At the beginning of the month, I ordered a single pendant light from West Elm for the kitchen. The current light is one of those flushmounts you can buy at Home Depot for $40–fine, whatever, but there are a little more interesting light choices to be had, even in the $100 range. So I ordered a globe pendant, expecting a simple swap.
Is it ever simple? Easy? Straight forward? No. No, ma’am.
My husband took down the old light and started to unscrew a piece that the light was anchored to. There was hissing. And the unmistakeable smell of gas.
Folks, we have a live gas line in our ceiling. For old-timey gas lights. Because of course that is a thing. Not only that, but someone thought it was a dynamite idea to anchor a light from it.
We called the gas company. They turned off the gas, and slapped us with a hazardous condition sticker. A pipe fitter came out to seal the line but wouldn’t touch it because of the electrical. Then the electricians couldn’t come for a week. This is the saga.
Yesterday the electricians finally came to move the junction box, and since we were already paying them gobs of money to do that, we had another light put in. I think we did that to feel like we had some semblance of control over this situation, and not spending a considerable amount of money on baseline very-important-but-boring safety stuff because I wanted to get rid of a $40 Home Depot light.
The sad thing is my dad’s an electrician. Not an electrician in the typical sense–he used to head a crew that maintained the electrical systems of a functioning steel plant and now controls and purchases the power used by said steel plant. He is a fancy electrician who we refer to as “Mr. Fun.” So christened because of his penchant to suck the life out of everything by insisting on every safety precaution possible, no doubt the effect of working in an extremely dangerous work environment his whole life. So I have the benefit of being instilled with a healthy fear of questionable electrical work without the benefit of my father’s proximity to do this work for free. It’s an expensive affliction.
The Saga Continues
Once the electrical work was done, we again called back the pipe fitter to get the gas line sealed. But he was being a little shifty about providing a quote, so we called another one. This one started asking us about the permit, mentioning the Department of Buildings. Uh, what permit?
We’re told that someone will call us back. The phone rings and my husband takes the call. In the span of a few minutes the color drains from his face. He puts the call on speaker.
“I can bring a crew of two out to do the pressure test for $700, but never in my career has anyone with 1920 pipes passed it. You should get an electric stove. They’re nice now.”
We live on the fourth floor. Our risers go through three other apartments. They cannot be brought up to code without accessing those pipes through our neighbor’s walls. In short, it is an expensive, impossible job. And our utility won’t certify the work and turn on our gas without this job.
And Gets Worse
Have I mentioned the shoddy electrical in our apartment? Everything in our kitchen shares a single breaker. An electric stove needs a dedicated line. So we can’t simply swap out a stove (as if that is an inexpensive fix), we have to redo the electrical. Which means doing a fair amount of demo to the kitchen.
We have essentially been backed into a kitchen renovation we aren’t ready to do yet. All because I wanted a slightly nicer light.
What’s your favorite initially-inexpensive home improvement project that hemorrhaged a lot of cash?
Occasionally I get emails requesting a decorating consult. I tried e-decorating for a bit before, but then I got a full-time job and stopped taking any clients. So now I’m trying a different tack this time: putting the decorating boards on the blog, so everyone can get some ideas, with the understanding these are not comprehensive decorating plans, just starting points.
So today’s reader redesign involves a Manhattan studio with about 270 square feet of living space. Sounds small, but isn’t that bad for the city. The budget is $6,000.
The only existing thing the reader wanted to keep is her rug. So using that as a starting point, I’d paint the walls Hague Blue for a cozy, unified room.
For the sleeping area, the reader already has a good headboard, so just I’d switch her bedding to something simpler, like Biscuit Home’s chartreuse duvet and shams. To free up space on her nightstands, I’d a install a pair of simple sconces. I’d also look for small chest of drawers on Craigslist to use as nightstands, just to maximize storage. The splurge item is a lovely armoire that’s not only statement-making, but super functional storage.
In the living area, a narrow console in shocking citron works well as an entry table, and can double as a small dining table when entertaining. Tuck a garden stool or two underneath it for extra seating. For the sofa, I chose a velvet that is close to the wall color to minimize its size. Look for a pair of small vintage tables to use in lieu of a coffee table, or bust the budget with this pair.
- Hague Blue – Farrow and Ball
- Barclay Arc Sconce Set of Two – Pottery Barn $329
- Chartreuse Shams and Duvet - Biscuit Home $355
- Lucas Tassel Lumbar – Furbish Studio $150
- Audrey Armoire – Horchow $2,829
- Celine Nailhead Parsons Table in Citron – Society Social $550
- Lilac Lamp – Biscuit Home $330
- Garden Stool – Bluefly $108
- Ainslie Sofa in Blue Lagoon Performance Velvet – West Elm $1,199
- Mali Lavender Pillow – John Robshaw $175
Interested in a redesign? Email me a few photos of your room, your budget, and a brief note about what you’re looking for in a room. Please include “reader redesign” in the subject of your email.
If there’s one thing I learned from our trip to Merida last year, it’s that I can’t handle super-packed itineraries. I don’t get necessarily cranky about it, I just basically shut down to the experience and instead find myself merely showing up for the checkmark. So for visiting Morocco, I wanted to be sure we spent quality time in each city, watching the people and hanging out, rather than racing off to various tourist destinations. This meant not going out into the Sahara on camels or driving out of Chefchaouen to go see a waterfall. We missed seeing some things this way, but in return we experienced much more of the cities.
This itinerary is not for everyone. If your travel style is go-go-go, I guarantee you will hate this. But if you love to explore cities on foot and simply soak up the experience, try this itinerary out.
Riad: Dar Zambra
Visiting Chefchaouen first was a stroke of genius on my part. It’s Morocco on training wheels–if we went to Fez or Marrakesh first, it would’ve been a huge shock to the system. The city is a very manageable size, things are slower, and everything is just low pressure.
We spent four nights here so that we could get over jet lag without feeling the compulsion to achieve a lot. Plus the first day was heavy on travel: arrived in Tangier in the morning then got straight into a taxi for a 2.5 hour drive. Having the luxury of time to simply relax and enjoy a view was essential.
Riad: Les Oudayas
Fez was a great primer for Marrakesh. Stepping off the bus, we were completely overwhelmed. Finding our riad was another stressor. But once we did, we realized what a complete oasis it was.
We took the train from Fez to Marrakesh, which is a 7 hour journey. We stayed at two different riads: the El Fenn, a splurge, and Jardin d’Abdou, an affordable riad that’s quite a bit further from the medina center. Given the chance to do it again, we would’ve spent all four nights at the El Fenn. The location was amazingly central, the service excellent, and the riad itself was jaw-dropping beautiful.
We stayed at Jardin d’Abdou first and that night we went out to La Mamounia for dinner, an absolutely palatial (in size and style) hotel. Utterly posh. One of Kirk’s coworkers was on our flight to Milan (where we transferred flights to Morocco), and we realized we’d both be in Marrakesh at the same time. So we met the coworker and his wife at La Mamounia, where they were staying on their unofficial honeymoon. Yes we crashed someone’s honeymoon.
The dinner was spectacular and such a welcome relief from days and days of tagine. We ate outside with views of the hotel’s gorgeous garden, had the most over-the-top mint tea service, and spent a ton of money. So worth it.
Marrakesh will get its own post soon, but if you have the opportunity to stay at the El Fenn, do it! Our hotel costs, when averaged out across the whole trip, were $125/night. I know that’s not completely budget-friendly, but so many of the in-country costs are low (cabs, food, and museum entries are all very inexpensive) that I think spending a bit extra on riads was worth it.
So that’s my low pressure guide to visiting Morocco. Enjoy!