The fall zhuzh!

The summer bed coverlet

By Caitlin Kelly

It’s that time again, kids!

Our summer was terrible — the 2nd wettest July on record for New York and if it wasn’t raining, it was horribly hot and humid. Really not a good time.

So we are savoring fall, our favorite season — lots of bright sunshine, cooler temperatures, a chance to finally stop using air conditioners and fans.

Because we also live, work, eat, dine and bathe in a one-bedroom apartment, the place gets a LOT of wear and tear! And that’s without kids or pets.

And I have been in the same place since June 1989, so cosmetic upgrades are ongoing.

To get ready for fall and winter, here’s some of what we’re doing, (and maybe some suggestions for your home?)

— getting our throw rugs cleaned and replacing underpadding as needed

— getting the sofa professionally steam-cleaned

— getting the bathroom shower wall grout repaired

Our living room gallery wall, a mix of our photos, photos we have been given or collected

and a few posters.

— framing a few new pieces of art

— changing the summer cotton coverlet for the duvet; (dry cleaned and stored there all summer)

— fresh duvet cover

— a new pillow and pillow protectors

— having a nice fabric cover custom-made for Jose’s (plywood, homemade) desk

— a new desk chair for Jose

— tossing out as many unread books as I can stand to lose

— wrapping our balcony furniture to protect it after it’s too cold to use it

— doing a clean rinse of the dishwasher

— removing as much indoor clutter as possible

— making sure we have plenty of candles (votives, tapers) for the dinner table as it gets dark so early

Also consider some safety issues easily forgotten like:

— dusting light-bulbs and shades, making sure you have enough light to read easily with shorter darker days ahead

— is your fire extinguisher still working?

— smoke detector?

— carbon monoxide detector?

— shower mat?

— bathtub grab bar(s); love this one that doesn’t demand installation in the wall; a friend has one

Also, replacing things that get a lot of use and maybe it’s time for new ones, like:

— burned oven mitts

— worn wooden spoons

— cookware

— bed linens/towels

— wastebaskets

— napkins/tablecloths

— tired/old/flavorless spices

— shower mat

— shower curtain

— kettle or coffeemaker

Things to make life cosier:

— a lovely teapot and selection of teas

— pretty cloth napkins/tablecloth; love these linen ones at $6 each (on sale) in 12 colors

— a throw rug beside your bed

— fresh shams

— a vintage decanter to fill with bourbon or a smoky scotch

— some new bakeware; a muffin pan, bundt pan, tart tins

— a pair of colorful throw pillows for your sofa

I’m really glad we live in such a lovely home, and it’s the subject of much devoted care to cleaning, maintenance and upgrades.

I spent my childhood in boarding school and summer camp (home for school in Grades 6 and 7), and I have no doubt that so many years in shared spaces not of my own design has helped make me a bit obsessive!

I also studied for a few years at the New York School of Interior Design and learned a lot about how to make a place, even a small-ish one, beautiful, functional and welcoming.

I use a lot of different resources:

For fabrics, basics from Ballard Designs, Calico Corners and amazing stuff (often $$$) from Svensk Tenn in Stockholm and Fabrics and Papers in England. One of my favorite fabric sources is in (!) London, England, The Cloth Shop, who happily mailed me yardage I chose online.

I don’t use Etsy or EBay but there are lots of bargains there, and so many online places from Joss & Main to Perigold to FirstDibs to Wayfair, plus all the big stores. Consignment and thrift shops and antique shops and flea markets can offer some amazing bargains — I recently found a huge, pristine white linen tablecloth for $35.

We love Farrow & Ball paint (yes, expensive but we find it worth the price) and I splurge a few times a year on custom-made linens like curtains, tablecloths and throw pillows, all of which add warmth, silence, comfort and color.

12 thoughts on “The fall zhuzh!

  1. That’s pretty dang zhuzh-y, all right. I had to do a pretty major mold mitigation and floor repair project recently. Once that was done, the zhuzh flowed like like wine (I know ‘zhuzh’ is a verb, but the most tender steaks come from sacred cows.) I replaced the birch parquet flooring with a dark hickory laminate plank. The contrasting colors and asymmetrical division of space make the already large, 200 square foot, space look even bigger.
    I have a tough time with books. My wife works at the public library in Mars Hill, NC, which is a college town, so their used book store has lots of interesting stuff at super low low prices. What would you be willing to pay? It drives her nuts.
    This is your post and I’m not going to make it about me any more than I already have. Enjoy your zhuzhing.

  2. Marge Albanese

    I just moved from the condo I owned and lived in for 16 years to an Independent Senior Living apartment. That meant lots of downsizing and I’m still getting rid of things. You have given me lots of ideas. I especially like the grab bar and the duvet. I quilted a throw for myself and love it; now I’m making one for my niece who helped me move. Quilts give the place that personal touch! Thanks for sharing all of your ideas!

  3. Here’s an awesome emergency candle hack from my sister, who lives in a really power outage prone area: Take an emergency candle and jam it into a small can of Crisco. No extra smoke or smell and it will burn for hours on end without dripping. If you have a mid-century kitschy kitchen they fit right in, or they are easy enough to wrap with something a little more tasteful. And, of course, you can put the lid back on once the lights come on so there’s no unsightly candle stub. May your fall and winter be warm, cozy and tasteful.

  4. It’s nice to hear about all the things you’re doing to freshen up the place. Where you use tea, I use espressos au lait (Barista oat milk). Nothing I prefer ingesting, not ice cream, not bacon (neither of which I eat anymore to keep my arteries clear).

    You rinse your dishwasher? Do you mean that you run it empty? My Bosch is probably at least six years old, and does a damn good job, but will that somehow clean it in a way that it otherwise doesn’t get fully clean?

  5. Kris Lindquist

    Love these ideas especially the safety reminders. Pulled the annuals yesterday and moved the pots in. Love wearing sweaters again 🙂

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