Mini-celebration + A Garage Makeover Miracle

May 15, 2012   //  Posted in: Casual Celebrations, DIY, Garage, Organized, Scooter Fun   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses

Today’s my third home-a-versary.

Three years ago this morning I still didn’t know what I’d owe at closing that same day (poor girl, bank-panic, high blood pressure). Three years ago by noon I was scared that the old homeowners would take it back (there were issues all around, and luckily they didn’t). Three years ago at 2PM they told me they lost the house keys (and then found them moments before I went into hysterics). And three years ago by nightfall, I had already removed every last piece of carpet in the living room, on the stairs, and in all three bedrooms (and I love those hardwoods every day). Take a moment to speed through the before + afters page today in celebration.

Not intentionally aligned with the 3rd home-a-versary festivities, Pete and I spent all day Sunday doing something that I’ve been talking about doing since I moved in: Getting the garage seriously organized.

For the first year I lived here, I didn’t have much and only opened the garage door in order to move the garbage can in and out. One year later, Pete and I were dating and became the proud owners of a pair of scooters which lived in the garage for most of the year. We also rebuilt the deck, a task which left us with a garage full of tools and materials. Last spring, he moved in and the garage became home to more stuff. Car stuff. Motorcycle stuff. Heavy-duty home repair stuff.

And as recently as Saturday, it looked like this:

What a messy, mess-mess. Time for a garage clean-out.

Our first order of business was to clear the entire space out and sweep it clean. I can’t even explain how it ends up getting so dirty when it’s closed 99% of the time and trafficked mostly by foot, it’s like a magical forcefield for dirt and pinecones.

Quickly cleaned out and swept, it looked good. We need to keep it looking this good. I was downright close to repainting the walls while we had it emptied, but I left it for another time.

Insta-improvement. I like being able to see the floor in the garage. Can I maintain this?

The contents, on the other hand, filled the driveway. And part of the neighbor’s driveway. And the backyard.

Huh? Oh, yeah. The contents of the garage while we swept.

Oh. The backyard was filled too. Right.

Pete’s big goal was to install shelving into the cinder block frame, a task I hadn’t bothered tackling myself because it seemed more intimidating than installing shelves into common wall studs.

We had a set of three white shelves with brackets still attached the day three years ago when I moved in and removed them from the inset cove in the dining room that’s now home to my built-in shelves. Living in the basement ever since, it was nice to have decent shelving on hand that we could reinstall in a pinch. Fo’ free. Well, almost free.

Our only splurge for this endeavor was a set of heavy-duty wall anchors. This kit at Home Depot only cost $11 yet gave us more than 10x the amount that we actually needed for the job. Always nice to have some extra anchors on hand, right? And these are “for all materials” cinder block included, so it’ll be nice to have for the basement whenever we get around to reorganizing that space.

Good ol' anchors. Right on the box it advises that they're good for cinderblock, so I think we're in luck.

Installing anything securely into something as robust as cinder block is something I’ve been curious about, but it went really smoothly. We predrilled each hole with a masonry bit, and then easily tapped the anchor into position. (the $25 set that Pete has actually has a whole selection of these heavy-duty-toothy bits, score, and our set of anchors came with one too, double-score).

Pre-drilling holes with the masonry bit.

Tap-tap. The hinges attach cleanly to the wall with the screws that fit into the anchors.

It’s times like this when we’re cement-drilling and pounding and shop-vac’ing that I wonder why the dog can be so calm and sleepy, when anytime he’s in the same room as the Dyson, even when it’s not running, he’s looks like he’s about to pass out cold from fear.

We worked, the dog napped. Whatever.

This particular bracket that he was installing above has to do with a little wood storage area we built in the back of the garage. By anchoring two brackets opposite each other, we were able to run a 9’4″ 2×4 across them to create a little barrier. Just before the barrier was installed, we hauled a bunch of flat cement blocks from the back storage shed built onto the garage and lined the floor with them, partially to help keep the scrap wood from sitting directly on the sometimes-wet cement floor, but also to get them out of the back room and let them serve some purpose until we actually need them. We’re wood hoarders and cement block hoarders over here. (Side note: The latter, I have to attribute to always having to buy cinder blocks to hoist my dorm bed during college, which was a total waste of money and a pain in the you-know-what. Are you with me?)

Lining the back wall of the garage with flat cement blocks.

While Pete worked on installing the white shelves on the left wall of the garage, I reloaded and organized our scrap lumber into the back 18″ of the garage. The scraps consist of reclaimed barnwood and trim pieces, a bit of common lumber (some pressure-treated, some not), a bin of short-pieces that still big enough to be considered useful for something, and plywood pieces. And the dog still slept.

So clean-clean. Good lumber organization, yo.

The shelves that Pete hung on the left side of the garage are the ones I mentioned being repurposed from the dining room. In solid condition, they’re deep, and since the anchors can allegedly each support 51-lbs. and six are supporting the horizontal weight of each shelf, they should be able to hold quite a bit once we get them loaded.

For now, it’s just a nice place to hold our bike helmets and riding gloves.

Scoot-scoot. Love my scooter, and love my old-new garage shelves.

We did purposefully hang them at our own eye-level (about 5’5″ off the ground) so that it would be:
1) easy to see so you don’t whack your eyeball into them,
2) high enough to not disrupt the average car that’s pulling into the driveway (we don’t use it for our cars, but you know, someday maybe),
3) we could still see on top of them without a step stool

The third shelf was added in the back beyond the window and is already packed with “stuff we need but don’t need often” like Pete’s bike cover and back support for the Harley, and an extra couple of chargers. We also saved Julia’s 3-wheeler and all of our yard sale signs for future play. The wine bottles on the floor in the corner? Don’t point fingers at me, I pulled them from the curb of a restaurant (odd, I know) and have been planning to do something with them. You know, someday.

More stuff in our organized garage.

Stepping back, the room as a whole looks pretty charming.

What do I like most of all? How Pete lined our bikes up in a very showroom-esque way. It’ll be so easy to get them in and out of there now if we keep the other half of the garage cleared.

Is there anything better than organized scooters?

On the other wall, Pete hung two brackets to support the extension ladder (it was previously just on the floor, so it’s nice to get it up and out of the way since it isn’t used all that often). He also screwed some cement screws into the wall on which we could hang the sawhorses. The plywood along the wall is something we’re about to take away, Pete has big plans for it in his parent’s kitchen. More to come on that at

Serious garage progress. Needs some paint still, but how great is it to be organized for once?

And if you’re wondering, celebrated with my Mom on Saturday, which is why our whole Sunday was free to tackle crazy things like this. There was no Mom-neglect. And Mom thought the garage was damn messy anyways. How was your weekend?

Stepping It Up

May 14, 2012   //  Posted in: Bathroom, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  one response

We were really quick to remove the old bathroom vanity and replace with the new IKEA model during our bathroom renovation. The new sink and vanity were pretty much love at first sight, perfect for us and our 5’9″-ish frames, much more comfortable than average height vanities. While it’s been easy livin’ so far for us, one thing became very apparent: tall vanities for adults are yay, and tall for kids are nay. And let’s be real, kids need to be able to wash their hands easily.

The easy solution was to design and build a little step stool, mostly with Pete’s daughter Julia in mind, but really to service any kids that were needing to use a bathroom sink. (FYI, ours shown in the pictures is by IKEA, but there are lots of others to consider, like sinks and vanities by Kohler Bathroom Sinks).  I built it easily in an afternoon and am really thrilled with it as a utilitarian piece, but also love how it turned out as a whole. Best of all? It was f-r-e-e using scrap wood, and extra screws and bolts.

I started with a single piece of leftover 2x10x4′ pine board, from which I planned to make a chunky wooden model that would be small enough to tuck aside in the bathroom, but tall and sturdy enough to do what it was intended to do, hoist kids closer to the faucet. I got to work.

A single scrap piece of 2x10 board is about to become a new stepstool.

Side note: We used this scrap back in the bathroom tiling days as a place to set our mortar bucket and  tools. Consequently, it still had lots of mortar stuck to it, but it all sanded right off.

Picking measurements for this step stool, I went based on what “felt right” for my bathroom. I ended up with a top surface measuring 15″ in length, two legs measuring 6″ in height, and two center support pieces measuring 10″x3″.

Cutting pieces of wood for the step stool out of a single 4' 2x10 board.

Loosely assembled (upside down), this is how it was designed to come together:

Upside down, dry fit step stool just for show.

I even took an extra step to cut a series of 1-3/4″ circles in the top to serve two purposes: 1) they give adults something quick to grab to pick up and move the step stool out of the way and 2) give the kids feet something to grip to, lessening the chance of accidental slips. No, the holes aren’t big enough for a kid’s foot to accidentally fall through.

Planning for circles to be cut into the top of the step stool.

With the placement of all four circles marked in pencil (evenly spaced apart horizontally and along the same plane vertically) I used a common drill bit to pre-drill through the board itself, and followed up with the hole saw drill bit to create my 1-3/4″ holes.

Pre-drilling isn’t always necessary with the hole saw bit, but these 2x boards are thicker than the hole saw bit is, meaning that I had to cut part way through on the board one way, and then flip it and drill through from the other side. The predrilled hole keeps everything aligned really nicely, so there was no mis-drilling on any of the four holes.

Drilling holes out of the top of the step stool for decoration and purpose.

With the top step of the stool done, I moved on to the base and assembled the frame using 2.5″ wood screws and several sized drill bits to create a counter-sunken effect. We don’t own a Kreg jig, but by pre-drilling with a small bit and then following up by drilling about 1/4″-1/2″ with a bit larger than the head of the screw, you can achieve the same finished effect by sinking the screws out of sight but still at the necessary angle.

Countersinking the screws into the base of the step stool.

Getting the base fully assembled was an effort, because the drill itself is only so tiny to get into the small area between each reinforcements. I wanted all eight screws hidden within the frame, not visible from the outside, so I made do by using Pete’s impact driver which is a bit shorter and narrower than the rest of our cordless and corded drills. Still a tighter fit than if the entire stool was 18″ long instead of 15″, but it worked well.

Assembled step stool base. Radically secure thanks to eight 2.5" wood screws.

By attaching the step stool top to the frame from beneath using four 4″ lag bolts, I was able to achieve a finished look that was clean-lined without protruding bolts and screws, and really, really sturdy.

Installing the lag bolts into the bottom of the step stool to attach the top.

The finished piece is sanded smooth but still raw wood and heavy; I’m planning on eventually giving it a coat of stain to finish it off although I’m kind of digging how nice the light wood looks beside the IKEA veneer. It’s a charming little addition to the bathroom.

Finished step stool for the bathroom.

It fits perfectly beside the sink and is easily accessed, but is completely out of the line of traffic when you’re walking into and out of the bathroom. Easy enough to slide out of the way with your foot, and thanks to the holes in the top, it’s a pinch to pick up as well.

Finished step stool for the bathroom.

Make anything handy this weekend?

Cinco de Happiness (en Mayo)

May 11, 2012   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY, Sunroom   //  By: Emily   //  14 responses

From time to time, I do little DIYs that make me happy. Or ask for advice on completely miscellaneous projects. Or get compelled to remind you that I’m human by admitting that I’ve never once checked to see that the door to the office closed, only to find this week that it doesn’t even fit into its own doorframe. How weird.

In celebration of Mayo, we’ve been pigging out on tacos and guacamole, and did a few little projects to boot.

1. I raised the roof.

Not really, I raised the curtains in the sunroom. It was a subtle change, but it raises the height of the room which translates to “I’ve raised the roof”. Last fall when I installed muslin curtains I must have had on my super-flat shoes. They were installed to be level with the top of the window, but after gawking at them for the last few weeks while I work at the new sunroom table, I decided they weren’t hung close enough to the ceiling, making the whole room look squatty. There was an easy fix to cure their weird positioning: raise them up 6 inches. Fortunately, there was plenty of extra length to the curtains, and they were adjusted without a hitch.

Raise the roof, or just raise your curtains.

2. I passed it on.

Big thanks to The Better Half for choosing me to participate in Karah’s Pass It On Project; what a sweet surprise it was to find these tile coasters in the mail!

Cute little coasters!

In exchange, I happily picked a few friends and fellow bloggers to “pass it on” to, Cait of Hernando House and Erin of Erin B. Inspired. Both funny and talented ladies have been long time supporters of my little blog, and I wanted to give them a little love in return, so I sent off two handmade wooden picture frames with windows just a little bigger than 3″x3″. Made with reclaimed real 2″x4″ boards from local salvage, the wood is warm and rich and still very lightweight from being dried out for the last 80 years. Mailed with plexiglass and wire, they’re both perfectly imperfect but have a great history and natural charm.

Wooden handmade frames from salvaged scrap.

3. I destroyed Pete’s Harley. And I need your help.

OK, not really destroyed, but I did get a terrible amount of oil-based stain on the fender over the winter during one of my little outdoor staining projects. The good news is that he isn’t angry with me. The bad news is that nothing I’ve tried has worked to remove it (I’ve been testing products on the plastic tail light splatters, not yet on the delicate finish of the actual fender). Not acetone, not car cleaner, not car wax, not soap. I guess I still need to try mineral spirits, which is what I normally use to clean up my paint brushes, and I might try WD-40 as a final effort, but I’m thinking it’ll have to go to the shop for a buffer. Any other tips (I’m lookin’ at you, Rust-Oleum)? And how much does it cost to get a motorcycle refinished?

Bad girlfriend, dirty Harley.

4. I’ve been doing research.

There are only two doors in my home that appears to be original to the house. The rest, the bedroom doors, bathroom door,  and basement door are 4 styles of mismatched hollow economy-style models. And what’s there now is dinged, cracked, and stained at that. Two of the closet doors are totally removed and MIA. Replacing all of them has been on my list for awhile, and the planning intensified recently when I realized that the office door doesn’t even close (right, I haven’t even tried to shut it in 3 years).

Who knew, the door to the office doesn't even close.

Instead of buying new, I’m looking to find salvaged doors that match the original charm of the house. I’ve started my search, hoping to find bargain-priced originals sized to match my door frames. $15 each would do, if I could possibly get so lucky. This one here would actually fit the office doorframe perfectly.

Bargain-priced replacement door option.

We shall see how easy this proves.

5. I finally made a decision. And I’m happy with it.

I don’t usually splurge on a Groupon/Living Social deal unless I know with certainty that I can use it and make it worth my investment. We’ve eaten a lot of Sushi over the last year this way which has been fun, but California Rollin’ seems to have finally caught onto our clever way of getting 8 rolls for a $15 Groupon and changed all its rules pertaining to the deal. Shucks.

When I bought one for during the winter, I considered it an insta-win. Priced at $10 to get $20 in merchandise, I figured there’d be plenty of items for me to pick from. Fast-forward 3 months, and I had spent hours scouring for anything that I could buy that wasn’t a total investment piece (I wanted to keep my purchase close to the $20 store credit) but there was nothing I needed or wanted for the value. In the end I landed on a $29.99 woven basket which came in the mail yesterday. Good news: It’s darling. And I’ll keep it. I take back all of those frustrated comments about the site.

Woven Basket by Nkuku.

I hadn’t done much research on the product or its brand pre-purchase, because I was in a Living Social redemption panic 2 hours before it expired, but when it arrived I was excited to see that it was a legit nkuku product, which according to the website retails for £39.95, a figure that converts to about $64.50USD based on today’s currency exchange.

Sitting within my CB2 bedside table, it’ll be good for holding an extra blanket and a few books.

Woven Basket by Nkuku.

Best of all: If we have the same decor taste, I think you’re going to really like everything that nkuku sells. Inspired by African and Indian artists, its contemporary designs are super-eco, made from natural materials, there’s some really great stuff to swoon over. I’m going ga-ga for these Franjipani Floral Cups, the Ishara Basket, and the Oni Glass Collections Box. And everything else. You?

Have a fun weekend (and Happy Mothers Day)!