04 Feb

Bye Bye Cookie Cutter Kitchen

final finishes

I know this is going to come as a shock to you but I don’t cook. So when we walked through this house the modest size of the kitchen wasn’t really an issue for me. For the most part, it serves its purpose and we have all the appliances we need. And though I’m not really keen on them being black they were pretty new so there was no incentive to spend the money to swap ’em out.

builder grade kitchen

Instead, I splurged on backsplash tiles that pulled the space together. The black and grey glass worked well with the appliances and the variations in the slate pulled in the orange tone of the wood cabinets and trim.

glass backsplash tiles

The laminate countertops were in great shape so instead of replacing them I created a spice shelf to physically and visually break up the surfaces. It extends about 4″ – just enough room for the salt and pepper (or sample jar of paint). Once that was complete, I installed upgraded lighting fixtures.

diy spice shelf

So, it always bugged me that the countertop around the sink was a bit ‘overgrown’. It wasn’t wide enough for a true breakfast bar and you couldn’t sit there and not back up into the dining chairs. Since we didn’t have another eating space I had to find a way to make this one seem larger.

eat in kitchen area

Now listen, even if I wasn’t a DIY’er or interior designer I have watched enough HGTV to know that never, in the hundreds of hours of real estate shows aired has there ever been a buyer who loved everything about a home except for the fact that it lacked an overgrown countertop.

I have, however, heard plenty a property virgin whine about where all of her friends and family will sit during their housewarming party. So, the decision to cut the countertop was an easy one to make – for resale value obviously.

cut laminate countertop

See? Once I trimmed it out and stained it to match the other wood, you couldn’t even tell it hadn’t always been that way.

wood trim on counter

Just look at how much larger the dining area is! (all of the chairs are around the table)

extended dining space

After adding brushed nickel hardware to the cabinets and drawers (to tie in with the stainless steel on the stove) I cut and installed wooden crown molding above and swapped the builder grade hollow core pantry door for something a little more fun-ctional.

cabinet crown molding

Then the 7″ shallow sink was replaced with a deeper 9″ version.

shallow sink deep stainless sink

…and it was bye-bye to that cookie cutter kitchen.

final finishes

Want to see what is going on behind that pantry door? Check it out here. Or are you wondering where I stashed the trash can? It’s under here…

30 Jun

Color Inside the Lines

Build a DIY Paint Booth

There comes a time in every adult’s life when they can no longer shush the aches and pains telling them they are getting old. For the avid DIYer, those grumblings from overworked and under-iced muscles are heard over even the loudest of power tools.

A few weeks ago, the ligaments in my right shoulder and forearm were screaming at me to stop painting. When I could ignore them no longer, I put down my brush, picked up a pencil and sketched up a simple solution to help me work smarter and whine less.

Once it was all worked out in my head, I enlisted the guys’ help to clear out a 9′ x 9′ area in the garage to work in.

DIY Paint Booth

I got a little candid for the camera. Passersby thought I was having a sale but I was vacuuming and acting a fool. See what happens when there’s room to move around in?

It took a while to get to it but behold, a blank wall.

DIY Paint Booth

Using basic materials and tools, I created a dedicated ‘pop-up’ workspace to spray my project pieces and cut down on the wear and tear of my right arm. The design allows the booth to fold flat against the garage wall when not in use. So, someday I might actually park inside the garage. (hey, a girl can wish)

Paint Booth Walls

After dry-fitting the boards together I secured them with long wood screws. Each section measured roughly 2′ 1/2″ wide leaving plenty of space in the center of the back wall for a filter pocket.

Paint Booth Filter Pocket

Cutting down some scrap wood, I framed out a pocket to hold an air filter. The bottom is entirely enclosed while the top and sides allow for any size filter to drop in and swap out easily.

Paint Booth Wheels

Because of the size of my walls, I wanted to be sure they were easily moved in to place. I installed a set of medium weight casters to each wall and positioned stops for added support.

Paint Booth Support

Countersinking a screw into the wood with a spade drill bit keeps it’s head from scraping the adjacent concrete floor. It’s also a handy way not to need longer screws.

Paint Booth Support

After marking my 2×4 support level, I secured it to a stud in the wall.

Folding Paint Booth Wall

And used standard door hinges to attach the back wall to the support. With the hinge positioned correctly, the wall closes flat against the garage side wall.

Paint Booth Fold Out Wall

I wheeled the side wall over and secured it to the back wall with safety-latch eye hooks.

Paint Booth Plastic Sheeting

Inside, I measured and cut the plastic sheeting to fit over the wall frames and stapled them in place.

Paint Booth Plastic

I added a horizontal support brace that worked double duty to position the wall into place. Even on wheels, it’s difficult for a 5’nothing chick to move an 8′ wall around the garage (but not impossible).

Paint Booth Wall

To secure the end of the side wall, I stuck an eye hook in a ceiling stud and used a piece of chain someone had pitched on trash day a while back. Seriously, I find uses for everything (much to Dave’s chagrin).

Paint Booth Air Filter

The white tarp (left) drapes over the top as a temporary ceiling to contain airborne over-spray. The clear plastic sheeting allows light to permeate the space while keeping dust out and off of wet pieces. It will probably help keep paint off of Dave’s car at some point too.

Paint Booth Air Filter

And while that is a good thing, behind the back wall is where the magic really happens.

Paint Booth Ventilation

A box fan atop a curb-surfed kid’s table pulls the air out of the spray booth, cycling it towards the open service door off to the right of the garage. The filter keeps the paint particles from getting into the fan’s housing elements.

Paint Booth Folded Up

And it all folds flat when the project is complete. Or in my case, for the purposes of this single blog post.

Paint Booth Finished

Since we all know my projects will never be complete.

Want to try this in your own workshop? For a material list and easy-to-follow tutorial click here – DIY Fold-Up Spray Paint Booth and be sure to link back when yours is complete! (pin the image below for quick reference back to this post)

Build a DIY Paint Booth

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10 Apr

Climbing the Walls

I left you hanging in my master closet renovation project post and for that I’m sorry. But I knew you’d be so impressed with this shoe storage solution that all would be forgiven.

Okay, so once the clothes were up there was about a foot and a half of wasted space in the back corner of the closet. Originally, my shoes were on one of those over-the-door wire jobs that never seemed to let the door fully close. I wanted to make use of that corner space but Pinterest failed me creatively. Frustrated, I started roaming around the house for inspiration.

At some point, I discovered my size 7 1/2s fit pretty well upside down on a door knob. With that in mind, I walked the garage and shop looking for something similar in size and shape. The ‘aha’ moment came when I eyed the legs on some project tables.

Simple Shoe Storage

So, I pulled spindles, stretchers and stiles out of my random chair parts box and cut them down on the chop saw.

Simple Shoe Storage

Then I drilled holes in the ‘bottom’ of each piece and spray painted them black. Once they dried, I roughed them up a bit and applied a coat of wax.

Simple Shoe Storage

Rummaging around in the scrap wood pile I found some plywood. That got measured, cut and drilled {6 evenly spaced holes along each piece} before sanding it all down.

Simple Shoe Storage

I brushed on some ebony stain and let it dry overnight.

Simple Shoe Storage

The following day up on the wall they went.

Since the hanger pieces were different sizes, I tried my best to line them up so the shoe pairings would hang uniformly. If I was making this for belts, scarves or jewelry I definitely would have varied the pieces for more visual interest.

Simple Shoe Storage

I’m sorta bummed that the shoes (which hang perfectly and take up very little space) cover up the pegs. I’m half tempted to make more of these for coats to hang in the mud room.

Simple Shoe Storage

…which is next up on the To Do List. Seriously, it never ends. Oh and before I forget thanks so much for the awesome feedback on the DIY Daily Magazine I published last week. Look for the May edition at the end of the month.

Simple Shoe Storage

25 Mar

Our Well Dressed Closet

Next month will mark our third anniversary in this house. That means that for nearly three years our master closet has looked pretty much like this:

closet photos

Now, in some homes this walk-in closet (measuring 7′ x 8′) could be considered the 4th bedroom. And for some women sharing it with their husband would be a deal breaker. Since I don’t have to get dressed daily (which keeps my side super clean and organized) this space wasn’t high on my To Do List. But after finishing the master bathroom renovation, I decided it was time to address this eyesore.

The first thing to go were those tacky, builder-grade wire shelves. In their place went wooden dowels stained and painted to resemble industrial plumbing pipe.

install closet rod

My friend Katie rocked a cool DIY project using the real deal but after pricing it out for our space, I couldn’t justify dropping so much cash on a room I hardly use. And to be fair, even when Dave hangs out in here he’s half asleep, maneuvering via cell phone spotlight. So yeah, faux industrial rods were the way to go.

But I did find a way to work some heavy metal into the design.

I picked up this funky little wooden cabinet from Goodwill a while back. Inside was a corner bracket and five swing arms. I added some bracing to the wall and installed the upcycled tie rack in the corner (p.s. I got in trouble for undoing Dave’s ties to take this photo. Whoops!)

repurposed hardsware

Several residences ago I decided I had to have these 7′ bookcases. I loved them and spent way more than I’m willing to admit to call them my own. The problem was I never quite figured out how to stage them and they became the thorn in my side (and a catch-all for all things crap). But every time I moved I lugged them along. One night I was surfing the ‘net and came across some celebrity’s dressing room closet. While commenting on the utter absurdity of anyone needing floor to ceiling shelving for their clothes I had my AHA moment. In 15 minutes flat I had those puppies cleaned off and ready for Dave to help cart them from the office into the closet.

One of the skinny side pieces fit snug enough against the wall that the dresser drawers could clear it and helped brace a couple more clothing rods. The shelves are laminate and I scored them for $3.00 in the damaged wood bin at Menards. They match the bookcases perfectly. A little spray paint tied in the metal rod supports. Standard wall pocket supports screwed in to the pole ends finished off the built-in look I was going for.

clothing rods

Of course I had to use a step stool to get the clothes loaded in. There’s just enough space between the end of Dave’s dresser for the three dresses I own to hang.

master closet organization

And enough space below my summer shirts for a couple of bins of ‘unmentionables’.

closet storage ideas

Over on the other side of the room are the rest of the bookcases where our jeans and my insane collection of sweatshirts live. Side story: Dave skis. I don’t. So, when he hits the slopes he brings me back a sweatshirt. Obviously, that man takes entirely too many vacations. {smile} No seriously, if he didn’t I would never get these projects done!

bookcases for clothes

Speaking of, this small plot of blank wall space is my next victim. Any guesses what I’ve got in mind??

diy mirror

If you follow along on Facebook, you’ll remember that I shot out a teaser the other day of pieces I used to construct my new shoe rack.

master closet makeover

But if you don’t that’s okay. I’ll get that tutorial up soon enough. For now, let’s just gaze at the awesomeness that is my new favorite room…

big walk in closet

…knowing I’ve got a solid two years left to enjoy it (and plenty of room for more sweatshirts).

02 Mar

Master Bath Reveal & Project Breakdown

Master Bathroom Reveal

When I decided to make over the master bathroom I set three basic guidelines for myself. I was determined to do all of the work on my own, keep the material costs down and finish in a respectable amount of time. I’m quite happy to report that I accomplished all (3) of these goals. {mostly}

I kicked off the project by removing all of the wood trim, baseboards and door casings; toilet, sinks, countertop and wall mirror. Next I prepped and laid the ceramic tile floor. I installed a custom laminate counter and reset the sinks before building up the wall with wainscot panelling. Then I installed new mirrors and reinstalled the toilet.

The wall on either side of the original counter was marred from the side splashes and had to be repaired.

Minor Drywall Repair

Figuring out the transition between the bedroom carpet and bathroom tile proved tricky. I had to scrap the carpet-to-ceramic threshold I originally planned to use (the profile wasn’t quite right) and opt for a wood ‘t’ bar style instead. The main door needed to be under cut slightly so it would shut.

Doorway transition

And then all that was left was the clean up!

Before & After Photos

entrance before after

vanity before after

toilet before after

Schedule: 3 weeks (roughly)

Some days I worked 8-10 hours while others I didn’t set foot in the room. On average, I logged 3-5 hours a day. This doesn’t include how long it took me to clear the ‘debris’ and tools from the workspace – mainly because I still haven’t finished that yet.

Labor: I performed 99.9% of the work myself.

There were a few times I requested assistance: To lift the mirror up and over the sink faucets (I was still standing on the sink when I detached it from the wall so I had to have extra hands to hold it while I dismounted) and carry it into the bedroom; To set the toilet in place (I had to lay my head on the ground and see what I was doing wrong after it leaked all over the floor); To shut off the electrical (because that’s what you get for working from home honey); and for photo ops.


Material Cost Breakdown

I always shop at Menards because they have a forever return policy and awesome rebates. Over the course of this project I took advantage of an 11% rebate, a 14% in-store savings and a 20% off whatever fits in the paper bag sale. I just checked and there’s a $41.34 rebate headed my way which brings this project to a final total of $515.71.

If you deduct the $15.00 for the frameless oval mirrors that instigated this whole project I’m slightly over my original targeted budget. Considering those mirrors are on clearance for $60 each, I’ll take the hit.

I’m pretty sure I’ll recoup the $0.71 when we sell.

Bathroom fixtures

Chocolate brown rug

Now, I’m off to tackle the next project (and by that I mean clean up my mess). Seriously, it’s a never-ending process. I don’t think I’ll ever have this entire house clean all at once.

messy bedroom

But at least it keeps me out of trouble.


Want to see how this project came together? Click the thumbnails below for details.

operation demolition   Operation Countertop   How to Install Tile Install Ceramic Tile   DIY Beadboard Wall

28 Feb

Oval Mirrors & Wall Panels

DIY Beadboard Wall

Imagine finding the perfect accessory. Let’s say it’s a gorgeous drop pendant necklace. The center stone is your favorite gem – the perfect size and shape.

And let’s say that the pricetag on this particular necklace is way, way, way below what it normally retails for. Would that be ample reason to pick it up even if it meant hunting down a new shirt to pair with it? What if you also had to pick up a new pair of jeans and then find the perfect shoes as well?

How much would you spend on a new outfit to compliment a great bargain accessory?

It’s no secret that I’m not a fashion mogul. I consider it a red carpet day if I trade my pjs in for jeans. So this is a cinch for me to answer. But if you switch it up just a bit and trade out the necklace for a mirror and the jeans for a countertop and then swap out the shoes for a new floor, well, things get a little more difficult.

I don’t tend to allocate much, if any, cash towards my wardrobe. I’m still sporting yoga pants from high school (back when we called them stretch pants) with cartoon characters on them. And the last time I bought new shoes I paid with retail Monopoly money at the check out (Kohls cash anyone?) But when it comes to my home’s aesthetic? I can usually justify a few bucks for some new bling.

Especially when it adds to the resale value.

From the get-go I’ve hated the enormous wall-mount mirror in our master bathroom.

oversized wall mirror

Early on, I tried to disguise it’s size with a wood trim frame. When that didn’t quite work I thought adding a shelf might provide just enough distraction for me to survive the handful of years we planned to be here. I was getting desperate when I actually considered building cubby shelves *over* the mirror, straight up the center.

So when I came across someone selling a pair of these crazy cheap frameless oval tilt mirrors I didn’t think twice.

oval frameless mirror

I hopped in my car and drove 90 minutes round trip to get them. Truly, I was 20 miles down the road before I even had an address to plug into the GPS. That’s how much I hated that overbearing looking glass. I was not sad to see it go.

Simply swapping the one out for the other two would have prettied the room up a tad. Sorta like like putting lipstick on a pig. Instead, I tucked the mirrors aside and proceeded to rip the bathroom apart. When the time came to address the condition of the bare wall above the sink, the simple solution was to install wainscot wood panels.

I opted for unfinished 3/8″ knotty pine wainscot panels. I didn’t want to add much depth to the wall. I didn’t want to remove much cash from my pocket. I had just over 25 sq. ft. of surface to cover so (3) packs of the 8′ boards would do the job with pieces left over for other projects.

Installing individual pieces of wood vertically is a pretty straight forward task. Since wainscot is designed to snap together in a tongue and groove fashion, it’s a great solution for covering ugly or slightly damaged wall surfaces ; none of the original wall will be seen once the installation is complete.

First I measured from the top of the new countertop to the ceiling. Then I put the panels on the chop saw and cut them down to size before priming and painting them white.

find wall center

After measuring to find the center of the wall, I built from the middle out with the scrap wood to dry fit my design. I was *this close* to being able to put (17) panels up for a perfect fit. I assumed I’d need to rip off the last board’s tongue anyhow so an extra 1/8″ wasn’t a big deal to remove as well.

dry fit wainscot

Part of the reason I opted to wainscot the wall instead of installing board and batten like in my living room, was because the back wall had bowed slightly during settling. Or maybe the sub-par builders of this house meant to do that. Either way, it was nothing that a few well-placed shims wouldn’t correct.

add lower wall trim

After securing the lower trim runner, I had Dave run down and flip the electrical breaker so I could remove the light sconces.

remove light sconce

Then I sweet talked him into playing photographer. I applied construction adhesive to the back of the wood panel…

add adhesive to panel

and slid it over the tongue of the board beside it. Tapping lightly with a mallet, I worked my way up the height of the panel.

tap beadboard

Then I made certain the line was level before gluing up the next board.

check level and tap

I shot a few brad nails into the panel to make sure it was secure.

brad nail to secure

And replaced the light fixtures before turning the power back on.

install beadboard

The cap moulding that covers the top of the wainscot is designed to lay flush against the wall. If I was doing a traditional beadboard wall installation that’s exactly how I would have finished it off but since I was at the ceiling I decided to tilt the cap and set it like crown moulding.

install crown molding

As with every project I undertake, there’s bound to be tiny gaps here and there in the finished product. But that’s nothing that a bead of caulk won’t fix.

gaps in wainscot

Once I had caulked all of the seams, filled all of the nail holes and rolled on a final coat of paint {or three} it was time to install the mirrors.

Dave and I agreed that as pretty as the brushed nickel pivot arms were they didn’t work with our chrome fixtures so I removed them and installed the mirrors flush on the wood paneling. I do plan to repurpose those metal arms elsewhere though, don’t you worry!

mirror installation

Wrapping up this part of the project meant there were only a few minor things to finish before the whole bathroom overhaul was complete.

It took longer than planned to put the mirrors to use but when I look into them I think o O (wow. I did this).

…and that it might be time to update my wardrobe.

How to Install Wainscot Wall Paneling

1. Measure for wall center {side to side}.
2. Measure for board height {top to bottom}.
3. Make all necessary wood cuts.
4. Turn off power & remove any electrical components.
5. Prepare wall surface if necessary.
6. Prefinish wood if desired.
7. Apply adhesive to panel back and press onto wall.
8. Tap into place with rubber mallet.
9. Secure with brad / finish nails.
10. Repeats Steps 7 through 9 until all panels are installed.
11. Install cap moulding trim. {If working around a room install 1/4 round trim at corners to cover panel seams.}
12. Caulk all seams.
13. Fill nail holes.
14. Touch up paint and/or seal as necessary.

18 Feb

Ceramic Tile Flooring

Install Ceramic Tile

I realize it could appear that I’m dragging this series on updating my master bathroom out unnecessarily. However, rest assured that I am getting these posts published more quickly than the work detailed within them was completed.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Dave. He’ll testify that he left on holiday mid-January with promises that he’d only have to traipse across the living room and back to the kid’s bathroom for “a couple of days”. Let the record show that poor man has logged an additional 2,682 steps in the name of ‘progress’.

BUT I didn’t want to rush the job and screw it up. Plus, I didn’t anticipate the sink and toilet mishaps. And I had to be absolutely certain one person really could do the job since that’s the way I planned to pitch the project.

Besides, I’m just helping him kick-start swimsuit season.

So, now that the baseboard trim and door casings are all removed and the cement backer board is sandwiched between two layers of thinset we can lay the first tile! Finally. Mix up your mortar, let it sit for 10 minutes, whipping it one last time for good measure.

Test the first tile

Leave a 1/4″ gap from any outside walls, spread some mortar onto the floor then holding the trowel at a 45 degree angle (think of opening a hinged box halfway) pull it towards you, teeth down, to create straight lines in the mortar.

Scrape any extra mortar back in to your bucket. Press the tile down into the mud and slightly twist your wrist to set. The back is designed for suction; the twist locks it in place. Then wedge your trowel under a corner of the tile and pry it right back up.

Check grout

Now, I swear I’m not being sadistic when I insist you do this. Really, I’ve got your floor’s long-term health in mind. Look at my test tile – do you think there’s enough mud to hold that sucker down for 15 years? Me neither.

Use enough grout on tile

I troweled on a bit more mortar, bit it and checked again. You want about 75% (or more) of the tile covered. I followed the line I drew out from the wall  and laid more full-sized tiles. It’s best to work in small sections. Since my arms are short I was only able to lay 3 rows at a time.

I used 1/8″ spacers – 2 on every side of the tile – but you can go larger or smaller depending on your design. (Make sure you don’t have so much mortar oozing between the tiles that your spacers get stuck. If necessary, scrape out extra mud before inserting spacers. And keep a wet rag handy.)

Lay tile in small sections

After finishing a few rows, I grabbed a 1×3, laid it flat and tapped with the rubber mallet to level out the tiles across the row. Then I flipped it and repeated the process up and down each row. It takes a bit to find your groove at first but once you do this moves fairly quickly.

Level ceramic tiles

I found that I hated the feeling of the mortar (wet, sticky and sandy) so I had to constantly stop to wash my hands and rinse out my rag. And I got that crap everywhere. If you’re messy like me, don’t worry it’ll wipe off easily with a little water and elbow grease. It’s a little harder to get out of your hair, but doable.

Lay full tiles first

When you come up against obstacles like the toilet flange and water supply line, you’ll need to cut the tile to fit. The easiest way to do this is to take (3) full-sized tiles. Lay the first on the backer board or use the last tile you set down. Set the second tile directly on top of the first. Now, take the third tile and place it as close to the obstacle as possible. Trace the end of Tile 3 onto Tile 2. This is the line you’ll follow when you cut.

Quick trick for measuring tiles

If you’re working with a simple score and snap tool you’ll be able to cut the majority of your tiles (including those around the perimeter and up against the tub) using this trace method. To notch a small square out to fit snugly around the water line you would score the tile with a utility knife and use a pair of nippers to remove the rest.

But if you are fortunate enough to have a friend whose husband has a portable wet saw (thanks Ric!) you can get fancy flipping the tile around to make a ton of vertical cuts into the tile.

4" portable wet saw

Who needs a mood ring when your ass announces your disposition? It’s fair warning to anyone who walks into the room while I’m working.

Cut tile around flange

Tile cutting kicks up a lot of dust and debris. The water gets muddy quickly and dirty water is hard to work with. You’re going to want to regularly change out the reserve basin. Allow me to save you numerous trips back and forth to the tub and recommend having a shopvac on hand. I wish I would have thought of this on Day 1 of cutting.

Shop vac wet saw

Now you know why I was grumpy.

lay ceramic tile

When you’ve finally laid the last tile, spend the money you saved doing it yourself on beer. Or wine. Or chocolate. Whatever, just treat yourself and get a good night’s sleep. The next day (the tile needs 24 hours to set up) mix up a batch or five of grout. (Sanded grout for ceramic, unsanded grout for glass. Sanded will scratch glass or porcelain tiles.)

Mix grout in bucket

While the grout sets up, remove all of your spacers. Then, vacuum and damp mop the floor. I swiped a hot rag over the tiles a few hundred times to make sure all of the mortar had been removed and any debris was gone.

Float grout on tile

Use a rubber float to slop the grout onto the tile. Push and pull across the tiles diagonally to fill the joints with grout. Every. Single. Joint. I got through this part by thinking of all the cute tank tops I’m going to rock this summer.

Approximately two four beers later, you’ll be ready to wipe down the tiles.

Wet sponge over tile

This part will undoubtedly feel like it’s taking the longest amount of time yet. It is. Keep going. After the residual grout and haze is removed, it needs 12-hours to cure enough before resetting the toilet.

My arms required twice that amount of time to return to full use.


This post is part of a series. Read the other parts:

How to Install Tile   Operation Countertop   operation demolition

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