The Container Store’s Omni Bucket

So, I just have to quickly tell you all about the best thing ever. As you know, I have a stupidly tiny kitchen. There’s actually a decent amount of storage but a lot of it is up high. I always have to drag a chair in to get to stuff off the top shelves which annoys me, disproportionately probably. I was looking for a real step stool for in there but they’re all so huge. The folding ones are better but I don’t have anywhere to put one of those, either. Since I hate my trash can, I was hoping someone made a combo step stool trash can. Someone does, but it’s not actually for sale. So anyway, my hopes of having a two for one item in the kitchen were dashed. UNTIL I came across this bucket from The Container Store.

The most excellent step stool/cat food container ever. The Omni Bucket from The Container Store

The most excellent step stool/cat food container ever. The Omni Bucket from The Container Store

I hardly ever shop there because it can be expensive for what it is. But I saw the buckets and thought they were cute and could replace some less cute storage I currently have, specifically cat food and other cat THINGS. When I saw that it was strong enough to step on, I about died. OMG I had to have it. Some of the colors are even on sale! So exciting. Now I keep the bucket on the floor filled with cat food. It can be gently slid across the floor to the kitchen, or if needed elsewhere, it has a handy handle. It’s plenty large enough and plenty strong enough to hold cat food and me! Genius!

Apartment 2 in Chicago

Mike recently wrote about our great experience with the people who manage our apartment building, so I thought I’d post about the apartment itself. If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, you’ll notice all our same stuff in yet another environment!

Ever since I visited Chicago in 2001 I’ve wanted to live here. When Mike and I came in 2007 we even looked at condos for sale! So when Mike got laid off last year the first thing I thought was “Yay, now we can move to Chicago!”

Even though we had both visited Chicago several times, we weren’t 100% sure where we wanted to live. I thought Lakeview/Wrigleyville would be pretty Chicago-y  so searched CraigsList for places up there. We weren’t able to come out to look for a place and it was super hard to do via CraigsList and email- only about 5% of the people we contacted even bothered to get back to us! SO LAME. But finally someone did get back to us. The apartment was in Lincoln Park which is the next neighborhood south of Lakeview, so I figured it was close enough. The apartment was just a 2 month sublet anyway, so it was fine. But we love Lincoln Park. There are places in Lakeview that are nice, too but it seems a little more young up there. Plus, we actually live right on the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview, so it’s the best of both worlds.

Anyhow, since it IS Lincoln Park, it’s expensive (the second most expensive neighborhood in Chicago). We couldn’t get a super huge place. In fact, we got a super tiny place. It’s only about 370 sq feet, with the main room only about 225. When we moved we weren’t sure how much space we’d have or how long we’d be staying so we just brought the bare minimum basics with us. It’s small but it’s working out fine for us and we haven’t managed to kill each other yet.

Over time we’ll probably fix it up more so consider these the “before” pictures.

Our very small studio apartment in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

Our very small studio apartment in Lincoln Park, Chicago. We found the painting next to a dumpster! We liked it so we took it home. The photos above the couch were taken on our many road trips.

Another view of the main room. We left about 90% of our stuff in storage in Colorado.

Another view of the main room. We left about 90% of our stuff in storage in Colorado. We did bring the bar stuff- like I said, all the basics!

Our dining area. The metro shelf is on rollers so can be moved closer to the kitchen when I need more counter space, or out of the way when we want to use the table. The table is a wall mounted fold-down model from IKEA and fits perfectly behind the metro shelf when not in use.

Our dining area. The metro shelf is on rollers so it can be moved closer to the kitchen when I need more counter space, or out of the way when we want to use the table. The table is a wall mounted fold-down model from IKEA and fits perfectly behind the metro shelf when not in use.

We got this desk from IKEA because it fit perfectly in this little nook. The space above it needs shelving or art or something.

The desk area needs some work.

The desk area needs some work.

The kitchen is really little but surprisingly functional.

Tiny apartment stove!

Tiny apartment stove!

I like the plain white countertops and appliances. I'm glad they haven't been redone all contemporary with faux granite and stainless.

I like the plain white countertops and appliances. I'm glad they haven't been redone all contemporary with faux granite and stainless.

There are no drawers and no space for a knife block so I got the wall mounted magnetic knife holder from amazon.com.

I normally don't like a lot of junk on tops of cabinets but I had no choice here. So I put the cute colorful stuff up there and keep it dusted.

I normally don't like a lot of junk on tops of cabinets but I had no choice here. So I put the cute colorful stuff up there and keep it dusted.

Same with the top of the fridge (the tiny fridge- which is also surprisingly functional- nothing gets shoved to the back and out of sight).

Same with the top of the fridge (the tiny fridge- which is also surprisingly functional- nothing gets shoved to the back and out of sight).

There are no drawers and not enough counter space for a utensil holder, so Mike put this pegboard up for me. I also thought it would be cute to have the pans hanging on the wall.

There are no drawers and not enough counter space for a utensil holder, so Mike put this pegboard up for me. I also thought it would be cute to have the pans hanging on the wall.

Luckily Home Depot is walking distance.

Luckily Home Depot is walking distance.

There's a decent sized walk-in closet with hanging bars/shelves. But the shelves were hung too low so I had Mike move them up a few inches. He was happy to have a home improvement project!

There's a decent sized walk-in closet with hanging bars/shelves. But the shelves were hung too low so I had Mike move them up a few inches. He was happy to have a home improvement project!

Ok, so the closet needs work! Remember this pic as the "before"!

Ok, so the closet needs work! Remember this pic as the "before"!

This kind of tile is not my fave. I’m more of a subway tile kind of girl. At least it’s just in the shower surround and on the floor and not all over all the walls. I’ve lived in some hideous rental bathrooms and this is quite an improvement on most of them out there. I love the big window for ventilation and view. You can open it and take a bath with a view of the other high-rises in the neighborhood.

I like to keep the bathroom neutral and simple with white towels and shower curtain.

I like to keep the bathroom neutral and simple with white towels and shower curtain.

 

We've never had radiators before. They're hot! We have had the window open every day - even when it's cold outside.

We've never had radiators before. They're hot! We have had the window open every day - even when it's cold outside.

Our apartment is on the 14th floor with an awesome view.

The view from our apartment.

The view from our apartment.

Another view from our apartment.

Another view from our apartment.

The cats enjoy looking out the window, too.

The cats enjoy looking out the window, too.

Our apartment is on the top floor, the stairs across the hall lead to the awesome roof deck.

Our apartment is on the top floor, the stairs across the hall lead to the awesome roof deck.

The roof deck is a nice place to have a drink.

The roof deck is a nice place to have a drink.

There are chairs and chaises for hanging out.

There are chairs and chaises for hanging out.

View of Lake Michigan from the roof deck.

View of Lake Michigan from the roof deck.

And a view of the park.

And a view of the park.

It's nice to go out on the roof at night, too.

It's nice to go out on the roof at night, too.

The view in the other direction is the sunset.

The view in the other direction is the sunset.

I watched the runners in the Chicago Marathon from the roof deck.

I watched the runners in the Chicago Marathon from the roof deck.

Another pretty view.

Another pretty view.

Stay tuned because you know we won’t be able to resist home improvement.

BJB Properties, Lincoln Park, Chicago

Over the past year, we’ve lived in a house, a travel trailer, several hotels and guest bedrooms, and two apartments. Getting a place in Chicago without actually being in Chicago was quite a chore, and we finally ended up getting a sublet in Lincoln Park managed by BJB Properties. When the sublet ended, finding another place was a lot easier since we were here and able to visit the places and talk to the managers. After several weeks of searching, we ended up at another building managed by BJB.

We read the Yelp reviews and were surprised by how many people had bad experiences with BJB. Our experience with BJB at both properties has been outstanding, and the two buildings we lived in were very well-maintained and clean.

629 W. Deming

Best part about this building is the view from the roof deck. We subletted this apartment sight-unseen from a Craigslist ad, so we were very concerned about whether we made the right choice. Turns out everyone was easy to deal with and professional. Getting the keys was a breeze, and so was everything else: utilities, satellite TV, Internet. The office managers responded to every email and every phone call. The tub needed some regrouting when we moved in, and the maintenance crew took care of it the very next day. Easy. Other than that, the apartment was freshly painted, with updated fixtures and appliances.

In the Deming building, though, we had the misfortune of living in the unit on the first floor on the alley, which means our windows looked out over the dumpsters. The trash trucks are out every morning, and they are very loud. This isn’t BJB’s fault, of course, but we’d have picked a better unit if we could have. (One bonus to living right next to the dumpsters, though, is that the people in this particular alleyway throw away some really great trash. We got a free bedside table, a closet organizer, some DVDs, an air conditioner, and a couple of awesome chairs. Thanks, wasteful people!)

When it came time to move after our two-month sublet was over, we wanted a similar-size apartment, but a studio instead of a one-bedroom. A studio seems to use the space better. More open. We found a great place on Wrightwood on the top floor, and the BJB management staff really made the transition easy. There was some confusion and uncertainty about everyone’s move-in and move-out dates, but staff members were very accommodating about everything, and since we were moving into another BJB unit, all the applications and credit checks were transferred. Easy.

443 W. Wrightwood

Top-floor, baby! With an even better sun deck. OK, it’s a little pricey, but so is just about everything else in Lincoln Park. Especially around the start of the school year. Again, just like the Deming place, everything is clean and updated. And also just like the Deming building, though it’s been updated, it’s been updated tastefully and carefully to maintain the historic feel of the building. We had a couple of nail holes to patch and some caulking that needed to be redone around the toilet, and the maintenance crew was up the next day. Beautiful.

And now that we’re right by the elevator, we’re actually closer to the laundry room in the basement than we were at Deming, where we had to walk all the way down the entire length of the building to reach the elevators.

Some other observations

  • Pay rent online without extra fees.
  • Laundry machines operate with reloadable cards (Deming only)
  • Cannot hear neighbors through the walls. Weird.
  • Hot water is fast and abundant. We’ve never run out.
  • Our free satellite TV is nice, but we’re not big TV watchers. It’s the most basic package.
  • The Wi-Fi cuts out sometimes, but overall, it’s worked fine. Just a slight irritation periodically when it cuts out.
  • Cats only, which means no crying, barking dogs.

Of course your mileage may vary, but our experience with BJB Properties continues to be top-notch.

The bedroom at Deming was nice, but small. No point in having a bedroom at all in a small place like that.

Great roof deck at Deming, with tables and chairs for lounging. Incredible city views.

The kitchen at Deming opened into the living area, and despite its size, it was very functional.

Small bathroom at Deming. We've seen some pretty disgusting bathrooms in our travels, so we were pleased that this one was so clean and well-maintained.

Of the two streets, Deming is slightly prettier than Wrightwood, with big, beautiful trees and less traffic.

The view from the Wrightwood deck is nice because in addition to the city's skyscrapers, you can also see the lake.

The studio apartment on Wrightwood is about the same size as our Deming place, but it uses the space better.

Lincoln Park, Chicago Apartment One

We like to move. I’m not sure if “like” is the right word, but we move a lot. When we moved to Chicago we weren’t able to come out here first to find a place to live. We had to do it online so we wanted to get something short term so that we could get ourselves and our stuff here and look for something long term in person. So we got a small sublet in Lincoln Park, a neighborhood I had heard about but didn’t know much about.

We stored 75% of our stuff in Colorado Springs, along with our travel trailer. We brought just the basics but somehow we really don’t miss what we left behind.

Our first little sublet was a 400 sq foot one bedroom on the ground floor in the back of the building on the alley by the dumpsters. Glad it was only a two month sublet! Still, the management company that owns it has recently remodeled all the units. They did a nice job and stuck to the original old feel of the building.

On the way from Colorado we stopped in Dallas and cleaned out a storage space from when I had a studio there. The bed and all the bedding came from there.

On the way from Colorado we stopped in Dallas and cleaned out a storage space from when I had a studio there. The bed and all the bedding came from there. The little cabinet was dumpster adjacent. Living by the dumpsters had it's perks.

400 sq ft sublet in Lincoln Park, Chicago

400 sq ft sublet in Lincoln Park, Chicago

Renovated bathroom in our Lincoln Park sublet.

Renovated bathroom in our Lincoln Park sublet.

The renovated kitchen- plus dishwasher!

The renovated kitchen- plus dishwasher!

I only brought about 20% of my kitchen stuff and it was still a lot! There are a bunch of boxes behind the curtain.

I only brought about 20% of my kitchen stuff and it was still a lot! There are a bunch of boxes behind the curtain.

I liked this poster in the COS kitchen so wanted to recreate the look in Chicago.

I liked this poster in the COS kitchen so wanted to recreate the look in Chicago.

We recently moved again- to an even smaller place. Still in Lincoln Park because we found out we really like it! I’ll post about that soon!

IndustrialEx Colorado Springs Powder Coating

Ok, I said that the powder room post was the last home improvement post. But I forgot I wanted to tell you about IndustrialEx in Colorado Springs (there’s also one in Denver).

We had some vintage metal cabinets in our kitchen and wanted to fix them up and reuse them in our renovation. There is lots of info online about how to deal with old metal cabinets, from stripping and painting them yourself, to taking them to an auto body place to be painted, to powder coating.

I was more familiar with powder coating than with any of the other options, so even tho some people said that the blasting they need to do to strip them (the metal has to be completely bare, raw metal for powder coating to work unlike other kinds of coating) might warp or dent the metal, we decided to try it. IndustrialEx used a gentle material in the blasting process (bead blasting?) and we did not have any problem with warping. We did have a few small dings in the metal, but I’m not sure if that was from the blasting or if they were there before. Later someone told me that we should have looked at them once they were stripped and had the dings filled and repaired before the powder coating. I don’t know if they really could have done that, tho because the repair material would have also had to be metal. But the dings weren’t huge and we were selling the house so I just ignored them.

There are lots of powder coating colors and several different finishes, we chose a simple white in a semi-gloss finish. If we were staying in the house I would have picked something fun like red in a high gloss finish. But with powder coating, since it’s baked on, it’s permanent, it can’t be blasted off or removed or re-powder coated (altho it can probably be painted), so we figured white was pretty safe.

There are some good pages online discussing what powder coating is and how it’s done. Check out the ehow article and the wikipedia.

We had to take the cabinets out and take all the hardware off (including the little rubber wheels on the drawers, which we were very careful not to misplace!) before the powder coating, then put everything back on after.

Beauty Queen vintage metal cabinets before stripping and powder coating

Beauty Queen vintage metal cabinets before stripping and powder coating

Vintage Beauty Queen cabinets after stripping and powder coating.

Vintage Beauty Queen cabinets after stripping and powder coating.

Powder coating coats every surface, making the cabinets look brand new.

Powder coating coats every surface, making the cabinets look brand new.

We were so happy with how the cabinets turned out that we took all our heater vents to be done, too.

Heater vents with multiple coats of paint before stripping and powder coating.

Heater vents with multiple coats of paint before stripping and powder coating.

Heater vents after stripping and powder coating.

Heater vents after stripping and powder coating.

We were really happy with the powder coating and are looking around for more stuff to do it to!