Do-it-yourself ideas, bargains and resources for all around your home.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


When our little shed was disintegrating a few years back, our neighbor told us about a carpenter who builds outbuildings. We called him up and in a few days he framed and built our barn (I think it's about 10x10). For a few extra bucks he put in a skylight so we'd have some natural light in there. He did it completely alone, which I found amazing. I have no idea how he got those walls up by himself. But the really crazy thing is that he only charged about $600. The same size building at a home center is much, much more.

Now, I did have to caulk and paint it myself, but that was no big deal because I love to paint. And as you may know, I have grown to love caulking. Although that was not the case with this project. And completely off subject, the guy has moved away from this area. I have no idea where he is now.

I bring all this up not because we need a new barn. Ours is still fabulous. Rather, I received my "This Old House" newsletter this morning (which I always read) and it had an article about outbuildings. If you are in need of your own backyard barn, you have some options. You can get plans from Better Barns that include a variety of sheds. You've got to buy the materials and build it yourself, but the charming plans are only $30. You can also buy a kit by Handy Home Products at places like Lowe's. Just about everything you need comes with, at a much lower cost than an installed version. Word is that a couple of people can build one in a day.

So just in case you are in the market for a backyard barn, I thought you might want to know about these places. And yes, I've looked at the kits for playhouses. And yes, I want to build one. But not right now. I've got to get that wallpaper up.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No need to read this post, John.

Just go back work, sweetheart. I'm going to talk about scrapping projects or giving myself a manicure or the miracle of a medication-free birth. So no need to stick around here. Go back to your spreadsheets and I'll see you tonight!

Okay, let's hope that worked. While several men are outside my house scraping off old paint, I dropped Audrey off at school and ordered bathroom wallpaper. I'm getting #3. Yes, I know that wallpaper was the least popular choice and that that particular one was not the most popular either. But people, you are just going to have to trust me on this one. It is going to be luscious.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Really clean.

Let me tell you another thing you can do to love your house more: hire someone to paint the trim. When they take off all the storm windows, get a two-quart bucket of water and add two tablespoons of vinegar. Wipe down all the windows with that solution. Go back over the glass with some Windex and paper towels or rags. Then go clean all the storm windows. Make sure you move the screens out of the way so all sides of the glass get clean. Stand back and admire your work. Or have a drink. Because it will take you all day.

But it's worth it. Because your neighbor will tell you your sparkly windows caught her eye when she walked by. And you'll need to wear sunglasses inside because the sharpness of the outside world will sear your retinas.


We spent the weekend really decluttering the house, and oh my gosh does it look good. Everyone should immediately get rid of half the stuff in your house and I guarantee you will love it so much more. We cleared out the photographs that were on the shelves by the fireplace in the den, and moved all our books (out of the studio/living room) in there. That allowed me to put my crafting stuff on the studio bookshelves and to remove a big black wire shelf. That shelf is now on the carport and is great for holding our outdoor stuff, like the watering cans we never use and the 50 lbs. of sidewalk chalk we somehow have.

I'm still debating about the bathroom, and while my readers don't seem thrilled with the idea, I'm really leaning toward ordering wallpaper #3 this week. John doesn't love it (but he doesn't love any of them) but I have complete faith that it is the right choice. This may come down to a thumb-wrestling championship.

We've also hired someone to paint the exterior trim. We have ignored it for too long. I'm actually excited about the possibility of spring arriving now. Because once I finish all my interior painting and decorating, then we can start working on the outside. Just think, new shrubs and flowers and raking the leaves and hanging baskets and....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Good grief.

Okay, the tile guy was not really a tile guy (he's a grout guy) but he was fantastic about answering my million questions and offering advice. Here's a freebie for you: when you take a shower, wipe down your tiled walls with a towel. If they stay dry, your grout will last a lot longer and you won't have to bleach any mildew stains. Because if you use a lot of bleach on the grout it dries it out and will have to be replaced sooner. Dry your tile and use vinegar and water to clean and disinfect.

Now back to my bathroom. It does not seem reasonable to me to pull out all the tile. It's in good condition, it's quite common in this area for this age house, and according to the guy above (who lives in the neighborhood with a house about the same age), there is probably a concrete wall behind the tile. It would also be a pain to pull out just the yellow tiles at the top and bottom of the walls. Too many problems trying to match sizes, especially at the bottom of the wall.

He did recommend glazing the tub and the one person he said to use is the guy I've already called. He also said I could probably pull out the fixtures (soap dish, toilet paper holder) and replace those fairly easily. But now I think if I replaced them with white ones it would look rather glaring. Finally, he said that barring any structural problems, we could put down a new tile floor right over the old one.

--brief aside: What was it with people in the 50s? Was it really all black & white like on tv? Is that why none of the yellows in my bathroom match? Or was everyone just colorblind? --

So I'm down to thinking that a new floor, a tub reglaze and some color on the walls is the way to go. I showed John the wallpaper last night and he doesn't like any of them. Sigh. I am so over this bathroom.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

And now from left field: wallpaper.

Yeah. I know. Hardly anyone voted for wallpaper in the poll. But it struck me some time last night or this morning that I should at least consider it. So I did a little internet searching this morning, then after I dropped off Audrey at school, I headed over to Seabrook. I knew I wanted something contemporary, possibly some type of botanical, and I had paint chip samples that are very close matches to my tile colors. Denise, my new best friend, and I went through several books and I brought home three samples:

1. Although it's hard to see, this sample has a band of pale yellow running through it, along with the slate blue and a lighter version of the brown I used to paint the vanity. It might be a little too busy and a pain to match up when putting it on the walls.

2. I found this on the internet this morning and brought a print-out to Denise. She quickly pulled out the book. I think it is so, so pretty. But maybe it will make the room too dark?

3. A few pages later, in the same book as above, we found this. The blue is right, plus it has some brown tones that work.

So. Any thoughts? A tile guy is coming tomorrow, which could send this whole project into a tailspin yet again. Feel free to leave a comment and give me your unique spin on the whole thing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sink vanity.

First, I want to say thanks to everyone who has voted in the poll and left comments. I've read them all and I appreciate your ideas very much. Second, I've called The Grout Medic to come take a look this week and I'll see what they say. I have another tiler in mind and I'll get his opinion too. For now the bathroom walls are dingy ivory, although I'm leaning toward painting them a light, light blue.

I'm still working on the great cabinet project of 2008. Here's John's bathroom vanity. I love the dark chocolate paint color, but it seems to be taking a long time to dry. I used an oil-based primer and then a satin latex over top. I let the first coat dry for several days and did the second coat this weekend. It still feels slightly (very slightly) sticky and delicate. Has anyone else had this problem? I've decided to just give it time to harden before we start using the cabinet part.

The last thing to get for this room is a shade, and I'm thinking a dark wood blind. I spied one at Bed, Bath and Beyond yesterday and I just need to measure.

I'll let you know about the other bathroom in a few days. In the meantime, I've gone through all the clutter and gotten rid of a small garbage bag of stuff that I don't need/use. And that is the real beauty of all this fixin' up.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Have I mentioned that I have ugly yellow tile in my bathroom? Really? I've brought that up before? Hmm. But have I shown you the tile close up? Oh look. Up there. Ugly. Yellow. Tile.

Let me bore you to death with more bathroom talk. The plan was to replace the doors on the vanity and paint the whole thing chocolate brown. Then I would paint over the two-tone-yellow-stripe-paint job-over-wallpaper-stuck-to-unprimed-drywall. In a lovely ivory color that would soothe the eye and reduce the number of slightly different yellows in the room to a mere four (bathtub, ceramic fixtures, tile and floor). At some point in the future I would have the floor redone. And the bathtub resurfaced. Because the bathtub is yellow. Kind of like the floor, but not the exact yellow. Neither of which are the same yellow as the tile.

So far, the vanity project was a disaster. I had to regroup and just paint the old doors brown. John is working on installing them now. Last night I rolled on the ivory paint, on the ceiling and walls. And let's just say I'm underwhelmed. John called it "dingy". And he's right. How can ivory not look good? The ceiling is 100 percent better than it was. But the walls. Bleh.

I went back to Lowe's and grabbed some paint chips. And I'm thinking I may just need to try to match the blue-gray tile. That yellow is just killing me. I really don't mind the blue-gray. I'm going to contact a few companies about replacing the tile. Or even just the yellow part. It's probably more money than I'm willing to spend. But that yellow. Ugh. Killing me.

Tell me what you think I should do. I've posted a poll here and on my other blog. Help.

Monday, February 11, 2008

And I thought it would all be so simple.

Not simple as in "easy." But simple as in "direct" or "uncomplicated".

My simple project has been a huge pain. And I realize that everyone goes through this. My plan was to replace the doors on both bathroom vanities with simple (there's that word again) square pieces of wood. Something a little more modern. So we bought wood and cut it and primed it and painted it and sanded it and attempted to install it. And it looked like crap. I don't think we have the tools to achieve what I was looking for and I'll just consider it a lesson learned. Today I'll prime the old doors and paint them and we'll just go with the old stuff but in brown instead of white. I'll live with it.

While John was wrestling with the cabinets, I repaired my bathroom walls with joint compound and lots of sanding. Then I primed the ceiling and walls with Kilz2 (latex). I heard a good tip about dealing with popcorn ceilings (ugh. But I was not willing to scrape this one off). When you paint a popcorn ceiling, roll in one direction and be done with it. Don't roll back and forth because the wet paint will loosen the popcorn and it will start to fall off randomly. I did that and it worked well. And I couldn't believe how dark that ceiling was before. The lighter color makes a nice difference.

I also scraped out the old caulk around the tub (which appeared to have been applied by a drunken blind person) and put a fresh seal down. Holy moly does it look better. Here's my tip for caulking around tile: first, use caulk meant for water areas. Put down strips of tape above and below where you want the caulk to go. Squeeze caulk out. Wet your finger and smooth out the caulk. Pull the tape off right away and carefully smooth again with your (wet) finger. On the second go-round I held my index finger perpendicular to the caulk line and smoothed. This seemed to help me stay straighter.

So today I'm back in there working. First I need to start painting the old doors. I'm using an oil-based primer as recommended by the Lowe's paint guy. On top of that goes the brown latex. Once I get that in progress I'll paint the walls and ceiling a lovely ivory color. Sigh. Wish me luck.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Rethinking this.

Hmmmmm. I'm thinking that taking down the wallpaper may be a bad idea. The wallpaper was adhered to what looks like unprimed drywall. And as I'm trying to get it off, I'm gouging it. That will require a lot of repair and sanding. Plus, it's probably not good to sponge hot water onto unprimed drywall, which is one of the ways I'm trying to get the wallpaper off.

So. Before I get any farther, I'm going to stop. I'll look for any loose wallpaper and remove it. Then I'll do some wall repair with leftover joint compound I have from the other bathroom. I'll prime the walls and then I'll paint. Sound good to you?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Main bathroom.

This is how it looks now, in all it's yellow-ness. After this weekend, it will not look exactly like this anymore.

These framed calendar pages will stay, as will the medicine cabinet to the right that you can barely see. Another wall mounted cabinet (white) gets to stay.

The painted-over wallpaper will be history tomorrow. I'll use the same Polished Ivory I've used on the kitchen and other bathroom ceilings. And I'll paint the ceiling in here too.

The bathroom vanity (and the one in John's bathroom) is getting new doors and a coat of chocolate brown paint. This vanity will also get new hardware. I'll keep that rolling cart next to the vanity, but I'll be looking to replace it with something smaller down the road.

At some point, I will get the tub reglazed. White. The yellow hurts my soul. I'll also fix some of the broken grout on the tub wall.

And sometime in the future the floor will be redone. And I'll get a new shower curtain. For now I plan to leave the yellow and gray-blue tile. It covers so much of the bathroom and is in good shape. So maybe with the other changes the yellow tile will not be so hideous. Maybe.

There's also a storage closet behind the door and I have a whole plan for that, if I can get it to work. More details later.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

And more rearranging.

Our third bedroom became the girls' playroom last year. It holds nearly all their toys and they get their own tv. It works for us. This is the way it used to look:

It's a hard room to photograph; above I'm standing at the doorway. Below, I'm over by the closet.

I truly wish someone had videotaped John and I moving that sleeper sofa with the giant rolled arms from the living room to here. It was only about 20 feet, but it took half an hour and much cursing to get it through three doorways. All I can say is that when I want something to happen, I pretty much make it happen through sheer will. Physics are irrelevant.

The new arrangement was precipitated by the purchase of this wonderful bookcase at World Market ($150 on sale). I wanted to move all the girls' books to one spot (they had been in about four different places throughout the house) and I wanted a piece with room to grow.

Ha. We filled it. With what we already had. Wonderful and horrifying at the same time. There will have to be some purging, I think.

As I pan to the left, the tv armoire is still to the left of the door, along with the Barbie dollhouse John and I made one year for Christmas.

The sofa used to be along this wall. But with a filled bookshelf (and no room for the toys that used to be on the shelf that used to be where the bookcase is now) we had to make other plans. We kept this wire rack for toy storage. It's opposite the bookcase.

And the sofa moved in front of the window. I hate blocking the window. But it's the only thing we can do right now to make the room work. And it does work better for tv viewing, since it's directly across from the tv now.

I'm still not sure about the color of the room. I will probably change the curtains. And the rug is just a $50 remnant that is stained and ugly. But the girls will probably have to get a little more careful with the crafts before I get a new one.


Up until last Saturday, this is how the girls' room used to look:

The two twin beds were in an L shape, with bedside tables next to them, and a dresser and shelving unit on the other wall.

Now it looks like this:

I bought new mattress covers for the beds and put them on, and then started rearranging furniture. Granted, our house is small. Our bedrooms are small. But I want the girls to share a room while they are young. Later, in the next house, they'll get their own rooms. But for now they share a bedroom and they get their own playroom.

We love the new arrangement. John says it looks more like a real bedroom. And he's right. I still need to get two small lamps for the dresser (the old lamp is from when Margret was a baby). And Margret doesn't mind that her bedside table is now across the room. It's still good for stashing secret treasures.

With the new arrangement, we can also open the beautiful window shutters and let more light into the room. The area above is still a bit jam-packed with crap for my taste, but the girls like having all those shelves for their dolls and animals.

In addition to new lamps, I'll also get some new curtain panels. And I have an idea to make tufted headboards, but that won't be too soon. They've lived without them this long; they can wait a few more months.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

We don't need no stinking medicine cabinets!

This photo is kinda dark, and there's a shadow from the standing cabinet, but this is the final wall after drywall repair. Not perfect, but I'm so proud of myself for doing it.

And here's the final vision. After looking and looking for the right-sized and -priced mirror, we decided to use one we already had (courtesy of my mom, from many years ago). I love, love, love the way it looks. And once I paint the sink cabinet brown (and change the door fronts) I think it will look even better.

Yesterday morning we went on a shopping trip to look for a coffee table. Instead, we got new mattress pads for the girls' beds (buy one, get one half price at Linens 'n' Things) which resulted in a complete rearranging of their room, a big five-shelf bookcase ($150 at World Market) for the girls which resulted in a complete rearranging of the playroom, and a rug for the kitchen sink area. We needed a coffee table for today's superbowl party, but we ended up just moving the ottoman from the playroom to the den. It works for now.

Friday, February 1, 2008

So close.

I'm so close to finishing up the bathroom wall (as seen below). It needed two coats of joint compound and I took the time to sand the second coat extremely well. So well that I just put a coat of primer on it and I'll paint it tomorrow (probably two coats). By Sunday noon, the mirror will be up. I swear it.