Cabin fevered? A mid-pandemic zhuzh

By Caitlin Kelly

As our governor Andrew Cuomo said at his daily press conference yesterday — we’re only on day 57 of self-isolation to slow the spread of COVID-19, still claiming more than 400 people daily in New York City.

Staying home and doing our very best to not further spread this terrible virus has already saved 100,000 lives, he said.

But it’s not the most fun staying indoors all the time.

How sick are you of staring at the same four walls?!


Time for a zhuzh?


Even though some of our freelance work has dried up, we’ve spent a bit (about $200) on some micro-fixes to our one-bedroom apartment, desperate for a bit of visual relief and freshness.

Here’s the new bedside rug I scored on sale from Bed, Bath and Beyond:



The duvet cover is Pottery Barn, from a few years ago


We also bought a fresh set of bedsheets, a new sink mat for the kitchen and a new shower mat for our bathtub — to my horror and annoyance, the spray-on white surface we had done last year on our 12 year old tub is now bubbled and peeling off in sheets. It’s disgusting and will now be a long time before we can have anyone in to re-do it.

I’m buying fresh flowers every week as usual, doing lots of cleaning and polishing and we re-arranged our living room gallery wall:



l to r, top row: my own image, Paris; a colored pencil drawing by a Canadian artist; a print by Henri Lartigue of early Paris

l to r middle row: a photo by our friend, Michael Falco, his pinhole camera image of Civil War re-enactors; one of the world’s widest trees, in Mexico; former First Lady Betty Ford atop the Cabinet Room table, by former WH official photographer David Hume Kennerly, another friend

bottom row, l to r: Me and a pal in a food photo shoot in the 60s; Bernie Boston’s classic anti-war image


We’re even considering a complete re-do of our hallway/living room wall color…unchanged for 13 years. That’s a huge commitment — not so much of time (we have lots right now!) — but finding a color what will work with our current furnishings and accessories. A creamy beige would be bright and fresh…but also boring as hell.

The current color, now discontinued but we can order more, is Gervase Yellow by Farrow & Ball.

Here’s the view from our bed.

The color’s a bit off — the poster is black and white, not  yellow. It’s one of my most treasured possessions, bought on my first honeymoon decades ago. My husband and I spent a day at the Pont du Gard and came back to find the trunk of our rental car broken into and both suitcases, with every stitch of clothing and toiletries, stolen. Thank heaven, they didn’t bother with the interior, where they would have found this.

The curly metal mirror I bought in Halifax in the 80s, the antique Chinese jar-lamp in rural Ontario at an antique shop and the chest of drawers decades ago at an antiques show. The black and white photo is Jose’s family, pre-Jose.

The wall color is Farrow & Ball’s Skimming Stone, a warm gray.




We’re very glad we invested in renovating our kitchen and only bathroom (bathroom, 2008, kitchen 2013) as to be stuck 24/7 living in a place that’s dirty or in crappy condition, is really depressing.

I’m also grateful we only share the place with one another, and not — as many New Yorkers do — with multiple kids, now home all the time, and pets. It’s tough enough fighting cabin fever since our daytime temperatures are still in the 40s F (!) and it’s raining  probably five days out of seven, which is so damn confining!

If you’re seeking affordable inspiration, Apartment Therapy has many global images and projects, many on tight budgets.

Have you made any changes or done any projects to keep you busy and cheer your home up a bit?


17 thoughts on “Cabin fevered? A mid-pandemic zhuzh

  1. carolyn

    We just moved in October and although I haven’t felt well enough to paint, we have done some work outside on the rare sunny days here in NJ. My husband built a cedar potting bench and beautiful cedar raised beds for me so we can have a small garden. We’ve done some yard clean up as well. We were at Disney World on the last day it was open so after a two week self quarantine I went back to work two days a week, but my husband is home for the duration. I’ve also made 3 small quilts, a dozen or so masks, 2 crocheted washcloths and knitted a sweater for my soon to be born granddaughter. Today is another small quilt, start on a baby quilt for said granddaughter and maybe cast on a sweater for my 20 month old granddaughter. I’m enjoying the time at home! Oh, there is also baking and jigsaw puzzling going on! Stay safe!

  2. I’ve been working from home since mid-March, so my days have been kept busy. As for my evenings, I’ve been rewatching the Marvel Avenger films (watched Doctor Strange last night, so only nine more to go) and writing stories. At the moment, I’m in the first third of a novella set in Victorian England, which has been going well so far.
    Oh, and I’ve been spending time with the exercise bike. That’s been nice.
    So yeah, plenty of things going on at my place. None of them involving home improvements, but at least they’re fulfilling for me. And one of them is helping me lose weight, so that’s nice.

  3. What is this word “zhuzh”? I thought it was Yiddish, then looked it up and read that it’s a totally made-up word.

    Yeah, I like Apartment Therapy website. I’ve done nothing to my small flat, except clean a lot. It’s never been so neat, clean and orderly!

  4. Marge

    I too have made some masks for family and a friend. Tomorrow I am starting a quilt for my bed, in shades of blues and a few squares of bluebirds. I already have the fabric. The blues and greens in my bedroom calm me. Love your taste in decorating!

  5. Jan Jasper

    I always love hearing your decor ideas. Your new bedside rug looks great with the duvet cover, despite very different textile styles – probably because they both contain a greyish color.
    A few months ago I had a Farrow + Ball color consultant come to my house, which was a good investment. She prevented me making some expensive mistakes in selecting paint colors. At her suggestion, I bought Ringwold Ground for the new color on the hall and stairwell. But unfortunately having the painters in will have to wait. I’m half-tempted to paint it myself, but the thought of trying to paint the high ceiling above the stairs just scares me. Before the lockdown, I did, however, have the electrician come to mount some sconces in the wall of the stairwell, and I ordered some shield shades online. (These are shades that only cover the front – good for tight spaces.) I’d attach a photo if you’d like to see, but not sure that’s allowed here. I already had someone patch the holes the electrician had to make; the plastered sections are visible. Not attractive, that’s why I’m so eager to paint.
    In a recent email from Farrow + Ball, I think they offered “virtual” color consulting. I didn’t read it, but my guess is that if you send a photo they’ll make color suggestions, for a fee of course, but would likely be cheaper than paying them to come to your house (when that’s allowed again)..But the consultant would not be able to see the light in your home, so I don’t know if a remote color consult would be worth it. I thought I’d mention it as I know you’re a Farrow + Ball fan.

    1. Thanks….that visit sounds very cool!

      I may (?) have mentioned they gave me a tour of F & Ball’s factory in Dorset in July 2017 and i got to meet Charlie Cosby, their head color consultant. That was a thrill!

      Color is always really tricky — thanks to my favorite design school training word, metamerism — which is how light affects how we perceive color….so different with a northern exposure or under candlelight…

  6. Jan Jasper

    Yes you did mention your F &B factory tour, way back when. I think it was your mentioning Farrow & Ball – and the colors you chose for your home – that was actually the very first time I heard of the brand. Also, I’m planting flowers.

  7. ooh, i remember your love of beautiful and quality paint. maybe this is a chance to experience it once again. glad you are doing the little things that make a house a home, and luckily you did some of this before. these things make all the difference.

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