Ceci n’est pas un mur

I took 2 extra days off this weekend – the longest vacation I’ve had in ages. And I spent it in New York doing a side gig. My friend Maxim just moved into a new apartment and he wanted to turn his living room into a bedroom he can rent out.

This is the third one of these I did, so let’s start at the beginning. Everybody knows New York is expensive. 2 of my friends moved there and had a compression wall installed in their first apartment. Then they moved and the city was cracking down on unlicensed walls and the new building wouldn’t allow it. So I offered to rig something up to thank them for letting me crash with them over and over again. We started brainstorming how to divide the room with something that’s not a wall.

The answer? Billy bookcases.

I left the back off one of them and discovered that it was just the right size for a 30×78 inch bifold door. And to finish it off we used paneling on the back side. But then they told me that it had to go all the way to the ceiling. And to do that? Studs. Short ones to fill the gap, not all the way to the floor. Because it’s not a wall.

I trusted that I could use their vacuum. Mine didn’t fit in the car. Turns out all they had was a Roomba. And they said it took a month to get all the sawdust up.

Then someone else I didn’t know wanted to hire me to come up and build him one. Here’s the second not-a-wall.


And that brings us to this year, when Maxim moved and asked me to come up yet again. A few things changed. Now I have a real job so I had to take time off to do this. And my parents’ Volvo station wagon died, so no more slow trips through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with paneling flapping on the roof and people behind me honking in support. (Volvo was with me for one of the happiest moments of my life, when I got my un-replacement doors.)

little volvo truck.jpg

So this time he met me in Newark. After a bit of dysfunction, we rented a cargo van, moved my things into it, went to IKEA and Home Depot, and got everything in by 5. Then went back to Jersey, returned the van, and parked my car in Newark for a shockingly cheap $8 a day.

This time, Maxim wanted a real door. I didn’t trust the previous two non-walls to hold one but this one has 2 right-angle bends flanking the door to brace it. And… this structure that is not-a-wall required a framing plan.




And trimmed out. You can see that I can’t scribe casing like the Irishman can. Not freehand anyway.


Then there were some other odd jobs that didn’t go quite as smoothly. Remember folks, IKEA bed frames don’t come with the slats. You have to buy those separately. And then Maxim’s brother, given the task of dismantling and IKEA desk to avoid a $100 fee for the movers to do it, smashed it to smithereens. So on Tuesday when I was bringing my car into Manhattan to get my things, I went shopping again. Now, 8 corner braces grace the underside of that desk. It ain’t right but it’s there.


Meanwhile, here’s Maxim’s brother loading up my car. He then sat in it while I finished working. With the door open. So I came out and needed a jump. This is relatively quiet Battery Park City. There weren’t a lot of cars and no one was stopping. Then I stood in the street, waving and holding up my jumper cables. People drove around me. I started getting mad and ALMOST pulled out my sawhorses to set up a road block. But finally someone stopped.


And here’s one last look at all of my masterful rigging.




5 thoughts on “Ceci n’est pas un mur

  1. aisling

    Wow, these are crazy projects! I’m impressed by the ingenuity of getting around the rules! Who would even check if you had put up a wall in an apartment though?


  2. Nine Dark Moons

    hahaha so cool! love the bit about you having to jump around waving jumper cables – i mean, that wicked sucks, but at least someone finally stopped! you always have such an amusing way of telling stories.



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