D-I-(wh)Y did I do that? or How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Dresser

About a year ago I picked up a free chest of drawers that were in good shape, of a nice size and functional but not exactly the sweetest piece of eye candy. Naturally, I took it upon myself to correct this problem.

Dresser before

You see, for quite some time now, I’ve been operating under the assumption that I am, relatively speaking, crafty and capable. I’ve taken old upholstery off chairs and put new covers on. I’ve constructed floating office shelves and painted an only partially crooked stencil pattern on an accent wall among other things. Maybe I’m no Martha Stewart but I’m no rube either. This, it turns out, is a very dangerous perception under which to operate. Oh self-esteem…how terribly you have betrayed me.

Armed with just the right amount of misguided confidence, I set about to turn this humble clothing receptacle into a work of art so grand, and creative and magnetic that furniture designers the world over would gaze upon it and come to me, weeping, begging for me to share my gift with them. A reasonable expectation. My ingenious scheme, you ask? Simple chevron stripes painted across the drawers. Something a la this:

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Perhaps my idea wasn’t all that daring, but all the more reason to believe I could successfully pull this off.

Nope.

The plan revolved around retaining the essence of the existing cloudy gold color, but to bring it some bold contrast with rich, blue stripes. Somehow, that seemed like a wise decision. Gold gives it some spunk. Deep blue makes it a little more grown up and not quite so “glam girl.” It can be a pretty dope look.

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Of course, that’s only in the instance that god forsaken cans of gold spray paint don’t suck the soul out of your body in the process of achieving it. I don’t want to entirely blame my tools as there was most definitely some user error in the process of destroying the integrity of this once fine dresser, but the project first started to go off the rails with the damned spray paint. After I had puttied and sanded the dresser with all the meticulousness I could muster,  I applied the spray paint, only to find that it bubbled and conformed to itself in little bumpy clusters that gave the drawers the texture of lizard skin. I rightfully abandoned the spray paint idea and instead selected a traditional interior paint in the shade of “turmeric” to replace it. You may be surprised to hear this, but “turmeric” and “gold” are not the same color. It actually probably doesn’t surprise anyone but somehow it took me until I was staring at the finished product to truly come to grips with the fact that instead of a sleek blue dresser with some punchy golden flair, I had instead applied the same royal blue and orangey-yellow color scheme used by the University of Delaware’s mascot.

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Oh the humanity!

To really add insult to injury, the knobs I had selected for the new (but not improved) dresser were duds. And expensive duds at that: $14-a-piece from Anthropologie but the knobs pulled right off the screws when you opened the drawers.This made the finished dresser both comically ugly and non functional. I’d give myself a hand for so artfully destroying a needed piece of furniture, but I’d probably screw that up too.

More on the fugly dresser saga to come….


Foto Friday: There’s a Yankee in the Doodle House (how dandy!)

It’s Picture Day today at the middle school where Heath teaches. With this in mind, I’m resurrecting Foto Friday this week because everyone deserves to see the outfit my favorite history teacher chose to grace the pages of the RBMS yearbook.

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Is he a great teacher or what?

(Props go to Mama Joy for making such a kick ass Yankee uniform.)


Shelf Life

It’s funny how there are some plans you stew and stew over before putting them into action, while others seem to be executed nearly immediately. The latter was the case for my most recent DIY–installing a set of shelves in the corner of our office. A routine Saturday browsing of the internets led me to stumble across a photo of an ingenious design for wall mounted display shelves that I felt compelled to emulate post haste.

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Normally, I think it’s best to leave corners open and free of clutter, but there is so much I love about this design from A Home West. I think it’s a super way to display the artifacts that help define us while still maximizing storage capacity. And since storage has always been an issue for Heath and myself–I’m a bit of an impulse buyer, Heath’s got a smidge of hoarder in him–this solution seemed ideal for both storing Heath’s collection of history books and my random assortment of knick knacks. I don’t exaggerate when I say fewer than 10 minutes passed from the moment I stumbled across this clever home remedy and when I departed to Home Depot for supplies. A couple of hours later, the office was rejuvenated.

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It turned out to be an incredibly simple, fast, and affordable way to freshen up a neglected space. We already had the wood from an old project Heath and I worked on at our last house, which, coincidentally, was also one we embarked on to create storage in our old office. So the only real cost was the hardware:

  • 20 1/2-inch wood screws (four for each shelf)
  • 10 L-shaped brackets
  • 20 washers
  • 20 metal anchor screws
  • 20 3-inch wall screws
  • Black spray paint

That was it! I think I spent something like $34 total and a Saturday afternoon to see the transformation through to fruition. I still need to stain the edges of the shelves, and I’ll admit, I kind of miss my map wall, but my lust for this new unit is keeping me pretty satisfied.

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May flowers

Not to be self congratulatory or anything, but Heath and I are basically American heroes for making good on our promise to the garden to give it some much needed TLC.  Austin’s been gifted with a pretty spectacular spring season, which made it nearly impossible for us not to get our hands dirty these past couple months beautifying the grounds of House Doodle. Veggies have been planted, bottle trees erected, new fences built—a productive spring season indeed.

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2013 in a nutshell

I don’t feel great about the nearly one month that has passed since my last post, especially since  I have, in this blogger’s opinion, actually accomplished some pretty magnificent things… I made some cool bathroom art, learned to cook Pad Thai, and downloaded the new Beyonce album… you know, the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. But in all seriousness, I’m painfully aware that I’ve let the blog kind of fall by the wayside over the past couple of months. Because of the holidays, maybe? Or lack of inspiration?  Busy schedule? I can’t pin down the precise reason, but dang if I’m not going to do better in ’14, starting now with the obligatory look back at the best and worst of our escapades in the past year.

Proudest Accomplishment: Kitchen Overhaul
In April, we put the finishing touches on our once beige and boring kitchen.

old kitchen

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This project is/was the most time and energy intensive DIY renovation we’ve sunk our teeth into, but it has also been the most gratifying. It started before we officially moved in when I painted the walls a nearly day-glow shade of green called “Spritz of Lime” which just seemed an appropriate if not nauseating color choice for a kitchen. From there, we—to be read in one breath now—replaced the florescent lighting, striped and restained the cabinets and added new hardware, removed the wood paneling from the wall and added custom shelving, replaced the faucet and added water cut offs, demolished the countertops, replaced the countertops, and…gaspretiled the backsplash. A project more than a year in the making, it felt indecently good to marvel at the successful culmination of a lot of hard work.

Biggest Transformation: Hardwoods in the Living Room
Thanks to a ridiculous sale on laminate flooring at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore, what started as a routine Saturday errand resulted in Heath and I throwing caution to the wind and just doing it already—”it” being ripping out the carpet in our living room and replacing it with some sweet, sweet laminate wood flooring. Oooh. That is fresh.

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Biggest headache: Rebuilding the chicken coop
After finding a possum in the chicken coop one evening, we knew we had to prioritize a task we had long been delaying—rebuilding the chicken coop, a project that literally stinks, is labor intensive and painful. We  finished it in a day, and the coop is certainly in better shape now than it was before, but it didn’t go down, or rather up , smoothly. We endured cuts, scrapes, mosquito bites, sun burns and blows to our egos along the way, but at day’s end, a bigger, brighter, possum-free coup stood triumphantly in the dh backyard.

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Riskiest project: The stencil wall
It was nearly a year ago exactly that I finished totally weirding out our living room by painting an accent wall with a scallop stencil. It was kind of a gamble as a floor-to-ceiling geometric pattern could potentially be overwhelming, but there is something hypnotic and appealing about the repetitive nature of geometric prints. Since geometric scribbles practically dominate all of my handouts of staff meeting agendas, I thought I should take the concept that had been gnawing away at my subconscious to heart and put that idea on the wall. A year later, I still get lost in the rhythm of the green scallops and love it as much as the day I started painting.

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Biggest fail: the garden
2013 was not the year of the garden for House Doodle. Because of the heat and other various preoccupations, we slowly stopped tending to our veggies and other flora.  Next we knew, a once lush and sustainable backyard paradise transformed to a desolate and pathetic excuse for a garden. As it turns out, plants don’t respond well to gross neglect.  It is was not our finest hour.

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Greatest discovery: Homebrew
At the recommendation of some dear friends, Heath picked up brewing beer at home as a new hobby, and boy have we enjoyed it. We cooked up our first batch in February, and by June we committed to going full throttle when we installed kegerator in our kitchen so we could enjoy draft homebrew at our leisure. Yes, we’ve officially crossed the beer snob threshold, and it’s delicious.

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We saw triumphs and tribulations in our home projects this year, but 2013 was also a year of significant personal achievement, loss and transition: Heath conquered a mountain when he hiked 26 miles through the Weminuche Wilderness, we bid farewell to a beloved home from my childhood, my always bro/sometime roommate joined the navy, and I left my communications job with the school district. Good/bad/ugly/beautiful….2013 was peppered with experiences that will stick with us for awhile.


When DIY means: Dang it, You!

Lots of design-oriented DIY blogs (this one included) will have you believe that choosing to makeover/renovate/repair/assemble/disassemble a home improvement project yourself rather than enlist the help of the pros is the usually the only acceptable way to function. Successfully do/make something on your own and you will have a free pass to walk around with an entitled sense of superiority, like ordering a salad at a restaurant when everyone else gets the steak. Yes, do it yourself and you shall be handsomely rewarded. Not so, says I.

The pride I feel about my recent bathroom cabinet makeover is about on par with what I imagine it feels like to discover you’ve made the 7th grade C team in volleyball. (I say “imagine” because I definitely don’t know what it feels like to practice so hard to prove yourself to the volleyball coach at Calhoun Middle School that you throw up in the locker room trash can, subsequently “earn” a spot on the bench with the other athletically challenged girls and then, humiliated, quit and pretend like you never cared about volleyball in the first place and would rather, of course, focus on your dancing. No, I don’t know what that is like.) What I’m trying to say is, I wish I had just dropped the dollars to buy a cabinet with some actual gusto than try to refurbish a cabinet that would end up only being slightly better in quality than child’s macaroni art.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version.  I don’t really like our bathroom layout, as it is very small and boring. But then I saw a photo of similarly designed room and thought, Hey, I can do that.

small bathroom inspiration

I liked how it felt modern but also cozy with the wooden accent on the shelves. I knew, however, that I needed more storage than what shelves as dinky as those would provide. I wanted something with some girth, like the Akurum wall cabinet from IKEA.

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I liked that it kept the wood accents, but didn’t shriek of woodsy charm. Because our bathroom is small I liked the idea of being able to see inside the cabinet, which may keep that omg-the-walls-are-closing-in-on-me feeling at bay. Yes Kelsey, this will do nicely. Flash to price tag: $207. Pfffftttt. Come on Ikea, be real. I can make a badass cabinet myself for half that. Well, yes and no. I didn’t think I would actually be making any cabinet, per se, but I know my way around the Restore and was sure I could modify something to resemble as much. That, I did do, and $15 got us a cream colored cabinet in decent shape that would fit the space over the toilet poifectly.

old cabinet

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Alright, OK, good. I could do this. But what first?  After removing the hardware I figured I should start this weekend renovation by removing the panels in the doors. I still wanted a cabinet with translucent doors, so that interior panel would have to go. I watched more Youtube videos than I would have ever hoped to on the subject of removing interior cabinet paneling. I’ll tell you, there are a lot of schools of thought on the best way to do this. Some people say you need a jigsaw, others say not. Honestly I can’t even remember what all of the methods were but they were all time intensive and required tools that we didn’t have, so I got creative. This is code for abandoning all reason and just going for it. I used Heath’s whatchawhosit tool (he says its a dremel but I am not fooled) to try and trace the paneling and create a perforated edge around the interior of the cabinet that I could then gently push outward.

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This maybe would have worked if it weren’t for two things: one, this was also a timely process and the vibration of the whatchawhosit was making my hand feel very funny; I did not like this, and secondly, the heat generated from trying to cut through wood was creating a burning smell which I also did not like. So I decided to abandon all reason a second time and just go to town on the panel with a hammer. Believe it or not, this is not where my refurbishment experiment went astray. In fact, forget what everyone else tells you about removing panels from cabinet doors and just beat the crap out of it with a hammer. THIS ACTUALLY WORKS. And, bonus points, it’s also kind of cathartic.

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Then I  spent a a good 3-4 hours stripping, sanding and staining/painting the doors and cabinet base and then letting it all dry. So far, still on course.

When I woke up the next morning to check everything out, I was really disappointed to find that I hated how the stain looked with the wood grain of the cabinet doors. It was not modern and glamorous but instead the grain was very 1990s country kitchen. Nothing against a good country kitchen, (my teenage gal pals who remember the critical role Linda Tonn’s kitchen played during our formative years will vouch for it) but it’s not the look I was after. Expletive. I thought on it for a minute and then, in the interest of my impatience, decided to just paint the doors white to match the rest of the cabinet. I would find another way to bring in my beloved wood accents. This could have been a successful recovery tactic except that the paint didn’t take to the stain, and I had to strip, sand and paint the cabinets all over again. This is a bigger downer than pouring a bowl of cereal only to find you are out of milk. The worst. Not only was this taking FOREVER but my hands were sore from contact with the chemical in the stripping agent (I know, I know mom, I should wear gloves) and I was also all shaky from hours spent holding an electric sander. I was beginning to hate my bathroom, the Restore, IKEA, paint, stain, design blogs and DIY books, everything. How dare you give me confidence, world?

Once the paint dried, on DAY 3 (ideally, the cabinet would have been hanging from my wall like a prized elk’s head by the end of Day 2) we started the process of inserting the glass panels. We bought a large piece of glass ($20) from Home Depot and this glass cutting kit because, hell yeah, we are DIYers and no project is too difficult for us to master. Let me say, this glass cutting kit was a piece of shite. We followed directions to a T and it flat out didn’t work. The glass broke, the kit was crummy, we were out $32 and had bloody fingers. On trip two to Home Depot we got plastic instead (~$15), which was easier to cut than the glass and didn’t result in blood droplets on our driveway.

Switching to plastic after a debacle with our glass-cutting kit.

Switching to plastic after a debacle with our glass-cutting kit.

We successfully glued the plastic panels into the cabinets, but it just looked bad because, when you get down to the science of it all, cheap plastic does not equal glass in quality or shine. I decided to frost the clear inserts ($3) because I thought it would be a classy move and perhaps make up for the downgraded quality of the plastic, but in the end the doors didn’t  beam of frosty elegance. Instead it was like someone sprayed cheap frost-in-a-can unevenly over a scratchy surface, because that is precisely what we did. Once we screwed in some modern handles ($6) and hung it up on the wall, I officially knew then what I suspected all along. This project was more disappointing than Star Wars Episode I, though admittedly a cheaper mistake to make

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It might be the most unimpressive, least dramatic transformation in Doodle House history. Not only did the cabinet makeover itself turn out pretty sub standard and arguably worse off than the original cabinet was, but it makes such an uninspired difference in the room it may as well be invisible.

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At the end of the day, we *do* have a functioning cabinet in which to store towels and toilet paper, so, point Kelsey. Obviously no experience is ever wasted and I learned a lot from this and blah blah blah. But every time I go to the bathroom, and see that cabinet’s ugly mug staring back at me, I wonder if I should have just spent the money and saved the time. Humbug, I’m going to concentrate on my dancing now.

A 15-minute furniture makeover

FACT: It took longer to prepare this post than it did to achieve my latest home update—painting and recovering a forgotten chair.

Many, many moons ago, when I was just a lass, good old mum picked up this little number from Denton’s own Downtown Mini Mall for a sweet $20.

using old scarfs for upholstery

That was more than 15 years ago,  but we’ve gotten a lot of bang for our buck. I’ve modified this chair at least three times over the past few years as my style changed from juvenile bright, to bohemian cool, to modern eclectic. But ye old chair has endured each look with gusto. She’s taken on the challenge of being painted both cyan blue and dusty red, and her cushion has been covered in everything from kitchen placemats to old scarves—looking surprisingly appropriate with each passing style. Good job, chair. So why not take 15 minutes this weekend to update the familiar beauty once more? After all, it’s easy as 1…2…8.

how to reupholster a chair

No kidding, without factoring in the time it takes the paint to dry, this project was completed in 15 minutes. How’s that for instant gratification? And in addition to being crazy easy, it’s also cheap to pull off. I had the chair and the fabric (leftover from another project), so the only cost was the spray paint…bringing the cost to complete the project to a sweet $3.75. If only all projects could be that easy on the watch and the wallet.

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