Category Archives: DIY

More DIY: Simple Wainscoting

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I’ve lived in my condo for about a year and a half, and up until now, the guest bedroom has been a LARGELY neglected space that vey quickly became a storage room for misfit housewares and an obligatory bed for the occasional guest. I’ve always had high hopes for this room. Even though it’s pretty small, it is a decent size for a second bedroom, and it gets better natural light than any other room in my place. One of the primary ideas that I had for this room was to create some sort of focal wall behind the bed; something that would be dramatic but wouldn’t juxtapose too harshly against the muted aesthetic prevalent throughout the most of the condo.

And so began a week-long journey of grand ideas, some big mistakes, a bad summer cold, and a pretty cool final treatment.

My initial idea was to design a wood-cladded feature wall, but after doing a lot of research and scoping out the necessary tools and supplies, I realized that it’d probably be more trouble (and money tbh) than it was worth. As much as I love a good wood wall, I do think that it would look outdated pretty quickly and I’d probably regret the labor and money that I put into it.

I moved on to thinking about creative solutions using paint, but I wanted it to have more impact than a simple paint job. I started by mocking up ideas that incorporated some kind of molding, 2x4s, or anything else that would give me a little bit of dimensionality and depth.

OPTION 1:

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I liked the idea of using simple 2x4s from a local hardware store to create an interesting architectural moment. The wood would be nailed into the wall, and then the wood and exposed portions of the wall would be painted the same inky color. The more I thought about it, though, I became concerned that it would look a little too crafstman for the home. The modern lines of this option would clash a little with the more contemporary slant of the existing baseboard. So I moved on to…

OPTION 2 

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Bearing in mind my revelations about option one, I figured that I should probably create something more in line with the overall aesthetic of the space. And because the existing baseboard is pretty easy to match, I decided to get a similarly designed trim to create a series of panels on the wall. Again, I would paint the trim work and the exposed wall a dark, inky tone. I really dug this idea, so I figured out the measurements and drove over to my vacation home (Lowe’s) to gather the necessary supplies.

I ended up buying this molding for the uppermost horizontal trim, and this decorative moulding for the panels. Lowe’s does actually sell pre-made picture frame moulding. They just didn’t have it available at the store, and because I’m slightly impatient about ordering things online, I decided to put in the extra work and cut the pieces by hand using a hand saw and miter box for the 45 degree angles necessary to create each panel (in retrospect, I should’ve just ordered the dang pre-made panels). At that point, it was simply a matter of sawing each piece to length.

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After sawing each piece to the proper length, it was time to nail them into the wall. A more capable individual would probably use a nail gun for something like this, but… I’m not at a point where I feel comfortable enough using one to make that kind of investment, so I nailed in each piece of trim with a hammer. I made a handful of mistakes at this point: splitting pieces of trim, measuring the spacing incorrectly…but hey, you live and you learn. Oh, I also used a bit of wood glue to keep each piece in place while I nailed them in.

After all of the pieces were nailed up, I caulked all of the seams (this became a lot messier than expected), and once the caulk was dry, I started to paint the wall. And almost immediately, I got REAL sick. Like, barely-able-to-function-without-feeling-like-poop sick. I was so close to being done, though, so I just trucked through it. Consequently, I made a ton of mistakes, and had to repaint the same spots over and over and over and over again. Moral of the story: stop being so impatient and just rest when I’m sick like most normal/sensible people would do?

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Anywayyy, it was fairly uncomplicated to design and it turned out pretty well! Now I just need guests.

More DIY: Random Target Find

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Target rarely ever disappoints these days. Between Threshold, Nate Berkus, and their mid-century furniture lines, I can’t walk into a store without losing tons of time in the Home department. A few months ago, I was perusing the clearance section when I came across a randomly placed drawer that wasn’t clearly labeled or priced. I dug it, so I brought it to the register, where the cashier wasn’t sure what exactly it was either and basically let me decide what I wanted to pay for it (!). I decided to use it as a floating nightstand (please excuse the blurry iPhone picture):

File_005Well, months later, while perusing Target’s Office department (yes, perusing Target is something I do frequently, you know you do it too), I noticed that these are actually sold as monitor stands! Who woulda thunk it? Not I. Or maybe I’m just oblivious. But it just goes to show you that creativy is more possible when we’re not bound by labels or preconceived ideas of how things should be.

How to Hang a Large, Heavy Rug

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I’m pretty lucky to be able to say that I grew up around the world. Along the way, my family picked up some priceless objects that we’ll take with us wherever we go, and it’s pretty amazing to think that my (eventual) kids, their kids, and their kids’ kids, could continue to hold onto the stuff that we’ve garnered over the years.

I think that’s an appropriate amount of gushiness for one post, so moving on.

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My parents bought this rug when we lived in Brazil, and when I moved out of their house after college a few years ago, I persuaded (begged) them to let me take it with me. Being the amazingly generous people that they generally are, they let me drag it up to Arlington. My initial intention was to use it on the floor, you know, as rugs tend to be used, but the more I lived with it the more I wanted to see it up on the wall. In my last apartment, I ended up hanging it behind my bed as a pseudo headboard. I hung it with a curtain rod, which looked admittedly janky because 1) it wasn’t the nicest curtain rod and 2) the rug was entirely too heavy to be supported by the rod without bowing.

When I moved into my current apartment, I decided that I’d figure out a more appropriate way to hang it up that would both properly support it and look decent. I googled options for hanging heavy rugs, like anyone would. Most of what I found involved using carpet tack strips–thin boards of wood with sharp tacks sticking from them, generally used for carpeting–but they didn’t seem sturdy enough to hold up the rug, and I was afraid that all of those tacks would damage it somehow.  I moseyed on over to the Home Depot to loiter about and see what I could put together. I came across some PVC pipe and came up with a solution that is super easy, super quick, and on trend.

Here’s what you’ll need for this DIY:

-A heavy (or light, really) rug that you’d like to hang. Mine is about 15 pounds.
-PVC pipe (as far as I can tell, these are only sold in 10 foot lengths?). I used a 3/4 inch pipe.
-A saw to cut the PVC pipe
-Twine
-Screws
-An electric screwdriver

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1) Cut the PVC pipe to the width of your rug. I cut mine slightly shorter than the width to ensure that it wouldn’t be visible underneath the rug. You might want to clean the pipe with Lysol wipes before touching it to your awesome rug… those hardware stores aren’t necessarily the cleanest places.

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2) Cut 2-3 pieces of twine to about double the length of the pipe. The more pieces you use, the sturdier it’ll be.

3) String the twine through the pipe. It’ll be easiest if you tie a washer or a screw to the end of all 2-3 pieces and drop the weight through the pipe.

4) Place the pipe, with twine threaded through, at the center of the rug, and fold the rug over. 

5) Tie the loose ends of the twine into knots. I used two pieces of twine, so I tied two knots. Make sure to tie the knots as close to the pipe as possible (i.e don’t give the twine any slack) because when you hang it up, it’ll stretch out quite a bit. After tying the knots, pull the twine through so that the knots are on the inside of the pipe, unless you want them on the outside.

6) Hang it up! If your rug is pretty heavy, you’ll want to either drill a screw into a stud, or use a drywall anchor for some extra strength. One screw should do it!

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Unfortunately, my rug was still weighing down the pipe quite a bit in the middle, which caused it to sag a little. I drilled another screw into the wall where I wanted the pipe to rest, and just sat the rug/pipe on top of that screw. Pretty simple.

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This seems like such a long post for such a simple project.

Simple Ottoman DIY

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What started out as one side table has turned into a few other small furniture projects. I never got a chance to take any sort of furniture building class in school, so these small projects are becoming really great and fun ways of teaching myself how (and how not, mostly) to build pieces that are both sturdy and functional.

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I started out by grabbing a 17″x24″ slab of wood for the base of ottoman. There was no real rhyme or reason for that size, it just seemed to suit my needs pretty well. Next, I bought 2″ thick foam and got it cut down to the same size as the base. I also picked up a bunch of extra loft batting, which would wrap around the foam/wood to make for cushiony edges and corners. I used wood glue to adhere the foam to the wood and a staple gun to staple the extra loft batting around it all, like so (the batting is slightly see-through which is why it looks green):

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Next, I wrapped the fabric around the wood/foam/batting and stapled it in place. I stapled one side completely, pulled the fabric to the other side so that it was as taut as it could be, stapled it in place while keeping it as taut as possible, and repeated that process for the remaining two sides. I had to do a little de-stapling and re-stapling to smooth out of some wrinkles in the fabric.

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The underside of the wood was looking a little janky and incomplete, so I got some cambric fabric (typically used underneath couches and armchairs to keep dust and bugs and things out of the springs), cut it to the appropriate size, and stapled it in place to make things look a little more polished. I actually attached angled leg plates onto the bottom of the wood base before adding the cambric, just to hide them and to keep everything neat and clean.

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I purchased these inexpensive 16″ tapered hardwood legs from Amazon.com and stained them a warm brown (Varathane light walnut). I applied a few coats to achieve the richness that I wanted, and then I applied two coats of matte polyurethane to finish them off. To screw the legs into the plates that were underneath the cambric at this point, I just used scissors to poke small holes where necessary and screwed them right in. And that’s it! A simple and unique piece that you can easily put together in a weekend.

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Lessons learned: Next time, I would use a thicker piece of plywood for the base, just to ensure sturdiness and stability. I’d also try to think of a cleaner way to finish off the corners of the fabric, which was probably the hardest part of the whole project, weirdly.

Simple Side Table DIY

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I’m in the process of working on a redecorating project with a pretty small budget, so I’m taking an opportunity to get my hands on some practice building furniture from scratch. I usually refurbish or add to existing pieces of furniture, but I’ve rarely built a piece from the ground up, so building this little side table taught me a little somethin somethin. Here’s a synopsis of how it all went down…

(Side note: I’m in no way, shape, or form an expert on building furniture, and I’m sure that there are more efficient methods than mine. I just do what works for my limited budget, resources, and know-how. Hopefully I teach somebody how NOT to make the same mistakes I make!)

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To start things off, I took a trip to Home Depot to get some hardwood Red Oak trimmed down to size. I got two boards trimmed to 20″ for the top and bottom of the table, and two boards trimmed to 21″ for the sides (all boards are a foot wide). I also grabbed four 6″ tapered legs and four leg top plates to eventually mount the legs to the bottom of the table (legs and plates bought from a local True Value). I wanted the final product to be 27″ tall, which is why I got 21″ boards for the sides, but it turned out to be a little taller with the thickness of the horizontal pieces included.

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All it took to build the frame was a handful of screws and wood glue, but this is where I ran into a bit of a problem. I didn’t want to apply screws to connect the top of the table to the sides, because I didn’t want them to be visible from the top. I ended up using only wood glue to adhere the top, and it seems to be extremely strong, so maybe that’s enough?

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My initial intention was to have the table be completely open in the middle, with no shelf built into the center. After getting to this point, though, we thought it looked a little weird without it, so I went ahead and got another piece of wood cut down to 18.5 inches to fit. I mounted these brackets so that the shelf would sit directly in the center.

After letting the glue dry , I sanded everything down and applied the stain. I had to apply 4-5 coats to get the color that I wanted. I ran into an issue where the stain wouldn’t soak in to areas of the wood that I neglected to wipe completely clean of glue, so I had to go over certain spots with tons of extra stain to match. Lesson learned! After a couple of coats of polyurethane, it was good to go.

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I’ll be showing where this guy will end up once the room is complete!

DIY Hanging Planter

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Plants are taking over.

Which is great! I used to be hesitant about buying houseplants, on account of them being able to die and stuff… but during the last year or so, I’ve gained a huge appreciation for them. They’re such an easy way to inject color and an organic ambience, and I’ve learned that different kinds of plants can reinforce specific design styles. The sculptural leaves of a fiddle leaf fig tree (probably the most popular houseplant these days) lend themselves to a more modern aesthetic, while plants like ivy and fern can steer toward a bohemian vibe.

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Anyways, with the abundance of plants hanging out around the apartment these days, I’m finding the need to think of new and interesting ways to house them. I fashioned this wall-mounted hanging planter out of leftover wood from my ladder project. I’m all about easy (but good-looking) DIY projects, and this one takes the cake.

All I needed were the scraps of pine wood, one(!) screw, some twine, a clay pot, and a nice plant. First, used a cordless drill to screw one piece of wood into the other and to drill two small holes (one in the vertical piece, where the planter would hang against the wall, and one in the horizontal piece, where the twine would be knotted to allow for the hanging pot). I used a fancy twine technique that I found here for the hanging mechanism, but I had to make sure to string the twine through the hole in the horizontal piece of wood before tying the top knot, so that it would rest in place. I hope that makes sense.

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This blog has made me realize that I’m a huge fan of raw, light, unfinished pine. Just look at almost any other DIY project that I’ve done. I added a color (neutral?) block of white paint to the bottom of the clay pot just to liven and lighten things up a bit.

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Since my bathroom is about 80 years old and has a strange variety of hooks/nails just chilling in the walls, I was able to easily hang the planter using the hole drilled into the vertical piece of wood. I could have just as easily hammered a nail into the wall for the same effect, just like you’d do to hang a picture.

Nighstand No. 2

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Ever since I installed my floating shelf nightstand, the other side of the bed has been pretty empty. Some vintage wooden crates were stacked there for a little while, but they have since found new homes elsewhere in the apartment. After stumbling across this awesome Ikea laundry hamper turned side table over on The Clever Bunny, and remembering that I had that hamper stored away, I figured that I’d take a stab at the same project.

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I pretty much followed her tutorial to the tee, so I won’t go into too much detail about the process here. I decided to keep the pine wood in it’s natural state without staining it, but I did apply a few coats of polyurethane.

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A few months ago, I talked a little bit about the collections that I’ve accumulated over the years. When I was little, I’d collect these little animal figurines made out of wood, clay, marble, and other materials, usually from overseas flea markets.

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Adventures in Refinishing: The Ottoman

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ottoman1I have a tendency to become easily obsessed with things. It’s the reason that I can’t keep Oreos in the apartment.

It’s also why, on one of the coldest days in recent memory, I just needed to take far too many trips (through the frozen tundra) to Home Depot while I figured out how to refinish this ottoman.

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My parents, knowing that I will gladly take any of their unwanted stuff, offered it to me a few weeks ago while we were cleaning out their basement. I didn’t know exactly what to do with it at first, but I figured that I could at least take a stab at refinishing the wood, recovering the cushion, and obviously fixing the broken legs.

I really liked the curvature detail on the sides, but upon closer inspection and a little sanding, I saw that they were made out of some kind of chipboard or particle board. That wasn’t really conducive to my plan, since I eventually decided that I wanted the wood to be exposed, and unpainted chipboard isn’t the prettiest thing to look at. (But! It turns out that the legs are made out of a really nice…pine? I actually don’t know exactly what kind of wood it is, but I know that it’s real.) After obsessing over how to deal with the chipboard, I just decided to cover them up with wood. The problem with that, of course, would be that I would have to cover up the curved detail that I liked. I like it better with the new wood, though! The cleaner lines lend themselves more to the style of my place, I think.

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My obsession with this little project ended up teaching me a few things that I haven’t quite encountered before. Taking apart old furniture, stripping paint (a process that had me questioning my sanity), recovering cushions, fixing broken parts, and TUFTING. I’m entirely too excited about the tufting process being so easy! All the things will be tufted from this point forward.

Ikea Bookcase Customization: Phase 1?

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I’ve had two Ikea bookcases on either side of my TV for a couple of years now, and I’ve been thinking of interesting ways to spruce them up to fit the evolving aesthetic of my apartment. The biggest problem that I have with the bookcases is that they feel like two huge black holes, sucking tons of energy out of the space. I figured that a cool idea would be to add some type of door to each bookcase for some dimensional and tonal interest (and to hide a slew of tools and other unattractive items that I’d rather have hidden away). I’m loving the look of wooden slats these days, so I decided to strive for that aesthetic. I’m calling this “phase 1” of bookcase customization because I think that I’ll add …something… to the back panel of each at some point to lighten them up. Paint? Wallpaper? More wood?

Backward Design

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When I think back to the times in my life that I’ve felt the most inspired, I immediately go back to childhood-created environments. The time that my sisters and I somehow fashioned a “clubhouse” out of an empty cardboard box. The many Christmas Eves that we would construct what seemed like massive tents out of sheets, pillows, and stuffed animals. Our most memorable environments were shaped by our imaginations and somewhat limited resources, and that allowed us to be even more creative within those environments. We didn’t get lost in the process.

As an adult, though, that sort of imagination is a little harder to come by. For most of us, creative spontaneity is replaced with logistics and planning. And even though that’s a fine and normal part of growing up (I mean, how would I look making fort out of a cardboard box at the age of 24), I’ve found that it leaves a lot to be desired in the process of…well, being creative. I often find myself worrying about the obstacles stemmed within the process of designing/building/creating something before I even have a clear vision of an end result. I’ve learned that designing “backwards” leaves me feeling a bit more inspired and expressive, and more like that kid making forts out of blankets. I feel so much more compelled to think creatively at home when my environment is self-inspired; and as a creative professional, that’s kind of super important.

And this is what led me to using a door as a desk.

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Making a desk out of a door isn’t a particularly new concept, but this project is a good example of what I’m rambling about. I knew that I wanted an unconventionally long and skinny desk for that wall, which led me to understand that desks aren’t really sold that way, which led me to me peruse a salvage yard and notice how closet doors come in a wide variety of potentially useful sizes. I ended up buying a new hollow-core door from Home Depot, but a reversed line of thinking is what I think got me to that point. The legs are from Ikea.

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p.s. There’s actually a ton of interesting research on backward design as a teaching mechanism. Not exactly the same thing, but interestingly similar.