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.
Today Heath and I went to the Habitat for Humanity Restore to browse their cabinet selection, and I about fainted at what we saw inside…an epic sale on hardwood flooring. At $1.20 per square foot we LOADED DOWN on the stuff. Pretty soon our long awaited dream of a hardwood living room (ok, laminate) will be realized. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait.
More to come, sooner than you know.
The sounds of distressed clucking and squawking began to drift into the living room sometime between 10 and 11 at night—long after the hours when the “bukbukbukbukbukbuuuuuuuuuuuk” from Frannie Sue’s tiny but powerful lungs is considered appropriate. The dogs lifted their heads, tilted their ears backward and let out a low, slow growl. I muted my episode of The West Wing and strained to listen in with them. Silence. Then, THUD. WHACK. SQUAAAAAKSQUAAACKBUUUUUUUUUK. CRASH.
“Moosh!” I bellowed toward the bedroom in Heath’s direction. “The chickens! Something’s happening to the chickens!”
Not bothering to put on shoes, I scurried out the side door and stepped awkwardly on the balls of my feet, over twigs and stepping-stones through the backyard to the chicken coop. I didn’t have my flashlight, but I didn’t need it. Even in the dark, I knew what I saw crawling eerily from the chicken coop door.
A few seconds later, also shoeless, Heath came stumbling out into the darkness with rake and flashlight in hand, ready for battle. Except for the shoe thing.
“What is it? Can you see?” Heath asked me, his voice relaying equal parts concern over the mysteries that lay hidden in the darkness and frustration for being pulled from his cozy slumber into the uncertain, barefoot night.
I pointed to the varmint that clung ferociously to the inside wire of the chicken coop, activating the same defense used by Sam Neil’s character in Jurasic Park. “He can’t see us if we don’t move.”
But we saw him, his naked tail, his glowing eyes, his face that would have been cute in a different context. There was a possum in our chicken coop.
We would have to rebuild.
Our coop had been through much iteration over the years. We built it at our old house, repurposing wood and other materials from the original coop to save costs. Then we hauled it across the highway to our new place before then making one, two, three more additions and modifications to the original plan. We added on a wing, converted it to a duplex and moved doors around from side to side without investing in new materials to get the constantly evolving coop up to snuff. And now we had egg snatching, chicken pestering possums to answer to.
Forgetting that, just weeks ago we were much more a threat to chickens than this 8-pound marsupial, we vowed to spend our weekend reinforcing the coop to make it into a chicken’s fortress. We would plan incessantly, measure meticulously and level ground furiously to create a coop we could be proud of.
Saturday morning, as usual, came earlier than expected. And despite a late night crawl down Rainey St. comprised of pickle-flavored shots, lewd gestures in photo booths and chicken-and-waffle food trailer eats, Heath and I managed to pull ourselves out of bed and into the backyard. Even the White Rabbit would have scoffed at our poor timing, which found us deconstructing the original coop under the incessant and unforgiving noon sun without even a hint of a shade to ease our discomfort. As we pulled and prodded and pried the coop apart, the backyard began to look more and more like a WWI battle field with dismantled structures, entangled metal wires and the sounds of hopeless humans moaning with pain.
Are the chickens even worth it? Maybe it would be cool to start raising possums instead. I could name them after Downtown Abbey characters. Cousin Matthew. Lady Sybil. That would be fun.
We endured repeated trips to Home Depot and lost battery life to our drill at least twice (perhaps a bigger momentum killer than my tooth-hurty joke). We put up and took down support beams at least a dozen times and suffered approximately 87 mosquito bites and 33 chicken wire lacerations to the gams. And we snipped at each other more than I’m proud to admit.
“I don’t work well in groups.”
“Well, I don’t understand why you don’t understand.”
The whole “during” phase of the coop construction was unceasingly frustrating. Less team building and more scream building. But when we stapled that last piece of chicken wire, laid down the hay, and stood back to marvel at the handsome hut, we felt pretty proud of each other for conquering the beast.
“Good job Moosh,” we both said, arms around the other’s sweaty, dirty, sun burned waists.
We stood in silence for a moment; relieved the endeavor was finished and grateful for the promise of sweet, sweet air conditioning in our very near future. Finally, coop complete, we retreated indoors and collapsed in a tizzy of laughter on the couch. The chickens on the other hand, never made a peep that night.
I smile and allow myself to be enveloped by a medley of warm and fuzzy feelings when I imagine covering the walls of our home with one-of-a-kind art pieces that conjure up memories of times well spent and people greatly loved. But because I’m a girl on a budget, I’m not quite as fond of the price tag that comes with many unique paintings and prints, and I don’t have the skill set to put pen to paper and create epic masterpieces on my own either. To solve the conundrum of having champagne taste on a beer budget, I’ve been known to use three methods: repurpose projects my friends have created (like Eric’s concert posters), use canvaspop to print my favorite photographs, or get nifty with design software to make colorful mini-posters we can change with the seasons with minimal effort and cost.
Each method has proved an acceptable solution to my dilemma, so most recently, I’ve tried to bring extra pizazz to the house by once again employing the third of those tactics—creating art on the old lap top. Recently I’ve been carried away by the enthralling shapes of some of the succulents in our neighborhood, and I thought perhaps that recent obsession could make for some nice hallway flair. I conjured up this little number one recent afternoon based on two of my favorite neighborhood cacti.
Like me, the print is a little cheesy, but I enjoyed coming up with a way to incorporate my favorite colors and our love of gardening, neighborhood walks and each other in one fun and simple piece. I printed the finished design on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock and bought a frame on clearance at Target to spruce it up. Not bad for hallway art.
Last summer, good ole Gretchen (my garden guru) came to stay with us for a week to help us garden beginners install her customized landscape plan in our front yard. The visit was a great success and we went from dead, brown and lackluster to manicured, verdant and promising.
We couldn’t have asked for a better change (an upgrade that felt even better since we shed our own sweat to achieve it), but nearly a year later, it’s pretty magnificent to see how the plan has really taken shape.
Watching the garden morph through the seasons has been more than gratifying, it’s been a valuable learning experience. Through trial and error, we’ve gotten used to practicing regular weeding, pruning, re-mulching and other necessary upkeep tricks of the trade. What fun it’s been to figure out how to keep a garden alive, happy and thriving.
We’ve also experimented with ways to make watering more efficient. In the front bed, Heath repurposed an old pvc pipe to make an irrigation system we can effortlessly hook up to the hose for hassle-free watering.
We can only guess how it will change from now til next year.
Question: What does one do with unsightly garbage bins and out-of-use screen doors?
Answer: You make a garbage can screen.
We weren’t wild about the fact that the first thing people saw when coming up to the house was garbage, so we repurposed our old screen doors to conceal the rubbish.
The execution of the project was fairly painless and the whole operation, from coming up with the concept to hanging up the finished product, was completed in an afternoon. It was also a project we did on the cheap. Because we already had the screen doors, the only cost was the reed fencing and the hardware needed to keep the doors together, about $25 total.
To get ‘er done, we first removed all of the hardware from the doors. Then we screwed two long 1″x2″ pieces of trim to the top and bottom of the piece to affix the doors to one another. We used a staple gun to keep the roll of reed fencing down and flat behind the screen. Screw eyes were placed at the top and about two feet of white metal chain keeps the piece suspended in front of the cans.
And just like that, our side entryway troubles were over. I’ve gotta hand it to Heath for saving the doors all this time. He knew they would come in handy for a future mystery project, and they turned out to be the perfect solution to the problem. And I’ve gotta give some credit to my creative mom who helped me come up with the idea. I’m inspired to see what other household items we can find new use for.
Today I write the blog entry I’ve (embarrassingly) been fantasizing about for awhile, the post on our newly renovated midcentury kitchen. We have been planning and slowly chipping away at our kitchen renovation practically from the first moment we moved in.
She was relatively functional, sure, but it wasn’t a place I wanted to spend much time in. And like others, as I grow older and try to become a culinary savant, having a comfortable cooking area has become more and more important to me. To make the space work for us, I spent months flipping through tons of magazines, pinterest boards and blog posts to figure out what would fit our space and our budget. We took it on bit-by-bit, first painting the walls and replacing the light fixtures. Then Heath spent his Christmas vacation sanding down and restaining the original knotty pine cabinets and adding new hardware, and we worked together the following spring break to remove the wood wall paneling and add more shelving and storage. About a month ago we tackled the most costly upgrade, replacing the countertops and redoing the plumbing. And to wrap it all up, last week we put in the tile backsplash, resulting in the nearly finished product we have today, 18 months after moving in.
The original tile work was not a professionally executed job. There were broken pieces around the electrical outlets and jaggedly cut tiles around the sink. So when it came time replace it, we went back and forth on whether we should do it ourselves or have it professionally installed to avoid a debacle like what we began with. In the end, we decided to take it on ourselves, a decision I’m happy with, not only for the financial implications but for the sense of accomplishment and ownership we felt when it was all said and done.
We started as all young 21st century DIYers do, watching a YouTube video on the process. We found this one to be the most helpful.
Contrary to our initial beliefs, installing the backsplash was relatively straight forward.
- If you have uneven drywall like we did, use an all purpose joint compound on the wall to smooth out uneven areas before beginning.
- Butter the walls with adhesive.
- Lay the tile and wait 24 hours.
The tiling was a lot like putting together a puzzle, frustrating at times, but marvelously gratifying when you find the right piece to complete the sequence. The corners and edges were predictably the most challenging areas to finish off, but we had a tile cutter that proved most helpful to create tiny pieces to finish off our pattern.
And installing the tile was a true team effort. We started in the middle and worked our way out to either side. Then I did the grouting and Heath did the caulking. It was couple’s team building through and through.
The tile backsplash was the cherry on top of the renovation sundae, leaving only the dishwasher and garbage disposal installation to be desired. It’s fantastic to be able to stand in our doorway today and take in the finished product that was more than a year in the making. While it’s not completely perfect, I can’t help but beam with pride at the first major renovation we conquered on our own, from the design to the execution (with a little help and support from loving family and friends). It was a long process to be certain and sometimes tested our patience, but it was also an experience we will carry with us as we continue to develop our skills and take on new challenges in the future.
Thanks to the great, great folks at Austin Countertops, the doodle house is now equipped with wonderful white solid surface countertops. It took us 17 months to make a decision and execute, but they are finally here! I never in my life could have imagined being so thrilled about 20+ square feet of acrylic slab, but boy am I.
This update and upgrade is a huge breath of fresh air in that weird little kitchen. I knew taking out the tile would make a difference, but I never could have estimated just how much until we officially made the switch. I’m confident that after all the deliberating we made the right choice for us. The new surfaces are easy to clean, beautiful to look at and fit in seamlessly with everything else in the kitchen– a little bit modern and streamlined, but still fairly timeless and adaptable.
Even though it took a while, in the end I’m really happy we took our time with this kitchen renovation (and it’s not even done yet). If I rushed into it, changing everything up before I got to really know the house and the cooking space, I would have made monumentally different decisions which I think, in the end, I would end up regretting.
So cheers to another project crossed off the very long and never ending to-do list. The cosmetic parts of this kitchen makeover are nearly complete, with only the back splash left to tackle. I guess we will be spending the next week or so on Youtube getting a crash course in tile installation. DIY or DIE!
I’m not what they would say considered “crafty.” My graphic design skills are adequate. My interior design notions are amateur. And my crafty skills hover somewhere between “Did your child make that?” and “I’ve seen worse.” (Good thing my try-hardiness levels are through the roof.) There is a noticeable absence of posts related to all things hand-crafted or sewn on this blog, and that is because I am not crafty. I am trying though, darn it. Just recently I learned to use my sewing machine without supervision. And the result is this ill-fated account about my attempt at making a Roman shade.
I really wanted a Roman shade for our kitchen window because they just look so flippin’ fantastic and minimalistic, which is perfect for our mid century modern abode.
Photos from Houzz.com
So I briefly (and I cannot stress how briefly) began to peruse websites for how to make one of these little items at home. I found two sources that seemed manageable:
Martha, helpful as she may be, did not include pictures on her how-to (shame on you, Martha), and Scoutie Girl had a great tutorial, but I lacked the fabric glue needed to complete the task according to her instructions. However, I did have a yard of fabric from Hobby Lobby I purchased for a whopping $6 that matched our kitchen perfectly. So I ventured out on my own, trying to create a hybrid of the two, without referring back to their directions. Perhaps this is where I went wrong.
- First, I hemmed the entire piece so it wouldn’t fray. (This was a big deal for me, as I am new to the exciting world of sewing machines.) That part was a success. So, go me!
- Second, I placed (I say place instead of lie/lay because I still don’t completely understand the difference) my fabric under the mini blinds (I think it’s layed) and determined which blinds I wanted to cut and which I wanted to keep as the support for my roman shade folds. Then I cut all the others away, per Scoutie Girl‘s instructions.
- Then, using the existing kitchen mini blinds as a frame, I haphazardly folded the fabric under about 1 inch around the blind slats to create my Roman shade folds, making what looked like a little pocket for the plastic blind. I made a couple of stitches on each end to hold the fabric pockets in place around the blind.
- Once the blind pockets were done, I hand stitched the fabric on either side of the draw string a couple times for added support.
- Then it was time to incorporate the draw string from the original blinds. Here’s where I started thinking outside of the box, perhaps to my own detriment. Martha Stewart said to buy brass rings for the drawstring to run through, but instead I made a small (very small) loop with some extra yarn I had around the house and sewed each of those loops onto every fold, in line with where the draw strings would run. I also tied a bead to the end of the draw string. This way, the drawstring would follow a straight path, but not slip through the yarn loop when drawing the shades.
Ultimately, the finished product looked like this when down.
It’s too short! To quote Liz Lemom, “Blarg!” This is why I studied journalism and not math. Granted, I chose to do this project on a whim and did not precisely measure before-hand, but let it be known that a yard of fabric is not enough to cover a kitchen window. I’m optimistic that I can tack on another length of fabric and fix this problem without it being too obvious, but geeeeeeez, I was so (well, not really) close!
And here’s how she looks pulled up.
It’s a little floppy on the edges. Bummer. Fortunately Home Depot has 48″ wooden dowels for $3 that I hope, hope, hope will fix the flop prob (new band name?). For now, I’m not calling the shades a victory, but for $6 I’m not willing to say I’ve been defeated either.
Let’s call it half time.
Weeee! My crazy green stenciled wall was featured in a SheKnows article called “Unexpected paint colors for your living room.” It’s comforting to know there are other wannabe design dweebs who appreciate splashy color. Check it out and see what other color-lovers have done to spruce up their pads.