Monday, November 16, 2009

Belltown Inside/Out: The Next Generation

Once upon a time many years ago, there was a little festival of sorts around these parts called Belltown Inside/Out. It took place usually on a summer weekend and featured a craft fair, a rummage sale and various other small-scale commerce. The most interesting part of it was that people living in some of the neighborhood's funkier spaces would open their doors and invite in the general public. I always thought this was a pretty brilliant idea and I really wanted to get my place in on the action. There was just one problem: my apartment was a decrepit mess that needed some serious renovation. The previous tenant (who lived here for years when half of the building's units were uninhabitable) had done a fair deal of faux-marble work, but the walls were peeling (there was 85 years of accumulated wallpaper and paint on them) and much of the floor was down to bare wood. It was a mess, but it had potential. I set to work in mid-1995 and didn't finish till early the following year. My place is just a bit over 400 square feet, but it was extremely demanding. I did everything backwards and wrong, but I finally beat it all into shape after months and months of toil. Yeah, it was a lot of work, but very much worth it. But funny thing, by the time I finished all my painting, Belltown Inside/Out was a thing of the past. I think its organizers moved away or something. It was a little bit disappointing, but all my labors yielded a pretty cool place to live, so I got over it quickly enough.

What I'd like to propose is for people to show off their cool places just like they did years ago, only in electronic form. There are only two rules:

1. You have to live in Belltown.
2. You have to have a cool place.

It doesn't even have to be your own handiwork. If you moved in and everything was already there, fine and dandy! If you'd like your place shown on this blog (and on the P-I blog), please email me at with a few photos and a brief description, we'll talk. In case you don't know whether you have a cool place or not, here's some help: if you live in a building finished during the last 20 years, where any kind of modification is strenuously discouraged, if not outright forbidden, you probably just have an ordinary apartment. But hey, that guy who designed his entire place to look like the bridge of the Enterprise, he lived in a new building, so anything's possible. Like I said, send me some photos and we'll discuss.

To mark this first installment of Belltown Inside/Out: The Next Generation, I'm going to feature some familiar surroundings - to me at least - my apartment! On with the show!

1. The Hallway

This is the front door. It's made out of oak and weighs a ton - I know, I had to take it off its hinges to paint it.

Here's a sconce. It's one of many. I like strange faces coming out of the walls.

Here's some faux marbling. It took me a long time to get this right - and I'm still not totally satisfied with it.

This is faux-marble meets faux-brick.

He's the same section from a different angle. My hallway is all of three feet wide, so taking panoramic shots is pretty impossible.

This is the end of the hallway. Those pictures are prints of a bunch of French kings I picked up from an antique shop that was going out of business.

Here's the lower part of that same wall. Yeah, the hall's still three feet wide here.

This is the hall floor.

2. The Bedroom

This is another cool plaster sconce.

The walls in here were originally a weird blotchy aquamarine. I thought gold would make them a lot cheerier. The main problem was the wall themselves. They were peeling like nobody's business. There was all this old wallpaper that had cracked and bubbled. I took a putty knife to it and didn't stop until all the loose and flaky bits were off. This left the walls in pretty rough condition, but I resolved to hang lots of pictures to cover over some of the worst parts. It worked like a charm!

I think I mentioned that I did everything wrong. Case in point: I didn't prime before I started painting the walls. This gold color didn't cover over the blotchy aquamarine very well at all. I ended up putting 15 coats on the wall and using some three gallons of paint. Yeah, I made all the mistakes and then some.

More pictures...

Here's about the only section of the floor where you can catch a glimpse of the design. It's a compass motif. The bed covers almost all of it, but it's totally there.

3. The Main Room

Another nice sconce. This guy fell during the 2001 earthquake but was only slightly damaged. He did manage to take a pretty big chunk out of the floor, though.

This is the far side of the room with faux-marble, mirrors (they do make the room seem larger!) and photos.

More faux-marble and another sconce.

This is the basic grid pattern of the main room floor. It was super-difficult to measure off, because the dimensions of the space are irregular, plus the floor slants and it's also warped in places.

The is the design at the center of the room. This wasn't all that difficult to do, which means that I didn't make it complicated enough.

So there you have it, my place. I guess you can tell that it pretty cluttered. I've lived in this apartment since 1992 (and in the building since 1990) and I'll tell you something: life is an accumulation. I've tried to keep the level of stuff to a minimum, but it creeps back up after a fashion. Anyhow, just remember that if you want your place featured on this and the P-I's blog, email me at

By the way, my apartment does actually have both a kitchen and a bathroom, but those spaces are more functionally decorated. In other words, they're not ornate.


janeofearth said...

Looks beautiful! Although my place was built in the 20's it's not nearly as exciting. Just pretty moulding.

Jim said...

Great interior shots. I like the golden stucco effect - very Viennese. I hope the Belltown Inside/Out returns. You should talk to those kind folks at the William Tell.

clark said...

Belltown Inside/Out was originally a promotion for condo developers, then revived in smaller scale by the local Scientology branch. It wasn't an organic neighborly thing. And that was its problem. Any revival should be done AS an organic neighborly thing.

Anonymous said...

I remember your apartment from 1982-83 ish and it certainly didn't look like this. In fact, it was a mess like most of the apts there.
I wish David Millpointer, who has lived there for ages, would post pics of his apt. It was far out even back then. He got me interested in collecting art glass and strange objects.
Your place looks very cool now. Wouldn't mind living there myself.

Yes, this is Linda Lathrop, the old building manager at that time.

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