Category Archives: DIY

Ladders Everywhere

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I’ve always really dug the aesthetic of dark, wooden, rustic/industrial textures in my spaces. There is something to be said about how easily they can add warmth and character to an otherwise modern room, and they can act as awesome focal points when they they’re placed in a neutral setting. What’s even greater, though, is finding vintage wooden accents that had a former life in a barn, factory, or similarly utilitarian environment. I’ve noticed that they generally have been painted or stained multiple times over the years, and have beautiful undertones to them (similar to my vintage bookcase find earlier this year).

Unfortunately for me, though, I can hardly ever find those cool, (actual) vintage pieces on the fly. So when I was craving a dark, wooden, rustic ladder for my apartment, I decided to follow my usual mantra and “make that ish myself”.

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And a “ladder” was born! This was a pretty simple and straightforward DIY with the help of some wooden beams, dowels, wood glue, nails, and stain. I distressed the stain a bit with some fine grit sandpaper for a little faux rusticity.

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It works perfectly for hanging plants or textiles. These “planters” and hooks are bargain buys from Ikea, and some easy-to-keep-alive ivy really livens up that corner of the room. Can’t wait for the plants to get big enough to cascade down the length of the ladder.

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…and then a few weeks later, I happened upon the “actual” vintage ladder that I’d been looking for, of course. Things always pop up when I’m NOT looking for them. That’s cool, though! I found this at Community Forklift, an awesome salvage warehouse in Maryland.

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See what I mean about those undertones? Too stoked.

Shining Some Light

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I’ve always been a huge fan of the look of bare, hanging light bulbs.

Back in high school, I had to put together a “senior art show” at the end of my senior year. I needed to create a display to showcase all of my artwork from that year using a couple of huge, wooden, foldable boards. For the display, I had this elaborate plan of somehow suspending a bunch of functioning light bulbs over my artwork. It was supposed to be moody, striking, and just flat-out cool. However, due to my lack of know-how and funds, my elaborate idea culminated into painting some light bulbs yellow (haha..) and hanging those instead. So years later, when I decided to make a floating shelf/nightstand, I thought that I might have a second stab at somehow making that plan a reality… in the form of a bedside light.

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The nightstand turned out to be a pretty simple and straightforward project. I snagged a board of reclaimed elm wood from a local salvage yard (that’s the short story, anyway) that I then coated with a few coats of polyurethane. I debated staining the wood a darker color, but I decided that the color of the natural wood was a nice contrast against some of the other tones in the bedroom. I also picked up some pretty basic shelf brackets from a hardware store that I spray painted black. I mounted those to the wall, and that was it! 

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As far as light fixture itself goes, I followed in the footsteps of some great tutorials here and here, so I won’t go into much detail about the process.

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I’m really digging the result! It adds an informal but interesting element to the room, and the light bulb gives off a nice relaxing glow when it’s on.

 

Flea Finds and Flipping

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Going to flea markets, thrift stores, and the like is always very fun, but also a little deflating. If I have something specific in mind that I’m looking for, there will be about a 4.2% chance that I’ll find it. Such is the case, though, when the available merchandise is always limited and never constant. So I try to not have any expectations, which really just means that I try super hard NOT to think about the thing that I’m looking for, which in turn makes me subconsciously look for it even harder? That, and I’m the absolute worst at haggling for a lower price at flea markets. I get into this “let-me-support-small-business-by-paying-full-price” mentality, and then I feel like I got duped as soon as I walk away with the purchase. Womp. So you can imagine my surprise when I spotted a potentially cool bookshelf for a pretty decent price at the Georgetown Flea Market a few months ago.

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It was apparently salvaged from an old barn, and the vendor treated it with polyurethane. I really dig the layers of paint that it has taken over time, especially the shade of blue in the detail shot above. Most people would probably want to strip this down to the natural wood, but I decided to work with the layers instead. I bought it with every intention of somehow making it a little less basic and a little more polished/modern/intentional, so it ended up sitting in random corners of my apartment for months while I debated on how to tackle it. My initial idea was to attempt to modernize it by lining the back with a cool, modern fabric. I got a few fabric samples to test them out against the bookcase, but none of them seemed to gel quite right. I think that the fabric looked way too contrived when contrasted against the quality and texture of the wood. I decided to drop the fabric (by literally using it as a drop cloth later? shame..) and move to a more logical approach.

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I started to think that a more natural way to finish off the bookcase was to enclose it in a similar wood that would compliment the original structure. I did want to keep some contrast, though, and that would come in the form of metal piping, but more on that in a bit. I took a trip to this awesome lumber yard/hardware store (ABC Distributors in Arlington, VA… super helpful service and a huge selection of great stuff.) Since the bookcase was already pretty rustic, I wanted to find some slats for the back that were also kind of worn and imperfect. I searched the yard like a noob until I happened upon a bunch of scrap slats of pine wood that were about 7.5 feet long. The guys were able to cut 8 pieces down to 44 inches, which is the height of the bookcase. I snagged the wood for a total of $8, which I was super stoked about. Stinginess for the win! While I was there, I figured that I would ask if they could trim about four inches from the bottom of the bookshelf (yes, I brought it with me) so that I could easily add metal piping for the feet. Since it was a pretty minor thing, they happily obliged and I did a little (internal) happy dance for hitting two birds with one stone for a grand total of 8 bucks. I then headed to The Home Depot, aka the world in which I spend entirely too much time and money, to pick up the piping for the new legs and some polyurethane for the unfinished pine slats. I grabbed three pieces of pipe for each of the four legs: a flange that would be attached to the wood, a pipe (formally called a nipple) that would twist into the flange, and an end cap that would twist onto the pipe.

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It was pretty straightforward from this point on: I sanded the wood to smooth out the rough edges and to prep it for the polyurethane (note to self: sanding indoors isn’t a very pleasant experience… lesson learned.) I applied one coat of poly, let it dry for about four hours, lightly sanded it down again, and applied a second coat to finish it off. While the poly was drying, I used screws to attach the flanges to the newly flattened bottom of the bookcase, and just twisted the pipes and caps into each of the four flanges. Quick and simple. After letting the polyurethane dry for about 18 hours, I just used one-inch nails to attach each slat to the back of the bookcase.

Now for some glamor shots just because:

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I’ll eventually get restless with this piece and do something completely different to it that will probably involve stripping it completely, but this was a fun experiment in changing a pretty basic flea market find into a more rustic/modern piece.

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