Penthouse at Midpoint
In every major remodeling project there’s inevitably a long, messy period where progress fails to register as the knotty infrastructure goes in, and the scale of the project still seems to be growing, but all that changes when paint finally hits the walls, and the finish materials long ago selected are suddenly brought in, to be opened like presents on Christmas morning. Water heater in the middle of the living room and a few still-lumpy walls aside, the penthouse hit that stage this week.
Daunted by the arithmetic of 37 pieces of drywall, two elevators, and 26 floors, for the first time in 20-odd years I elected to hire drywallers for the new walls rather than do it myself, a decision for which I thank myself each day, because the few walls I didn’t remove and replace were slathered with heavy, sloppy texture that intermittently resembled a brocade ceiling that might have been rendered by orangutans, and I’ve gone through 30 gallons of joint compound making them smooth, so I’m already way over my limit with the mud pan. Together, the owners and I settled on a palette of colors in the khaki-to wheat range, and as a standard practice I put up some quick coats before we committed to anything. (I am, as far as I know, the world’s fastest painter, so this is pretty easy…)
As you can see, the kitchen has dark, oxblood-colored cabinetry, which I plan to echo in the doors and other woodwork elsewhere, so I wanted the darkest wall color in there, since it is flooded with light from its south-facing wall of glass doors, and I added six recessed lights in its dropped ceiling to brighten the dark corners. The soffit above the stove will be rendered as a wood beam with integrated vents, eliminating a messy detail and picking up the color of the cabinets. The color we chose initially (at left) was too light, though, and we picked a darker green, shown here at right.
Except in the bathrooms, which will be tiled, and master suite, which will be carpeted, the floors will be what is called “fusion” bamboo; bamboo that has been shredded and compressed together with resin to create a much harder, denser, and varied material than the more typical bamboo that is sliced vertically or horizontally and laminated together. Just to complicate things, though, before installing the floors I’m going to lay 1/8″ of cork sheeting (on top of several bags of leveling compound here and there) to baffle sound and add a touch of “give” to the floor, which if it were glued directly to the concrete would be both overly hard and probably a bit annoying to the neighbors below. I live in a concrete high rise with wafer-thin parquet, so I know this to be true….
The color I tried for the living room got three thumbs down; we chose our original “dark” green as the wall color for here and the hall, so look fast…. That lame color is history. (The water heater is just a temporary feature as well…)
This view didn’t exist originally; the water heater and hall closet were blocking it, which we moved across the hall, and the doorway to the guest room/den was a few feet to the right. My theory is that if your apartment is 40 feet long, this desirable luxury should be immediately perceptible when you walk in the front door, and I expect this change to be widely envied, especially by the neighbors, whose guests must never know which way to go when they walk in.
The impetus for the whole remodel was the fact that, despite being quite large overall, the penthouse had the same cramped bedrooms, hall, and baths as all the units below; the owner had a completely changed floor plan to show me after one walk-through that eliminated the three standard closets with one walk-in, shortened the too-long hallway, and added a precious few square feet to the master bath, which, like the second bath, was code-limit 35 square feet, something even the crappiest hotel chain wouldn’t try today. The second bedroom will serve as a den (with a sofa bed for guests), divided by double sliding doors from the master, which has gone from shoebox to almost baronial when I eliminated a lot of the dropped ceilings and knocked out most of the wall between them. (This color was also a big ol’ FAIL; tomorrow we’re looking for a deeper gray/brown or three to try, the best of which we’ll use in both rooms.)
Although it doesn’t look like much yet, this hall is one of the bigger improvements. It used to be a good 3 feet longer, and admitted no light its entire length. Now the angled wall (which I tried to talk them out of because they’re too much work) scoops up the light, and the relocation of the closets and water heater paid off again.
I still have one more bucket of mud to put up, and quite a bit of sanding thereof, before I can finish painting, but I should be starting to tile the bathrooms late next week and putting in floors a week or so after that, and then all the fancy woodwork details will, I’m pretty sure, make the place resemble what the owners want, something that “looks like a penthouse.” It just passed that point where this seems plausible. More later on this CHNN station.