Start Spreading the News

Peggy told me I should start updating my blog again.  I agreed.  And then I started deleting old posts, because I'm so sad about leaving my old place.

In May 2015 I relocated to New York City, for my dream job.  It's definitely not my dream city.

At first, I lived in a sublet from Columbia University.  With two boy roommates.  Who were very confused about how to keep a shower clean.  I described it on Facebook as "like Three's Company, with less wacky hijinx and more conversations about mold."  Finding a place of my own became priority number one!

I found an apartment after quite a search, and laid out about half my savings in order to secure it.  By the way, my brokers were Anastasia Novikova and Lorett Vigon from the Vigon Group at CitiHabitats, and they were THE BEST.  They helped me explain some difficult things in my past to my prospective landlord, and as a result I got my second-choice apartment (which I understand is a real "get" here in NYC).

My new place is in the Washington Heights neighborhood.  It is about a 25 commute to work, which is VERY nice compared to my 1 hour plus in Chicago.

I'll be sharing photos, room by room of my new place in coming posts.  Rest assured, I like the place a lot, and look forward to sharing how I transform it to a great new place to be a Contented Renter in!


Vertical Herb Garden

So, one of the big selling features of my new apartment was the balcony.  It's not exactly hard to find a place with outdoor space in Chicago, but it can be hard to find one that has the privacy that this one has.  Also, its on the top floor, and faces south, which I knew would be ideal for growing "stuff".
In truth, my first project in the Soft Loft was "hacking" an Ikea bookcase to hide the litter boxes.  But that was out of practicality.  Everything I've done on the balcony is out of LOVE.
So, my second project was a vertical herb garden.  I looked for pinspiration first, and found these options. 
vertical garden completed
From Home Depot
Super color!
I liked these both, a lot.  I knew the Home Depot one would be super easy.  I wanted something with more color, though, which is why I liked the second one.  And another thing about the both of these:  I am just not a "grid" girl.  I like things symmetrical, in fact I once was told in an art class "your need for aesthetic symmetry is too high." (Scarred for life by that).  But I like my symmetry to be a little more askew.  Someday, you will understand that.  We will call it Alyrae-symmetry.

So of course I decided to build my own trellis.  Here was my first plan:

Okay, seriously y'all, look how cute that is.  There are mitre edges!  And measurements!  It's adorable!  I bet it turns out EXACTLY like this.  (Spoiler alert: no).

Then I moved on to the important thing: color.  I quickly came up with these options:
From left to right:  A weathered grey finish with all turquoise pots, a white finish with shades of blue pots, and a turquoise finish with multi-colored pots.

My design team (Sarah and Victoria) voted for the middle option.  In Victoria's words, its very Mediterranean.  Also, multiple shades of blue is kind of my thing.

So, I had a plan.  I had measurements, and I had a shopping list.  Off to Lowe's I went. 

Shopping list: 
  • 3 x 2x2x80, cut to (2) 76in, (2) 22in
  • 1 pack 40in shims or furring strips
  • 1 spray Thompsons Water Seal (for the pots)
  • 3 blue Valpsar spray paints (Valspar spray paint is THE BEST)
  • 8 6in terra cotta pots
  • 8 l-shape mending plates
  • 1 mitre box and saw

And let's face it, when I get to this point in a project, the shopping point, is usually where the poop hits the propeller, because I am an impulsive person, who likes things cheaper, and feels like she can make anything work.  Some people can live like this.  It works for me. 

Actual purchase list (Lowe's edition):
  • 3 x 2x3x80, same cuts
  • 1 pack 40in shims or furring strips
  • 2 blue Valpsar spray paints (Premium Enamel Gloss - Tropical Oasis and Exotic Sea)
  • 6 6in terra cotta pots (all Lowes had left in stock)
  • 6 square, 9 hole mending plates (all Lowes had in stock)
Lowe's didn't have the Water Seal.  And I forgot the mitre box.  They also didn't have a third blue I liked.

The Lowe's guy talked my into the 2x3s when he saw my plans.  I agreed, but forgot to adjust my cut measurements.  Oops.  So then I made a quick stop at Home Depot for the Water Seal and the mitre box, and skedaddled home.  Oh, and I didn't get any white paint, because I always have white spray paint and primer at home.  What, you don't?

I lugged all the stuff up the stairs, then got down to business.  First thing: mitre box was a no go.  I realized quickly I was not going to make it through all the cuts I needed to do with that puny saw.  Then I tried my jigsaw.  Then I laughed and laughed and laughed.  Lesson 1 for this project:  MITRE CORNERS ARE NOT IN MY WHEELHOUSE.

Everything planned kind of went out the window after that.  I made the frame using the mending plates, and then basically flung it around to ensure that it was sturdy enough (it was).  Then I laid out the trellis pattern I had first measured, and that's when I realized the cuts mistake.  See "oops" above.  No problem.  Re-measured, cut the furring strips with a hand saw, attached, and voila:

 Wait, do you see that?  Something looks...off.  Top left, huh?  Glaring measurement error!  Take two:

So at the same time I was building this beauty, I had treated the inside of the pots with the Water Seal.  This keeps the paint from peeling on the outside.  I let that cure over night, and then the next morning I got to spray painting:

I was concerned that they were kind of the same color, but I let it go.

Attaching them to the trellis was the next step.  My original plan was to loop sisal rope around them pots, and then hang them from s-hooks.  This was so much fail I didn't even take photos.  NEXT.

I instead drilled holes through all the pots, the screw them directly into the X of the trellis.  Do you know how much time it takes to drill through a terra cotta pot, without a masonry bit?  SO VERY MUCH TIME.

However, two shades of blue, attached to the trellis, had me feeling pretty good:

Cute, right?  And so close to done, I can taste it.  So I went to Home Depot for more pots, and an aqua spray paint (note, I didn't do this on my previous Home Depot trip because you can't buy spray paint in the city.  My Lowes is right out side the city limits, but the closest HD was inside).  I got a cute aqua, it worked.

I also made a trip to Gethsemane Garden Center for the actual herb plants.  Gethsemane is amazing.  If you live in Chicago, don't go anywhere else for plants.  And then I digressed, and did these, because I have ADD and am distracted by pretty.

See?  Pretty.

But finally, I got the vertical herb garden all finished.  And I love it.  It's EXACTLY how I pictured it, even though I messed up measurements, couldn't cut a mitre corner to save my life and um, its not level.  (Lesson 2:  Level is also not is my wheelhouse.)

 Screwed into the X

How I covered up the poorly mitred corners.



Furnishing and Floraling the Balcony

When I moved, I decided to "finish" the balcony first.  I moved in summer, so I wanted to get as much use as possible out of the balcony before the long, ridiculous midwestern winter hit.

The balcony is a good size: 6x11ft.  It faces the south, and the other side of the building.  I love it because its super quiet, get great sun, and because it is on the third floor, is pretty private. 

I already had a 36in round wood table and folding chairs I knew would work out there for this summer.  They are not outdoor furniture, but since I was going to leave the table in the alley anyway when I moved, I figured if it got ruined in the weather, I wasn't really losing anything.  I did want to buy some lounge-y chairs, but moving is expensive.  So I knew they wouldn't be my "forever" chairs.  These $18 chairs from Target fit the bill:
Room Essentials™ Turquoise Stacking Adirondack Chair .Opens in a new window

In person they are much more green:

That's okay.  I like green.

So, for $36 + RCST (Ridiculous Chicago Sales Tax), the balcony was completely furnished and usable for the summer.  Now came the fun part. 


I had been seeing pictures of the Elho pots on Pinterest for a while.  I love them. I think it solves a problem that always has bugged me.  If you do window boxes on the outside of the railing, you can't enjoy them as much from on the balcony.  If you do them inside, you lose the cute curb appeal.  So, just put 'em right on top.  Brilliant. 

The pots were $20ea + RCST at Gethsemane Garden Center.  The flowers were $4.19 per four inch pot, and I got three little pots for each big pot.  Of course, I spray painted the crap out of them in shades of aqua and turquoise.  I am nothing if not predictable.

Filled with white geraniums, they make me so happy. 

Next up, my vertical herb garden.  Yes, it got very green and plantastic on my balcony this summer.