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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once upon a time, our fiddle leaf fig was a contained, petite and well-groomed specimen. But these days, the branches of my beloved ficus are pretty sprawled out, each one is in business for itself. Not that I mind that, necessarily. For a while, I thought this particular plant had gone rogue, or at the very least was in a rebellious state against its doting caretakers based on how it looked when we initially brought ‘er home (unfortunately, no pictures exist of that banner moment).
But this perceived independent streak is not quite as it seems; in fact, after some research I have found that it is my preconceived notion of what this popular house plant ought to look like that is at fault. As it happens, fiddle leafs come in all shapes and sizes, depending on how they are groomed and cared for, which means there’s pretty much a style to fit anyone’s idea of beauty. That’s a pretty swell shrub if I have anything to say about it.
Long and leggy
I’m digging the different looks the Ficus lyrata can pull off, it’s essentially the Carrie Bradshaw of house plants. I’m gonna go ahead and go out on a limb here (eh, eh?) and say, fiddle leaf fig, you’re my ideal house plant. You’re pretty easy going (Or should I say growing?!), you’re nice to look at and I doubt I’ll ever be bored of you.
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.
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.
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.
What what?! It just came to my attention that The Doodle House was featured in Apartment Therapy‘s Room for Color contest! Unfortunately, I didn’t know my pad was featured until today, so I couldn’t get the word out to have folks vote for my “retro bright” color pallet before the contest voting closed, but it’s still pretty cool to be featured on such a prominent platform. I’m weirdly gratified by this.
I majored in journalism because, well, when I started college I wasn’t terrible at writing and I fit that cliche mold of an overly idealistic 19 year old who thought they could change the world. (Spoiler alert: I haven’t and I won’t.) Say what you will about the dying newspaper industry and the minuscule salary earned by reporters, but one of the cool things about being a journalism major is getting an excuse to take lots of photography and graphic design classes.
Oh…wait….I didn’t do that. Dumb.
I don’t really remember what my reasons were for not taking a photography class–a class COMPLETELY supported by my major and funded by my financial aid. I think it was something about the lab hours being too demanding and I was at the point in my young life where I had a hot new boyfriend (now husband) and was more interested in hanging out in his dark room (HEY-OH). I did manage to fit in one graphic design course, but because the teaching assistant was a big-time sarcastic bully, I skipped out on most of those labs too.
As a result, I graduated sans graphics and photography know-how. It was a true shame considering I would soon develop a mild obsession with design and photography, which I would satisfy by teaching myself. There is a lot I need to learn and I know I’m very rough around the edges—especially when compared to the high-calliber pros—but I feel comfortable with what I’ve accomplished on my own thus far.
A few recent examples.
Posters and Flyers
Brochures and Other Publications (Click the image to see the entire package.)
Even Billboards (Oh yeah, I never wrote about that time I had a billboard! Fun story for later.)
I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about all of the graphic design nuances. There are rules and techniques that I am sure I don’t follow—more out of ignorance than an act of rebellious independence—and hundreds of styles I’ve yet to explore. Truthfully, I really have only grazed the surface of possibilities, but that has me more excited than intimidated.
I write this not to pat myself on the back or beg applause from readers. But I’ll admit I’ve got ulterior motives for laying my art and my insecurities out on the table. I try not to talk about my professional life too much, but recently at work some design-oriented projects I really cared about were vendored out to The Pros. And it has shaken my creative confidence.
But here’s the thing, too often I downplay my abilities and sulk over the fact that I would probably never be a “real” graphic designer. But honestly, these days I’m less woeful about my reluctance to seize the opportunity to learn the right way in college, and more proud of what I have been able to figure out on my own. Teaching myself was an education in its own merit. I had to admit what I didn’t know, do my own research and ask for help when I needed it—sometimes even from my own journalism students, when I was teaching, which makes for quite the humbling experience. I established my own standard and had only myself to impress, and I think I’m finally coming around to believing I am an OK student. I’m not an artist savant and I don’t want to be. I’d rather find joy in making mistakes, learning from them at my own pace than creating art that I feel good about. I encourage others to embrace their interests whole heartedly and do the same. There’s no “real” way to learn to be expressive, no “right” way to be creative.
“Take your pleasure seriously.” — Charles Eames, designer
I was going through my flickr account recently, which I hate to admit is sorely outdated, and I came across a handful of pictures of the original Doodle House. We lived there a year and a half before moving to our current pad, doing what we could to make it feel like home given our limited capabilities as renters. We painted. We updated some hardware here and there. We got our start raising chickens. It was the house we lived in as newly weds and we did what we could with what we had to make it ours. I don’t have any negative feelings or weird associations with our old place, none at all. But looking back, I realize now, even with all its quirks, how much more our current house feels like home than did this little eclectic cottage. It’s kind of funny how much can change in just a couple of years.
OK. I’m just going to get right in to it. Because I know there are hundreds, nay thousands, of people out there who are hungry for extremely detailed and helpful step-by-step instructions on installing flooring—the right way—in their homes*. So here it is, in a nutshell. You’re welcome.
1. Rip up the old carpet as recklessly as possible. Don’t even think about the best method for removal or what you will do with the carpet once it’s gone. Just get equal parts frustrated with current carpet and excited about the prospect of new flooring and rip that old garbage up as fast as humanely possible. If you really want to go the way of the doodle, don’t even bother taking all the furniture out of the room first. Work around it. There is no time for that. Planet Earth is depending on you to install these floors and install them fast.
2. Watch a lot of YouTube videos. When you’re obnoxiously impatient and overly enthused about a lofty renovation project, it means you don’t need to consult an expert beforehand. Don’t talk to anyone at Home Depot or call up your contractor relatives. Mathematically it works out: eagerness + materials = perfect DIY project. That’s all you need. Just 20 minutes of YouTubing and you’re good to go.
3. Choose the right playlist. One DH reader suggested we get a good playlist going before installing the floors, as dance breaks can be a crucial component to a happy flooring project. Since Handyman Heath was going to be the one doing most of the dirty work (with me as his trusty sidekick), I suggested he be the driver of our audio experience—which meant we were in for about 12 straight hours of listening to The Ticket, a Dallas-based sports radio network. So much for dance breaks. At least now I know as much about the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers as I do about laminate flooring. I’ll miss seeing you on the field Nelly Cruz.
4. Seriously consider selling your soul for an “undo” button. About 18 hours into the project, when you’re about halfway through, think seriously about not finishing it. We were really good at this step. When Heath had just started transitioning from laying the planks out in the living room to the hallway, he looked up and me with the saddest, most pathetic puppy dog eyes, and said “I’m so over this.” Ah yes, we have arrived at that terrible, terrible moment in every major DIY project where you wish you never started it. The living room planks were all down, but the narrow hallway, which required way more meticulous measuring and cutting than the large living room did, was only just then getting underway. Even when that was finished, there would be many, many feet of trim to measure and cut and nail and paint. Damn. Was the carpet really so bad? Who said hallways need flooring anyway? Those aren’t even real rooms. No one will notice.
5. Blog about it. Much like that riddle about the tree that falls in a forest, did the project truly happen if you don’t blog about it? Probably not. So now, I submit my evidence. The best damned laminate flooring this house has ever seen.
Living room before…
The difference has been incalculable. It’s made the house feel bigger, cleaner and more vibrant.The doodles aren’t quite used to it yet. Their paws are still slippin’ and slidin’ more than they would like, but I’m acclimated.
In all seriousness, it feels really, really, really good to be rid of the carpet I’ve fantasized about losing since we moved in almost 2 years ago. I am so thankful for the ReStore for making it happen when it did and love, love, love my Handyman Heath for being so willing to jump into this endeavor head first.
The only thing I regret about this project is that I didn’t do it sooner. Obviously, you have to work within the constraints of your budget, but for whatever reason I didn’t consider the ReStore as a flooring source before we accidentally stumbled upon it when in search for something completely different (more on that later). It was a fluke, but I’m very grateful for it. I encourage any DIY home improvement junkie to go to their local Habitat for Humanity ReStore as soon as humanely possible to discover what amazing projects you can check off your list at a fraction of the cost. To break it down in real numbers, if we performed this same makeover with resources from our usual go-to, Home Depot, it would have cost us more than $1,000. But with the help of the ReStore, we did it for just a little more than $600. That’s a deal if I’ve ever heard one. Go to there. You must.
*If you’re in to doing floors yourself, I suggest looking at the following links which are actually much more instructional, eloquent and useful than anything I have ever produced. Especially this one. Though, full disclosure, we did not use the second, sound proof layer of padding when we did our floors, nor did we use painter’s tape to stick our spacers to the wall. I also suggest this post from Young House Love for a good recap on installing real wood floors.
You know that children’s book If You Give a Moose a Muffin? The one where the little boy gives a muffin to a moose and then the next thing you know one thing has led to another and he, the moose, is performing a puppet show in your mom’s living room? Well that’s basically the same storyline of If You Let Kelsey Make a Mood Board, which I did for the first time recently on the DH bathroom.
I have certainly seen mood boards before. They are all over the design blogs I read, and I have no qualms with them, but for whatever reason I had never taken the time time to make one myself, despite the dozens of room makeovers I have undergone (which perhaps would be smaller if I had made a mood board in the first place). The bathroom is the last frontier of The Doodle House—never painted, never loved. In fact, you’ve probably noticed a lack of bathroom oriented posts on the blog. (Actually no, I hope you haven’t been reading this, pining for more posts about our water closet. But that’s not the point.) That is probably because it’s tiny and there isn’t much to it besides this kinda quirky, retro avocado ’50s tile that I really, really, REALLY like. Other than that, there’s not much else going on in there. It’s small, and there isn’t any storage, and the layout leaves much to be desired.
But I came across this photo of a bathroom—with a similar size and layout to ours—on Apartment Therapy and got inspired to pay some much-needed attention to the tiniest, but arguably most frequently used, room in the house.
That’s when I remembered: just because a room is small, does not mean it should also be sterile and void of any personality or charm. So I spent the morning foolin’ around on the laptop, googling everything from “hexagonal tile” to “swimming dog art” to create a mood board for the left-behind lavatory. Once I got started, I got so flippin’ excited I could hardly control myself. What started as a lazy Saturday morning with Heath and I debating whether to go to Barton Springs or the Greenbelt, quickly found us both at Home Depot, stocking up on “bleached linen” paint and extra long shower curtains and stainless steel towel racks to see the look through to fruition. Fast forward half an hour and I’m using the electric drill to take down the shelves and cover the walls with its first coat of paint.
This evening the bathroom is in transition as I map out the plan for its immediate future.
No more mood boards for me. It only leads to trouble.
This morning I awoke with the full intention of taking some updated photos of the DH with which I could provide a splendid house tour blog post outlining my favorite spaces of the home. But during our little photo shoot I noticed a peculiar pattern: Stella and Wyatt began photo bombing ever picture I attempted to take. No matter how much I shooed them away, the doodles always found an excuse to slink back into the photos. And I liked it. So instead of gushing about the bookshelf that Heath built or the kitchen we poured blood, sweat and tears into, I bring you a collection of images of the dogs sprawled upon nearly every surface of our home. It truly is the doodles’ house.
Yes, I am attached to our furniture and artwork and wall colors and yadda, yadda, yadda. But at the end of the day, it’s the dogs that make the house a home. Thanks for the reality check, doodles.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I might very well be the living, breathing, walking, talking, blogging symbol of American consumerism. I sees something I wants sprawled across the pages of a catalog or draped stylishly over some hipster walking the chicest of city streets or proudly taking up real estate in a post of some brand name design blog, and I inevitably come to the conclusion that I must attain that picnic scenario, those awesome Ikat shorts, that fantastic living room–or at least a cheap knock off version of each. Every now and then I’m temporarily relieved of my obsession after some life-changing adventure, say a trip to India for instance, but at one point or another it’s certain I will find myself curled up in secret with the iPad at 11 at night, googling pictures of “homemade earring stands” so that I can emulate some totally random, completely irresistible image I saw in that catalog, on that girl at Whole Foods, in that post on Design*Sponge. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have a shopping problem (see homemade earring stand comment above), but at the very least it’s a browsing problem. As of late, I had been eyeballing these, as Heath would say, “super omega krunk” modern orbital light fixtures.
I’m not entirely positive as to why I am so drawn toward and mystified by these quirky living and dining room accessories. I’d like to say something about how we view light as a symbol for life and I feel rejuvenated by them. Or that their incessant circular design holds some alluring magnetism. Or that proper lighting determines the mood of the room and ultimately oneself and that these examples reiterate the attitude I want reflected in my home. Yes. I’d like to say that. But really it boils down to pretty…so pretty.
Good old mom knew I had been toying with the idea of swapping out our not-so-terrible, but also not-so-special 80s light fixture for a illumination source that’s more stylish and charismatic (and remnant of something from that website, magazine, catalog, street corner, etc). Next thing I know, a mystery package from Joss & Main shows up on our door step and I’m staring this thing square in the eye.
Its formal fancy pants name is the “Aumi Pendant” but I just like to call it “SUH-WEET!” It cost $136, through whatever black magic Joss & Main works, and I was able to put those awesome waves together in about an hour while sitting on the living room floor watching a rerun of Saturday Night Live. The only trouble with it was, while it was labeled as a “pendant” it actually didn’t have traditional pendant wiring and instead was equipped with a standard plug-in for a wall outlet. But our local handyman was able to rewire the thing in about half an hour and we wound up with this impressive get up that’s still far cheaper than anything I would have been able to find at a fancy lighting or faddish vintage store. The doodle doggies don’t seem to mind the imposing orb.After all my catalog flipping and blog scrolling you might say, I’ve finally got my eye on the ball (ey….ey?!). Consumerism Shmonshmumerism. I’m a happy girl with this new, magazine-inspired, designer knock-off ball of brilliance—a stylish charm that radiates beauty, whimsy, serenity and, oh yeah, light.