in Brooklyn, it might get stolen.

BUT just when we thought it was all done, we got a call from our neighbor who said the workers cause damage to his building.

pete bulding

Our mason said that this area was intact when he left.  The problem with these old buildings is that as soon as you touch something, something else falls apart.  While we had no doubt that it was intact when he left (and we would have noticed this!), the fact that we did this work definitely was the cause of our neighbors section becoming more vulnerable.  We also suspect that the neighbor might have poked the area a bit.

A tip to remember when doing any kind of renovation is to take lots of before photos of your property and any adjoining a neighbor’s property so that you can prove what it looked like before if you have to.

The mason was great and came back and fixed it so everyone was satisfied.

Now we have to deal with wrought iron railings and fence because they look even worse with the new steps.

If you want cost information for a project like this feel free to message us.


We did not get a discount for writing this post but maybe for the next job so please mention that you saw this post!