Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Four Day Remodel

Or, the least-sensical, most rewarding course of action for when your roommate moves out and you can't afford your rent. 

Like most good ideas, it was born on a drunken night in Paris. Days before I'd left for the trip, my roommate unexpectedly decided to move out halfway through our lease. The better part of a bottle of Bourgogne deep, in a cramped Parisian airbnb rental with one of my closest friends, I bemoaned the imminent task of endeavoring to find a suitable replacement within mere weeks. As the denizens of Craigslist, with all their certain sociopathic tendencies and hygienic oddities, began to sound less and less appealing, my friend looked around our rented place. "Why not use airbnb?" she posited. And so it began.

The idea was that if I could transform my apartment into an enticing enough space, I'd rent it out at a high (but still competitive in the oh-so reasonable real estate climate of New York) price for a weekend or two a month, preferably while I was out of town, and make up enough of the rent to live in it solo the rest of the time. The only trick? I couldn't begin renovating until my roommate moved out, leaving mere days to turn my "flex" (New York realtors' euphemism of choice for an apartment that anywhere else in the world would fit one person, but also theoretically, feasibly could fit two) into a pristine one-bedroom with a living room sleeper couch.  The need for the security of a few reservations before taking on the challenge of renovations presented an interesting Catch 22 for the listing page on airbnb.   

Over another bottle of wine, this time stateside, another friend and I scraped together a few Instagram photos that somewhat showed various corners of my apartment, and put old creative writing classes to good use in an embellished description of a home that was, for the most part, existent only as a vision in our Cabernet-fueled imaginations. We had dinner and waited a few hours. Nothing. We drank more wine as I slowly resigned myself to the grim necessity of continuing my cramped existence with a hastily-selected roommate who, by all SVU-inspired logic, would most certainly be a serial killer. 

But when I awoke the next morning, the airbnb fairy had visited. Eight (eight!) reservation requests gleamed in my inbox, awaiting my action. I perused my options (I had options! I was airbnb popular!). Gingerly, ecstatically, I accepted my first one. Well, I told myself, this is really happening. And the renovation countdown began.  

From the moment I pressed accept on the first reservation request in “Charming, Cozy Manhattan Apartment,” the clock was ticking.  Once my roommate moved out, taking much of our furniture with her, I had just under 8 days (and no more than a couple hundred dollars) to transform the veritable tornado wake that remained into the “bright, cozy and chicly decorated home”  promised in my listing. Of course my guests didn’t know this, and most people I knew thought I was crazy, but any rational person knows that's just all the more reason to pull it off. 

The apartment the day my roommate moved out. I had to chuckle to myself as I looked at this and imagined the reactions of my future guests, days away from their carefully planned vacations, if they could see what lay before me. 

The Couch:
My first challenge was materializing the “full sized pull-out sofa (very comfy!)” that I had promised could accommodate two guests. After a quick search informed me that even Ikea’s finest versions would run me over $500, I turned to Craigslist. By luck, divine intervention, or the alignment of stars, I found a girl my age selling a nearly new pull out just 4 blocks from my apartment. Perfect! What could be easier than that? 
So I thought. Four hours of painstaking attempts to hail a taxi in what turned out to be the most ill-timed monsoon possible later, I resigned to an $89 surge-priced Uber (team Lyft forever!) to carry my dear couch and me the two (!!) blocks to my apartment, where a friend and I exhausted our shallow reserves of physical capabilities endeavoring to fit the sofa in the elevator and transport it, piece by piece, from there into my new living room. 

The Paint:
A simple rule: if you ever want your friends to help you do something, promise them booze and food. Such was the wisdom behind my "paint party," a group chore disguised as a wine and cheese night, which yielded shockingly satisfactory results (save a few rogue paintstrokes near the ceiling -- no one sees those anyway!). 

The Art:
Presented with a vast expanse of new wall space, my hoarder tendencies proved useful. I scoured piles of old magazines, books, calendars, and auction catalogs for compelling images, cutting them carefully out and fitting them to assorted frames purchased on sale at Target. The result? An eclectic gallery wall whose works ran the gamut from a Chinese art print to abstract expressionist miniatures, to George Clooney in full Yayoi Kusama regalia. I'd call it the perfect finishing touch on a far-fetched renovation.

The finished living room: paint in Martha Stewart's Dolphin; sheer curtains from Target held back with grossgrain ribbon scrap ties; couch and coffee table courtesy Craigslist; flowered chair courtesy thrift shop; gallery wall featuring clippings from W Magazine, Cond√© Nast Traveler, Hamilton College 2013 calendar, Sotheby's Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale catalog; books: compulsively collected.  

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