Monday, December 31, 2012

A light ending to 2012!

Happy New Years Eve! It's hard to believe that 2012 is almost over. Looking back, we had quite an eventful year. And I am very much looking forward to an awesome 2013. We are having a quiet NYE at home this year. We typically go out or have a party, so it's nice to have some down time. We both took a rather long Christmas break from work, which is winding down a this point. It was good to have some time to spend with friends and family, as well as to mentally reset for the new year.

However, this post is about some updates to the powder room. Before Christmas, I decided to paint the door white (the same color as all the other trim). The inside of the door was already painted white during our renovation in May.


I used a foam roller for the majority of the door, and a brush for the crevices. This helped with getting an even coat without brush strokes.


The second update was done this past Friday. My in-laws gave me a new light for the powder room for Christmas. On Friday, J and I installed it. I wish I had better advice for this, but my main advice is to try to follow the installation instructions and always turn off the power to whichever circuit you are working on.

Here is the light that was installed. It was originally from the kitchen, but I didn't think it really went with the room.

Uninstalling it was pretty easy. I unscrewed the wires first and then took off the screws that held the light up.

I don't have pictures of the installation because it ended up being quite difficult. It took J holding it and me doing the screws. There was also a lot of foul language during the process. The light attached securely to the ceiling, so there wasn't a lot of room to work with. Unfortunately during this whole process, I hit my head rather hard on the doorframe. I felt really out of it Friday night, but seem to be on the mend at this point. I still am not certain we installed it correctly, but I am positive it won't fall or anything. And it does work. I really like the way it looks. It goes much better with the decor in the bathroom and is much more modern looking.

Anyway, that's all the updates I have for now. I hope everyone has a safe NYE and a wonderful 2013. See you in the new year! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Foyer storage - part 1

Sorry for the long delay, folks. As you might have guessed (or known), we were traveling for the Christmas holiday and I decided to keep the laptop at home. This worked out fine as I really didn't have any time to blog anyway. However, we received a couple of gifts this Christmas that are blog-worthy, so I will be working through those. One of them has yet to be installed, so keep posted for updates. The big gift from my folks this year was a compound miter saw! This was particularly exciting for me as I have been avoiding woodwork because I didn't have the right set of tools to make good precision cuts. My dad and I now have an agreement that he can borrow the miter saw and I can borrow his table saw. I think this will work out rather well. We weren't able to fit the saw in the car this trip, which is rather unfortunate. I miss her already (yes, my miter saw is a girl). My dad and I did get the opportunity to start on a project the day after Christmas. We have been talking and planning on this for about 2 months, so it was pretty exciting to make some progress.

I am working on building a tree hutch (that is apparently what it is called) for the foyer in our house. I started with plans here and here from My space is 27.5" x 24", so the plans (as is) wouldn't fit. We modified them to fit our space, making the largest dimension 27" (click the following images to zoom).

The only modification is that in the second diagram, the 1 x 6 is actually 19" in length (not 20).

We started with cuts for the base first. I will go through our process in case you want to follow at home. First, it is important to read through safety information for any of the power tools you are using. Never move power tools with them plugged in. And always wear safety equipment. You don't want to lose a finger because you were careless. The first thing we did was to cut scrap pieces of wood. This is important in order to get a feel for the saw. We also practiced measuring and cutting with scraps before moving on to the real deal. I opted for higher quality wood pieces (still pine, but no knots), which meant that the pieces were more expensive. Therefore, doing some practice runs on scrap can really save money.

My miter saw has a 10" blade, which means that the widest piece I can do is a 1 x 6. Wider pieces had to be done on other equipment.

Steps for cutting.

1. The wood you buy from Home Depot is factory cut. It is cut using large equipment, and the ends are not at a 90 degree angle. Therefore, the first step is to cut off a piece on the end in order to make the board straight. Mark (in pencil) using a square edge and then cut off the end (I'll go into cutting later).

 2. You know the saying, "measure twice, cut once"? This is actually pretty imperative. I caught a few measuring errors this way. The first step is to measure and mark the length with a pencil.

Use a square to mark a line on the small mark you made.

Re-measure for any errors and re-do your line as necessary. Pencil will erase off of wood.

As a sanity check, if you are making more than 1 piece the same length, you can check that the pieces line up.

3. Cutting. The biggest thing in this step is to understand how the kerf (blade width) will impact your wood. The easiest way for me to work was having the product on my left and the waste side on my right. It is harder to see under the motor on the right side. In this scenario, I made sure that the left edge of the blade lined up perfectly with my pencil mark. Make this alignment with the blade OFF. I made sure my hand was no where near the trigger when doing this.

I used my left hand to hold the wood securely to the guard. The saw will have markings for where your hand should be for safety reasons. I suggest following these. This is where practice makes perfect. You want to move the blade seamlessly into the wood. If you go too slow, you will make a friction burn into the wood. As soon as the wood is cut through, release the trigger and let the blade come to a stop before lifting it back up. Do not move the wood or your hands while the blade is in motion. If your wood piece is long, I suggest making a prop for it to rest on. It makes holding the piece in place a lot easier.

You can see how the miter saw allows the lengths to be very precise. This is why measuring is so important. 

We had an excel chart in order to keep track of which boards to cut. This made tracking our progress much easier. This was also used to determine how many boards to buy. Unless you have a plan which includes what to buy, you will need to plan out what you can cut from the boards and how much will be scrap.

In some cases we did really well with our left over piece (see top).

4. Double check any miter cuts. We did the straight-edges first before the trim piece which requires a 45 degree angle. If you do this, you can make a mock up and check your measurement for the trim piece.

Miter cuts are similar to the straight-edge ones, except that they require a little more planning. You really have to be careful about which side is the product and scrap, and pay close attention to which side the kerf is on. Also, allow for more scrap in these boards because you will have more waste since you are cutting on an angle.

Here is the end of our day of work. You may be wondering how we cut the larger boards (1 x 8 and 1 x 12). The 1 x 8 was done on a table saw. The table saw was a bit trickier than the miter saw, but essentially the same steps (measuring, checking the kerf, and cutting). The 1 x 12 required the use of a circular saw. I didn't take any pictures because we both had to be pretty active during the whole process. We only cut the pieces for the bottom bench part. I will go up again this winter to finish the cuts and take the boards home for assembly. So for now the project is still in its early stages, but more carpentry goodness to come. Stay tuned.

Besides all the sawing, we had a lovely Christmas visiting with friends and family. This is me and my bff.

J and I and bff and her mom.

More Christmas updates soon!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to Paint Railing Dowels

Hello all! I have been pretty excited about writing this post. So much so that I wanted to get the previous posts out of the way first. Haha. This project started back about 2 weeks ago. I was inspired (mostly by pinterest) to paint the dowels on our railings. I am still debating painting the whole railing like some of the photos here or possibly painting the railing a different color. But we'll see. I wanted to create some more contrast within the railing.

Here are some before shots. The railing just blends in with all the wood around it. The previous owners lacked a little in the creativity department. But I've already discussed the monotone colors of this house on the blog before.

So, I got to work on the dowels. I first used some liquid sand (available in Home Depot) on the dowels. to rough up the finish. Be sure to stay safe if you do this. Liquid sand is stinky stuff and kind of runny. I put it on my towel on the front porch in case of spillage. I also wore goggles, latex gloves and a face mask.

There were some rough spots in places that I sanded down to be smoother.

I then wiped everything down with a damp towel to get everything clean. Once that was dry, I started painting. One of the things I regret doing was putting down primer first. I thought that the paint would have good coverage, but the dowels ended up having slight cracks and imperfections that slowed the process down. I used the paint that Sherwin Williams makes for cabinets and doors in Snowbound, which is the same paint I have been using for updating the trim. I would suggest using something made for trim or cabinets as it will hold up better and give the dowels some shine.

You can see the little imperfections that made this hard. I also was careful not to get too much paint on my brush. With all the little curves in the dowels, you really don't want any drips of paint as it would be totally obvious when dry.

I ended up finding that an art brush did the best job. It was about the right size, I couldn't get too much paint on the brush, and I had good control for the edge stuff. I didn't use painters tape so that I would see if I made any mistakes and would be able to wipe them up with a wet paper towel before they dried on the wood.

After 148,965 coats (okay maybe I'm exaggerating), I finally called it done. It took me ~10 hours to do just these dowels, so it was painstakingly slow going. And there are still a few areas that aren't quite perfect, but I don't think anyone is going to be looking that closely at our dowels (at least I hope not).

So, what do you all think? Should I keep the other parts wood? Paint them white? Paint them a different color? Just curious what my readers think.

I know you guys totally noticed, but I also painted the trim underneath the railing from cream to white as well. Now, only 3 more railings to go... I do have a few ideas for speeding up the process, but I think I will try it out first and see how it goes before sharing with you.

I'm dreaming of some white dowels, just like the ones on Better Homes and Gardens...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Impulse Buy

Hello all! I hope you are having a good weekend. My weekend was good, fairly productive, although far less than I originally had hoped for. But there are only so many hours in a day. And we had some holiday parties to attend. :)

A few weeks ago, I had a small impulse buy from Joss & Main. You should visit their site if you've never been there, although I will warn you now that it can be pretty dangerous. It basically emails you daily deals for home furnishings. I ordered a new rug for our living room. The previous one seemed a little dark to me, and I really wanted something to brighten the room rather than drag it down. When I saw the rug, I knew it could be a really good fit. I am always nervous ordering from Joss and Main because most of the items are non-returnable. However, I am really happy with the new rug. It goes really well with the lighter blue colors in the room.

I'll have to take more pictures without all the Christmas decor as well. I moved the old rug to the dining room, which needed a rug. I think it does well in there to break up all the wood tones.

I went from nervous to being quite happy with my impulse buy. It's always nice to get 30%+ off of a nice rug. Maybe one day I will buy a rug that isn't blue. But probably not anytime soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas on 12-12-12

First of all, I am so saddened by the news coming out of Connecticut. I feel so bad for the families having to deal with the loss of loved ones. I really cannot imagine.

However, in much happier news, Christmas came a little early for us, or, more specifically, for J. On 12-12-12 to be specific. I knew it would be hard to hide what his (big) present was if he received the package. And that is precisely what happened. I was still going to wrap it up, until we were talking and he asked, "Is it a framed picture of the earth at night?" Seriously? He had mentioned liking that picture months ago when we were discussing artwork for the house. I had thought he would have forgotten and I could swoop in and surprise him. Nope. So, at that point, I let him "open" his gift and we hung it up. He guesses his presents (usually correctly) every year, so I shouldn't be too surprised.

I really love the way the picture fills in the large wall in the basement. If you are interested in how I made this, here's a step by step:

1. I downloaded a large version of the image from NASA's website.
2. I uploaded the image to and used their make your own art section. You can choose from framed art, just the print, canvas, etc.