Ottoman Adoration (Volume 1 of 3)

October 03, 2011   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  13 responses

I. Spy. Decor.

I set out with a new project in mind last week, one inspired purely by a collection of ottomans I loved at Anthropologie. In person, I very sneakily photographed one with my iPhone without bothering to focus. I had a big crush on this piece.

Sneaky, blurry shot in Anthro. Boy, this ottoman makes me happy.

But not with the price. The $198 Dutch Wax Ottomans were gorgeous and made of exceptional fabrics (and if the price fits your budget, I encourage you to shop for them right over here, because they are pretty stunning).

After inspecting the models at the store, I was surprised that they weren’t super-cushy the same way that poufs are, instead, constructed from a light framework with simple batting and a slipcover. I bet if you were there you could have seen the brain gears working away. I hop-skip-jumped into the I could make that mindset.

So I started. With intentions of making a series of 3 to serve as extra living room seating and literal ottoman footrests for the couch. It’s not a terribly annoying issue, but the trunk that I’ve been using as coffee table in my living room is a smidgen too high to be comfortable sitting with your feet up on for long periods of time, but at $15 from a garage sale, it’s been a fine solution over a store-bought model. Nonetheless, I thought slightly shorter, cushioned ottomans might improve our level of comfort, and add a little something by way of fun new fabrics.

Blurry face, aching back. The trunk-turned-coffee table is just a hair too high to be comfy.

I started by bringing home six 2″x2″ boards (which are in reality 1.5″x1.5″ each, and 8′ in length) to serve as the base for each unit. Before I made any cuts, I did determine what the size of each ottoman should be, and that be 18″x18″ in surface size, by 16″ in height. If you try this at home, I encourage you to scope out your own size; my living room is a little small, which is why mine are petite. In a dream world, I would be making a sweet 4’x4′ ottoman, maybe of leather like the one Robbie has in her spectacular beach house.

For each ottoman, I cut the lumber so that I had 12 boards.

  • four 18″ pieces
  • four 15″ pieces
  • four 13″ pieces

Pre-cut 2x2 boards for assembling one ottoman. Remember, I'm doing 3. I used six 8' boards all together.

The overall construction plan called for a piece-by-piece assembly, best illustrated by this not-perfectly-to-scale doodle right here:

Can you see it?

The only thing that would have made this assembly easier, was a Kreg Jig, which I really need to get one of these days. As a plan B, the strategy of using 2.5″ wood screws did quite well; I pre-drilled the boards before adding the wood screws, which helped prevent splitting and really made attaching two boards together a lot easier.

Pre-drilling the boards helped eliminate splitting, and made connecting the boards much easier. I assembled the top and bottom squares first, before attaching the 4 pieces that would set the height of the ottoman.

Assembling the top and bottom of each ottoman flat made the construction easier for me.With all four pieces in place, the legs were screwed into place, leaving me with a skeleton of my future ottoman.

Ottoman skeleton!It was feeling a little wobbly. As in, not quite sturdy enough to hold me if I were to stand on it to dust the ceiling fan, but I was certain that once I added some walls to the framework, it would shape right up. I happened to have a stash of backer board on hand already (the kind used in the back of picture frames), so I cut it into pieces that would cover each of the four surrounding walls, and planned to attach them into place with smaller, less intense 3/4″ wood screws.

Investigating screws and the backer board that would be used to begin the ottoman framing.

(Creepy lens glare/smudge right over Cody’s eye in that shot. Just noticed it. Ignore.)

The backer board I used (thin plywood would be a good alternative BTW) screwed into place easily.

Attaching the backer board to the ottoman frame.

Very quickly, my ottomans were taking form.

Ottomans taking form!The sturdiness of the framework was really improved with the backer board walls; the final touch for stability, was adding a piece of 5/8″ OSB to serve as the top of each ottoman (also leftover from a previous project and just taking up space in the basement). Thin enough to not weigh down the whole ottoman, it was also thick enough to reinforce the entire structure and make it sturdy enough to stand on if I needed to. Also, makes for a flat, non-bouncy surface for whatever we want to put on top of it.

Leftover OSB was the perfect fit for the ottoman surface.

All three completed, it looks a little like something that would be on the front lawn of an art gallery. For scale, how about comparing my masterpiece Stacko-De-Ottomano to Codeman?

Finished boxes. And a curious dog.(Naturally, two seconds later he howled and I caught it on camera.)

Finished boxes. And a howling dog.

If you’re looking for a shopping list, here’s an all-in count of what I purchased to complete these pieces. You’ll want to customize the quantities based on the size of your own piece:

  • 2″x2″ boards for the framework (roughly $1.50 each – I bought six, so that’s $9)
  • 3/4″ wood screws (roughly $3 depending on where you shop + total quantity)
  • 2.5-3″ wood screws (roughly $5, again depending on store + quantity)
  • Backer board or thin plywood (a single 4×8 sheet that you can find for <$10 should be enough for two ottomans)
  • 5/8″ OSB or Plywood (a scrap size would be ideal and inexpensive)

This project really needed to be broken into three sections to be digestible (and not become a singular mammoth post), so tomorrow, check back, because I’m sure you’ll want to see how this tower of madness becomes living room glam.

And not to give too much away, but I’ll need your expert design input… please.

My October To-Do List

September 30, 2011   //  Posted in: Basement, Decor, Dining Room   //  By: Emily   //  6 responses

Even with all of the projects that I finish in any given month, there are still a lot of things that I’ve been meaning to get started on. I’ve added them to the top of my to-do list with the intention of lighting a fire under my butt.

The goal is to have all 5 completed in the month of October.

1) New key organization.

I installed a little Urban Outfitters bird hook when I moved in. Me and my single key ring lived very happily together. And then a year later, Pete and I bought scooters, the long dangly keys for which we kept on separate rings (two, three). And a year after that, he moved in and brought his 3 additional keyrings (four, five, six, this is starting to sound vaguely like The Brady Bunch). And so, I think you can tell by this picture it’s time to upgrade.

A full load. Poor birdie.

We’re thinking something with multiple hooks, because on a single hook you’re inevitably always trying to reach the key that’s at the bottom of the stack. Maybe some cool hooking functionality, wait and see, nothing’s been started yet.

2) Organize that damn basement.

We’re both guilty of dropping our tools right on the top of the workbenches when we’re done using them. We rarely take the time to do a full-on clean out to organize the space, which only frustrates both of us when we’re looking for that one special clamp or the extra extension cords. It’s time.

Oh zoink. This basement is embarrassing.

The paint collection has begun to cascade as I’ve bought more and more primers and paints. I reuse the paints I already own almost obsessively when I’m doing new projects instead of buying a new shade, so maybe it will surprise you just how many partially-filled containers I have.

Oh zoink. This basement is embarrassing.

3) What to do with this wall, what to do, what to do.

Up until this month, I had a lot of my reclaimed wood frames hung on brackets in my dining room. Over the course of the summer, they’ve sold, been gifted, or found other places to live in the home. I’m getting out of the biz; it was fun while it lasted but now almost all of my product listings have officially expired on Etsy (I voluntarily chose not to renew those that didn’t sell). This also explains why my “shop” page is MIA.

It’s time to refocus on what to do with this plain dining room wall.

Dining room wall. Once filled with frames, now completely empty.

And, now that I’m looking at it, I’ve been meaning to hang that guitar somewhere since April. And, just picked another 24 tomatoes today. I’m drowning.

4) Clean out that DVR.

What can I say, we’ve been busy all summer. Because my DVR is nearly at capacity, it’s time we finish up those hour-long-episode series to make way for the fall programming line-up.

So you know what you’re seeing, Dish Network breaks down storage for both high-def and standard-def TV. We mostly use HD, and at 6 hours left (usually well above 40 hours), I’m not sure that I’ll make it through the weekend unless I get busy fast. I also recall the days when I had SD well over 170 hours available. This is why I was frantically watching Extreme Couponing at 8:26PM last night.

Trying not to show you the embarrassing shows I have DVR'ed. Like Four Weddings.

In our defense, we’re saving that Good Eats because there’s a fab tutorial on chopping up a chicken. What is a little insane is that below it is the Betty White SNL from May, 8 2010. You know, the one the media and viewers went wild for? Still unwatched.

5) Add some cushion to the bottom of the dining room chairs.

It’s hardwood against hardwood in there. It’s grating. And because now that we’re both working from home, it’s a lot of grating, 5-days-a-week. I need some of those furniture gliders with the velcro-esque surface.

Wooden IKEA chair legs. Need some cushion.

How about you guys? Is fall clean-up upon you? Do you too suddenly feel like you need janitor’s storage for all of your keys? Are you also way behind on The Glades? And Is Outsourced even worth watching? 

My Ex-Green Thumb

September 29, 2011   //  Posted in: Gardening   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses

In re-reading this post, I realize that it sounds very dramatic. Enjoy, and realize how seriously I take the smallest, two dollar things.

I’m never too sure why a plant decides to croak when it does.

I’m no horticulturist, and whatever green thumb I have is only based on genetic luck-of-the-draw. When a healthy plant suddenly goes sour without obvious cause, I’m usually mystified.

Earlier this summer, I brought home a new succulent (the shot glass-sized plant dwarfed by a leafy, thriving monster that I highlighted over in this post):

Big plant. Little plant.Shadowed, it stayed in it’s tiny plastic Home Depot container for a month (or more) after I bought it. Tight-rooted, but it was watered normally and thriving. I recently upgraded it’s housing to a custom-made portland cement planter that was deeper, wider, and all-in-all, gave those baby succulent roots some room to spread out and get comfy. (You’ve seen this picture before, over yonder.)

Mini-planter. A more managable 2-pounder and perfect home to my new little succulents.It was only within a few days of the transplant that I noticed that it had crashed and burned. Every leaf had tumbled off, still green. It was like nothing I had ever seen before from the ordinarilly rough-and-tough breed (Or species? Or genus?).

I thought succulents could withstand anything from the blazing Texan sun to nuclear war.

Wait, what? A fresh, green, lively succulent is biting the dust?

So… what was going wrong?

1) It was receiving the same amount of sunlight it had before,
2) It was in fresh potting soil,
3) It was potted in portland cement, which every other DIY tutorial had recommended,
4) And that planter had several holes drilled in the base to allow for drainage.
5) I hadn’t over-watered, I hadn’t under-watered, I hadn’t given it any beverage beyond water.

Despite reading endlessly that succulents and concrete go together like peanut butter and jelly, circling in my mind was something my Dad said recently, about how if a plant isn’t classified as a foundation plant (a plant that would thrive living nearby the perimeter, the foundation, of your house), it might get all choked up with the lime in cement. (And right there’s some of the genetic green thumb I attained.) With that thought, I’ve been watching the mighty mighty leafy plant for signs of unhappiness, not considering for a minute that the youthful succulent would be the one who got axed.

Clueless, I’ve been reading up on succulent root rot with as much interest as I read The Baby Sitter’s Club circa 1994, and decided to try a few things.

I’ll tell you now, it’s too early to know if any of this is going to actually work. Suggestions based on similar experience are appreciated.

In the instance that the potting soil I used was aggravating the plant, I carefully removed the succulent from the cement, inspected the roots (which appeared healthy), cleaned them thoroughly with water, and repotted in the same cement planter with some of the clean topsoil that was delivered a few days ago (and mixed it with a little bit of beach sand for good measure as advised by many of the succulent specialists).

Note: I photographed the weakling next to a thriving succulent in the house, one which appears to be dropping a leaf; this is the more common succulent death I’m familiar with, but every leaf had fallen from the baby succulent green as could be.

Repotted baby succulent. A single leaf remains.I also potted it a bit deeper this time; word on the internet is that succulents are really quick to re-root, so I attempted to get the base of the plant deep within so that it might root from the existing stems.

Two-thirds of the stems show little potential; I’m only mildly optimistic because there are also a few little pops of green at the tip of each.

A wee little bit of green at the tips of these brown stems.

The third stem still shows promise, with at least an inch of greenery and a single leaf appearing stabilized.

A single leaf remains. What gives.Thanks for hearing my side of the story.

Help a girl out if you have any tricks up your sleeve. Or if you’ve seen this before. Or if there’s something I can do to prevent all of my other succulents from facing the same death.