Archives For DIY


The lovely Victoria has decided to have a link party. I’m usually too lazy busy to participate in this kind of thing, but I like her subject and it doesn’t require me to actually make anything, just share a story. And we all know that I like sharing stories, so as my bedroom door is being moved and their is plaster dust in the air I will try and be amusing and tell you of my prior days of dumpster diving. Alas I don’t have any pictures, but I hope you enjoy the story.

In my previous life, a city dweller in her mid-twenties, I worked at an architectural firm that just so happened to be adjacent to a certain home store with the initials PB. It actually opened shortly after I started there. I was excited to check it out. Of course I quickly learned that my intern wages were not sufficient to buy much of anything. I would go in at lunch once every couple of weeks to scope the sales. Occasionally I would buy a plate or two, or some 90% off Christmas ornaments, but mostly I would lament my lack of funds. So I was surprised when I started to hear stories of the dumpster next door. Architects are generally a poor bunch, so you say “free” and we all coming running. One of my coworkers had scored some sort of PB accessory in really good condition. I said I wanted in, of course at first some of my coworkers were not so interested in sharing their special stash, but dumpster diving actually works better when there are 2 or preferably 3 people to sort through the stuff and then quickly carry it into the office. So I was a good team player and I joined in.

This was the late 90s, when the economy was good and the thought of throwing out perfectly good stuff by a certain flush retailer didn’t seem like a big deal. At first it was mostly small stuff. Candles, candle holders and plates with chips. I started a collection of colorful chipped plates to make a mosaic table. I’m not a big candle person, so I was perfectly happy to let someone else have the candles. After a couple of months of this, several of the regulars dropped out, not seeing the point. However me and the receptionist stayed at it. We would run down around 5:45 to see what was there. As we continued, the stuff started getting bigger and better. I snagged a dented metal file cabinet (the dent was in the back where no one would see it). I got some random table legs, good for my mosaic table project.

Then it started to get really good. One night there was a taped up heavy box. Sometimes these just contained broken glass or plates, but the two us decided to try our luck, because after all if it wasn’t good we could just go put it back in the dumpster. We pushed into the back door of the office. And what did we find? I box of lamps. I think there were 16 in total. Probably floor samples. But most were in really good condition. And by this point we were getting ready to buy our house, which was sorely lacking in any form of lighting. We divided up the lamps and even offered some up to my fellow coworkers. I came home with about 8 or 9 lamps all together. These are still the lamps that we are using in our bedroom and living room. They aren’t the most exciting, brushed silver with a thin stem, but they have been going strong for well over a decade now. So was this my best find? Actually no. It was the tables!

Do you think a major retailer would throw out 8 dining room tables? Probably not now, but back then YES! I was a dark (but not stormy night) and I went out to check the dumpster by myself. And there it was filled with table legs. Over 30 table legs! No tops but lots and lots of wood legs in all different finishes and styles. So still working on my mosaic table, and thoughts of future dining room tables, I decided to bring them all in to the basement. It required going into the dumpster and quickly trying to get them all out.  Fortunately we had a large storage room in the basement, so I could put stuff down there for a while without anyone really making a big deal about it.

The next day I told my coworkers of my score. I think they all thought I had lost it. What was I going to do with all of those table legs? I said I wasn’t sure, but I could always put them back in the dumpster. Well low and behold the next night I go out to check and what is out there but table tops! I managed to find someone to help me get these bad boys into the basement. It took a lot of picking through, because the employees of the retailer had scratched up and marked a lot of the tops, but over the next 6 months I put back together and gave away 5 tables (to my fellow poor coworkers) and brought a stockpile back to my new old house. Mr. S. was not as keen on my stockpile as I was. The stockpile sat in the basement for some time. We finally decided to make a coffee table out of 2 leaves and 4 chopped down legs. It is actually in the garage right now, as we have switched to storage ottomans for the kids, but someday it will make a reappearance. The rest of the stockpile I finally gave away on Craigslist to some guy who had just built himself a workshop and was going to transform them into something new.

After the tables I managed to score a couple of rugs, but as the recession of 2001 started, less and less good stuff made its way into the dumpster and my house quickly filled, I stopped my dumpster diving habit.

Do you have any good favorite finds to share? Why don’t you join the link party.




I am generally a big fan of power tools (heck, I am a master of the compound miter saw). So you think I wouldn’t get nervous using a new one. Well, you would be wrong! For my birthday last July, Mr. S. bought me a compressor and 3 pack of nail guns. Isn’t he the best! The box has been sitting unopened in the basement for months as I gathered the courage to actually use them. In my defense we haven’t actually been working on anything requiring nailing, but I certainly haven’t gone out of my way to actually making use of them. In fact the box had been sitting there long enough, that it had acquired a pile of stuff on top (please tell me that happens to other people too?).

Well this week I am going to be helping out one of my clients, and I could really use a nail gun to speed up installing some trim. So I decided it was time to face my fear and try it out, and trim out the door to the basement closet (another long overdue project).  While the rest of the family was upstairs and I was waiting for some laundry I cut open the box. Everything was packaged neatly and I went to work reading and re-reading the instructions. The compressor totally freaks me out (I guess anything that could blow up should do that). I made sure I understood how to pull the release valve and what pressure the dial should be set at. Then I unboxed the brad nailer. I picked it up. It was so cool! I read through all the parts and practiced unlocking and locking the trigger and installing the nails. Okay maybe this isn’t so scary after all.

So after a break and putting everything in place, I set up the compressor and plugged it in. I HATE the noise when the compressor starts up. It is so loud and powerful! I turned the adjuster knob and watched the pressure fill up in less than 2 minutes. I actually set the pressure too high and had to quickly lower it so I didn’t exceed the recommended range.

With the compressor set I decided it was now or never. I carefully plugged in my gun. The air whooshed out but I managed to click it in on the second try. Next up is putting in the nails. That was pretty straightforward! I very carefully released the trigger switch and put my trim in place. I pushed the nozzle (I’m not sure if that is what you call it) and pressed. It is actually really quiet. Phew, it worked! The nail didn’t go in as much as I wanted so I adjusted the depth gauge. The second one went in perfect! Awesome!


Within 5 minutes I was done putting the trim on the door. That would have easily taken over an hour by hand, and not worked as well! As I went I started to come up with a strategy for installing this thin trim.


I started with the bottom piece with 2 nails. Next I lined up one of the verticals. I nailed it a couple of inches from the bottom corner, making sure it was tight to the bottom trim. Then I nailed the other vertical the same way. Next I installed the top horizontal piece with 2 nails (after roughly checking that the verticals would align). Finally I connected the top of the 2 verticals near the top creating a tight joint and added a couple of extra nails in the middle for good measure. It worked surprisingly well. The nice thing about these nails is that once one is in, it stay tighter than with a traditional nail (so you don’t have to hold the trim very tightly).

When I installed the same trim on the bathroom door (before the nail gun), it was really sloppy. Above you can see one of the corners on the bathroom door after I filled the holes. Not so nice! Granted I don’t stand this close to the door very often, but definitely not nearly as professional looking.

I am now actually excited now about using my new set. I know it will be really helpful on the third floor (once we get to trim). That reminds me there are some trim pieces around the house that need some help. Let me at them!



My little blog is officially 2 today! So to my faithful readers: Thanks for reading!

A lot has happened in the last 2 years and I have been very fortunate to have a supportive family and friends while I try out new things, write this blog and take on more clients. To my family and friends: Thanks and love you all!

I am still working on a full house tour, but today I thought I would show you some before pictures of our house (aka 2000 when I didn’t know any better). I finally dug out some of the old photos and took photos of them (yes, photos of photos) so you too could enjoy the splendor of the 1970s wallpaper and color schemes too! And, yes clearly we were crazy!


Above is the flyer that was handed out at the open house. I removed the price but I will say that the price was lowered 3 times and was pretty reasonable (although I suppose if you factor in the work required maybe not so much). It was well under our budget and over $50,000 less than the original price. I don’t think we were the “antique buffs” the previous owner was thinking of but we do LOVE our house.


This set of exterior photos are from the open house. I hope you enjoy the mustard asbestos shingles in all their glory (since thankfully they are all gone). Mr. S. is most amazed by our little privet hedge covered in ivy. One of my early jobs was spending many hours cutting out the ivy. The hedge is now 3 times as tall and wide (with some very stubborn ivy still there).


Here is the back of the house with the “entrance” to the basement office. I was so happy the day we took that off since it was blocking our view of the backyard (in what was the dining room and is now the kitchen). One interesting fact is that the entrance was made completely out of old Boeing crates (the previous owner worked there). The window on the left is now where the piano is located but was behind the fridge when we bought the house.


A straight on view of the back of the house. One of the things that sold us was the giant pine tree.


In this shot you can see the bulge in the siding (which we were very curious about). When removing the siding we realized that it was because the first floor was covered with fake brick in between the original shingles and the asbestos ones.


Just look at all that mustard! It was everywhere (well except for the brown trim)!


Please step inside! I don’t think we actually have a picture of the front hall from before we bought the house. Here is Mr. S. about a week after we bought the house taking out the red carpeting and wallpaper from the front hall. Fortunately at least the wallpaper came off easily (at least in this space).


Next up is the old Dining Room which is now the Kitchen. We had already replaced the light fixture in here. The first time we painted this space I went will a pretty bright light green. Later I thought that decision was a little too bright and primary, but when you are going from an endless see of 1970s gold, orange and brown gloom, all I could think of were happy bright colors.


This is looking back towards the front of the house. The middle door is no longer there (it has been replaced with a door in the hallway for the half bath). You can also see the corner of the wood burning stove sticking out from the fireplace. That was a beast!


Finally I am going to leave you will a before picture of our kitchen (now the Dining Room). And yes, that is all the counter space we had! The door on the right lead out to the refrigerator room. You can also just get a glimpse of the faux wood “rustic” beams that were on the ceiling. The light blue on the cabinet was my test color. We lived with this kitchen for a couple of years before making a much more suitable space in the Dining Room.

I will be back next week with some more before and after photos! We will be celebrating our little one’s birthday this weekend.



I thought it was about time I gave an update on the basement. As with so many project around here we get 95% of the way done and loose steam (Does that happen to anyone else?). That was definitely the case with the basement. We got it far enough along that it was functional and let it be. Well now I am trying to finish up before we embark on the second and third floor adventure.

The Basement To Do List:
-Add a closet below the stairs
-Finish the counter and backsplash in the wine/beverage area
-Finish up the workroom
-Add artwork and decorate
-Decide on curtains for the washer and dryer area
-Decide on furniture/shelving/storage for the pantry area

I have been working on pretty much all of these (except the last 2) and we are definitely in the home stretch. Our contractor installed the closet a couple of weeks ago (Yeah!), I just need to add trim to the door and whitewash.


The workroom is definitely more organized and I can actually find most of our tools, although I still need to decide which table/bench to install the miter saw on. I have also started adding artwork and accessories. And for the last couple of weeks we have been concentrating on the counter and backsplash at the wine/beverage area.


This is where we left off over the summer. We quickly put the wood counter on top with some loose wood blocking and decided to let it be (after all there was a 5 year old birthday party to prepare for). Then of course it was easier to leave it then actually finish it.


Well we finally busted out some scrap wood and used some small brackets I had on hand and put this baby in. Of course with everything in our house it was not quite that simple. We did design this area to fit the longest Ikea wood counter but the portion that needed to sit on the victorian safe needed blocking to raise it to counter height  (and of course nothing is level down here). We also added a cleat on the back wall behind the fridge and freezer while leaving a gap above them to allow air to circulate. Finally we attached it to the drawer cabinet on the end. The upper cabinet just sits on the counter, so we just had to screw it to the wall to keep it in place.


So after spending way too long messing with the counter, came the fun part. Sorting bottlecaps! We along with several of my friends and neighbors have been graciously collecting beer bottlecaps for us (I know it is a hard job but somebody needs to do it!). We have some nice ones now, although I now realize that we are still short. I am hopeful that beer drinking will continue and we will be able to finish relatively soon. We cleaned them up, sorted them by color and took out the ones that were too bent to use.


So now where to start? I starting mixing the bottlecaps by color trying to keep a good mix. I also decided to start in the upper corner (which is less visible) to allow me to get the hang of attaching them. I decided to go with a premixed tile adhesive from Home Depot.


After quite a bit of trial and error I determined that the best way to apply the adhesive was to put a thin coating on the wall with the trowel and then back butter the bottlecaps. This actually takes a lot of adhesive since you need to fill the cavity behind each cap. I also found out that the caps tend to slide, so I had to keep pushing them up. These took a couple of hours to set in place and by morning were nice and tight. Of course now I realize that I am only about 1/30th the way finished and this took me over an hour. Granted I think now that I have a strategy it will go quicker, but I will most likely be at this for a while. I thought it might be nice to do a little each night (although so far that hasn’t happened). If all goes well I will finish this up in about a month, unless I get some time on the weekend to work on it.  I do like how it looks and it does make me smile when I head down to grab something or do the laundry.


The only other change I have to make, is that I was planning on using gray grout, but because of the thick white adhesive I will need to switch to a matching white grout. So drink up and wish me luck!

To see all of our basement projects click here.



As part of my New Year’s resolutions for our home, I am trying to try mix some small fun projects in with the big, expensive and laborious ones. So one of the first things on this list was hanging up the Moravian Tile that Mr. S. bought me for our Anniversary last year (or was it Mother’s Day). Moravian Pottery & Tileworks is adjacent to Fonthill (where we got married), so there is a lot of sentimental attachment to these, especially the one on the left, as it resembles Fonthill.

I picked up a frame at Ikea a few months ago (which appears to no longer be available). I liked that it had some dimension to it, so that the tile would be recessed in the frame. The first step was choosing a background paper. The frame came with either a white or black board as the backer, but I thought they were a little boring. So I went through a pad of scrapbook paper that I had on hand.


I tried a bunch of patterns including this crazy one but settled on this blue textured pattern instead.


I mounted the tiles with Scott Permanent Mounting tape (it is about 1/8″ thick and a little squishy) that I picked up at Staples.


I cut holes with an exacto through the paper to allow the tile to adhere directly to the backerboard from the frame. The tape claims that 4 pieces hold 1 lb so I should be well covered (I used between 2 and 3 on each depending on the shape).


I spent about a half hour on the project (not including going to the store to get the tape). I am pleased that the tile are up but I am not happy with the paper backing. It is a little puckered and the seams are visible. I think I am going to see if I can find a piece of scrap wallpaper or something and try again.  At least for now they are up and not sitting in the drawer.

Does anyone have any other ideas for mounting these?



I have been trying to make an effort to do a few small things around the house to keep it festive for different holidays. The top of the piano is the main place where I have been putting my efforts, since it is where we come in and leave everyday and it is not in the general path of two rambunctious children. But today I thought I would show you my new decorations for winter and Valentine’s Day.


I was shopping at Target last week (I know what a surprise!) in the 70% off Christmas section and I came upon these red snowflakes and ribbon. The snowflakes were $.30 a piece and the box of ribbon was about $6.


I was planning on using the snowflakes next Christmas with the cute garland I bought at Target earlier in the season. I really liked this garland and I think it was about $7. I was planning on making something similar but when I saw this I decided to just pick it up.

So anyway, I brought the snowflakes home and decided that they would be fun window decorations. The ribbon that came with them was pretty short so I decided to add some of my new ribbon (the white fluffy kind)  and give it a go. Maisie was in charge of putting the ribbon through the hole. I added them to 4 of our windows and will probably add some more around the downstairs.


So at about $.50 a piece including the ribbon, I am quite amused by them. I may also still use them with the garland next year. I especially like how they look through our Ikea solar shades.

Does anyone else have any fun decoration ideas for Valentine’s Day?

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Today I wanted to show off my new carpet squares for the hallway. I decided to replace the 4 orange squares with patterned red squares (lasting grace, $14 each). I have been meaning to do this for a while, but now that I have been spending so much time thinking about the space I decided to finally take the plunge and order up 4 red FLOR tiles (of course after finding a coupon). I decided to go with a big pattern to add a little more fun to the space and pick up on some of the pattern in our Living Room rug. I am very happy with the result, especially considering it only took me about a half hour to cut and install them. Lets here it for short and was relatively inexpensive projects!

Here is was before with the orange:


And here it is now:


It is not like I don’t like orange, heck I pretty much like all colors, but for some reason it was no longer working for me. And for now I have the orange tiles up on the third floor in case I change my mind. The rest of the tiles are House Pet, which are about 7 years old and are super durable. They aren’t super soft on the feet but my cats scratch on them on a daily basis and they still look the same, which cannot be said for any of the other things that they put their claws into. Now if I can just get around to refinishing the floor and adding some crown molding.

What do you think?

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Hallway Coatrack Update!

January 4, 2013 — 4 Comments


A month late, but it is done! We have hooks and storage and it was finished just in time for Christmas. I think I made it harder on myself by modifying a Martha Stewart Shelf from Home Decorators. Although it at least gave me a starting point, which until recently I was lacking.


I spent a good portion of time sanding off the finish so I could put on a walnut finish to match the other trim in the hallway. I also made a different top that was longer, shallower and solid oak (1×12). I went back and forth on the shape of the corners and actually planned to make a more complicated corner, but I wanted to route the edge so in the end I cut a corner with a jigsaw and sanded it into a radius, which I think looks pretty nice. Finally we (i.e. Mr. S.) routed the nice edge detail around the 3 sides.


The narrower depth also made sure that the shelf didn’t over take the hallway which I was concerned about. The lower shelf is the one that came with the shelf. Fortunately it is in shadow so it isn’t too noticeable that the finish is different.


I also added the very important backer boards for the hooks (which makes installing the hooks much easier and gives it a more polished look). I used 1×4 oak and routed a chamfer on the top and bottom. Since I decided to use animal knobs for the smaller hooks, I had to spend way too long drilling larger holes on the back to allow for the nuts and washers.


I also spent a couple of hours cutting the bolts down to fit without sticking out the back. Then I applied 2 coats of walnut stain to all of the bare wood. I  hung the lower backer board first since it didn’t need to fit in between the shelf and i was getting desperate for coat storage.


Then I hung the shelf using the hardware provided and finally screwed the upper hook backer board in last. Finally I picked up a couple of baskets at Target. These are now holding the mail and the kids artwork (2 items that were taking over the kitchen counters).


Here is how it was before. I’m not quite sure why I left that small coat rack for so long.


And here is a detail of my hooks. I am totally in love with these animal knobs. I still have a couple more things to do in the hallway (i.e. some new carpet tiles) but it is such a relief to have this up and working. So far the kids have actually been reasonably good about using it.

What do you think?


Holiday Season Update

December 17, 2012 — Leave a comment
Maisie & Sam (aka Candle #7)

Maisie & Sam (aka Candle #7)

Hello all! I wish I had more to post, but I don’t. I am deeply saddened by the events in Connecticut and spent a lot of the weekend staying close to the kids.I also think I have officially overextended myself. I have a hard time saying ‘no’, although there are some things, especially related to the kids’ school that I always want to make sure get finished and done right. The kids had their Hanukkah play at school last week and it was fabulous! Sam made a great candle #7 and a good time was had by all. We also managed to make some Christmas sugar cookies this weekend, which the kids have been asking to do for a while. They were so blissfully unaware of what happened.

Hallway Progress

Hallway Progress

In the meantime I have been trying to get the front hall hooks and shelves finished, which has been painstaking slow. When I have a few minutes I run downstairs and put on another coat of stain to all of the parts. I managed to hang the lower piece yesterday and the kids enjoyed filling up the hooks that are up (although I ordered some more to fill out the board). I am really trying to get the top part finished by Friday. We will see if that happens. Fingers crossed! At least now I have all of the parts minus 6 extra hooks which can be installed after the boards are up.

I am sending my love to everyone!

P.S. The holiday cards are in the mail. So I will be posting up the picture and all of the details later this week.

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Birdbath Decorated for Christmas

Sorry about the lack of posts; life has been busy. Enough of the whining and on with the Christmas Decorating!

I decided that I wanted to put up a few decorations in the backyard. We walk through the yard several times a day to get to the driveway and garage. So the front yard decorations are mostly for the neighbors enjoyment. I thought it made sense to add some color to the area that we actually use. It all started months ago when I saw this image on Pinterest.

Image via BHG

I thought well that is pretty cool. I turn my birdbath upside down in the winter and it always looks a little sad. That would be a fun and relatively easy way to add some color in the middle of winter. So the other day a made a trip over to Home Depot to take a look at the Martha Stewart Christmas decorations. They had some nice sets, but when I saw these giant ones I was sold (similar to this set but bigger). It included 9 giant (approximately 8″ dia) ornaments and was $21.99. I also stopped by the dollar store to grab some smaller ornaments to fill in.

Everything Ready to Go

I got out some thin green florist wire, a pine branch, and some other random materials. First I had to figure out how I was going to lay out the ornaments. I tried several different stacking methods and decided that it made sense to start with 5 on the bottom.

First Row of Ornaments attached to an old brick

After a good bit of trial and error including trying to use foam blocks, I went with a half brick with wire wrapped around it for the base. I attached the 5 large ornaments together with a single piece of wire and then attached that to the wire that was around the brick. I also infilled with a few smaller ornaments and tied them to the rest. Then I repeated with the remain 4 large ornaments and a few smaller ones, being careful to attach them all back to the bottom.

Birdbath looking from the House

I am happy with the result, especially considering it took about a half hour. It could use a little more fill in but it is not something I look at up close, so for now it is done. The ornaments are all the “shatter proof” variety. I assume this means that they are plastic and not glass. I am not sure how they will handle being outside for the season, but I decided it was worth a try.

Greenery on the Back Gate

For good measure I also put up some greenery on the back gate, along with a pre-made bow.

All told I spent about $29 for the backyard. Not too bad.

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