Ode to a Robot Vacuum

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Should I buy a Roomba? Is a Roomba worth the price? I asked myself those questions many times, and now that I have an answer, which I want to share it with you. I’ve been curious about robot vacuums since they hit the marketplace 13 years ago. However, the high price of the machines always deterred me from buying one.

When I saw a used Roomba for sale at a yard sale earlier this year for $30, I jumped at the chance to test it out. (The previous owner said that the Roomba could not keep up with her shedding dog, but I was willing to give it a try.)

Because my Roomba was previously owned, I had a few hiccups with it at first. A little sleuthing on the internet and some helpful YouTube videos helped me trouble-shoot some problems (the brush heads needed to be cleaned, which involved tweezers to remove hair and debris, and later battery charging issues). I have had nothing but good experiences with Roomba since, and I can now say that I think these machines are worth their retail price tag. If my used model died tomorrow, I’d definitely replace it with a new one.

My husband, on the other hand, does not share my affection for the Roomba, which is what prompted me to write this post. His complaint is that the Roomba doesn’t do a meticulous job, but I would argue, that’s not the point of a robot vacuum. It’s never going to get every corner and nook that you could tackle with a broom. What it is going to do is lengthen the time between deep floor cleanings and cut down the weekly maintenance you have to do yourself. If you run the Roomba once a week, it will keep your floors reasonably clean. Up that to twice a week, and you’re in really good shape. It'll also tackle spots you would need to move furniture to reach, like the spaces under beds and sofas.

I usually set the Roomba to work when I leave for work in the morning, since it’s pretty noisy while it runs. When I get home, I’m always surprised at how much dirt the machine has managed to pick up in its travels, and I’m thrilled that it wasn’t me sweeping it up. Confession: I was never the kind of person who swept or vacuumed the whole apartment every week, so the Roomba has seriously upped the cleanliness of my home.

I like using the Roomba for another reason: It forces us to be tidy. To get the most out of a robot vacuum, you need to offer it a clear path, and to do that, you can’t have tons of crap piled up on your floor. When I run the Roomba, I put all the chairs up on the coffee table, dining table, and desk, which in turn means that those surfaces must also be clear of piles of crap. See what I mean? To have our apartment ready to be cleaned by a robot means our apartment must be in order.

All in all, I think a robot vacuum is a great addition to our small two-bedroom apartment. It might not be the best solution for everyone (like the dog owner I bought mine from), but for me, it's been a great way to cut down on my housekeeping time.

Digest 7.18.15

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer seems to be flying by. The last few days in New York City have all been perfect days with blue skies, low humidity and bearable temperatures -- let's all hope this weather is here to stay.

I'm so in love with Food52's staff kitchen -- so many smart solutions!

Tiny Parisian apartments.

A minimalist cooking and designing set. 

Summer nights have me thinking of linen bedding.

Rag rugs, yes please!

Making me want to get back to the West Coast.

How to save for a down payment on a New York City apartment. (Great advice.)

The Sacrificial Chair is a pretty funny idea.

On the reading list: Calder at Home.

Amy Chaplin's Soaked Oats and Chia

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Here's an ideal breakfast for the hot and humid mornings we've been having in New York City this week: Soaked Oats and Chia from Amy Chaplin's excellent At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen. I bought this book over the winter, and I've done quite a bit of cooking out of it in the months since. The thing I love about this book is that it give me new ideas. Soaked rolled oats for breakfast? I'd never eaten them before Chaplin suggested it.

Yesterday, Amy Chaplin posted a lovely video of this recipe on her Instagram account, and it reminded me to start another batch. Double (or triple!) the batch and keep it in your refrigerator for a week's worth of healthy, easy breakfasts. Here's the recipe from the book below. Once you've made it a few times, you won't even need to look at the written instructions

Soaked Oats and Chia
With Almond Milk, Flax, and Wheat Germ

"Creamy, light, and satisfying, this has been my staple warm-weather breakfast for many years. It’s just right for busy mornings, as it is best made ahead of time and travels well in a small jar. I recommend eating it at room temperature, so if you remove a portion from the fridge as soon as you get up, it’ll be ready by the time your breakfast hour rolls around."


• 3/4 cup regular rolled oats
• 2 tablespoons chia seeds
• 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
• 1 tablespoon wheat germ
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 2 cups almond milk

 To Serve:

• Fresh berries
• Homemade almond milk
• Maca root powder, optional
• Hemp seeds, optional

Combine the oats, chia, flax, wheat germ, and cinnamon in a bowl; mix well. Pour in almond milk and stir until everything is evenly combined. Set aside for 20 to 30 min­utes at room temperature, or store in a jar and place in the fridge for 8 to 12 hours. The mixture will keep up to 4 days in the fridge. Serve topped with berries, a splash of almond milk, and a teaspoon of maca root powder and hemp seeds if you like. Serves 2.

Photo by Johnny Miller.

Rent This Rustic Island Cabin in Jamestown

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This past weekend, we headed up the coast to Rhode Island for a three-day weekend. We'd been to Newport a few times before, but availability (and prices!) of accommodations in peak summer months compelled me to look a little further afield for a place to stay, and I am so glad they did! We rented this adorable cottage in Jamestown, RI from local artists, David and Jennifer Clancy, which we found on AirBnB.
The property is immediately adjacent to the Jamestown Windmill (built in 1787). The Clancys live in the old miller's house and rent out a small cabin at the back of their property (you can see its roof behind the windmill above). The landscape is so beautiful. I cannot stress how immaculate the grounds of their property are: The plantings are thoughtful, the stone walls are perfectly stacked, the lawn is ready for its close up--even the mulch around the trees is even perfectly placed.

The back side of the cabin has wooden decks, Adirondack chairs, and a firepit--plus, an incredible view of the Newport Bridge. To the right in the photo above, you can see the enclosure for the outdoor shower and sink (the bathroom is located in the couple's glass-blowing studio nearby).

Inside it's just a single room with a bed, a table and chairs, and a few conveniences like a mini fridge and a microwave, but it's really all you need for a weekend away. If you're headed up that way in the warmer months (the cabin has no heat), I would definitely recommend staying at this adorable little house.

Jamestown itself is a lovely village, and I preferred staying there to staying in Newport--it felt like more of an escape from the city, which was exactly what we needed.

Rental information on AirBnB. As of this writing, there are a few summer weekends left, if you're thinking of booking a trip.

Digest 6.26.15

Friday, June 26, 2015

We're off to Rhode Island for a long weekend, and I'm excited to be staying in this adorable little cottage that we rented through AirBnB. Our weekend will be full of seafood, house and garden tours, and, if the weather cooperates, time at the beach. I hope your weekend is bursting with fun plans, as well. Here's are some of the stories that have caught my eye in the last couple of weeks:

Room for two in just 183-square feet.

An awesome, budget kitchen renovation--oh, the power of paint!

I'm curious about the book Furnitecture: Furniture That Transforms Space.

A luxury appliance for growing herbs and greens (kinda silly).

Is Pinterest making moms crazy?

Buyable pins aren't going to make things any better.

A dinner party made entirely of canned food? Yes!

Or kitchen scraps?

The problem with bagged, pre-washed lettuce.

Turns out a soda tax works. 

Cleaning advice from the Shakers.

Small Space Tip: Ditch the Shower Curtain

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Our new bathroom is small—one of the smallest I've had in New York City, and that's saying something. When we renovated, everything was chosen to make the space feel larger. However, one of the things that made the biggest impact on the feeling of the space had nothing to do with renovating and cost nothing at all. We've decided to forgo a shower curtain. 

When we moved in, we hung a clear shower curtain liner with the full intention of finding a new shower curtain to dress up the space. After researching options, and realizing a good-looking model wouldn't come cheap, I bit the bullet and ordered Anthropologie's Morning Light shower curtain. It was beautiful (I would recommend it to anyone in search of a neutral, tasteful option), but as soon as I hung it, the bathroom felt claustrophobic. My husband tentatively asked, "Do we really need a shower curtain?" and I realized that maybe we didn't. The curtain went back, and we've been living with just the clear liner.

Since then, I've found that we're in good company. Erin, who writes the blog Reading My Tea Leaves, also decided that no curtain meant the illusion of more space.  While decorator Vicente Wolf used clear plastic liners to dramatic effect around a clawfoot tub in this bathroom that ran in ELLE DECOR.

Designer and shop owner John Derian also has no shower curtain in one of the bathrooms of his Provincetown, RI home. 

What do you think? Would you forgo a traditional curtain? Or do you think a bathroom look too bare without one? 

Apartment Renovation: Barn Door Solution

Saturday, June 20, 2015

When it was built in the 1940s, our apartment would have had a foyer, living room, kitchen, dining room and bedroom--a very civilized amount of space for a one-bedroom. When we saw it in 2014, my husband furtively whispered to me, "That one-bedroom is really a two-bedroom." Because really, who has a formal dining room in a New York City on-bedroom apartment?

The sellers had added somewhat awkward double doors (above) onto the dining area--perhaps to illustrate that this room could maybe be a place to shut the door and sleep. However, since the apartment is technically a one-bedroom, it was marketed--and priced--as such. Lucky us.

We knew we wanted to improve the look and feel of the entry to what we considered our second bedroom. Our contractor suggested French doors with glass panes and sheer curtains on one side, which he thought would be more attractive. I agreed that the doors were super-ugly, but what bothered me was the way the swinging doors ate up a significant amount of floor space. Installing custom pocket door was out of the question financially, but I thought barn doors might be an option, though I wasn't sure if the country look would work in our city space.

I'd seen photos of the Dean Hotel in Providence, RI and admired the small space solutions that design-build firm ASH NYC had applied to the rooms. In particular, I love the entrances to their bathrooms that use barn doors with a very traditional style. As I mentioned before, we'd already decided to go with white walls and black doors, so the look was in keeping with what I imagined for the rest of the apartment. 

I showed the contractor these photos and he helped us figure out how to DIY the look. We used two of the HomCom 6ft Interior Sliding Barn Door Kit Hardware Sets from Frugah.com, as it was the cheapest track. (It also had stellar customer reviews.) For the doors, we purchased single panel, solid-wood slab doors (from Liberty Panel Center in Brooklyn) that were the closest match to the apartment's original doors, and we painted them with the same high-gloss black paint used on the rest of the doors.

We're thrilled with the finished results (above), and the doors have been one of the first things that guests have commented upon when visiting the apartment. All told, it cost almost $500 ($215 for the tracks, $270 for the two doors, and a bit for the paint), but I think it was worth the investment. If you have a small space where you're considering barn doors, I would definitely recommend them.

How To Make An Upcycled Napkin Curtain

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

I've got a DIY project up on the Etsy Blog today: This pretty upcycled napkin curtain. I'm super-thrilled with how the finished product turned out (above), especially considering I'm not an expert seamstress. To make your own, you’ll need a stash of napkins (tea towels and other vintage linens will work, too), a sewing machine, a few basic craft supplies, and the Tetris-like skills to piece your design together.

Visit the Etsy Blog for the full how-to instructions!

I thought I'd also add a few of the photos that inspired this project, to get you thinking!

Digest 5.15.15

Friday, May 15, 2015

Happy Friday, everyone. Boy, am I ready for the weekend. We're down to just a few things to unpack, and I'm hoping we can tackle it tomorrow. (Wall art is the main culprit.) For a break from all my musings about my own little house, here are some links that have caught my eye lately:

Living with less has gone high-fashion, with coverage in Harper's Bazaar and Vogue.

My latest blog discovery (via Remodelista): The Shingled House. 

This is a very cool tiny house (that's it above, and you can sign up for a tour).

It's not my style, but this small apartment is full of clever ideas.

A modern-day root cellar.

IKEA is now serving breakfast-in-bed.

Food52 covers cooking on a budget.

Simple rules for healthy eating. 

Cheese: the secret to a longer life and faster metabolism? I hope so!

Plus, coffee isn't bad for you, after all. 

Apartment Renovation: Decoration Inspiration

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Our decor won't change too much in our new apartment (the same old stuff came with us to Queens, of course). However, starting over fresh in a new space, definitely has me rethinking our decor a little.

Our new building was completed in 1946, so it has a little bit of a pre-war, mid-century feeling (though there is nothing architecturally interesting about it at all). Both my husband and I find ourselves feeling that some of the antique/traditional pieces we bought for our last apartment don't feel quite right for this new one. Plus, some of them just don't fit the space.

I'm also hoping to apply my aspirations to live with less to our decor. We got rid of a ton of stuff pre-move, which felt great, but I think there will be even more to go as we settle in here. Right now it feels so good to be in this space that is much less cluttered than our old one.

Here are some of the homes that are currently inspiring me:

I can't count the number of times I've turned to Remodelista editor Julie Carson's Mill Valley home (above and below) in the Remodelista book. To me, it's the perfect modern home: It's light, open and spare, yet also lived-in and full of personality.

If only I had the budget to hire Buttrick Won Architects to revamp my little 2-bedroom! One of the things I most admire in Carson's home are all the clever built-ins, which won't be something we can afford to copy. For the best tour of Carson's house, pick up a copy of the Remodelista book, and for a quick tour, check out this slideshow on Refinery29.

Another apartment that is currently inspiring me is Thom Browne's Manhattan apartment, which is as crisply tailored as his clothing designs. I love pretty much everything about it--and my husband does too. You can take a virtual tour on Architectural Digest's site.

Tom Scheerer is my hero when it comes to decor, but many of his interiors are a little more old-fashioned and preppy than I am thinking our new place will be. However, his own Manhattan apartment and office both fit the profile of the modern, urban look I am hoping to achieve. Head to the "town" section on his portfolio site, and click on Gramercy Park Apartment to see more of this lovely space.

Another inspiring home is right here in the new neighborhood! The Jackson Heights home of Jesse James and Costas Anagnopoulos is traditional, yet feels fresh. I'm erring on the side of fewer objets than you see here, but I like the feeling this apartment exudes. There's a full house tour on Remodelista, if you're curious to see more.

Want to see more inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board for the apartment's decor.
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