How to Live in a 1890s Walk-Up

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, y’all! Yes, I’m holding onto the y’all to keep the southern charm alive.

Sorry it’s been awhile since I posted. Things got a little crazy with Thanksgiving, a few rounds of visitors, and now Christmas is knocking at our door. And of course, when I say “our door,” I mean the double-deadbolted door of our 650 square foot fourth-floor walk-up.

Anyway, the past month has been filled with interesting moments involving our living arrangements, so I thought I’d divulge some of our finest moments.

Our little home

Our little home

We live in a building that was built before 1900. I’ve heard people call it a pre-war building, but then I read that “pre-war” means elevator, and we definitely do not have an elevator. Pre-war buildings are known for their high ceilings, hardwood floors, and charm. They should also be known for their archaic heating and plumbing systems.

What? You're hot? No problem! Let me adjust the thermostat.

What? You’re hot? No problem! Let me adjust the thermostat.

1) Heat: Our heat in this building is definitely extreme. Either we have no heat on a 38-degree night, or we have it blowing full blown on Thanksgiving when it’s 55 degrees out. There is really no telling. It took about the first month of the cold season to actually get our heat consistently on, but now that it’s on… it is HOT. It’s steam heat, and there is absolutely no way to regulate it. Our thermostat is the number of windows we open to let some cold air in. Seeing that my husband refers to me as “the human furnace,” you can guess how the heat agrees with me. The heaters also have a distinctive HISS. My parents visited last weekend and wondered how we sleep with the heat hissing on and off all night. What can I say? It’s a gift!

Even sweet Peaches knows how to stay comfortable in this sauna.

Even sweet Peaches knows the way to stay comfortable!

2) Plumbing: We’ve had a little bit of a draining issue in our bathtub. It seems okay when we moved it, but we noticed that taking a shower was more like taking a bath. The water would pool up to our ankles and the bathtub would take a good 10 minutes to drain after a shower. It was so frustrating. I tried Draino at least three times. I tried plunging the drain. Nothing worked for months.

The gateway to luxury bathing

The gateway to luxury bathing

I finally called the landlord to get it looked at. The man came, and it turns out that there is this obscure little metal thing between the tub and the sink (hidden behind our shower curtain) that controls the bath. This is very deceiving, because the tub itself has the little lever like my childhood bathtub.

Needless to say, I felt like an idiot when he made a slight adjustment and it flowed freely. I said, “You have made us SO HAPPY!!!!!!!!!” and held back from hugging our 70-yr-old Haitian maintenance man.

The good news is that now the shower feels like a luxury without water gathering around our ankles!


3) Renovations: It seems that these buildings have certain stylistic qualities. For example, exposed wooden beams. We have two beams in our bedroom ceiling. We’ve always kind of noticed that one seems to be sagging a little, but figured the gigantic bolts had it stabilized. A few weeks ago, Logan said he heard a cracking noise and said that the beam had pulled down even more from the ceiling! For fear of death by blunt-force trauma, I spent not one, not two, but three nights on the couch sleeping with Peaches (“sleeping” being a very loose term for what you experience when a cat wakes you up every few hours by repositioning herself on your face, stomach, feet, etc.).

The killer beams of November 2012

The treacherous beams of November 2012


It took the landlord two days to come look, and then an additional day for a handyman to come out with a ladder tall enough to reach our high ceiling. This is the best part: the beam is STYROFOAM. Yes, I slept on the couch for three nights because of a styrofoam threat. They are just styled and painted to look authentic. Note: my dear husband didn’t abandon me to the couch. He offered his side of the bed, so I could sleep in safety, but of course I didn’t want him to die by being brave and sleeping under the killer beam. 

I think that’s about it for the housing updates. Sorry that was so long. Apparently I have a lot of pent up energy after six weeks of not writing. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holidays!! The three of us will be holding down the fort here in Brooklyn … hopefully without gathering any more material for the ol’ blog.

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4 Responses to How to Live in a 1890s Walk-Up

  1. sarah says:

    this is hilarious…and your living room is super cute…pill box of a place as it may be. 😉

  2. Martha says:

    Hahaha I love this!

  3. Nancy P. says:

    styrofoam! laughing with tears!

  4. Emily S says:

    You always make me laugh!! Love it!

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