How to spruce up a Sheepshead Bay co-op with a peach-tiled bath and plain kitchen

featured this month on Brick Underground by Leah Hochbaum Rosner

image credit:    Brick Underground

image credit: Brick Underground

This Sheepshead Bay one bedroom, 2711 Ave., X, #6D is asking $225,000 and has a lot going for it, according to architect and Feng Shui expert Anjie Cho, including a “workable” floor plan, a private balcony, and decent-looking floors.

Still, there are lots of things that could be improved, such as the prodigiously peach bathroom, which she believes needs to be gutted immediately. “The wallpaper. That vanity. That gray tub. Oh my God,” she says.

She also hates the tiny, makeshift sunroom between the living room and terrace—which accounts for the second layer of windows visible behind the original windows—as well as two terrace doors. It takes precious square footage away from the terrace and makes the back wall in the living room look too busy. It’s also fairly shabby-looking, she says, noting the exposed wiring and “dingy” doors. “It’s the first thing you see when you walk in. It doesn’t make a very good impression.”

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The Truth About Compostable Plastics

The Truth About Compostable Plastics.jpg

We’re in a time when people are finally starting to care a little more about our environment, and we’re taking steps to ensure that it sticks around for a while. That said, some of these steps aren’t quite as helpful as they may seem, especially when all the information isn’t provided. Case in point: compostable plastic ware.

First things first, there is a misunderstanding that the words “biodegradable” and “compostable” are interchangeable. They aren’t. For an object to be biodegradable, it merely has to have the capability to be broken down organically. If something is compostable, the American Society for Testing and Materials specifies that it can be broken down according to a specific process that ultimately leads to the production of humus. What does this mean? It means compostable plastic ware isn’t dealt with in the same manner as biodegradable plastic ware, especially since the two ultimately have different uses. Since compostable plastics are eventually returned to the soil from which we derive our food and water, their decomp must produce carbon dioxide and water, leave no distinguishable difference from other compost, and produce no toxic substance, otherwise we end up eating and drinking toxicity.

So what does that have to do with the purchase and use of compostable plastic ware? First of all, purchase of compostable plastic ware, for actual composting, requires more awareness and dedication to ensuring the substantial makeup of the product. If you’re buying these to ultimately throw in landfills (I hope you’re not), the difference between biodegradable and compostable isn’t terribly important. However, if you’re buying compostable plastic ware with the intent to actually do your part and compost it, it’s important to make sure it can actually be composted and not just degraded.

Secondly, us regular environmentally aware people can’t compost compostable plastic on our own. Because of the composition of plastic ware, the processes used in a professional composting facility are extremely important to the assurance that these utensils properly degrade in order to leave no toxic substance in our soil. No matter how awesome your compost pile at home is, we can’t produce the heat necessary to compost this plastic ware in a reasonable amount of time. So if you’re going to buy compostable plastic ware, know where the closest composting facility is and whether you have access to it, as these sorts of businesses often only cater to larger companies.

Here’s the other thing: production of compostable plastic ware requires massive amounts of certain crops, including corn and potatoes, which are often grown using a system called monocropping. In short, when a farmer monocrops, he uses the exact same land over and over again to grow the exact same crop. Get it? Mono. Crop? The issue with this process is that growing in this style rapidly depletes the earth used to grow these crops, not only wearing out the soil faster, but making crops harder to grow. Lots of times this results in farmers turning to chemicals to promote growth in dilapidated fields. Is this all coming together yet? As much as many of us want to do our parts to contribute to rebuilding our planet, it seems that compostable plastic ware may not be the best route. Make sure you know what you’re buying into when you pick up that box of forks.  

by Anjie Cho


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Things You Might Not Know About Coconut Oil

As a holistic designer and architect, I'm all about finding ways to incorporate natural, less-toxic substances into my daily life in place of those harmful chemicals we normally keep beneath the kitchen sink or in the medicine cabinet. One of my most recent discoveries is coconut oil. The holistic perks of this natural oil are incredible, and of course I want to share them with you. Some of my favorite uses are below!

In the Bathroom

Coconut oil is awesome as a natural hair serum. Adding just a small bit to your hair can reduce the frizz we so often deal with as ladies. Be careful here, as you don't want to overuse any sort of oil in your hair. Just rub a dab onto your palms, then distribute evenly throughout your locks!

Try mixing coconut oil with equal parts sugar to create your own simple exfoliating scrub for those long, nourishing showers. 

Coconut oil makes an easy lip balm too! Especially in colder, dryer months, our lips are susceptible to weather and have the tendency to chap and crack. Anyone who's ever experienced this knows it isn't fun! Next time your lips start acting up, try rubbing a bit of coconut oil on as a lubricating balm and soothing agent.

One of the most common beauty products containing toxic materials is deodorant. Unfortunately, this isn't a product we can really do without, unless we're all willing to deal with each others' body odor. Coconut oil can provide a natural remedy for this issue. Using the oil by itself as deodorant is very effective and eliminates the need for harsh chemicals that you may find in other store-bought products. 

Around the House

Aside from its numerous uses for the body, coconut oil also makes a super stain remover and furniture polish. You can rub the oil alone on a tough-to-conquer stain for some help, or mix the oil with baking soda for a non-toxic stain removal option. 

Back in the bathroom, coconut oil works wonders on soap scum, which is great, since bathroom cleaners can be some of the most toxic on the market. Instead of exposing yourself, and ultimately your family, to the toxic chemicals and VOCs in bathroom cleaning chemicals, try using natural coconut oil on a rag instead! 

There are literally hundreds of uses for coconut oil outside the most common uses in cooking. With an increasing number of cautious dieters and, thankfully, individuals concerned for the environment, coconut oil is becoming more and more popular, and with good reason! Next time you're near a natural market, stop in and get some coconut oil to get started on the many things you can do!

by Anjie Cho


The hellish kitchen in this Hell's Kitchen apartment needs a miraculous makeover

featured this month on Brick Underground by Leah Hochbaum Rosner

image credit:  Brick Underground

image credit: Brick Underground

Everything about this apartment “just looks so sad,” says Anjie Cho, an architect and feng  shui expert. 

The fixer-upper unit is a co-op in Hell’s Kitchen at 354 West 48th St.

Cho sums the place up thusly: “The flooring is sad. The paint colors are sad. The kitchen needs a complete makeover. The lighting is really bad.”   

Listed for just $350,000, apartment #2FE, a second-floor one bedroom, is eminently affordable. (Then again, it's a Housing Development Fund Corporation co-op, so there are income restrictions to keep in mind: $36,288 a year for one or two people and $42,336 for three people.) Another bonus for whoever does end up buying the place: the kitchen is big and has an eat-in area.

"It definitely has potential," Cho says.

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This loft-like UES studio needs work, but the price is right

featured this month on Brick Underground by Leah Rosner

image credit: Brick Underground

image credit: Brick Underground

Priced at just $345,000, this Upper East Side studio at 223 East 78th St. is definitely affordable considering the location. But the loft-like unit will certainly need some renovating to make it habitable, according to architect and feng shui expert Anjie Cho.

“It’s a good price for a starter apartment,” she says.

Cho thinks the place is worth fixing, but she isn’t a fan of many features, especially what’s underfoot.

“Those floors are bad,” she says of the black-and-white checkerboard tiles. “[They're] so in your face that you can’t ignore them.”

For this week’s Reno Ready, we asked Cho to tell us how she’d renovate the space to render it livable. Here are her recommendations:

Kitchen (pictured at top)

How this room is updated will depend entirely on the new occupant’s cooking habits. If he or she is a recipe addict who loves whipping up a meal at a moment’s notice, then Cho would advise putting in a full-sized refrigerator and adding in an island. If, however, he or she is more likely to order a pizza than make one, Cho says she’d probably hang onto the mini-fridge.

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