Up In Here, Up In Here

June 12, 2012   //  Posted in: DIY, Flooring, Stairwell   //  By: Emily   //  2 responses

Oh right, fun fact, there’s a huge attic in this house. You don’t see much of it on this blog because it’s mostly storage, and as much as it would make a wonderfully converted office or living space like some of our friends have done in their homes, that takes some mad beans. Cost restraints aside, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought about it, especially considering that the house will be in need of a brand-spankin’ new roof in the next few years, and wouldn’t that be the perfect time to spruce it up? Think skylights or more dormers, and some great area rugs over the existing wood panel floor. Or cool FLOR carpet tiles and rad CB2 loveseats…. I digress.

Our access to the attic is great too; unlike crawlspace designs where you’re popping through a hole in the back of your guest room ceiling, there’s a real, permanent staircase accessible behind a closed door next to the bathroom. It’s locale helps to further explain why the stairwell closet that I painted here is such a wonky shape.

Ooh, dramatic. The lesser seen attic entryway.

Thumbing through my brain cells and the search functionality on the blog, I’m pretty sure that the only attic-improvement related project that I tackled was this one where I repainted and refinished the paned glass window that overlooks the front yard. Good project, totally worth it from a curb appeal standpoint, but it didn’t really tell you a lot about the attic space itself.

The lack of attic documentation has a lot to do with the fact that it’s really dark up there with only one window and a single light bulb. And spiders, there are some spiders. And Pete’s Carhart snowsuit that hangs in the corner in shadows convinces me that someone is hiding in the corner of the attic every time I embark to innocently find Christmas ornaments or bubble wrap or extra cardboard boxes. So just trust me, it’s a tall room, and big too (the entire size of the footprint of my home) and hopefully someone, someday makes great use of the space.

Me, standing tall in the attic.

When I moved into the house, there wasn’t much I needed to store in the attic. It was almost completely empty until we moved some extra kitchen cabinets up there for safe keeping in the fall of 2010. It filled up much more when Pete moved in last spring. Kids toys. Extra clothes. Lamps. An inordinate number of Christmas tree stands and bed frames.

These days, we’re up and down the stairs at least few times a week, usually carrying up something big and heavy, or carrying down something big and heavy in almost no natural light and the glow of a single light bulb. And one thing is apparent: those painted steps are slippery.

Prepping the attic stairs for a little redo.

Adding some traction paint to the stairs has been on my to-do list for the last 6-months or so, but I’ve been waiting for warmer weather so that I can open the single dormer window and the attic door for access and ventilation without releasing precious heat in chillier months.

Creating your own gritty-traction-sandpaperish floor isn’t anything super special or new-founded; you can either buy those non-slip panels to stick a rough surface onto the smooth surface, or blend floor paint with fresh-from-the-beach sand and paint it on yourself.

Floor paint and sand! Makes a slip-free staircase.

For my slip-free stairwell concoction, I used about 2-cups of Valspar Porch + Floor paint, the same gloss light gray that I had purchased and used when I was repainting the sunroom floor, and added what equated to about 1-cup of beach sand until the consistency felt rough and tough and totally grit-tastic. I mixed the two right in an old plastic container that had previously been used for mixing tile grout, so any remaining gritty wouldn’t do any harm in the grand scheme of things… I mention that since maybe you’re wondering why the container itself looks filthy.

Mixing floor paint and sand to create gritty paint!

Before I got to painting the top of every step, I had given the whole staircase a really good wash down to eliminate the dust and dog fur and dirt that had been ignored for the last three years.

Starting from the top step, I worked my way downward to paint my way out of the attic stairwell, slathering an even coat of sandy paint to the tread of each step (not the riser and not the side pieces).

Steps painted!

Painting the treads was quick, and once it was dry, I came back through with the same paint, un-sanded, to re-coat the remaining dark wood so that the whole staircase was a consistent shade of light gray.

Considering that I was going from seriously dark brown to a light gray, the stairwell itself is refreshed and brighter, even though it still looks dungeon-esque in this photo:

A finished stairwell.

The project itself was pretty effortless, and the gritty texture of each stair tread is so nice, so grippy that it’s like getting a bottom-of-the-foot pedicure when you walk on it. Can you see the sparkle of the sand in this picture?

Gritty stair treads, a huge improvement in making the attic stairs not so slippery.

There will be no ballet twirls or slips on these stairs; it’s like walking on low-grit sandpaper.

Hey, what are those little round plugs on each stair? Does anyone know? They pop loose and seem to serve zero purpose.

Attic stairs. Lookin' good in gray!

The paint job on the stairs wasn’t the neatest, but that was actually intentional. Not sure if you noticed in all of the previous images and quietly judged me, but the walls of the attic stairwell need a damn good refinishing as well, which will only result in a repriming and repainting of the entire stairwell in due time. So, no sense in cutting in carefully where the stairs meet the wall since it’ll be cleaned up in due time anyways.

A very damaged plaster wall. Next up: skim coating!

Hopefully I’ll get around to putting my skim-coating hat on in the next few days. All I know is that skim coating anything repeatedly is low on the list of things that I love to do, so it’s going to require more than coffee and blaring Cosmo talk radio to get my blood pumping.

Who’s ready to get this started?

Repackaging The Leftovers

June 11, 2012   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY, Gardening, Sunroom   //  By: Emily   //  10 responses

It’s not often that I can bear to let my DIY-efforts go to waste, so this is just another one of those instances where other project leftovers morph into something else purposeful around the house. The inspiration this time? A stack of leftover wooden hexagons.

Background: I created a whole slew of carefully cut and assembled hexagons a few months ago to add visual interest to our bedroom in the form of a new semi-headboard. I hadn’t needed every last hexagon in the batch that I created meticulously, so 6 extra forms have been sitting untouched in the sunroom waiting for the right project to come around. You may have seen them making appearances over the last few weeks. Like in this post about my newest splurge:

Mountain print by Jaime Derringer,

They were kind of cute left stacked and shoved aside; a charming, unorganized, fun, geometric pile of assembled pine that wasn’t doing much, but wasn’t yet trash-worthy. I knew something good would come from them with the right brain power (and this brain is usually powered with peppermint mochas), so I hit up Starbucks and got working.

I already liked how the forms looked aesthetically when stacked, appearing disorderly, so I decided that each of these 6.5″ hexagons could be affixed to one another and hung as a unique and handmade planter in our home.

What will become of a simple canning jar and a stack of scrap hexagons?

Before I did much of anything, I had to figure out a way for the hollow stack to securely contain a pot, or in the case of this DIY planter experiment, a canning jar that was both narrow and short enough to fit inside the hollow stack (the jar itself is precisely 2.75″W x 4″H). The planter needed a real base, you know, or else the jar would just slip through like this:

Adding in a bottom reinforcement for the hanging planter.

The simplest solution I devised was to create a platform for the jar to sit on using nothing but stiff 16-gauge wire (a piece of scrap wire that I had leftover in the basement). By pre-drilling holes the same size as the wire into opposite sides of the lowest-most layer of wood, I created a minimal space in which to weave the wire and hopefully reinforce the jar in the entire hanging unit. This is going to make more sense in un momento.

Adding in a bottom reinforcement for the hanging planter.

The wire wrapped through the holes easily and tautly, forming a platform on which the jar could sit upon while also being easy, and minimalist, and as least-exposed as possible. I snipped the wire to length with some handy wire cutters and then looped the ends of the wire around one of the outer edges. As I’m looking at this photo now, I’m realizing I could have also done the reinforcing on the inner side of the hexagon to keep the outer edges even more clean-lined, but… well, live and learn from my trials.

Adding in a bottom reinforcement for the hanging planter.

Once the base layer of hexagon was wired tautly, I began attaching one layer of wood to the next, piling one after another upwards to replicate the disorganized stack that had been sitting unused for all these weeks. Relying on wood glue between each layer and screws of various lengths, the form for the planter began to take shape quickly, becoming a secure hexagonal single unit.

Assembling the hexagon hanging planter with screws and wood glue.

I clamped each layer as I glued and pre-drilled holes strategically through multiple layers of pine to make way for the reinforcing screws. Some screws were shorter and attached one hexagon directly to the one below it, and some were larger, like the 3.5″ screw in this next photo that extended through multiple layers to really lock the planter together tightly so the weight of the entire planter wasn’t solely pinned on the bottom layer that held the weight of the jar and plant. I also aligned the screws in such a way that the next layer of wood would cover the screw heads, so the finished piece appears pretty clean-lined with the exception of two screws that went through the very top layer and down through.

Each screw itself, I should mention, was pulled straight out of my scrap screw stash, so I didn’t have to purchase new ones to assemble of this little modern planter. Plus, since I used about 16 screws in total, now I have more room in my junk hardware drawer.

Assembling the hexagon hanging planter with screws and wood glue.

With the planter assembled strongly, I found myself a new little succulent at the store and decided it would work perfectly due to its tendency to grow long dangling tentacles. We have one of these same succulent varieties in our bathroom window and it went from being a micro-plant to having 14″ shoots overhanging its pot in a short 6-month span.  I have high hopes for this little guy, and only had to spend $3.99 to make him mine.

Newbie succulent!

Because the canning jar that worked best in his planter doesn’t have any drainage, and because I didn’t want hanging plant drippage on our newly refinished sunroom buffet, I layered a bunch of shale rocks (leftovers from the entryway floor project) to give the base of the jar some room for excess water and air. I have another small pot of succulents in the house with this same built-in drainage, and they’ve grown and thrived for about 3-years so I’m hopeful that it works well here too. Also, I happen to know that my own green-thumbed Grandma has succulents taller than me growing out of yogurt cups, so if this fails, it’ll be out with the jar and in with the recycled yogurt container.

Adding some shale to the bottom of the glass jar for water drainage.

When it came time to hang the new succulent planter, I splurged on a new set of ceiling hooks that claim to hold up to 100 lbs. when installed into wood, which is what our sunroom ceiling consists of. At $4, it came with two hooks and I already have sweet plans for the second hook. I wouldn’t be needing those blue anchors that it came with since the hooks will be going into wood and not drywall, but they’re a nice bonus gadget and will be saved for a future project instead of trashed.

New hooks for the sunroom hanging basket.

On the topic of anchors, I did kind of hope for a more toggle-reinforced kind of system to ease my mind about the planter plummeting out of the ceiling and smashing on the buffet, you know, since the sunroom ceiling is just a simple beadboard ceiling that I feel like I could snap in two over my knee, but these mega-hooks seemed to do the trick; even with a simple 3/16″ predrilled hole, I had to twist with every ounce of upper body strength to get the hook in tightly against the ceiling. Maybe I was accidentally into a stud. Success.

Attaching the hook into the ceiling.

Back to the planter itself; I debated over how to hang it a bit before I actually got down to using f-r-e-e twine from beneath my kitchen sink, but I think it turned out quite fine and secure. To decorate the plain twine just a pinch, I used a few extra natural wood beads that were leftover from when I created my pendant light (see, this post is totally about embracing the scrap materials).

Twine and beads will hold the entire planter from the ceiling.

I attached the twine to the planter using three eye screws that were spaced apart to keep the planter weight well-distributed. (Also, the eye hooks were free from our basement scrap bin, high-five).

The discoloring on the side of this piece is residual wood glue; I think had initially glued these hexagons to the bedroom headboard when I was still in assembly-mode, but when I realized that the headboard would have been too wide in the available wall space, I popped them off and cleaned them up, and that’s why they’re leftovers. Whatever glue remains isn’t raised, sticky, or obvious to the touch… just visible.

Hanging the DIY planter in the sunroom.

The finished hanging piece is quite charming. Tiny, but with lots of personality in the space.

Hung: A unique hexagon planter.

Hung over the buffet and in front of the new ombre art, it’s a good fit for the way the rest of the sunroom is coming together.

A finished DIY scrap material hanging planter.

More to come as we get into the week; we spent all day Friday and Saturday trekking to and from Boston, MA for a graduation par-tay, so I put most projects on hold while we were gone, but I promise there’s some good stuff up my sleeves! What were you up to all weekend?

Jolly June: 5 Little Things!

June 08, 2012   //  Posted in: Backyard, Being Thrifty, Dog-Related, Garage, Gardening   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses

It’s been a radically productive few weeks in Rochester with many outdoor projects made possible by super-unseasonably-hot temperatures and rain-free days at the lake. I love this time of year.

There were a bunch of things that I wanted to cross off the list before summertime hits full steam (how is it that our calendars are already so booked?), so we got down to cleaning things up, making home upgrades, and earning back a little dough. What’s been keeping you busy this past month?

1. Welcome to Furmination Nation

After much being-a-cheapo deliberation, I splurged on Cody’s own Furminator. If you’ve ever priced them out, you’ll have seen that the “long hair giant dog” variety (the big kahuna Furminator) will run you about $72.99+tax at your local pet store (gag!), and even a 15% off  + $7 promotional coupon wasn’t enough to beat the pricing on

For only $25 (+$0 in shipping thanks to being Amazon Prime members), our product arrived in the mail last week, and I promptly went to work grooming the beast (on a 95-degree day with sweat pouring down my face).

Furminator time!

We borrowed a cat-sized Furminator last summer, and while it worked, this wide 6″ model saved me a lot of time. It trims an insane amount of undercoat with each rake.

Furminator time!

I think the dog lost 10-pounds. This fur was from the first pass, although the second pass resulted in equal sized piles of fluff. Undercoat relief!

Cody, post-Furmination.

2. Buh-bye, cabinets.

We said goodbye (and good-buy) to our trio of IKEA cabinets, a set that I purchased from a friend when I bought my house. I had grown pretty attached to them, especially the one that I painted pink last summer for our office storage, but practically speaking, they weren’t really fitting our need anymore. In the office, it wasn’t quite enough space, and for kid’s toys in the guest room, they were a little wobbly and we decided that it’s more important that our next batch of furniture to be easy for Julia to store her toys within, without fear that the whole shelf would topple on her. And I thought they were a little too tall for the bedrooms, but that might just be me being crazy.

I can’t remember what I paid for the set three years ago, but I was able to sell them to a nice family via Craigslist for $100, which may or not be exactly what I paid originally. In my brain, I’m considering it a wash and doing a happy dance at the opportunity to find (or build) something new.

Sold my trio of IKEA cabinets!

3. I designed Tomato Gate 2012.

Year after year, I find that I have to take more and more precautions with the tomato plants that my parents seed and deliver to me so generously. Last year, my Dad planted 9 babies and while we had lots of good tomatoes, the plants were too big, over-crowded, overflowing, and the dog found his way into them and got sick (not too sick, but tomatoes and especially the plant leaves are highly poisonous to dogs, and if he had been a smaller breed it probably would have been severe). This year, I took precautions: I only planted 4 (not 10), I made a custom gardening bed that sits above the ground, and I installed secure chicken wire.

Installing tomato gate.

The chicken wire, wrapped securely around tall stakes just within the wooden frame, wraps in one full sheet all the way around. At the stake that holds both the beginning and end of the wire, I taped the sharp edge with Gorilla Tape to easily identify where I could unhook the wire and access the plants.

Taping the edge of the tomato cage chicken wire.

Grow little tomatoes, grow!

4. We cured the Harley!

A big ol’ emphatic THANK YOU to everyone who commented and emailed about ways we might want to try removing the oil-based stain splatters from Pete’s Harley (a gut-wrenching DIY project error that I confessed to here). The winning solution goes to Tim, who recommended paint thinner to loosen the stain without damaging the finish of the motorcycle. In addition to the paint thinner, Pete bought a pack of plastic razor blades to help pop the stain loose without cutting or scratching the finish on the bike.

Using paint thinner and a plastic razor to clean stain off the motorcycle.

It was one of those cleaning experiences where every time you moved your head to a new angle and saw the fender in a new light, you saw more bits of stain to pop loose, but still only took us about 15 minutes to remove all signs of the stain, and re-wax the bike.

Can we all breathe a big sigh of relief now?

Removed stain splatters from the Harley fender using paint thinner and plastic razor blades.

5. We got hosey.

After this happened to our last hose, we decided it was time for a new one:

Bombed out garden hose.

We actually did try and splice and correct the split in the damaged hose, but it was too weakened after 3 summers of use to be fully curable. What, hoses don’t last as long as people?

Our $28 replacement extends 100-ft, easily reaching both the front and back yard, and instead of rolling it up into the plastic hose container that the old one had been stored in for years, we bought a simple $8 metal hook and installed it directly to the side of the deck with 2″ lag bolts for easy hose-to-garden access. Is it wrong for me to say that we’re too easily irritated and old to be wanting to battle a garden hose anymore?

Upgraded hose!

What projects are rocking your weekends?