Category Archives: Furniture

The Converted Vanity

On Saturday, we picked up our shower pan and shower doors, FINALLY. The biscuit color made the cut and matches pretty perfectly with the tub, so that’s what we went with. The biscuit was about $25 more than the white pan, for some reason, but when the guy did the return of the white one (we bought both colors so we could compare, planning to return the unwanted one), he accidentally returned the biscuit one and refunded me the higher amount. I pointed out his mistake, but clearly he was having that kind of day, so he said don’t worry about it. Not that I’m ever worried about not giving Lowe’s enough of my money.

We got the pan home, and it fits about 95% into the shower spot. The drain is shifted a tad too far over, but we think Lowe’s carries an offset drain that will fix that issue. The rest fits well, and I’m impressed with how sturdy it feels for $200. Despite the sturdiness, the instructions say to “lay the pan in a bed of mortar.” We can’t figure out why this is necessary, but perhaps it is because our pan doesn’t actually get screwed into the studs so the mortar kind of supports it and holds it in place? The amount of mortar to use is vague, so I contacted the company and they recommended going with a ~3/4″ bed towards the edges of the pan, and about 3/8″ bed towards where the drain is. The pan slopes towards the drain, so this makes sense, but that is still a THICK bed of mortar that will be heavy. I pity the next person who tries to renovate this bathroom, because it would take a jackhammer to remove such a thick block of mortar that is hidden under a fiberglass pan, no less. I’ll just say I am eternally thankful the people who installed our previous shower insert didn’t put mortar underneath it.

Laying the mortar will be simple enough, but getting the 40 pound, 36″x48″ pan laid on top of it and kept level, into a space with 3 walls surrounding it will be tricky. We’ll have to tackle this soon, though, hopefully on Saturday. My 30th birthday is also on Saturday (and Nik’s is on Tuesday!) and while installing a shower pan for a milestone birthday activity sounds depressing at best, when I think about the difficult but rewarding renovations I have the privilege of doing beside my mostly-tolerant husband in the house that we are thankful to be building a life in together, there are minimal complaints here!

I’m sure we’ll have pics from the shower pan process, so I’ll save those for once the pan is in. The rest of this post, I’ll show pictures of our converted vanity. I already showed how we removed the bottom of the vanity and mounted it on plywood for a new base:

IMG_1876

Before

IMG_1880

After

The vanity was then measuring about 26 and 3/4″ tall, and our goal height was 34″ (so-called ‘adult’ vanity height). The vanity top is about an inch thick, so we were looking for 6″ legs. We found some we liked a little more than what we went with, but they were only 4.5″, so we would’ve had to find a way to extend them and then cover that extension with trim. Then we found the 6″ ones that we went with. They seemed a little unsubstantial so I had the idea to actually do 4 across the front, one around each set of doors. Here are the feet, and the piece of trim we used to hide the transition:

Nik attached the feet with straight brackets, then installed the trim with wood glue and finishing nails:

IMG_3617

So here’s what the corners looked like finished:

IMG_3626

Next we flipped it and applied a bead of caulk at the trim seam:

IMG_3627

And finally gave it a coat of primer that night, in addition to the drawers and doors:

IMG_3628

I think it looks great, and once there is real paint on it it will look like we bought a new vanity! We puzzled over colors with the new vanity top for some while, and settled on a just-off-white color called Silent White (Clark and Kensington) for the vanity, and a slightly darker, blue-grey tinged color called Paper White (Benjamin Moore) for the walls. We got a sample for the walls before we’ll make the final decision, and we also bought a sample for the vanity paint that should be able to cover the whole thing without buying a larger portion of paint.

For a price breakdown of the vanity upgrade, we used half a sheet of plywood for the base ($11), 7 feet cost $21, the feet brackets were about $16, the trim was $12, and the sample paint was $5. So far the total is $65, but we still need hardware which will probably be about $35. So a “new vanity” base for $100. Not too bad, considering poorly built ones on Wayfair sell for over $900.

This week we’re working on getting the vanity painted and sealed, and like I said, hopefully getting the shower pan in Saturday and finishing up that last bit of tile next to the pan. So maybe we can finally grout the floor on Sunday.

Finished Console

Two posts in one week! Well, I did promise I’d have some pictures up soon of the project we just completed for our good friends Lindsey and Dave, so here it is.

They were looking for a console to hold their TV boxes with some extra storage, and we were looking for a way to thank them for all the help they gave us at our wedding. So we started looking for a piece of furniture that would fit their living room space. We finally found this buffet on Craigslist and I haggled the price down a bit with the seller:

IMG_3209

This piece was big, 48″ wide and about 17″ deep. And it was heavy and solid – after working with it, most likely mahogany. It had a solid piece of wood on the top and the door/drawer fronts and veneer with some damage near the feet on the sides. So we decided we’d keep the solid wood sections stained, and paint the rest of the body. Stripping the old varnish off the wood was first on the list:

IMG_3408

Then came sanding the sections to be painted, and patching the veneer with wood filler.  A lot of filler goes on, then is sanded smooth.

IMG_3415

IMG_1822

The drawers and doors also got stripped and sanded, then the stained along with the top. The wood grain was really beautiful:

Then the body got dragged inside (I hope the phrases I use here aren’t searchable or the authorities will certainly be after me) for primer. We needed 2 coats since the redness of this wood soaked right through the first coat of primer – one of the reasons we think it was mahogany. Then finally paint, which i forgot to take a picture of:

IMG_1821

The challenge with this piece ended up being the doors. Lindsey wanted non-solid doors so they could use the remote through them, so we suggested glass or radiator grate as an option. She bought some small pieces of crafting-grade radiator grate though JoAnn Fabrics and tested the remote through it and it worked! So we went with that.

nik 2

A router has been passed down to Nik from his father/grandfather, so he learned how to use it and purchased a bit that could make cut outs for the door. He also bought a router jig that helps you to cut straight edges with the router. I still don’t entirely understand how routers function…but from my limited understanding, it’s essentially a fast rotating bit that cuts smoother than a jigsaw, and also allows you to turn corners (because it’s rounded) and, if you buy a bit with a cool profile, can add ornate edges to your cut.

Nik did quite a few practice cuts on scrap wood, then felt confident enough to tackle the doors. They came out great, and he left a small edge for us to butt the grate up against to secure it in place, kind of like when you have a picture frame and the glass butts up against the frame and that holds the glass in place. The radiator grate was thin aluminum that was just trimmed to size with heavy duty scissors.

nik 1

nik 3

nik 4

After that, we finished staining the newly cut door edges, then sealed up all the stained parts with water based poly, and put all the parts back together. This piece came with cool old handles, but they were very tarnished, so Lindsey and I had fun spray painting the handles a soft silver color, and then the door handles were replaced with some new crystal knobs to add a little glitz.

The inside is basically an open cavern, so we’re working on a little shelf to put in there, but other than that, this project is finally done! The paint color we used was the same color as the little shelves we added to our master bath:

IMG_2747

To be honest, I was not really sure about this color when we finished it and it was sitting in our living room. I thought it should be changed to a cream color. But we decided we’d give it a try in Lindsey and Dave’s living room and see if the lighting there changed our mind, and it definitely did! We all think it looks great in their space. One more funny note, is the door and the drawer stains match 100% – but once they were installed, the vertical grain on the doors reflects light much darker than the horizontal grain on the drawers. Wood is always interesting! So here’s the official before and after:

IMG_3209

IMG_3581

A well deserved thank you to Lindsey and Dave for being amazing friends and offering so much help at our wedding to make it a flawless day!

1N0A0899.jpg

A New (Old) Light Fixture

We got a lot done this weekend…not particularly things on my list, but progress nonetheless. The garage side deck is officially finished, with new handrails. I got a coat of primer on our friend’s furniture piece that we’re refinishing, we stained the top of the weird dining table project we’ve had stashed in the garage for ages, and we refinished a light fixture for our dining room.

When we moved, my parents gave me an old chandelier from the foyer of our house in NJ – it had sconces, and was kind of a brushed nickel finish. Originally, the pointy flame-shaped light bulbs were in it, with glass sconces around each light.

IMG_3490

It was very traditional looking, so we were having a hard time deciding where it would fit in our house. Originally we were thinking kitchen, but the light location over the kitchen table is not quite centered on the table and a dangling chandelier would emphasize this even more than a flush mount light. So then we thought dining room…but that room is decidedly mid-century themed, and the silver seemed out of place. But, the table is centered on the light:

IMG_0476.JPG

I’ve hated that light since the day we moved in. It’s too small, and too close to the ceiling, and too bright. It has made us not want to have meals in this room, so we knew it had to change. Nik had the idea of using the chandelier from my parents, but using Edison light bulbs to give it some vintage character, and spray painting it a new color, since the nickel finish was dingy and dirty and didn’t fit with the room.

We choose oil-rubbed bronze, and hung the light on the bird feeder hook to do the spray painting, which went pretty well.

IMG_3492

Then Nik removed the old light and mounted the new one, which did require a trip to Lowes for a mounting kit since it was incompatible with what was there.

IMG_1826

The wires were all hooked up, and then we started thinking about the bulbs. I kind of liked them by themselves, but we put one sconce on just to see. It’s ok, but in person it looks like too much glass since the bulbs are glassy, and almost touch the sconce edges. Also, the sconces will show dust over time , so we’re thinking of just doing the bulbs:

IMG_1830

Here’s another closeup, and a picture from the living room for perspective. I love how it looks – a huge upgrade from what was there previously (please don’t mind our mess, this is the reality of DIY work. Also, the light is still hanging a little crooked since that one heavier sconce is still on one side of it, which we’re still debating).

IMG_1828

IMG_1832

The light that comes from the squirrel cage Edison bulbs is also so pretty, and looks like delicate bursts on the ceiling (camera didn’t do it justice). We got them on Amazon,  $20 for 6.

So that chandelier was  big accomplishment, this little project that has been on the list for a while. I’m going to save pics of the other furniture projects until they’re done, but I did promise to show some pictures of the little guest bedroom side tables so here they are. To sum up this project, these tables were $30 for both on Craigslist, and we stripped the top, added little back boards with pieces of red oak that we rounded by sanding, stained/sealed the tops, then gave the sides a good sanding followed by primer and a warm light gray paint (we reused the extra sample paint from an ex-kitchen cabinet color).

Before:

During:

And after:

IMG_1811

IMG_1815

IMG_1817

IMG_1819

Cheers to a productive weekend!

 

Spring Update

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve given an update, and we’ve made lots of progress on a few different projects.

Our garden is planted, for the most part, and includes snow peas, a couple jalapeno peppers, eggplants, 2 roma-variety tomatoes and 1 grape tomato, bush zucchini, spaghetti squash, large sized and  pickling sized cucumbers, various herbs, and leeks. We started everything from seed inside about a month ago (except the snow peas, which were planted outside and are now a perfect row of happy little pea plants), so we’ll see how this goes. Doesn’t look like much now!

IMG_1736

IMG_1738

We’ve also gotten a number of perennial flowers happily planted in our new flower bed, and everything is really starting to grow with the recent warmer weather.

IMG_1729

We made some mild progress on our balusters, and got them all primed with the paint sprayer a few weeks ago:

IMG_3360

IMG_3362

But then the pollen hit and we decided to hold off on doing the final paint coat. No one wants yellow paint on their stairs! So these are still piled in our living room awaiting that fate.

We are almost done with our little side tables for our guest bedroom – they got stained on top, and got a coat of light gray paint (a runner-up color for our kitchen cabinets, when we were still considering painting them gray, so we already had that paint). Another coat of paint and some sealer and they’ll be all done. Here are some photos of this project from the beginning. They are kinda-matching, kinda-not:

IMG_3412

The paint stripper took of multiple layers of gummy, old paint.

IMG_3367

Tops all sanded

IMG_3371

Getting some stain

We’ve also made some progress with the buffet piece we’re refurbishing for our friends…the wooden surfaces we salvaged are all stained now, and the body is waiting for primer and paint. Nik busted out the router this weekend to practice with, since we’ll be attempting to cut out the middle of the solid doors in the front of the piece to put in some radiator grate or glass so they can put their cable box in there and still get a signal through to their remote. I’ll save pictures of this till the end…so it can be a surprise!

The weather was beautiful yesterday, so I dragged all the cut pieces of crown molding out of the garage, gave them a quick sanding and dust-off, and got the paint sprayer out. I’ve never put semi-gloss paint in the sprayer (which is what we use for our trim paint) so I was a little worried about how tacky it might feel – but it worked like a charm! The finish was really nice, and a bit glossy (not as glossy as when painted on with a brush). We had one minor clog in the gun, but running some water through it seemed to fix the issue.

So that took all of 15 minutes to do, once everything was set up. After about an hour of dry time, we decided to just go ahead and mount the pieces since we already had pressure in the air compressor. We started in the dining room and made it most of the way around the living room. There’s a few pieces left to hang but we finally called it quits at dinnertime.

IMG_1745

IMG_1740

Everyone knows crown molding is challenging – and we definitely have some wonky corners/edges. I think the challenge is not finding the right angle, but getting the piece perfectly level and lined up in the saw – especially if its a 12′ wobbly piece hanging out the other side of the saw. If it’s not perfectly level, your angle can be a few degrees off. That combined with our walls/ceilings which aren’t remotely straight has left us with some intimidating gaps. We’re just going to have to make really good friends with the caulk gun for this project!

IMG_1744

IMG_1743

Before

IMG_1748

After!

Despite my attempt to make organized lists of things to accomplish for the weekend, Nik always manages to go off and start a completely new project – like ripping apart most of our side deck off the garage, and replacing the floor, stair treads, and railing. Granted, this did have to happen at some point since the boards were completely splintering. He used left over wood pieces from the jungle gym – but we need to get a few more boards to finish the stair treads and railing. Before:

IMG_3425

During and after:

Progress-wise, our goal this month is to get the crown molding finished and patched, get somewhere with the stair railings/balusters, get our friends’ buffet piece and our guest bedroom tables finished up, and wrap up refinishing a dining table in the garage that we’ve had for a while that Nik recently unearthed and started working on. And THEN we can start on our bathroom!

 

TGIF

Not too much house work has gone on in the last week, but we have some plans for this weekend. Hopefully the weather stays warm, since we heavily thatched our yard last week, then fertilized and seeded the lawn (right before a nice rainy day!). So much thatch came up out of the yard – you can see unthatched on the left, and thatched on the right:

img_1685

We found some interesting creatures this week as well – one was a really large jumping spider who hopped right through our back door and was walking around the kitchen. Nik got him in a cup to relocate outside, and he was watching us quite intently during this process:

img_1688

I also worked from home yesterday, and noticed this little creature running along our neighbor’s house when I glanced out the window. I watched him for a bit, then went outside to see if I could catch him since he definitely looked like an escaped pet and not a natural outdoor mouse. The catching was unsuccessful although I was able to get within a couple feet of him before he scurried further, but I left him some triscuits and bedding material to keep him warm – and some of the triscuits definitely got munched. I wonder if we’ll see him around again.

img_1690

Last weekend we also planted a lot of our vegetable garden seeds (tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers) and some flowers (zinnias, canterbury bells, vincas, and marigolds). They’re incubating in our sunny guest room window at the moment, but maybe we can move them outside for a few hours over the weekend to get some natural sun.

img_3269

We also finally harvested our beet crop, to start getting the garden ready for new plants, and they were disappointing to say the least…although we didn’t pay them much attention since planting seeds; I’m not sure we really ever watered them once during the fall/winter. Maybe next year will be better…but we still sauteed up the little nubs and ate them!

For other yard news, I mentioned we’re working on building a flower bed in our backyard using the left over jungle gym wood. We have the plans laid out, and last weekend we bought all the metal linkers and deck screws that we’ll use to give the wood edges some support. So I’d like to get this all situated this weekend so we can add some dirt and eventually get some flowers relocated to this bed. Here’s some pictures of the progress, and the plans:img_3274

img_1678

img_1681

Next on the list is we obtained some side tables for our guest bedroom that are perfect for the space – and the pair was $30 on craigslist! But they have numerous coats of thick paint on them, so I’m curious to see what wood we’ll find when we strip it off. We’ll probably repaint the body of the side tables, and depending on how the tops look, either paint or stain those. I forgot to snap a picture of them…but once we start working on them, I’ll show some. We also have a large console-type piece of furniture that we are redoing for a friend, so perhaps some stripping of that piece will happen this weekend as well.

I also want to start thinking about the crown molding on our downstairs ceilings – I added up dimensions this week, and figured we need about 130 feet of molding to do the living room, foyer/stair column, dining room, and powder room. A contractor’s pack of molding is $78/96′, so this project will be much less expensive than I had thought…for some reason I had priced this DIY project at $1800 when we first bought the home, and I have no idea where that number came from…even if we eventually do the rooms upstairs, it won’t be nearly that much. Crown molding isn’t easy though (painting, cutting properly, installing up over your head with the nail gun, filling holes, caulking, and touch up paint), so it will feel like $1800 of labor! Maybe we’ll start small with the powder room this weekend, to see what we’re getting ourselves into.

It’s so much fun writing about all the things we’re surely going to accomplish in one weekend – we’ll see by Monday how much we really get done!

2016 Year In Review

2016 has come to a close, so I wanted to look back at the progress we made. This was a busy year, with both of us still adjusting to our new careers and planning our October wedding. But I think we made enormous progress on the house, and reflecting on all that we accomplished will hopefully be motivation to keep up the hard work this year.

In early 2016, we finally wrapped up the trim and painting on the stair column – at this point, we still need to add some base and top trim, but we’re planning to install the crown molding downstairs sometime this spring, so that will be the final step of this job. Apparently I haven’t taken a picture of the column after it was painted, so this is the best one I’ve got:

IMG_0709

The next big project of 2016 was our downstairs powder room. What began with a new toilet seat resulted in a gutted room and complete renovation. We painted, tiled and grouted the floor and backsplash, installed a new vanity with a new faucet, new mirror, new towel/toilet paper holder fixtures, and a new threshold.

We installed all the chair molding trim in the dining room, completed refinishing the china cabinet, and got our dining room furniture all set up to finish this room.

IMG_2298

We built 2 raised bed gardens which did pretty well last year. I just bought seeds for 2017, which I’ll start inside next month. I’ll be planting cucumbers (pickling size and regular), bush string beans, snow peas, eggplant, jalapeno pepper, bush zucchini, roma and grape-sized tomatoes, spaghetti squash, mescalin, leeks, garlic, and various herbs. If anyone wants extra seedlings, let me know!

Our furniture work this year was pretty pitiful, and I hope we have more time to do furniture projects in 2017. The two big pieces we did this year were building a front porch bench, and redoing  a small set of shelves for our master bathroom:

Our biggest renovation of the year was the kitchen. In this room we replaced the flooring with our engineered hardwood, sanded, primed, and painted all of our cabinets and installed one more new cabinet on the far wall, added new cabinet hardware, got granite countertops and a new sink and faucet installed, tiled/grouted/applied sealant to the backsplash, got all new appliances and mounted the microwave over the stove, created open shelving on 2 walls, and painted the walls.

In this room the final projects for this spring are installing cabinet crown molding at the tops of the cabinets, finding and installing new light fixtures, and building our island, which will have matching granite.

We also bought a new HVAC system (gas package with AC and furnace) and just updated our laundry room with a new washer and dryer last month, but these don’t make for fun pictures, just not-so-fun expenses. But they are upgrades nonetheless.

So what’s on the list for 2017? First we want to finish up the final tasks downstairs: cabinet crown molding in the kitchen, ceiling crown molding in the entryway, living room, dining room, and possibly powder room, building a functional kitchen island, getting a stupid banister installed on our stairs (still hasn’t been done!), and adding new light fixtures for the kitchen and dining room. I also want to get my gardens going in March, and finish creating a bordered backyard flower garden out of the extra jungle gym wood. We also are ordering new blinds for almost all the windows on the house that will be the thicker wood-look blinds, so we’ll have to install those when they come in. We also need to have the house washed and gutters cleaned (which we’ll hire out for lack of good ladders) as well as have the lawn aerated before we seed it.

The big project of 2017 will take place in the summer months when Nik doesn’t have a 2 hour commute twice a week for his teaching responsibility at UNC Pembroke: our master bath renovation. For this, we’re planning to tile the floor, refinish and raise up our vanity and add undermount sinks with a nicer (possibly granite) countertop, paint the walls, rip out the old shower, replace the shower pan and tile the walls, add a new glass shower door, and add new faucet hardware for the sinks, shower, and tub. After vaguely tallying up what we’ve spent on this house so far, we’re around the $15K mark, so we’re going to attempt to keep the budget pretty tight for the bathroom – ideally in the $2000 range. Cheers to 2017!

My Hope Chest

While I was out of town with my girlfriends a few weeks ago, Nik got to work on a surprise wedding present for me. He built me a beautiful hope chest, totally from scratch, and totally his design – he didn’t even look for plans to base it off of! He got red oak lumber from Lowes, and the feet were salvaged from a thrift store find a while back. All the lumber joinery was done with biscuit joints (Nik’s grandfather gave us this biscuit joint-maker device which I was certain would never be used, Nik has proven me wrong again) and the Kreg jig pocket hole drill I got Nik last year. The impending tropical storm got me home from the beach a day early and derailed his plans to line it with cedar boards…but this will come soon, when we have some time after the wedding.

Here it is – I meant to take some better pictures, but there’s a lot of other things distracting me this week!

img_3001

img_3002

img_3003

What is a hope chest for? Traditionally, an unmarried woman would have one to add special clothing items and linens to as she grew up, in anticipation of married life. I believe my grandfather (or great grandfather?) built one for his wife when they got married to collect items from their life together. Nik and I refinished this particular hope chest a couple years ago, and it resides in my parents’ bedroom: IMG_0447

So what will I use my new hope chest for? Well, it’s beautiful, so I imagine it will always be a special piece of furniture in our home, wherever we are.  I don’t know what we’ll put in it yet, but as I look forward to beginning my married life with Nik, there is so much that I hope the future will bring – and perhaps these hopes will help us fill the chest over time. I hope we are always happy and healthy. I hope we always have a home that we love with things in it that we love. I hope that we always enjoy the things we do, for work and for play. I hope that we have chances to travel to unique places all over the world. I hope that we can someday experience the joy of raising our own children. I hope that we can always remember to respect each other and our differences. And most importantly, I hope there is always love. I hope that our love for each other does not fade over time, but instead grows and changes with us as we get older. But hope is just hope – and I know it is impossible for all these things to happen perfectly as we go through our lives. I believe this is what a partner is for – to help each other get beyond the challenges life presents that may not have been hoped for.

I think these thoughts, these ‘hopes’, are what I’ll be stashing in my new hope chest for now, and they may end up being more important than the physical items that will accrue in there over time.  Together, refinishing furniture and our home was something Nik and I discovered a love for together, and working on and completing projects together has also helped make our relationship stronger and more complete. I hope this hobby is something we enjoy (and I can blog about!) for years to come, and I think Nik picked the perfect wedding gift to sum up our past renovation adventures and bring hope for the future.

There’s only 3 more days until our big day, and I couldn’t be more excited to marry my best friend!