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Corner Shelves

February 18, 2012

So we’ve been focusing work on the basement, but found time to cut, stain, and paint some shelves for this lonely little corner in the living room.

I wanted this project to be relatively inexpensive and quickly-executed since we have other things going on. In the end, it took us a few hours over the course of 2 days (to give things time to dry/cure) and cost around $100-ish–not “cheap” but neither are store-bought shelves as chunky as these…

2″x10″x8′ Pine Boards – Untreated
6″ Steel Corner/L-Brackets
1″ Screws
2.5″ Screws
Minwax Gel Stain – Mahogany
Top Coat Spray – Matte
Cold Galvanizing Compound Spray Primer
Oil Rubbed Bronze Metallic Spray Paint – Satin

1) Plan out the bracket/shelf placement with a stud finder (or your intuition) and 1.5″ masking tape (2″ thick boards are actually more like 1.5″ thick in reality)

–I decided to stagger the upper shelves because…well, I don’t know really. After trying out a few different configurations with masking tape, I thought this was more visually interesting (and imagined the ends would also help to act as book ends since that corner wouldn’t be very useful if used solely for books. But here I am using it for crap other than just books so it may not have mattered in the long run.) We kept the two bottom shelves on an even plane just to “contain” the whole thing–not scientific, it just looked good. We also began the shelves up high enough so that they wouldn’t be blocked by any furniture in the room…or cat-butt.

2) Decide how to hang the brackets–“pointed upward or downward.” (Is there a technical term for this?) So you can mark out exactly where they’ll need to go.
–The hardest thing to decide was which way to hang the brackets. I liked the ultra-industrial look of completely underneath, downward pointing brackets…

but decided to turn them the other way like a “hook” because I really liked the idea of the brackets being more hidden when things were on the shelves–I thought they might more resemble the look of floating shelves…

3) Prime the brackets with Cold Galvanized Compound Primer then paint with ORB metallic spray paint in satin, or leave them alone if the shiny steel look is preferred.

4) Stain and top-coat the cut-to-size shelves or leave unfinished
–I chose Gel Stain because I find it more tolerable to apply and it also appears much richer after the first coat than traditional stain–so I was able to achieve the color I wanted after just one coat (time s-a-v-e-r.) The Mahogany color is red enough to warm up the room a bit and coordinate with our bar stools and entry table, but not too red–sort of an orangey-red.

–What I used for a topcoat was a matte, clear-finish acrylic spray made more for art projects than finishing wood. I didn’t want the shelves to have a sheen, though, so this worked for me. I think this will be enough protection for some books and tchotchkes…but there are no guarantees.

5) Use 2″ screws to attach the brackets to the studs, starting at the top (so there’s enough room to attach the shelves to the brackets from underneath.)

6) Use 1″ screws to attach the shelves to the brackets from underneath

7) Put some stuff on the shelves!

8) …Go back to the basement

Gallery Wall

July 11, 2011

We are:

1) Busy tearing the basement apart in hopes we can get it finished soon (within the year = soon.)

2) Annoyed. The sewer backed up a few days ago… I wanted to blame it on the city and make it their problem, but Ev insists it’s OUR problem. Gross. We can still shower and flush if we wait a few hours in between–but it still sucks.

So if one were to really think about it, the basement is an all-around disgusting mess–therefore, let’s not.

Above ground level, I’ve been slowly working on a gallery wall near the entryway. For the time being, I’m filling the frames with prints torn from the pages of an illustrated book about birds (and a bucket and a mop are in a closet just a few feet away, what a coincidence…)

Old illustrated books about birds are all over the place at our local bookstore and I just can’t help myself–they’re subtle and have an abundance green foliage so they work well with the rest of the colors in the house. I also have a few nods to Minnesota mixed in–an old MN license plate I found in a ditch near Lander, WY, (while doing archaeological survey–I don’t just hang out in ditches for fun) and vintage postcards from the Great Lakes area of Northern Minnesota. (Eventually I think I’ll try to put more unique/meaningful stuff in all the frames. Birds who I don’t know are great and all, but…you know?)

There are a few gaps to fill in as evidenced by the “place holders”, but here’s the progress… (please forgive the bright, blinding light, and just think of it as part of the magic–or something.)

Hope you had a great weekend! We found our way up to the mountains…

View from the UW Observatory near Woods Landing, WY

Makeshift Master Suite

May 12, 2011

Having a bathroom attached to our bedroom is a definite step up from our last place where the one and only bathroom was on the opposite end of the house (nighttime bathroom visits were fraught with danger) but the teeny tiny closet leaves me…underwhelmed. When it comes to clothes, it gets messy around here so they practically need a room of their own, well, not practically–for real.

For one brief, shining moment, we considered combining the master bedroom with the third, back bedroom, to create a real master suite with a walk-in closet (as in, tearing down walls and building new ones) but since deleting a bedroom isn’t always the best of ideas (we hope to sell in the near future,) we decided against getting all crazy like that. And because I’m also stubborn, I wasn’t ready to let go of my “suite” dreams.

Luckily for me, the entrances to the master and third bedroom are both near the end of the hall (and both located after the entrances to the main/guest bathroom and the guest bedroom, which are also located off the main hall) so it presented a convenient dividing point between the two back bedrooms and the rest of the house to create a makeshift master suite. And since we really only need visual privacy (basically for when we have guests) to get from the bedroom to our clothes (both rooms will still have doors) two curtains and a tension rod is all it took to create…


I think it also works well to break up a long, narrow, and dark hallway. Yea, that pile of light-reflecting mirrors doesn’t hurt, either, of course! Always a good idea. And just one of the many benefits of being married to someone who works on home remodels–tons of free mirrors. Jealousssssss? How about after I get around to framing them out? Yea, I thought so.

Someday I’ll have a real master suite with a Carrie Bradshaw closet…but this serves its purpose well, doesn’t take away a bedroom, and is completely removable.

Here’s how I did it:
1) The tension rod can be found at Target, Wal-mart, etc–(hint: it’s actually a shower curtain rod. Not a huge surprise, right?)

2) Depending on the width of the hallway, it may need to be cut down to fit. We happen to own a pipe-cutter, but I assume a saw and some elbow grease would work as well. Take the rod apart and cut off several inches from both pieces.

3) Grab (and pay for) two packages of ring clips and a couple of sheet curtains from Wal-mart (Bed Bath & Beyond is also selling individual flat sheets these days in more “sophisticated” colors than Wal-mart, and though they also cost quite a bit more, it’s another option. Also, there’s Ikea–I hear they sell affordable clip-up curtains. But I wouldn’t know since there isn’t one anywhere near here, hmph.)

4)Put the ring clips on the rod before installing it between the two walls, clip up your curtains, and viola! Instant suiteness :)

Ev At Work

February 21, 2011

Guess who made the front page of the paper this past Saturday for his involvement with a restoration project going on at a historic building here in town…

So proud :)

P.S. We actually lived directly across the street from this building (which was once a school and is now the civic center) in our previous house. In fact, our house and a few others on the block were built along with this building in order to house teachers…

I Want My [Somewhat Free] MTV

February 19, 2011

Hold on to your seat–I’m about to get all tech-geek on you and show you how we’re saving about $60 per month on TV service using our existing internet service, our TV, and a special gadget…

Sure, I may have accidentally referred to Star Trek as Space Trek more than once in my life, and I don’t care for fantasy or sci-fi (have never claimed to be a cool geek)–but I do know how to do such things as install optical drives in computers and figure out somewhat complicated hook-ups among audio, video, and computer equipment, etc–and I enjoy it. So there.

But honestly, setting this up isn’t that hard. While it may not be decorating or construction related per-se, it might give you the inspiration to save some cash on TV (so you can spend it on new windows instead! See how that works?)

(More on this in a future post...)

This is going to be a bit text heavy since there are more than a few important details–so bear with me.

Our quest for cheaper TV service began several months ago when we nixed our satellite TV service. Every month, the bill would inch upwards, until this past June when Ev had finally had enough. He called the company to hint that he was about to end the service, expecting they would give him some sort of incentive to stay with it (he’s ├╝ber responsible and always on time when it comes to paying bills–you’d think they’d want to do everything in their power to keep responsible customers. And I should mention here that we don’t mind paying for TV service in general, it just got to be too many home shopping channels and little else of value for an increasingly large price.)

But they didn’t even try. In fact, they were so completely rude about it that he has sworn to never go back to them. Ever.

After the dust settled, we weren’t left completely TV-less since we subscribe to Netflix and already owned a Wii (which is just one of the many devices capable of streaming shows and movies instantly through a TV.) This kept us satisfied for a while–but it was only a matter of time before Ev began to miss The Simpsons, and I, several HGTV shows. (None of this is available on Netflix, due at least in part to the fact that it isn’t exactly a television-focused service–but we still appreciate the endless supply of movies.)

So there are other streaming services besides Netflix, of course–and there’s a very popular one in particular called Hulu, which streams a larger selection of recent television episodes to your computer for free. (However, there are very short commercial breaks during each episode–if you can’t live with that, this isn’t for you.) It can also be streamed directly to certain televisions, or through certain Blu-ray players and game consoles to a TV for a small monthly fee–similar to Netflix. However, one major problem with these types of dedicated devices is this:

    Because they are intended to specifically stream shows to a television set (for a more comfortable viewing experience than on a computer,) there is restricted or no access to certain shows–even though you are then paying the extra fee to use the service on such devices. And one of those shows just happens to be: The Simpsons. Unfortunately, that won’t work in this house.

Therefore, the way to get the most out of Hulu (or other free internet services like it) is to connect your television directly to a computer (they’ll never know you’re using a TV monitor instead of a computer monitor.)

By setting it up this way, you can still watch everything through your wonderful television set that you could watch on your computer, and it remains free (so far, anyway.) The other advantage is that computers have access to the entire internet. So if Hulu ceases to exist, or some other, better internet tv service comes along (and there are actually several different services available to choose from already:,, individual network websites, etc) you can easily switch among them without needing to throw out a service-specific device in favor of a new one with the latest and greatest software. See what I’m getting at?

So we needed to find a computer–and for our particular situation, it absolutely had to have an HDMI output since we already had an HDMI cable connected to our TV (and it was already installed with the built-ins above the fireplace for a cordless TV area.) We planned ahead, see?!

(Not really. We used an HDMI cable there because when we were constructing the built-ins, we had an upconverting dvd player setup.)

But I quickly came to realize that, as of yet, it’s next to impossible to find an affordable off-the-shelf computer with an HDMI output (if you don’t already have dedicated wires run behind drywall that need to stay as they do in our situation, it doesn’t HAVE to have an HDMI output–but the TV and computer in question need to have at least one input/output in common. There are all sorts of converters available to make differing connections compatible–but they have an associated cost which may not be worth it. Plus, HDMI just happens to be one of the easiest connection methods since it integrates high quality audio/video into a single cable.)

Conveniently, there are PC’s specifically designed for use with televisions (referred to as HTPC’s or Home Theater Personal Computers) and they almost always do have an HDMI hookup because of their intended use with high def televisions and projectors.

They’re different from average desktop computers in that they are preloaded with less software, but they are, or can be made to be, fully functioning computers. (This was a huge plus for us since I take our only laptop with me when I travel for work in the summer–now Ev will still have access to the internet and email when I’m gone.)

Another benefit of it having less “stuff” installed on it to begin with, is that it keeps the cost down.

So I did a quick search and found one on Ebay for about the same price as a Blu-ray player with Hulu, or for about the same price as 3 months worth of Dish Network service (the bare bones package–which is what we had.)

Still with me? It arrived yesterday so here are some photos just to prove that it works :

This wireless keyboard/mouse is about the size of a normal TV remote...

For Ev…(he giggled like a little girl when I got it working)

And for me… :)

So we now get DSL wireless internet, many of our favorite TV shows (via internet based viewing services, including Hulu) and Netflix movies for a combined total of $48/month.

Any recommendations for other internet-based TV/movie services to try out with our new gadget?

Low Mess, $40ish Cabinet Restaining

February 11, 2011

Ev’s first house–his bachelor pad, if you will–had standard, builders grade oak cabinets straight from the 80’s. So when it came time to sell, we wanted to give them an upgrade–especially since they clashed pretty badly with the cherry laminate flooring we had installed a few months before.

It wasn’t a fancy house by any means and since we live in a college town (and because of its size, price point, and location,) it would most likely be bought by some college kids looking for a place to party sleep while attending school. Therefore, we simply wanted a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to refresh the cabinets–mostly for the purpose of generating interest and to get people inside so that they would, like, buy it and let us move on to our  current adventure.

I don’t recall exactly where I learned about Liquid Sandpaper, but it probably had something to do with HGTV. And I figured these cheap cabinets would be a good place to experiment–’cause there’s always paint if it didn’t work!  (Oh man, I really didn’t want to have to paint them!  Just wanted to be done with it already.)

Well, it did work and I’ve been a believer ever since. Though, if we had it to do over, would I still opt for staining them the exact same cherry tone as the floor? (Ev left the stain color up to me–he’s diplomatic like that.)  No. I would stain them a dark mahogany with red undertones–but it doesn’t matter now. What matters is that it works! (As long as you are willing to go either darker or more red).

(Sorry that again I don’t have “before” photos…I searched for one but it was not meant to be.   Just imagine very dull oak-grain cabinets that looked faded, tired, and worn.  Plus, I’m not even sure they were much more than very thin veneer or even laminate on the sides.)

So if your in that place between not liking your cabinets, and not able (or willing) to shell out the cash for new ones just yet, this a quick, low mess, and inexpensive way to transform your cabinets into something that will make you happier–whether it’s a temporary fix or somehting more long term.  And even though I’m more partial to painted cabinets for the long term, I’d do this again in a heartbeat with the right cabinets/right situation/ or if painting was out of the question for whatever reason.  

Wanna try it? 

You’ll need:

    Liquid Sandpaper (can be purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc. Cost: about $16 and found near the stain isle in a plastic bottle. We ended up only using about 1/4 of the bottle and there were more cabinets than what’s pictured above.)
    gel stain (because it won’t run and it penetrates better than liquid stain. I recommend General Finishes brand mostly because of the darker color selection, but it’s about $20/can–so Minwax works fine, too)
    rags and a good brush (use a good one so the bristles won’t shed! You can use whichever application you prefer, but sometimes you need a brush to really get the stain into corners.)

Before you begin:

    -If possible, test it in an inconspicious area (for instance, pull out an appliance and try it there) just to be sure you don’t have, say, an inpenetrable top-coat or some other issue going on that would prevent it from working. Plus it’s just a good idea to make sure you’ll be happy with the staining.

    -Remove the doors from the cabs, as well as all hardware from the cabs and doors. The door faces are going to be the most important part so it’s better if you do those one at a time on a horizontal work surface. (Hey, I didn’t say it was going to be completely hassle-free!!)

    -It’s best to work in sections so that you keep the timing consistent and won’t feel the need to rush before the top coat closes back up.

    -It goes without saying, but you’ll want to protect your floors from any spills so lay down some plastic. And if your cabinets touch the ceiling, use painters tape to protect the ceiling.

Once that’s out of the way, be sure to read the directions on the Liquid Sandpaper, but it goes something like this:

    1) Shake the bottle really well.

    2) Wipe it on the cabinets using a rage and let it soak in for at least 15 minutes–though you might want to wait a little longer than that depending on the thickness of the clear coat.

    3) Apply your stain.

    4) Let dry for several hours. (And yes, there will be some fumes so keep the windows open and/or make arrangements to stay elsewhere for a few hours once you have finished.)

And that’s it–that’s all you need to do if the top coat on your cabinets is still in relatively good shape. (It works by opening up the top coat to allow for the stain to penetrate…and once a couple hours go by, it closes back up and encases the new stain underneath it.)

**Now, if the top coat on your cabs is thin or you just want extra protection, you can get wipe-on polyurethane and apply it with a rag once you’ve let them dry for a couple days. We love wipe-on polyurethane because it’s easy to apply and looks great (you use a rag and literally just rub it on–no application marks, just a smooth finish.)

-And don’t forget new hardware when you’re finished–whether you spray paint the existing stuff, or spring for new ones. (I’ve found has a great selection of inexpensive quality hardware, that’s where we got our ORB knobs and cup-pulls for our current kitchen.)

Questions? Ask away.

Stain It Black? (Interior Doors)

February 6, 2011

Well, it’s not a question of IF I should–it’s me wondering if this is really an appropriate title (since the stain wasn’t exactly black–it was espresso brown–but they almost look black.)

Anyway, the time for questioning/wondering/thinking about it is ova–the deed is done.

The master bathroom:

(You can see we still have some patching to do in here)

The main upstairs bathroom:

We actually bought these doors months ago and have been dragging our feet to get them stained and hung. In fact, as I’m writing this, there are still 3 doors (to the bedrooms) that have yet to be stained (they are hung, though.) And since the basement is in a state of, uh, chaos, I no longer have an area to work at the moment–so they will have to wait.

Anyway, the reasons for major feet-dragging were twofold:
First, because staining and clear-coating a door takes at least 3 layers of work on each side, it’s a very drawn out process of coating and waiting to dry–then flip it and start all over (not to mention the sanding between coats. Oh, and the fact that I could only do two doors at a time). Boooring! I’m inspired to do things in hurry, so having to pateintly wait didn’t sound like fun.

And second, because they weren’t predrilled for handles (or hinges,) we had to work up the motivation to borrow a door jig and just get ‘er done.

But it was completely worth it. (Since we spent the money on solid doors, the last thing I wanted to do was hide them with white paint.)

And lastly, here’s one of the two hallway closet doors (he still needs another coat of poly…):

If you’re thinking about doing this and want to see more black/dark interior doors, head over to Door Sixteen or Apartment Therapy

And the Kitchen 2.0

January 12, 2011

Man, having a day job really puts a kink in my blog style! I dread showing nighttime photos but sometimes it can’t be helped when I’m anxious to kick out a post. So I’m trying to squeeze-in the taking of more natural-light photos (during lunch, in the morning before work, immediately upon getting home from work, etc.) whenever I possibly can.

And on that note, I was able to get some daytime pics of the kitchen today (before we cluttered it all up again) and thought I could have an itty-bitty do-over of the previous post. Just try’n stop me! Or say something about it–eh, I know you won’t :) so here we go with kitchen photos 2.0:

If you already saw photos of the kitchen the first time around and are now seeing it for a truly unnecessary second time, then hey, thanks for humoring me! :)

And the Kitchen

January 11, 2011

Now, how can I post a kitchen project we did recently if no one knows what the kitchen is looking like to begin with? I can’t, duh, so I’ve got to show it! (The same goes for other rooms, obviously–but those will have to wait a bit longer.)

As I’ve mentioned before, we started this blog about half-way through our progress and the kitchen was actually renovated over a year ago.

So the photos I’m showing here are of the updated and extremely stripped down kitchen to showcase its bones. And since I didn’t document its transformation in real-time–consider these the before and just-finished after photos. :) (It’s not normally this sterile–we do actually live here…)

First up is the before:

MLS Listing Photo -- Previous Owner

And here is what it looks like now:

A dining room used to be in this area...

We chose quartz over granite.

It was a long and issue-riddled process: For instance, the countertops got the wrong edging (Ev didn’t notice and let the installers leave–I got home a few hours later and noticed it right away! We got some of the cost refunded because of it, though…) and we lived without a functioning kitchen for a looong time (3 months?). Also, we had to do an emergency replacement of the window over the sink (long story…) Oh well–it’s over now and it’s all good :) Whew!

So now that that’s out-of-the-way, I can start posting about kitchen projects and decorating!! And I have a few

What do you think about our kitchen renovation? Are you a fan of the white cabinet revival trend or are you all about the warm wood tones?

P.S. see our kitchen in the daytime here.

The Naked Truth (MBR Progress)

January 9, 2011

Drum roll…but a very soft one.  The master bathroom is presentable!  But if it were human, it would feel a little…naked.  There are some finishing touches we haven’t gotten around to just yet.  Still, we’ve made pretty good progress–and it’s much better than before, so I figured it’s time to show the world even though it’s not 100% complete.

Here’s the before…

And here’s the Now:



This vanity is great…drawers for storage and a shelf underneath for towels, etc.  We’re surface abusers–so by keeping our everyday necessities in the drawers, we can open the drawer, use it, and then close it away.  Ideally, most stuff won’t get a chance to touch the counter, let alone stay there. Ideally. 

And I have big hopes for the TP holder. I’m not kidding when I say that the act of taking out the springy bar to remove the empty TP roll and replace it with a new one on a traditional TP holder is really too much effort for us most of the time.  This might transform our lives… 

^Wow, I just realized how lazy we are :(

Here’s what we have left to do:

1) Install a vanity light.

2) Install towel hooks–already purchased.  We’re forgoing towel bars altogether since it’s easier to just throw a towel on a hook than to fold it in order to put it on a bar.  They’re also handy for storing a sweatshirt or other clothing you plan to wear again so it doesn’t end up on the floor. <—There's that lazy thing again!

3) Build the shelves that go in the tiny space to the left of the shower.  It won't be much but will give us a little bit of extra storage space.

4) Frame out the mirror using some trim and some construction adhesive.

5) Replace the lightswitch and plug with brown ones and install Oil Rubbed Bronze swith/outlet plates.  (We're doing this throughout the entire house to stay consistent.)

6) Some sort of window covering for the window? I don't think the neighbors have a view into this room, but…