As I briefly mentioned last week, amenities and good location are hard to come by, especially at the same time and at a decent price. While looking at an apartment three (very long) blocks off the Dekalb L stop, I noticed little signs of revival in the outstretches of Bushwick—the facade of a tenement building repaired, construction workers milling about in paint-splattered overalls with ladders. A sign that the tidal wave of Williamsburgian revival will soon fall upon it. However, thus far, it hasn’t.
The apartment cost $1,600 a month, though the realtor—a kind Hasidic man who immediately explained his inability to shake my hand before offering his to my boyfriend—offered it for $1,550 when I winced at the price. Workers were coming and going over paper that had been set down on the floor to protect newly stained wood floors. Though it was on the first floor, everything was brand-new: kitchen cabinets, walls, moldings, doors, bathroom fixtures. It was clear that the landlord had put money into the place, but I could not justify spending even the discounted $750 per month on a (beautiful) room in Bushwick that I did not feel safe in.
Unfazed by sketchy neighborhoods, some people might choose Brooklyn over Manhattan exclusively for the extra space and lower price tag. After viewing the Bushwick apartment I realized that that lower price tag is quickly disappearing, and that I’m no longer willing to fear for my safety every time I walk home from the train. And on top of that, a room for rent half a block from my apartment is going for $1,000, a few hundred more than mine.
I love Manhattan, and the amenities that come with most apartments, even just in the form of convenience and location, are unbeatable. So rather than just doing without, I picked a location that is convenient to transportation, and opted to put my own time and money into creating the missing touches. After two trips to Ikea, in Long Island and New Jersey, and one trip each to Bed, Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Target and Lowe’s, I accumulated the necessary amenities for a posh apartment at a reasonable price.
My room is a decent 12×14, with a good-sized closet (so crucial!). When I moved in, the tiled floors were dirty and the walls full of holes, so the first task was to spackle and paint. I chose a lovely gray-blue, a gallon of which ran me $16. I pulled it together with a cushy wool carpet tiled with navy, gray and rust rectangles—a remnant from ABC Carpet—and bamboo blinds under navy curtains. It immediately felt warm and welcoming, the ugly tiles are hidden, and the walls repaired to the best of my ability. While at Lowe’s, I snagged a couple of navy faceplates for the electrical outlets, which were yellow and probably older than me. Next, a new globe-shaped Ikea light fixture went into the ceiling, which my boyfriend hooked up to a remote-controlled dimmer switch.
The living room also got a new ceiling light, a three-prong fixture, also from Ikea, with white bulbs to brighten the room. Luckily, on my way home one night I came across an extremely large beige carpet outside of one of the pretty brownstones on Prospect Place. After lugging it back to the apartment, we realized it not only covered the entire living room area, it was also enough to carpet my roommate’s room, saving him a couple of hundred bucks. So far, no bed bugs!
The kitchen is now filled with modern appliances: a fire-engine red microwave from Target, a Brita filter fitted onto the tap, modern Ikea silverware and glasses. Soon beige curtains will go up on the two kitchen windows and a table and chairs will be installed in our little eat-in space. For the bathroom, I got a pair of circular bath mats from Ikea, a fancy new double shower head (on sale at Home Depot!) and a new toilet seat. The floor is in need of a paint job and the tub could use some caulking, projects I will undertake as I continue working on the place.
After two weekends in a row of alternately doing work and shopping for necessities, I still have a lot to do.