Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bathroom Mirror and Spray Stain

Hi there!

I'm continuing to share some of the updates that we've done recently to our bathroom.  If you haven't done so already, you can check out the overview here, and a post about the tile work here.  I'll mainly be talking about trying out a new stain product, but scroll to the bottom to see the very convenient hanging method for this mirror too.

Today I'll be talking about our "new" mirror:

This wasn't a huge update, but there were a couple of things that I wanted to say, so i figured a separate post would be best.  After landing on a more expensive (and pretty!) tile than I had planned, I realized that the large mirror I had was going to cover too much of the tile.  I wanted to find something large enough to do well as a bathroom mirror, with a wooden frame, and that at least looked old.  I think something more modern would have looked nice with the tile too, but it just wouldn't fit with the general theme in my house.  

Anyway, after coming up short at the typical stops, I started hunting around in antique stores.  There are tons of them near me, and I haven't spent enough time in them to figure out which are worth visiting and which aren't.  Most of the frames i found either had artwork in them, making them very expensive (besides feeling bad about removing art...) or were not the right size.  I eventually came across the frame you see, totally bare (no back at all), and at the perfect $10 price.

Here's what it looked like when i first brought it home.  It was more of a golden color, and in some parts almost looked like a gold leaf or gold-ish paint.  There's a white part along the frame - that's a linen-like fabric that's glued to the frame.  Instead of light and gold, I wanted a dark, rich color and so I began hunting for stains.  That's when I came across a product I hadn't seen before; Minwax Polyshades in a spray can.

I bought it partially out of curiosity and partially out of laziness (I bought the Bombay Mahogany color in satin).  If you haven't tried it before, Polyshades is made to go over existing stain, and is a little more translucent than other stains. 

I put painter's tape over the fabric part, and ultimately sprayed about 3-4 coats on the frame, letting it dry after each one.  I think this picture shows how it came out pretty well.  It's much more rich in color, but you can still see some variation in the color, which I like.  I was a little worried that it would come out looking like a stain colored spray paint, but it really looks nice.

A few things to thick about if you are considering this product:
- The drying time is pretty long.  That might be common of all the Polyshades stain, but it was substantially longer than other stain.  I think this product sits more on top of the wood, where a normal stain soaks in, so I suppose it makes sense.
- Painting a picture frame was the perfect application for this product, in my opinion.  Those nooks and crannies would have been a pain to stain consistently with a traditional stain, and it let me apply very light coats at a time.  I don't think this product would be good for large pieces of furniture or other large, flat surfaces.  First, I don't think it's cost effective or time saving, and two I would be worried about getting an even coat.
- Painting my frame took less than one can of paint.
- The can really sprays... as evidenced by my now stained carpet... oops!  But seriously, i was careful and it went a good foot past the frame, so just beware... and go outside. 

To finish the story, I took my frame to a local glass shop and had them install the mirror, backing for the frame, and hanging hardware.  My frame it about 18"x22", and i think it cost around $40.  One thing that turned out to be a great help was the hanging hardware they gave me - it's called "Wall Buddies" and they look like this:

 (left: hook on the tile, right: sawtooth "Wall Buddies" Hanger)

The thing that's so fantastic about them is that you don't need to have your two nails (one on each corner) perfectly level - the sawtooth gives you a few options to help you level out your frame.  Now, normally this would just enable my laziness, but in this case, it let me install nails within a grout line, at the approximate height and separation distance.  I didn't have to damage any of the tiles to hang my mirror!  I was really not sure how to work this part out with tiny herringbone tile, but this product made it work easily!  It might be the engineer in me, but that's pretty cool.

At the end of the day, I like the warmth that my new mirror adds to the room, and I think it compliments my tile well.  What do you think, was it worth the change?


Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Tile that Nearly Broke Me

(This is a long story of how NOT to do tile... if you would just like to know what actually worked, scroll until you see pictures. :) sometimes a girl's gotta tell the whole ugly story, you know?)

Once upon a time, a DIY-er realized that she and her family needed a break from large projects.  As fun as they were, they were tired of having so many things to cram into their busy lives.  Our DIY-er should have put the projects on pause for a while, but instead she thought, "why don't I just work on a project that I can do by myself, at my own pace, that won't stress anyone out?"  And with that she looked to her bathroom and thought, "ah!  I bet tiling that wall would be simple, and I can certainly do that at a slow pace.  What a great idea!"  This DIY-er had not tiled before.  Obviously.

She planned to use subway tile - perfect for a clean look, and especially nice on the budget.  She would install this in a herringbone pattern, of course, just to add interest.  As she researched the subway tile, she came across a magical material named marble, and never again considered ceramic.  It's such a small space, she thought, the extra cost isn't a big deal.  

She headed to the DIY-addict-enabling warehouse, Lowe's, and found the reasonably priced marble subway tile she had planned on using.  But, as she was standing in the aisle, she noticed some marble tile that was already in a herringbone pattern, glued to a mesh back to make installation a breeze!  And the price seemed too good to be true - much cheaper than the other marble she had originally found.  She picked up all of the supplies she would need, matched her grout color to her new tile, and pushed her cart all the way to the other side of the store to check out.

Upon reaching the checkout, she realized her fatal error.  The perfect tile was misleadingly priced by the sheet, not by the box it came in, meaning that her affordable tile was now quite pricey.  As she stood in front of the cashier with her cart full of tools specific to that tile, she felt that she only had one option.  She paid for her tile, and walked out of the store with her tail between her legs.

She began her work by removing the existing mirror and ugly fake tile backspash, then sanded her painted walls to take the grout.  Then she realized she would eventually need to cut this tile, which was much thicker than standard ceramic.  She tried her $15 tile cutter, which apparently works neither for marble nor tiny-sized tile.  So, determined to not buy or rent the really expensive wet saw, she moved on to tile nippers.  She worked until her hands could squeeze through stone no more, and noticed that all of her sweat and labor had produced about 3 usable tiles, and wasted twice that.  Realizing that just putting her money directly through the shredder would have been the faster way to arrive here, she explored more options.

She ignored all suggestions involving a wet saw, and instead found a few that recommended an angle grinder with a diamond blade.  She sent her hubby to the addict-supply "home improvement" store, confident that a diamond blade was her solution.  The only problem was an angle grinder seemed to fit nicely into the category of 'tools that this DIY-er is too afraid to use'.  After conquering this fear, she set out to cut her pricey tile with the angle grinder, and to her dismay realized that it basically turned her tile into dust.  The blade was just too thick to work on such tiny tile.

As she was contemplating her tile cutting problem, she realized that it would be a shame to hang the old mirror over the new tile.  After all, it was huge, and would cover a lot of the tile.  So, to further destroy her budget, she found a new mirror as well.

Finally, she arrived on the cutting solution of a dremel with a baby sized diamond blade, and enlisted her exhausted hubby to once again rescue her from her mess.  After a long few days of tile cutting, grouting and cleaning, her project was complete.  Over budget, over time, and over-stressed.

Ok, but seriously, here's what I learned, with a few pictures of the process:

- Install tile as much as you can in one shot.  If you can't, clean up any mastic that sticks out past the end of your tiles, because it's a pain to get off once it dries.

- In my case, the tiles had a very small gap in between them, meaning that standard tile spacers were too big to use.  When you are working on a vertical surface, the spacers are important not only for spacing, but to help keep your tiles from slumping down onto each other.  I actually ended up putting a couple nails into the wall in between the tiles temporarily to help prevent the slumping as well.  These tiles were heavy!  I found that nickels were just about the right width, so I borrowed some from our coin jar and use those to help keep my spacing straight.  There's probably a more professional way to do this, but it's what we had on hand.

(See the nickels?)

- Our light looked like we could have tiled around the square faceplate and had it fit more flush to the tile, but I wasn't convinced that I would like that light forever, so we chose to just leave enough room for the back plate (note the circle cut out in the above picture)

(Right Edge)

- I chose to frame out the edges in a line of tile.  There wasn't a clear breaking point in the wall, but I didn't want to go past the vanity.  This seemed to be a good way to stop the tile.  I also did the same thing in the corner on the other side:

(Left Corner)

The top was a little tricky because we had already installed crown molding.  We decided to just stop flush with the crown.  It's a little abrupt, but i think it looks fine.

(Top where tile meets crown)

- I followed a helpful tutorial on Young House Love to install my tile.  They had some helpful hints on how to get rid of tile haze on marble after grouting.  It really does take some effort to get it clean!  As far as cutting goes, I found that the dremel with a diamond blade worked fine to cut these.  This would not necessarily be the economical option if you don't already have the dremel, but since we had one, it was much cheaper than the wet saw option.  If you have access to a wet saw though, go for it!

- I mentioned that I bought a new mirror.  I actually rehabbed an old frame for it; you can hear about that here.  

(The camera lens makes it look bowed...)

So here's the final product:

Overall, I'm happy with the result, even though I'm mildly embarrassed that i thought this would be simple and straightforward.  I think it gives the wall a nice texture, and feels more balanced than what we started with.  I hear that marble and herringbone are classic styles, so i'm hoping that I won't decide this is outdated a few years down the road.

What about you?  Ever taken something on and wished you had quit while you were ahead?

Have a great week, and a very Merry Christmas!


Taking our Bathroom Away From Builder Grade

Hey Everyone!

I know this is the season for Christmas posts and winter home house tours, but honestly, I'm not going there this year.  I am very much into the celebration of Christ's birth, but seem to be having a severe reaction to the commercial, busy, costly side of the holiday season.  I really do enjoy seeing beautiful mantels and centerpieces and such, but this year my Christmas decorations consist of a tree (which we didn't get until last week), some beautiful poinsettias, and a plain boxwood wreath on the front door.  I bought two beautiful, handmade ornaments from Ten Thousand Villages for the tree, and that's it.  And it's working for me.  I have been making an effort to do what matters with my time, and not do what really doesn't, in the hopes of simplifying my schedule.  So anyway, I would like to show you what i was up to this fall instead. :) 

Today I'll walk you through the updates that we have done to our bathroom over the last 4 years.  It's not finished, but like most other things, we're tackling an overhaul one piece at a time.  I'll be explaining the more DIY heavy projects in a separate post, but for now, here's what we have done:

First, where we started (pictures aren't the greatest, it's a narrow room):

The first order of business was to remove the "Hollywood" light, and I think we replaced the mirror at the same time.  The old one was a builder's grade mirror with a small trim frame that didn't hold up to a 4ft wide mirror.

That left us with this:

It's a step in the right direction, but I spent many months trying to figure out how to fix the beadboard trim! See how it stops before the mirror starts?  Plus, it made it painfully obvious that the tan tile backsplash was made of particle board.  Ugh.  It's a common theme in this bathroom - trim that doesn't really work well.  There are still a few places where I would like to remove/replace it...

Anyway, after living with this for a few years, I decided that a new tile backsplash would be better, and one that went all the way to the ceiling would be a great idea.  Great, that is, until you try to install it.  You can read about that process here; it's kind of a long story!  Replacing the tile also lead to replacing the mirror, which you can read about here, complete with my first experience with using spray stain.  Anyway, here's where that landed us:

I landed on this marble herringbone tile because I like the herringbone pattern, and I like the variation in color.  Oh, and the walls aren't really bowed like they look in the picture, that's just what a wide angle lens does... and I'm too lazy to photoshop it out. :)

You can kind of see in the picture above that our bathroom has a lot of white, and so the little variation in color in the tile adds some warmth.  If you are really observant, you'll notice that I still have a little work to do right next to the vanity - the brown spot is unpainted beadboard that was previously covered by trim (see what i mean? It's everywhere!!).  I'll paint it one of these days...  That's what winter is for, right?

Eventually, I would like to make some shelves and stain in the same color as the mirror, put down a darker floor, reglaze the tub, and replace the tile on the walls above the shower (same tan particle board).  All in good time...


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Easy Scrap Wood Table

Hey all!  Today I'm sharing my second Kreg Jig project!

After we built our deck table, I noticed that we had a few boards of mahogany left over.  Rather than try to find a place to store it, I decided that I would use the scraps to build a small side table, and give myself some more practice with the Kreg Jig.  With the help of the jig, I think this project took about an hour, and since I made it out of scraps, I'm calling it free.  So this is what I came up with:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

An Anniversary and a Table

Today I'll be sharing a more difficult project that we recently finished.  It took us one long weekend to finish, and we're really excited about how it turned out!

Hubby and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary last month!  We like to follow the traditional wedding gifts, and the 5th anniversary is wood.  Usually we secretly come up with gifts for each other that fit the theme, but this year we decided to put our relationship to the test build something together.  

Our deck is in need of a dining table, so we figured this was the perfect option for our anniversary project (read: Amy wanted to build a table).    

I have been reading lately about building decks out of hard woods, and that they'll last basically forever.  Well, there's no way we could reasonably afford to build our whole deck out of hard wood, but we did decide to spring for a table of hard wood.  So, we payed a visit to our favorite fine lumber supply store (ok, two trips...), and after talking it over with a really helpful guy there, decided to go with a frame of african mahogany with a table surface of canary wood.  Teak was another option, but was much more expensive, and isn't nearly as exciting.   
If you remember, our deck isn't a square shape on one of the sides, and of course that's the side that needed a table.  

So, we decided that our table would just mirror the curve of the deck.  We mainly stuck to these plans, with some modifications to accommodate the shape of our deck.  As you'll notice, this table is mostly assembled through the use of pocket holes.  We ended up purchasing a Kreg Jig to help us, and it really simplified the task.  I had been debating over whether or not to buy one because they really aren't cheap and I wasn't convinced that the pocket holes would really be that much stronger, but let me tell you- our table is solid.  Much more so than it would have been if we built it by another method.

The first step was to make the top.  I'm not going to put the dimensions on here, since I kind of doubt that there are too many people out there that would like to build this exact shape (the link above has dimensions for a more standard shape).  The top gets about 50 pocket holes, as you can see in this photo:

Ideally the table pieces would have been clamped together as we were driving in the screws to keep the wood from shifting, but since we don't really have a work surface this big, we had to settle for me standing on the wood while hubby screwed it together... haha.  The outer edge and center board are mahogany, and the middles are canary wood.

Next comes the apron, which is pretty simple for a square table, and just slightly more complicated for ours (and more pocket holes):

And finally comes the legs, which we bolted on so that they could be removed if needed:

And so here she is, before I put the finish on:

And yes, we did build this in the basement... it was a really rainy weekend!

Once we finally had a sunny weekend, we moved it outside and sanded the top.  Standard procedure with sanding something like this is to start with a coarse grit (120) and move to a finer grit (220), but I found that because this wood is so dense, I just stuck with 120.  I then coated the whole table in teak oil, which is designed for hard woods and will protect the table from UV damage without changing the color of the wood like a stain.  So, here it is in place and finished:

(see the post for the centerpiece here)

And our first dinner at the new table...

To me, this is probably one of our best looking DIY projects to date.  I am sold on the pocket hole construction, and am so happy with our choice of wood.  A few things to consider:

- Hard wood is not cheap, and is not all created equal.  Like most wood, there are different varieties and grades, and you get what you pay for.  When we went to the lumber shop we told them that we wanted wood that would withstand the elements, and they helped us find the right varieties.  

- To keep this table looking nice, we will cover it in the winter, and once a year we will wash it with a deck detergent and re-oil it.  That's all it should need!

- Hard wood is, well, hard.  Know that you will need fairly strong drill bits, fine thread screws, and some strength!  Please be careful if you need to drill through hard wood- your tool will become very hot!  When drilling the holes for the legs, we had to drill halfway and then let the bit cool down- the wood would start smoking!

- A table built out of a softer wood could also look great, and would cost much less.  It will also last a long time if you care for it, so consider that option if the cost of hard wood doesn't seem worth it to you.

Hope this inspires you to make something extra special!

PS. We also take a photo every anniversary (I think this will be really fun to go back through once we have been married 20 years!).  Just for fun, here's some of this year's outtakes:

Monday, July 6, 2015

Three Easy DIY Candle Holders

Happy July!

Lately I have been focusing on bringing extra light to my outdoor living spaces. I scattered solar pathway lights throughout my flowerbed in the backyard just for fun.  I also have a pile of string lights and lanterns waiting to decorate deck phase 2 once it's finished.  In the meantime, I have been enjoying relaxing on the completed half of our deck in the evening, and usually bring a few candles out with me.

So, today I will share three easy ways to display some candles, specifically tea lights.  The best part was that I was able to make these with scraps that I had laying around, so they didn't cost anything!  Let's get to it!

Option 1:  Modern Candlesticks

This one features 3" square mahogany blocks on a canary wood base, but of course the shape can be made with any type of wood.  I like that the mahogany was cut with sharp corners and obviously isn't just ordinary lumber.  I finished the whole piece with teak oil since both mahogany and canary wood are hard woods.

The hole for the tea lights is made with a 1 1/2" spade bit (same for all 3 ideas), drilled to the depth of the tealight.  Before I get too much farther, I have to at least recommend that you use the flameless LED tea lights, especially if you have a tendency to leave this sort of thing unattended...

Option 2: Table Runner

I wish I had a bigger table to photograph this one on, but you'll have to use your imagination- wouldn't this look great as the centerpiece on a picnic table?

I like the dramatic, long look of this one.  Mine is roughly 2 feet long, with the candles centered every 2 inches.  If you were to make it any longer, you might want to push the spacing to 3 inches.  For this one, I only drilled about 1/3 of the way into the board so that the tea lights just barely sit in place.  


This happens to be made of a scrap piece of purple heart wood.  Yes, it's really that purple!  Now, to keep it's color, it can't be left outside as the UV will fade the color.

Option 3: Firewood

The first thing I want to say about this one is that it really should have the flameless lights.  I lit these long enough to take the picture, but I really wouldn't want to leave this one alone, especially with the peely kind of bark.

Anyway, these were made from leftover branches from cutting down the big tree in our yard.  These are another one that I probably will not leave out in the elements, as the hole for the tealight will probably aid the wood in rotting pretty quickly.  Not that it's that hard to find replacements...

I like these most along the deck railing like this:

(Let's just pretend that they all stayed lit for the photo, ok?)

This is a really simple project, but I think each could be a neat way to bring some ambiance to some time outdoors.  All you need is some small pieces of wood, a 1 1/2" drill bit and drill, and the tea lights!  Seriously, the hardest part of this was photographing them (10 candles + breeze = frustration)!

Hope you can enjoy some outdoor time this summer!


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Family Calendar

I feel like I have been battling nature all day today!  After a mayfly infestation at work (one glorious perk of working within 100 feet of the Susquehanna) and a weird pouring-with-the-sun-shining storm while walking to my car, I think the indoors are better for me today.  

Hopefully you are in the mood for an easy project.  After that wall we built, I sure am!  This is a simple but cute way to keep track of important family dates.  This is far from original; I have seen it on Pinterest, and a friend made a lovely one for her house a while ago, so I can't take credit for it.  I'll tell you how I made mine, but if you decide to make one, change it however you like to fit you and your family.

This was (naturally) an addition to my new home office:

Here's the closeup (names blurred for privacy):

I chose to use gray circles for birthdays and white circles for anniversaries.  I didn't take tons of pictures since it's fairly simple, but here are the steps to make this:
-Wooden plaque wide enough to accommodate 12 rows of markers
-Screw hooks and 'eyes' (I could only find eyes so I had to bend them into hooks...).  Keep in mind you need one screw and one eye for each marker.
-Small wooden pieces to use as markers (mine are the circles)- these need to be big enough to write on, and thick enough to put a screw into (or you can hot glue the screws on the back, it just won't be as sturdy)
-Paint, brushes, and paint pens
-Stencils (optional)

My plaque started out like this:

You could even use scrap wood or a picture frame, anything with a thick enough edge to screw into.  I spray painted mine antique white and added the lettering with a black paint marker.  There are also some stencils in pearl white paint (you can kind of see the one on the left), which I like because it adds a little bit of interest without being too distracting.

Attach 12 screw hooks along the bottom edge, trying to make them evenly spaced.  Paint the month above each hook (or in my case, just the first letter).  This shows how it looks with the screws in there:

I put a name and a day on each dot (or will... still missing a few dates!), and then put them in order when I had multiple on the same month (looking at you, June!).  

That's pretty much it!  I suggest buying a few extra markers so that you'll have them as your family grows (and not have to find matching ones later).  I hung my blank ones on the bottom or on rows without any special dates. 

This cost about $30 to make, but it will greatly depend on your family's size.  You could also probably save money compared to that cost if you can find bulk packages of hooks and wooden circles (I was a little impatient...).

Do you have any good methods of keeping track of important dates?  I'm hoping this will make me better about sending cards and such!

Have a good week!