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Behind The Scenes at #DeltaDIY2011

June 20, 2011   //  Posted in: Merry Travels, Supporting Sponsors   //  By: Emily   //  19 responses

An outrageously generous opportunity presented itself last month; I doubt you would have passed up an all-expenses paid trip to see meet the people of the Delta Faucet Company – I couldn’t either. This opportunity arose right about the same time I was preparing to leave my job, and I couldn’t jump on the offer to travel representing no one but myself fast enough. Blog-work travel in real life. For 3 days. In Indianapolis.

Delta Faucet CompanyAnd what a whirlwind experience it was!

Want a peek behind the curtain?

I was invited along with 8 other home-related DIY bloggers to learn the ins and outs of the company, from manufacturing technologies, to trends, to research and development, and industrial design. It’s to Delta’s benefit to influence publishers like us, and to our benefit to meet their teams and realize the technologies and products that are in the marketplace (good info as we make decisions with our own home projects, or when we make recommendations to you guys).

I’ve grown to love traveling for work; besides seeing new things and people, I find that I can get a lot of work done in the airports during layovers. I also consider it a good layover when I find my favorite jeans at the Gap in Philadelphia’s airport marked down to less than $6, which I did. Excitement ensued.

Once arriving in Indianapolis, I was able to meet up with the rest of the bloggers at a catered social at the hotel on Wednesday night; it was great to meet the real people behind some of my favorite sites, eat (a lot – which was an ongoing trend of the event), and meet our hosts from Delta and its Chicago-based PR agency. We ate beef, pasta, california rolls, chocolate-covered strawberries and drank from an open bar. And then went out to a hooka bar where I did not consume alcohol, but hard-to-find-in-Rochester Bubble Tea. Enough said.

Thursday was booked morning-to-night, and started at Delta Headquarters. The offices were quite spiffy, and the whole lobby space was used as a showroom; you know what a sucker I am for a nice workpad.

Delta Headquarters Lobby Showroom. Loving the painted concrete floors and tile as much as the fixtures.

Delta Headquarters Lobby Showroom.

We learned of the company’s heritage (founded in 1954, with product now in 50+ countries!), and commitment to employees and community (they’re the sole sponsor of St. Jude’s Dream Home Giveaway, worthy of a thumbs up!). Different marketing managers were introduced throughout the morning to share brand and product overviews of both the Delta and high-end Brizo lines. (If you can believe it, 60% of Delta products didn’t even exist 3 years ago – how’s that for growth and innovation?).

Brizo Product Line (and Kristen Baum, Product Manager).

We also learned a bit about the spots that Leo Burnett produced over the last few years – you likely have seen like this one (fun fact: voice talent is actually Sesame Street’s Count von Count), and I bet you’ve seen this spot too (fun fact: the body paint used was mixed with soap to wash off the way it did).

They had great product displays throughout the building; really, quite impressive indeed. Not a place for children with sticky fingers. This is one of the images I tossed up on twitter during the event:

Delta Product Display.Also fit in before lunch on Wednesday, we were given demonstrations of existing and new shower technology; one of the most impressive demonstrations of the entire visit was this one, where a strobe light was used to demonstrate how a series of running shower heads compared in water diffusion style and drop size. The one on the right happens to be smaller and have fewer holes for the water to fall through, yet is more efficient, and produces a stronger stream than than the more commonly seen rain shower-like fixture. This effort on the part of Delta strives to provide the consumer an adequately powerful and pleasurable shower head while adhering to water conservation guidelines issued and mandated by many states. I don’t know about you, but I love a powerful shower:

Delta showerhead display

Obviously, a small part of why bloggers were asked to participate is because we’re among their target audience; we do projects ourselves, and many of the products produced are intended to be easy enough for the average consumer to install without a professional plumber. We did at one point pair off into groups and do real working installations with real products, and while very few of us (me included) had never done bathroom or kitchen faucet installs, it was astonishingly easy and I’m confident that anyone could do it (honestly). I couldn’t take photos of these things, because some soon-to-be released products were off limits. You’ll like them, just trust me.

Speaking of new products, over 320 new products and components are due to release to market by October of this year; that’s no small feat, and we’re sure you’re going to be impressed, whether you’re a DIY’er or contracted pro.

Dinner Thursday night was at a small restaurant near Indianapolis. Recess, the restaurant, is known for having a single dinner prepared each night – meaning, the 4-course meal I ate was the same as everyone else dining that night. I was very interested in the restaurant design – unexpectedly contemporary with cement floors, reclaimed wood surfaces, and amazing light fixtures:

Recess Restaurant.Recess Restaurant.

I’m not much of a foodie even though I like all foods, but that night I ate everything from chicken, ham, salmon, and lettuce, to portabellas, strawberries, and carefully selected wines that complimented each course. Yum-may.

If you follow me on facebook, this is where I was when I posted that photo of the amazing flat file storage. Each drawer was labeled indicating that the unit was used to hold silverware, dinnerware, and menus. Again, apologies for the poor iPhone-produced image.

Recess Restaurant

I also took a quick picture of the restroom. Call me weird, but it was so cozy with it’s exposed cinderblock and drywall walls I wanted to spend more time in there than would make other restaurant-goers comfortable.

Recess Restaurant.

Our Friday at Delta was a half-day session. From there, we made return trips home. In between breakfast and lunch, we were treated to a presentation by the internal design team who reported on trends and the Delta process of new product design. We also received a tour of the design and engineer suite at the headquarters, which was amaaazing from a workspace perspective, packed with modular and movable furniture and more prototypes than you could ever imagine; I wasn’t allowed to take photos in this area, so trust me again that it was wonderful – a truly inspiring space.

And of course I’m leaving a big thing out: While learning about the company’s heritage and growth, it was also great to meet fellow bloggers in the process. All highly-driven and entrepreneurially-spirited, it was a tremendous group to spend time with. It was really enjoyable to learn more about each blogger’s perspective and approach to blogging and life; and while we all came from different backgrounds professionally, it was great to relate on the home-improvement-DIY-lust level.

Go check them out too:

Roeshel of The DIY ShowoffRoeshel of The DIY Showoff

A talented DIY’er with a dedicated following, Roeshel’s a veteran of the True Value Blog Squad Team. Cool girl. Overall enviable wardrobe. Visit her site and be prepared to see a LOT of great DIY projects.


Joey And Lana of Joey and Lana Make A House A HomeJoey and Lana from Joey and Lana Make A House A Home

I’ve fancied their blog and utterly amazing home for as long as I’ve been following blogs; not only are they an inspiring and hard-working breed, but they have big plans involving new kitchens and an updated site in the near future!

Maggie of Holyoke HomeMaggie of Holyoke Home

A new bloggy find for me when I saw Maggie on the attendee list, and I’ve been loving the time spent reading her past posts. An adorable home in a historic part of Massachusetts, I’ll be sure to be spending more time here.


Dan of Daily Home Renovation TipsDan of Daily Home Renovation Tips

An energy and water conservation enthusiast, I actually learned a lot from this guy in person. His blog includes stories about updating his own bungalow. You’ll probably learn a thing or two or a million and the world will thank you.

Holly of 504 MainHolly of 504 Main

Holly’s the only lady of the group who had a successful faucet installation prior to our Delta trip – you go girl. Her site is chock full of fun projects (cooking + creating), and she has a wedding blog too… because she’s a published wedding planner too! Cool.


Lisa of Condo BluesLisa of Condo Blues

Lisa’s the blogger of the group most involved with a green living lifestyle, and I learned all kinds of things from her; from exfoliant techniques using coffee grounds, to DIY loofahs grown on vines. I still have to look that up. I need to grow my own loofahs.

Mike of Handyguys PodcastMike of Handyguys Podcast

A correspondant of the Handyguys, you’ll hear Mike’s Delta recap on their site one of these days. A professional in the education industry but an avid DIYer and handyguy in his own right, Mike was my partner when it came to the faucet installs and we were a kick ass team.

I Know It’s June, But Skiing Is On The Mind

June 17, 2011   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  6 responses

Once upon a time, I was a little ski bunny.

I spent every blustery, wintery Saturday at a small ski club in Colden, NY; the small resort, Tamarack, was a great place to learn to ski. The classes were small, the season passes affordable, the terrain, manageable, and the nachos in the dining hall, the best that I’ve had to date (truth be told, my first ever job at a lake side hot dog stand also served the same amazing liquid-cheese nachos, and my body would probably thank me if i never ate another nacho chip again since between Tamarack and long rainy days at the hot dog stand I’ve easily consumed 4x my body weight.. but I digress).

Tamarack Ski Club. Colden, NY. Circa 1998

I lucked out by learning to ski alongside my childhood best bud, who I’m sure will recognize this project and reflect back on those times with much happiness. Between the ages of 12-18, we spent a lot of time there, from fall open house to unseasonably warm spring days skiing through a substance comparable to a slurpie, and we loved ever minute of it.

Pretty with autumnal foliage too, right?

Tamarack Ski Club. Colden, NY. Circa 1998

And then something sad happened when I was away at college; Tamarack closed.

I remember the disappointment I felt upon learning of that; after all, it was the kind of place that I wanted to bring my kids to learn to ski someday. Not long after shutting down, perhaps even in a previously-arranged transaction, it was acquired by the neighboring private Buffalo Ski Club, which I have nothing against but always wanted to infiltrate, since it was only separated by a thin row of trees. I imagined that the members were hoity-toity snobs, but considered that paid memberships might also come with larger orders of nachos and more black diamonds; plus, anything exclusive seemed oh-so-desirable to a 16-year-old kid, especially the idea of exclusive ski clubs with rich little 16-year-old boys on snowboards.

OK, onto the real project.

I have this mammoth glass-less picture frame that Pete moved in a few months ago. You saw it photographed in this post, and since then it’s been sitting to the side, yearning for some new art. Pete says he won it at a golfing event years ago, which seems like a pretty fun prize to me but meaningless to him. Time to make it something special.

I’ve been relishing the idea of commemorating Tamarack in some way, deciding in the end to craft an abstract piece that would be meaningful to me (and almost only me). In this case, the abstract vision began to take on a multimedia approach. While I considered using a piece of brown craft paper as my starting point, I instead decided to use a large piece of old burlap that I actually had saved away at some point.

Rather than relying too much on my memory, I went straight to the Buffalo Ski Club’s website to view its trail map. While the whole left side of the trail map correlates to the club’s original ski trails, the right side is still clearly Tamarack. I wanted to make an easy-to-use template for my project, which I had decided would also employ some crafty-yet-totally-inexpensive-at-35-cents-a-pop embroidery thread.

Bought out the Snow White 220.

For the template, I cut pieces of white printer paper to size to represent where the trees forming each trail were; as those clusters of trees were assembled on the pre-cut burlap, the trails started to take form. And you may not see anything yet with this photo, but believe me, this is pretty darn close to what Tamarack looked like:

A test layout of Tamarack.

I worked my way through the project cluster by cluster, slowing embroidering the clusters of trees into place and mapping out the trails. There are some square buildings in the original plan, but I opted to leave them out of the equation in the end.

Note: I haven’t embroidered anything since 7th grade Home & Careers class wherein I was challenged to make a kick-ass US flag out of felt and cotton fabric. Thank you, middle school.

Embroidered on the burlap to designate how the clusters of trees formed the trails.

Once the trails and trees were mapped, I added my own chairlift, installed the burlap within the envisioned frame, and stepped back to view the piece:

Mapped ski trails.

Love. I’m fully aware this has no meaning to anyone but me and a few of my friends and family members, but seeing this trail map again is pure happiness. Plus, I’m liking how the old burlap had some wear and tear and discolored areas; adds a nice added dimension.

The original vision in my mind included having the trails white. I was all for making this a full-on embroidery bonanza and hand-stitching the trails, but decided that adding paint to highlight the trails would look a little cleaner than my haphazard embroidery abilities.

As I started painting the trails with plain out-of-the-can white paint and stepped back, I knew it was going to look even better than I expected. In the end, I was elated:

Trails of Tamarack, painted.

I left painting the edge trails and around the chairlift until the end, deciding to fade the color and leave the area beneath the chair lift a little less saturated.

Looking down the faintly painted chairlift trail.

Of course, I had wanted to use this frame in the entryway of the house, but it won’t fit displayed horizontally and I’ll have to come up with a new place; maybe my bedroom. Time and testing of various locations will tell.


P.S. Just a quick reminder: Today’s the LAST DAY to enter the Sugru giveaway; go leave a message on this post to be included in the drawing at 10PM.


An “I CAN MAKE THAT” Side Table Exposé

June 16, 2011   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses

Among the most ingenious and innovative products I’ve ever dared to rip off, Stray Dog Designs has created a wonderful, attractive, desirable side table that I just needed to have. I’m going to give credit where credit’s due and send you straight to West Elm to see the product as it is sold today.

I’ve had this catalogue page pinned on my inspiration wall for months now with full intent to figure out exactly how I could duplicate it.

Stray Dog Side table via West Elm Catalogue

Right in the product description and within the bio, West Elm credits Stray Dog with its ability to make stunning products from papier mache. I whole-heartedly concur – this table and their other works knocked my flip flops off. I should say upfront that papier mache is a process that I haven’t so much as encountered since summer day care at Care-A-Lot in 1988. Miss Karen was a good supervisor, but I was without this go-around. Nonetheless, I was up for a good challenge and excited to see how my own model would turn out (A+, C-, or fail).

To create a round structure for the side table, I knew I would need a sturdy frame to work from. I had decided that chicken wire would be a good framework, and I built it around a round plastic garbage can that we happened upon a few weeks ago at the mid-century modern estate sale (the sellers let us haul away our purchases in it as opposed to a plastic bag or cardboard box). The chicken wire wrapped around it nicely.

Garbage pail, wrapped in chicken wire to form a frame for my sidetable.Before I really started working on the real frame, I did a test run over the course of two days to observe a few things: 1) learn how to form and attach a structure for the zig-zags, because I was going to try and mimic their dimensional chevron model (although I also considered some other patterns, like a corkscrew going all the way from the bottom to the top and that might still look great); 2) to see how the papier mache would adhere to the zig zag and the chicken wire; and 3) see if I could actually make a working papier mache paste.

On a small piece of chicken wire, I bound two pieces of twisted newspaper (or Target circulars, in my case) together.

Test model. Affixing the underlaying newspaper to the chicken wire.The sample piece tested the use of zip ties to lock the zigs and zags into tight position. I also tried wire, but it was a little harder to manipulate (and hurt my fingers more to repeatedly bend and twist it). The zip ties were leftover from my scooter storage project; they’re 4″ long, and can hold up to 18 pounds each, according to the packaging. I was certain they’d keep things in place.

Small zip ties. 4" long.Contrary to some instructions to make the papier mache a stovetop activity, I went for the no-bake model consisting of about 1-part water to 1-part flour. I didn’t use glue per some instructions I found, but I do remember doing it that way in 1988. I added a pinch of salt to fend against mold in case that’s ever an issue, although it felt more like I was making waffles.

The sample zig zag received a coat of soaked newsprint (not drowning in the flour/water mixture, just lightly coated and carefully affixed to the chicken wire).

Sample papier mache. Worked!Maybe I should take a moment to mention how messy this project is. I was covered, and I’m usually pretty neat when it comes to painting, demo, sloppy projects (except when I sat in the mortar bucket, which I’ll get to another time). Messy, messy, messy. No wonder I loved it so much when I was 4 years old.

The sample model was a sweet success. It held up really well, and so I proceeded with setting up the framework for the larger, real side table model.

Similarly to the sample, I bundled ad inserts and newspapers together and zip tied them to the chicken wire; easy peasy. Make sure you have lots of paper (I almost ran out and had to wait for the free town newspaper to arrive).

Notice all of the zip ties poking out?

Underlying zig zag form attached to the framework.Snip them short. And then twist the tie around to face the inside of the table if possible to make for a nice, clean form. I also did my best to space out the zigs and zags, but I admittedly was more focused on keeping the zigs with the zigs and the zags with the zags to realize that some were closer together vertically than others; are you with me? What I’m getting at specifically is that my top strand looks about 1″ higher than it needs to be. Meh, still happy at this point!

Underlying zig zag form attached to the framework.

The papier mache went on just as smoothly as with the test piece, although I ran out of newspaper again and had to pause for a day until another set of newsprint circulars when I arrived. Good news is that papier mache is totally fine after a day in the fridge, just like waffle batter. This project made me want waffles bad. (And, where were my neighbors with their recycling bins overflowing newspaper when I needed them?)

Notice that I rolled the top of the chicken wire over so it wasn’t pointy at all; the rounded edge made for a nice clean finish at the top.

Truth be told, I seriously considered leaving the newsprint exposed like this instead of painting over it like the West Elm piece. The overall grayscale with hints of color was appealing to me; maybe someday I’ll craft myself a little set of furniture left unpainted.

A coated DIY papier mache side table.Once it dried (24 hours to be safe) I lifted the frame from the garbage can. Looks pretty nice and secure from the inside.

Inside of the papier mache side table.

I gave the table a fresh coat of white primer followed by white paint and set it aside to dry. While the paint was curing, I began working on a tabletop. Instead of doing a papier mache table top or exactly what they had done in West Elm, I pulled a board from my For Your Merrypad inventory of lumber, and specifically, a board that was free to me but was too short to use in making a picture frame for the biz, and also a little too weak to be trusted to hold glass and art. It had some really great character that I thought would work well here.

Table top source.I cut it into three 21″ lengths, and joined them together side-by-side with wood glue and biscuits. I had made essentially a 21″x21″ square, since the original board was 7″ wide.

Square tabletop on the DIY papier mache side table.

Using a sawzall (instead of the ideal jigsaw which is unfortunately MIA) I cut around the square table top along a pre-drawn line, converting it from square to circle. I also added some reinforcement pieces to the underside of the tabletop with scrap wood and 1-1/4″ wood screws.

Tabletop reinforcement.

Once the tabletop was installed (a.k.a. placed) on the table, it looked pretty good!

A finished side table... or is it?A few thoughts post-project:

1) Looks like I missed a few places in my painting; really, this is because the newspaper wasn’t as flush as could be in some spots and I didn’t get in all of the nooks and crannies. Live and learn and papier mache more often and maybe my skillz can improve.
2) Maybe I should paint the table top white?
3) Maybe I should make the table top the side diameter as the table for a more streamlined look.
4) Whoa, this project was totally free.