Clearing some clutter before the New Year

Today I learned about a Japanese end-of-year tradition called Oosouji.  It literally means “big clean” and is very similar to spring cleaning.  Before starting the new year, Japanese homes, businesses and schools get a deep cleaning to get rid of dirt, clutter and disorganization.  I love the thought of starting the fresh goals and resolutions of the New Year with a clean home!

Instead of being overwhelmed at the thought of deep cleaning my entire home, I decided to start with the holiday stuff.  When I take down the lights and decorations, I make sure everything is still in good working order. If you happen to have some items that need replaced, do it now when everything is on sale!  When you dig things out again next year you will be able to get right to decorating, rather than having to go to the store for an overpriced string of colored lights.  

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Storage containers are also on sale right now, but I am refusing to buy any.  All of my current storage problems can be solved by decluttering, rather than buying more containers.  All of our holiday decorations fit into one lime green tote, with room to spare.  I actually threw in the Christmas themed books and cookie cutters too, so when we open the box next year, it will all be in one place!  Now I just need to make a label for it and put it back under the stairs.

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After the decorations are stored, it is time to think about where those holiday gifts are going.  If you received appliances or tools, can they replace other things in your kitchen or garage?  When you are making space for that new blender, take a good look at what you are storing in the pantry closet.  Did you use that bread machine this year? The cupcake maker?  Be honest and ruthless.  If your new blender is buried under so much stuff that you can’t easily get to it, you won’t use it either!

The same goes for clothes in your closet.  I can pretty much tell you which clothes I don’t like and rarely wear without even looking in my closet.  Those all went in the donation bag today, to make room for clothes that I am excited to wear.  Last week I went shopping with my mom, sister and sis-in-law and scored some awesome new clothes!  I am trying to get rid of two things for every one thing I bring in, but I have already gotten rid of most of the items I don’t wear.  One for one might have to work for now.

Our kids got some pajamas for Christmas, so out go a pair (or two) of old ones that are too small.  They are also outgrowing some of their toys, so clearing them out will make room for the new ones.  The tricky part for me is getting the old stuff out of the house before the kids ‘remember’ the toys they don’t play with anymore.  If you can possibly get your kids on board with the clearing out/donation process, I am sure it would be much easier.

I love the feeling of a decluttered home, so I am hoping to get to my little office space this week also.  I have a lot of personal and professional goals I hope to accomplish this year, and starting off with a clean slate seems like a great way to welcome the New Year.  Happy 2016!

Guest Room Accent Wall

Wooden accent wall

A few months back, I told you I was giving our guest room an update.

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Yikes! A scary catch-all room.

I scoured Pinterest for some inspiration on an accent wall that would be unique, warm and fun.  My attention was caught by the wide array of wood clad walls, and especially by the ones using reclaimed wood or recycled pallets.  After sifting through many images that were too dark and rustic for our personal taste and the style of our home, I came across this image that felt much more modern and industrial.  The photo showed a wall in a studio office where pallets were used and there were occasional swatches of color remaining from the edges of the pallets.

 As I began to search for wood pallets, I soon learned that they are neither easy to come by or inexpensive/free anymore!  After pricing pallets and deciding how many it would take, along with the excessive time it would take to disassemble them all, Jer talked me into a ‘browsing’ trip at Home Depot.

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I ended up being so glad I hadn’t pulled the trigger on the wood pallets.  We found a product called Tri-PLY, which is advertised as a Multipurpose Project Panel.  Tri-PLY is a 3/16in thick  panel that comes in 4 x 4 ft sheets, with a very thin wood grain veneer.  It is moisture resistant, which is an added bonus since we used it on a basement wall.  We loaded up our car with five panels and an idea. IMG_3022

Using our table saw, Jer and I ripped the panels into 4 inch widths.  After that, I took the more manageable pieces and cut them into ⅔ and ⅓ sections (32 inches and 16 inches).

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Following that somewhat tedious process, I hauled the newly fashioned ‘boards’ inside and began to nail them to the wall.  Since there is a window on the wall with a bed centered under it, I started attaching the boards under the window sill.  I used brown paneling nails to make them just slightly visible on the boards.  I attempted to alternate sizes and wood grain patterns and colors for interest.  I pounded nails for several hours while Jer took our kids to a movie.

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As you get to the edge of the wall, you most likely will not end up having a piece that fits exactly.  So, the saw skills get to come in handy again!  I held up each piece and marked it top and bottom with a pencil.  Then I numbered the piece and the wall so I remembered where it went.  I usually only took five or six at a time to cut, so things wouldn’t get too crazy.  I had to cut one or two of them twice, but I was overall very happy with the fit.

IMG_3030 Since the swatches of color on the wall was one of the major attractions of my inspiration photo, I decided to add some color to our wall also.  I used a combination of acrylic craft paint and some leftover wall paint.  I wanted a somewhat ‘worn’ look, so I watered down the paint before loosely brushing it on.  I sanded some areas where I thought it was too dark, and dry brushed others.  I tried to stop before it got too crazy looking, since my goal was modern cozy, not circus.

IMG_3028Overall, I am very pleased with the results.  The thin panels were very easy to work with, and the thin nails won’t leave huge marks when the wood is eventually removed.

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I would recommend this product for a light-use room, such as a guest room or office.  It might not hold up well in a kid’s room.  One thing I didn’t like about the panels was a sticker right on the front that was impossible to remove.  I ended up having plenty leftover, but I also used those sticker pieces for the edges and just cut off the sticker.

wood panel accent wall with eyeball sconces and colorful throw.

wood panel accent wall with eyeball sconces and colorful throw.

There you have it! An accent wall inspired by wood pallets, but created for about a third of the price.  We reused some narrow IKEA shelves from the kitchen for floating nightstands and I purchased these fantastic eyeball sconces from Urban Outfitters.  The throw is from Lulu & Georgia, but it is temporarily out of stock, and quite a bit more expensive than when I bought it.

We are loving the look, and it feels so much more comfortable and welcoming.  Updates on the rest of the room coming soon!

My “Must-Do-Before-Winter” List

There is something so satisfying about writing out a To Do list and being able to cross off items as they are complete.  Before fall completely turns to winter here in Southeast Idaho, I have a few things on my list:

1.Deep Clean.  

scrubbing the dining chairs

I know spring is usually when we think about deep cleaning everything, but our house definitely needs it again after the sand, garden soil and popsicles of summer.  I decided to tackle the garbage cans and windows first, since a warmer day is nice for both of those.  The kids and I gathered all the garbage cans in the house and took them out to the lawn for a good spray with the garden hose.  We scrubbed the dining chairs with warm soapy water, and left everything out in the sun to dry.  The kids washed some of their outdoor toys before we store them away or bring them indoors.

Toys all get a good scrub before they are put away, too

Next, I will be washing the sofa cushions (ours are thankfully removable and machine-washable!) and pillow covers.  The kitchen and pantry will follow, and they are due for a decluttering at the same time.  I like to remove every item from the cupboards and shelves and wipe them down before putting back only what we really use or need.  I am trying out some homemade cleaners using recipes and labels I found on curbly.com.  They sure smell good, so I am excited to see how they work!

trying homemade cleaners via curbly.com

homemade cleaners via curbly.com

2. Finish Outdoor Painting/Spray Painting.  We have been trying to finish painting our house trim.  Nothing like leaving things to the last minute.  The biggest obstacle is that all the trim needed scraped and sanded prior to priming and painting.  The painting is usually my job, and it requires a very tall ladder.  Ours is ancient and wobbly, so I require an assistant to stand below and catch me if I fall.  Jer has also been working on this when he can, so I think we are down to just touch-ups!! yay!  Check.

 I have also been gathering all the things I want to spray paint before the cold weather causes a forced hiatus.

3. Get Out Winter Clothes and Organize Them.  Our kids have grown a lot since last winter.  I will need to take out all the winter coats, boots, hats and mittens for them to try on.  We have an entry closet that is slated for an overhaul very soon, so I will come up with a system to organize the winter outdoor clothes there.  It is finally time to exchange the tank tops for the sweaters!

4. Put Away the Lawn Furniture and Outdoor Toys.  We have been squeezing in some last-minute barbeques and outdoor birthday parties around the fire pit, but it is about time to store the table and chairs in the garage for the winter.  Before storing the outdoor toys, I will discard any that are broken and donate those that the kids have outgrown.

5.Prepare our Home and Vehicle.  Today I purchased and installed new furnace filters and checked all the fire and carbon monoxide detectors.

I also replaced burned out lightbulbs, because winter’s shorter days make for some long, dark evenings.  We had a dark corner in the living room, so I brought in another lamp to cheer things up a bit.

 Finally, I will give my car a good cleaning, inside and out.  I love it when the car is clean.  I need to schedule an oil change and get the tires checked.  I will put a warm blanket, extra hat and gloves and a winter emergency kit in the trunk.

Whew! That should keep us busy for awhile.  Let’s hope for a few more sunny, warm days to help keep us motivated to check everything off the list.

Front Porch Update for Fall

With Halloween and Christmas being the two holidays most decorated for, we have been seeing black cats and bats popping up all over town.  Ironically, I am not one to do a lot of decorating for the seasons or holidays.  If I do, they tend to stay there for awhile past their celebratory time.  This year, for some reason Fall has me digging out a wreath for the front door and painting a doormat.  

A few years ago, I made my favorite Fall/Halloween wreath ever.  I spray painted a grapevine wreath bright orange, and bought several little rubber snakes to weave through the branches.  It still makes me smile, which means I still get to use it on the front door.  To update it a bit this year, I added some orange and black feathers from our craft closet.

Front door update: snake wreath, spider web door mat, magnetic letters

The snakes could be replaced with branches of leaves, mini pumpkins or even little turkeys for Thanksgiving. I love to decorate with grapevine wreaths.  They are so simple and inexpensive, and look great in their natural brown or spraypainted any color of the rainbow.

After seeing some fun painted doormats on Pinterest, I decided to make one of my own.  Since it seems we are going with a Halloween theme, I cut the mat into a half-circle shape and painted a spider’s web on the doormat with white craft paint.

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Since it felt a little small for our porch area, I moved the flower planters and pumpkins closer to the door for a more cozy feel.  After Halloween is over, I plan to repaint the larger doormat that was at the front door.  It is very faded and could use a spicy new paint job.  Even if it only lasts the season, it could be painted again in the spring, or exchanged for a new one at that time.

Our yellow door is metal, so I had the idea to use my kid’s magnetic alphabet pieces to spell out BOO. In the future, I will probably paint all of the magnets the same color so they stand out better against the door.  It is a fun and easy way to update a little message for your visitors.  For example, ‘Be Thankful’ for Thanksgiving, or even a simple ‘Hello’ for an everyday greeting.  The kids have been having fun rearranging them and adding some of the other letters from our fridge!

Arranging pumpkins, gourds, fall mums and other flowers around your front door also adds to the festive fall mood.  The succulents I planted in the spring are still looking really healthy, so I decided they were just perfect for fall, too!  We had a few pumpkins from the garden and some large rocks that fill in the space.

Indoors, we are taking advantage of the last flowers growing in our yard and gardens and filling up vases all over the house.

Cosmos

We have a tree that has flowing branches with berries and they are also pretty in a small vase or jar.  Add a pumpkin spice candle or a simmering pot of homemade citrus and cinnamon potpourri and there is no question that fall is in the air.

 

Renovation Diary, Part 4: The Bathroom Reveal

Fifty-two days after the fateful peeling up of ‘just one’ vinyl tile on our bathroom floor, the bathroom renovation is complete.  Instead of feeling dated, grungy and pieced together, our bathroom now feels happy, spacious and clean.  Natural daylight floods the space and the bright colors are refreshing and uplifting.

Bright and Peaceful Bathroom Remodel, Black and White, Merona Tile, Ikea vanity, cb2 mirror

Details, details!  Who knew it would take over a month and a half to get a window in the bathroom and to finish caulking everything?  The most important parts of the bathroom–aka the toilet, sink and bathtub, were useable by the first week or two of September, but the missing window prevented the use of the shower for several more weeks.

Installing glass block in a shower

 Thankfully, the warm fall weather in Pocatello held out and my crazy plan to combine a regular window with glass blocks worked fantastically.  

Glass blocks and an awning window

Exposed cinder block, round mirror, Ikea vanity

Many aspects of our Do-It-Yourself bathroom renovation have been incredible learning experiences.  One of the more stressful lessons is that when you order tile shipped to your house, half of it may arrive smashed to pieces.  Luckily, I could take it right down to Home Depot for a refund and I quickly reordered the amount I needed.  It’s a good thing it was a pretty painless process, because next the glass block window I ordered arrived with about 12 chips in it.  I ended up just ordering loose glass blocks on the second go-round and Jer and I put them together ourselves.  We are much happier with the finished appearance and we were able to fill the window space perfectly with an awning window above the glass blocks.  I was pretty stubborn about wanting glass blocks in the bathroom, but with a large window on top that would open and vent.  Our awning window ended up being 32in x 16in, and the glass blocks were 32in x 24in below it.  I am really glad I stayed true to my vision, even when it seemed like such a hassle.

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Another eye-opener for us is that tub and shower fixtures are not all made the same.  Of course, we didn’t find this out until the end, when all of the tile was completely done.  We ended up coming in from the back side and cutting a large hole in our kitchen/dining room wall to replace the pressure balance valve.  What would have taken less than an hour while everything was out in the open ended up taking all day.  And now there is that little issue of the hole in the kitchen wall…

One of our favorite things about the bathroom is the statement tile on the floor.

Merola Tile Twenties Diamond

It completely fits our family’s style, but it will also work very well with other styles.  Simply changing the art and the color of the towels gives the bathroom a different vibe.

Bathroom Remodel: Black and White with a bit of color

 We also love the modern look of the vertically stacked white subway tile with the charcoal grout.  The tile fits well with the style and era of our home, but also has a fresh twist.  At the last minute, I decided to add black tile around the window, and I am so glad I did.

Target clock, DIY shelf

We no longer have to fear that the tub or toilet may fall through the floor unexpectedly.  Gone is the plexiglass nailed to the old shower window to prevent leaks into the wall.

Back of door hooks

 We know the amount of hard work and attention to detail that was put into every inch of the room.  There are a few details remaining, such as knobs for hanging towels and maybe a small cabinet for storage, but that’s all part of the fun.  

Wash cloths in a basket

Towel basket by tub

Can I just tell you how awesome it was to take that first shower in the new bathroom?!?

Renovation Diary, Part 3: Getting to Work

One day you are making a plan and tearing out your bathroom floor, and the next day you realize you have to put it all back together again.  Let me give you a heads up–it is a lot quicker and easier to tear old junk out of a bathroom than it is to put the new stuff in.

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Our first weekend started off very productively with demolition and putting in a new subfloor.  

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At the beginning of the week, I proactively added a waterproofing goop to the floor under the tub and we moved the tub back in from the yard.  On Tuesday evening, Jer was putting up cement board in the shower while I put the kids to bed.  All of the sudden, there was an extremely loud crash and a yell from the bathroom.  In the middle of a balancing act involving a drill, screws and heavy backerboard, the drill fell into the tub and chipped the finish.  Argh!

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After a night spend researching the pros and mostly cons of fixing a chip on the bottom of a bathtub, we decided to replace it while we still could.  Thankfully, there was one in stock and Jer picked it up on his lunch break.  He fortunately realized while still in the parking lot that the drain hole was on the wrong side!  After another painstaking tub wrangling, we had the chipped tub out and the new one in that evening.  Time gets sort of blurry after that.

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Even knowing how much prep work was involved, it still took way longer than I wanted it to.  Perhaps it was because I mostly worked on it after the kids were in bed or when my wonderful mom had a day off to help watch them.  When I got things to the point where I needed Jer’s help again, I worked on the detail things.  I painted the ceiling black.

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I got pretty good at mixing up small batches of thinset, but the cleanup was less than enjoyable.  After the shower walls were mostly tiled, I  had a day or two where I contemplated not tiling the lower walls in the rest of the bathroom.  I took a break and painted the ceiling again.  This time I used two coats of primer on it before painting it a light mint color.  I really think the black ceiling would have worked if the ceilings were taller, but it just didn’t feel right in this space.  Also, my mom got claustrophobic every time I even talked about it, so there was that. 😉

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After the shower and walls were tiled, I moved on to the floors.  Tiling the floors was incredibly rewarding and much easier than the walls.  Something to say for gravity working for you instead of against you.  

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After that came the grouting.  I wanted a very dark grout, but I worried because I knew my tile setting job wasn’t perfect and dark grout would accentuate the flaws. I was also overwhelmed at the thought of having to mix up yet another powder and water.  Thankfully, my dad talked me into exchanging the powder for a premixed grout that never has to be sealed.  It was considerably more expensive, but it likely saved my sanity.  Since it came in a little container with a lid, I could grab a half hour here and there to work when I had the time.  We are happy with the final result, and the contrast between the white tiles and the dark grout makes the whole space look more modern.

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Several weeks More than a month and a half after the fateful start, we are nearing the finish line.  True to form, even those little details at the end take way more time than you think they should.  You will notice that we are still missing a window in these photos.  It’s a very good thing it was summertime!

Next up…Renovation Diary, Part 4: Bathroom Reveal!!

 

Renovation Diary, Part 2: Inspiration and Research

When you are thinking about remodeling a bathroom or any other room in your home, one of the first things you should do is start gathering ideas.  My favorite way to gather ideas is to look in magazines or online for images that I love.  I tear magazine pages out and keep them in a binder, sometimes writing or circling what interested me about the image.  For online images, I use Pinterest to organize by topic or by room.  As an interior designer, I am constantly looking at and saving images, so when it was time to redo our bathroom I had a ton of ideas all ready to go.

After you gather a fair amount of images, it is important to look at them all together and see if any common theme becomes apparent.  With my images, it was obvious that high-contrast black and white was what I was drawn to.  One thing about bathrooms is that you can have a great neutral base and add a lot of personality with colorful accent pieces, towels and shower curtains.  My husband and I both enjoy a modern aesthetic with some color, texture and natural wood added to warm up the room.  Another bit of information we learned from the inspiration images was that I was going to have to learn how to tile!  I have always loved the look of subway tiles in a shower, and we decided to use them part way up the rest of the walls as well.

Once you have decided on your design direction, it is a good idea to put together an idea board (or have a designer help you with this step).  This is where you gather all of the different elements in the room and arrange them together to make sure they will compliment each other and support your vision.  I use Photoshop for this purpose, but there are several other programs that will allow you to arrange and resize images.  A large bulletin board or piece of posterboard will allow you to easily arrange magazine images. To help visualize what the finished outcome will be, consider hiring a designer to draw up the space with your selected furnishings, finishes and materials.

Bathroom Inspiration

1. Shower curtain, anthropologie.com.  This one is no longer made, so I will likely be making my own.  I also want it to be extra long, so that limits the options of remade shower curtains.

2. Vanity light, home depot.com.

3. Lockable cabinet, ikea.com.  We will likely get one for each family member, leaving the kid’s unlocked.  We have a little girl who loves to get into things.

4. Round mirror, cb2.com.  We are mixing in some warm wood tones to warm up all the black and white a bit.

5. Colorful towels.  I am contemplating different colors for each family member.   Does anyone else get bothered by sharing towels?  I really don’t like reaching for my towel to find it all wet already!

6. White subway tile with charcoal grout.  I am also placing the tiles vertically in a stacked pattern.  I figure since it is my first tiling job, I might as well make it as difficult as possible. ha.

7. Vanity, ikea.com.  We are actually using the Godmorgon vanity with the Rattviken sink.  We are using the Dalskar faucet.

8. Floor tile, home depot.com.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE this tile.  Home Depot has really got it going on in the tile department.  This particular tile has 3 or 4 different patterns you can make.

9. Hand painted knobs, etsy.com.  I will be painting my own.  We are choosing these rather than towel bars.  Our bathroom is pretty small and hooks just make more sense for us.  I might sew a loop on each of our towels to make them easier to put on hooks.

10. Asparagus fern.  They like damp environments with a fair amount of light.  I already have one, and think it might like living in the bathroom next.

11. Wood and metal shelf, westelm.com.  I will DIY a version of this also. I want a mix  of wood and black metal to tie in the vanity light and mirror.

When you are satisfied with your material choices, it is time to get them ordered.  Keep in mind that some things may not be in stock in the stores, and you will have to special order them.  This process can take awhile, especially if they happen to be broken when they arrive, like my floor tiles and glass block window were.  To speed up the whole process considerably just choose items that are already in stock.  Of course I didn’t do that, so we have spent a bit of time playing the waiting game.  Since my husband and I have been doing all of the work ourselves and aren’t trying to schedule contractors, it has all worked out (except for that crazy window!).

Here are some things we have learned in the ‘Inspiration and Research’ process:

1. Researching tools and materials can help you save a lot of money.  Instead of expensive artisan cement tiles, I was able to find a beautiful ceramic replica for a fraction of the price.

2. YouTube videos and tutorials can help a lot.  They can either show you how to do something, or help you decide when to hire a professional.

3. Think about using basic materials in new ways.  Even simple and timeless subway tiles can take on a unique look with a different arrangement or contrasting grout.

Next Up, Renovation Diary: Putting it All Back Together.

 

Renovation Diary, Part 1: Bathroom Demolition

Some projects start out so innocently.  Just a short while ago, our main bathroom started presenting an occasional smell of mildew.  

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Thinking some water from the kid’s baths might have leaked under the stick-on vinyl tiles, I decided to peel one or two up and take a peek.  My husband told me to go right ahead, hoping that peeling up vinyl would keep me occupied for awhile and I wouldn’t have time to get any more crazy projects going.  That’s exactly how it all began.

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The vinyl tiles broke and tore as they peeled up, which didn’t break my heart any.  Directly underneath were some tiles that had been laid on top of a second layer of vinyl.

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Unfortunately, vinyl is not a solid base for tile, and at least 15 of the tiles were broken.

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Most of the broken pieces were around the toilet and beside the tub, which soon became the obvious location for the mildew smell.

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 Six layers of flooring later, we finally reached the subfloor, which consisted of diagonal planks across the joists.  Jer jumped in to help at the third or fourth layer of flooring, resigning himself to the fact that this was going to be a joint effort.

Six layers of flooring on top of the subfloor.

Six layers of flooring on top of the subfloor.

After digging through layers of vinyl, tile, vinyl, plywood, linoleum and plywood, we finally reached the subfloor. Most of the damage was actually removed, but we decided to put a good solid base of ¾ inch plywood over the entire floor to give us a fresh start.  The tub had to be removed at this point and we decided to do a complete bathroom renovation.

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Aspen was excited to get out her eye protection and hammer to help with the demolition.

Aspen was excited to get out her eye protection and hammer to help with the demolition.

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As you might have gathered from the flooring situation, there have been several DIY attempts throughout the years toward updating this bathroom.  The last rendition before we moved in involved the vinyl floor tiles, lots of paint, faux beadboard paneling, and about 8 tubes of caulk.  

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The vanity drawers were not usable, and the faucet had an annoying squeak that I never could get rid of.  It was high-time for a renovation anyway.  Thank goodness for an over-sensitive nose and an understanding husband.

Demolition involved the removal of the tub, vanity, glued on shower walls, and original aluminum window.  The toilet was moved to the garage, and we also intended to reuse the tub.  We decided to tile the shower/tub area, so we also removed the drywall in that area to make room for cement board.  The lower part of the drywall was removed along the toilet and vanity wall because of some mold issues, and we opted to expose the cinder block chimney to gain 4 inches of space for a new vanity.

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Here are some things we learned in the demolition process:

  1. Demolition is messy. We rented a large dumpster from the City of Pocatello for one day and quickly cleared out the majority of the mess.  What I didn’t count on was the thick layer of dust that look up residence on every flat surface (and some vertical surfaces, too!) in the house.
  2. Gloves, face masks and eye protection are a must.  Bathroom, mold, rusty nails, enough said.
  3. You might get more than you bargained for.  Renovations are never what you expect, especially on an older home.

Next up, Renovation Diary: Inspiration and Research.

Tufted Headboard DIY

If you would like to give your bedroom a fresh new look, make a headboard for your bed.  Headboards are a favorite starting point if you are looking for a beginning upholstery project, as they can be an easy and inexpensive DIY project.  They also help anchor the bed as the focal point in a room.

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A few years ago, I made my first headboard by covering a piece of plywood with 2 inch foam and then wrapping it with a large-patterned black and white floral print.  The only tool needed for that was a staple gun, and the whole process took about 20 minutes!  We attached our headboard to the bed frame with two thin boards screwed into the back.

Recently, it was time for a bedroom update and a new headboard was on the To Do list.

My mini sidekick helping remove staples from the old headboard.

My mini sidekick helping remove staples from the old headboard.

We loved the padded backrest that we had with our previous headboard, but wanted to make it look more elegant by adding tufting.  I chose a woven upholstery fabric with a mix of brown, black, gold and cream.  In retrospect, it would have been a lot easier if the fabric was a solid color.  When tufting, it is difficult to make everything look even when your fabric has lines or a pattern of any kind.  Two yards of fabric was more than enough to make a headboard for a queen sized bed.

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To make a tufted headboard, cut a piece of plywood that is the width of your bed.  You can make it as tall as you want, but I recommend keeping it at least 6 inches shorter than the width of your fabric.  I made mine 60 inches wide and 24 inches tall.  Next, figure out how many tufts you want.  Look at images online to see what look you like best.  I made three rows with 7 tufts on the top and bottom row and 8 tufts on the center row.  

Once you figure out how many tufts you want, mark it all out on 2 inch foam.

Busy helping mark tuft spots.

Busy helping mark tuft locations.

After it is marked, cut holes at each mark with scissors or a knife. I cut mine in a cone shape so the fabric has room to fold nicely.

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Now mark and drill the same exact holes on your plywood backing. This is where you would typically thread your button through and pull to make it tufted.  But, instead of  using a needle and upholstery thread, I read that you could just drill a screw through your layers and then attach your button with permanent fabric glue.  It was an immense time saver and you really couldn’t tell the difference.  Of course I had to try it out!

After drilling pilot holes, spray your plywood with adhesive and attach the foam to the plywood, making sure the holes line up.  Follow with a layer of batting and then your fabric. I neglected to use batting, and I really wish I had.  It would have made the tufts stand out a bit better and look more cushy.

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 I used 1 inch wide-head screws and carefully drilled through all of the layers into my pilot hole.  I worked from the center out and for the most part, the diamond shapes naturally worked into place.  When all of the tufts were shaped, I pulled and stapled the edges of the fabric to the back of the plywood.  

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I purchased a button making kit, and made fabric buttons to match the headboard.  Making buttons was the most frustrating part, hands down.   

To finish the headboard, I glued the buttons onto the tufts with permanent fabric glue.  A year later all twenty-two buttons are still there!  

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This same technique can be applied to chairs, ottomans, benches, you name it.  I have my eye on a storage ottoman begging for a tufted velvet top…

 

 

Things that take longer than you expect…

A LOT longer.

I have been wanting to strip the paint of the doors and drawers on our hallway ‘linen’ closet since we moved in.  They had a least 5 layers of paint, and it was really drippy and goopy, especially around the edges and the handles.  It was also starting to chip off, and I was mildly worried that some of the original coats might have been lead-based paint (I did test this, but couldn’t really get a clear reading–I just made sure the paint was gone before sanding).

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Since we have been having some nice sunny days, my little helpers and I took the project outside!  (I really don’t know what they were doing in this picture. Probably watching bugs).

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I have fond memories of stripping paint from an old piano with my mom when I was a teenager (eleven layers of paint!), I decided to give it a try on the doors and drawer fronts.  Instead of the highly toxic stuff we used 20 years ago, I used Citristrip, which is safer, biodegradable, has no harsh fumes and instead smells like an orange creamsicle.  It says it is safe to use indoors, but I am sort of really messy, so I went outside.  I laid all the pieces on a drop cloth and proceeded to paint on the orange gel.

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After waiting over an hour for the gel to work, I eagerly ran my putty knife through the goo, getting a satisfying layer of old paint on my knife.  That first run through is always the most fun.  IMG_3647

Then I just used my putty knife and scraped off all the rest of the paint!  Just kidding.  I scraped off the top layer of paint, leaving the next layer exposed.

You can see that the first layer didn’t bubble up like my future layers did.  I don’t know why…it did peel off in big sheets though.  I wonder if that top layer was just too thick? Or maybe I needed an even thicker coating of Citristrip?

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Then I repeated the process–three or four more times.  Don’t get me wrong, it was totally worth it, but it was a long and tedious journey over the course of several days.

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I tried to use a generous amount of gel, getting a nice thick layer on the paint.  I varied the waiting time from 30 minutes to 20 hours.  Even though they claim the gel will remain wet for 24 hours, it was super hot outside, so the gel was drying within an hour on one of the days I was working.  I am pretty sure it was much hotter than the recommended temperature on the bottle.  I did try misting it with water, which helped a little.  The closer I got to the wood, the easier the paint seemed to peel up, so that was a big plus in the project motivation category.

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After a nice sanding, the drawers looked good, so I decided to seal them with a natural stain.  I liked the look of the light wood, but it turns out that the doors were a different kind of wood, much more ‘red’ and grained.

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See the difference?  It became even more obvious after I applied the wood conditioner and natural stain.  So I tried to blend them a bit by adding some gray stain…

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…which made them look blotchy and dirty.  I am not a fan of the ‘already dirty’ look, and they still didn’t go well together so it was back to the drawing board.

Because I still was convinced I wanted to see some of the natural wood grain, I decided to try a paint ‘wash’ next.  I picked out a fun color because the hallway is a bit boring.  I put some water in a cup and mixed a bit of paint into it.

IMG_3731 I didn’t have a particular ratio, I just watered it down quite a bit.  I planned to do several coats, knowing the color would build up a bit with each layer.  This is after the first coat:

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And after the third coat:

 

 

 

 

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I loved how it built up without becoming thick, and you can still see the wood grain through it.

I chose to reuse the original large square pulls, since they reference the time period of the house and I liked the size.  Removing the paint from them was another test of my patience, but the gel actually took most of it off on the first try.

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After settling on the color for the doors, I sprayed the pulls gold, to give it a more modern look.

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And we officially love it!!  The color brightens up the hall without being too crazy–for us, anyway! 😉  Now everything closes so much better, and actually stays closed.

If I haven’t completely dissuaded you by this point, I will tell you that I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  Just start with a small project, use a thick layer of the gel and don’t expect it to be completely finished in an hour.  Garage sales and thrift stores have a ton of furniture pieces just begging for a good ‘safer’ chemical peel.

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

In the ever progressing journey of minimizing our possessions and decluttering our home, I have come across numerous books on the subject.  While most of them are inspiring and motivating, one in particular tops my list so far.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, will galvanize you into action.  There is a reason it has sold over 2 million copies and has been #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list: it really works.

BEFORE

BEFORE

 

AFTER

AFTER

The KonMari Method basically revolves around the simple question, “Does this (item) spark joy?”  Kondo recommends holding each item in your hand, and if it makes you happy–or sparks joy, keep it.  If not, get rid of it.  Just using this simple process has had amazing results in my decluttering campaign.  It feels incredibly freeing to let go of items that aren’t positively influencing my life.  The focus is more about deciding what to keep rather than what we ‘have to’ get rid of.

Along with deciding which items in your home bring you joy, Kondo requests that you follow a certain order when you discard.  She recommends you start with clothing, then move on to books, papers, miscellany and lastly mementos.  Rather than going room by room, she tells you ‘tidy’ by category.  So, for example, you take all of your clothing in the entire house and put it in a big pile.  Not only does this help you deal with it all at once, it also allows you to see the extent of your wardrobe and to easily weed out multiples.

Many people–only half-jokingly–say that if they got rid of every piece of clothing that didn’t bring them joy, they wouldn’t have anything left to wear.  I promise this is very unlikely to happen.  What you will probably notice instead is that you really only wear a small portion of the clothes that you have.  Why not give them some room in the closet and get rid of the guilt that you feel every time you look at that dress that doesn’t fit quite right– but that you paid way too much money for?!

Speaking of guilt (I know you have it, too), Kondo gives you a method for dealing with that.  Say you have that expensive, ill-fitting dress buried deep in your closet.   Instead of hanging on to it ‘just because,’ thank it for the joy it brought you when you bought it and donate it to someone who will love it.  This also works for gifts you are given that just aren’t your style.  Thank the item for the joy it gave you and the giftee, and then pass it on.  My mom and sister actually told me this several years ago when I was downsizing and being sentimental about some things they had given me.  They told me that they knew it had made me happy when I received it, and that is what mattered to them.  The gift was given for the moment, and I didn’t have to save it for posterity.  What a relief!

Aside from a few areas in the book where it is quite obvious that Kondo is a single woman with no husband or children (and their included paraphernalia) to work around, it is a simple method to follow.  I have moved on from clothing to books, and I am happy to report that our home and I are both breathing a little more freely.

The Uncluttered Life: Office Revival

Whether your office consists of an entire room or a little desk tucked in somewhere, chances are it is a major clutter magnet.  Seeing your desk full of clutter can make the often stressful tasks of work and bill paying even more difficult.  Since I work from home and my office space is located in our living room, it was next on our agenda for decluttering and simplifying.  I was eager to get started, because I know I am a hundred times more productive and happy in a clean space.  Here are a few things I did to create some calm in the office:

1. Photograph the Before!  This is so important so you can see your amazing progress.  Every time I get discouraged, I look at the Before photo and see how much progress I have made.  Photos are also a more objective way to view your ‘stuff’ and can help you identify problem areas.

2.  Make a list of areas to work on: Mine are paper piles, shelf clutter, too many unused books, stacks of magazines and an inefficient desktop filing system.

3.  Tackle the most visible problems first.  I took care of the pile of papers and other miscellania to the right of my computer.  This also happened to involve my desktop filing system, which was taking up more valuable space to the left of my computer.  In the interest of simple living, I decided that I only want my computer on the desktop.  As I looked at photos of my desk area, I realized I could be using the side walls of my desk area much more efficiently.  I decided to hang a single file bin and a simple organizing system I found at Staples.  I used Command Strip picture hangers so I wouldn’t have to drill or pound a nail into my shelves.

4. What do we do with the paper!?  The main reason you could even see the top of my desk at all was because we go paperless whenever possible.  I set up automatic bill paying if it is available, and keep track of things on my desk calendar.  When I sorted my paper pile, I put it into categories and made a list.  Then, I made sure I had those files set up correctly in my file cabinet.

5.  Donate books that are outdated, no longer relevant or that you don’t plan to reread.  Be ruthless and realistic.  I also went through my magazines with a much colder eye than I usually do, and was able to part with a large number of them.  The extra room on my bookshelves allows me to see and use my remaining books more easily.

6.  Remember how refreshing it is to work at an uncluttered desk.  Even the process of clearing out has caused me to feel more energized.  Cheers to productivity!

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What are some things you do to keep your office space tidy?