Archive for January, 2010
As promised, we’re back to detail the simple steps that anyone can follow to DIY some chic and cheap vintage-looking wood signs. We first unveiled these guys in our big bathroom reveal post yesterday morning, but now we’ll divulge the step-by-step process so you can follow along at home. Just remember to sing “I saw the sign” by Ace of Base the whole time you’re making them like we did. Good times.
John actually came up with the idea of creating vintage-looking wood signs (isn’t he quite the artisté?) after I lamented that square frames next to the rounded mirror might look a bit chaotic. We wanted something simpler (nothing with reflective glass or a strong raised edge to compete with the frame of the mirror) so John’s one-plane-only wood sign idea was the perfect fit.
And speaking of the perfect fit, we didn’t have a clue how big we wanted our art to be (or even how many pieces we wanted to make- two? three?) so we simply taped up white paper cut to different sizes in a few different arrangements until we settled on a layout that we liked. Two rectangles on top of each other would subtly mimic the shape of the window and feel balanced and inviting next to the mirror (and my fears of creating something that would compete too much with the curved mirror happily faded away). Hooray for fast and free paper templates to take the guesswork out of art size! The next step was just to measure those pieces of paper (they each turned out to be 16″ x 13″) and figure out what the heck our signs would look like…
We knew we wanted to draw inspiration from our time spent in NYC (where we met and fell in love) so we decided to try our hand at making signs that would resemble the look of old NYC subway signs, like these that we hunted down on google.
Did you guys click over and check out the $1600 price tag?! Yowsa. But when it came to inspiration, they were dead on. Of course we adapted ours to be horizontal in format and a bit less dark to complement all the white and neutral tones in our bathroom (and in our house for that matter). We also picked two subway stops with the most meaning to us to add a customized vibe that we love (we met working together near Grand Central and both lived in Astoria Queens at different times). We created our signs in Photoshop (but any program that allows you to edit type a bit should work). We also integrated some fun little details like the arrow and the horizontal rules around 42nd Street just to keep things interesting, but they still looked pretty flat as jpgs on the screen. Not to worry though, we had a few ideas for adding a bit more vintage character to them once we printed ‘em. Note: the typeface that we used was Abadi MT Condensed Light in case anyone wants to duplicate them that closely.
After we printed them out ourselves for free on regular old printer paper (we ran off a couple of extras so we could experiment with them a bit) we headed off to Home Depot. There we picked up one $6 piece of 1″ thick plywood (it was in the area near the chair legs among a ton of differently sized plywood options). The plywood sheet that we selected happened to be 16″ x 30″ so it was easily sliced down by the kind folks in the wood cutting area. They quickly transformed our plank of wood into two 16″ x 13″ rectangles with only a bit of scrap wood leftover. Gotta love getting two pieces of art out of one piece of $6 wood.
After bringing home our pre-cut planks it was as easy as painting them white with craft paint that we already owned (it was thinner than latex wall paint so some of the wood grain still showed through)…
… and trying our hand at a few different aging techniques to bring our “vintage signs” (aka: modern day computer printouts) to life. As you may be able to tell from the print on the left below, we had some fun brewing tea and rubbing the empty tea bags on one of our “tester”printouts but opted against it since it made the prints look so yellowed that they didn’t feel as crisp as the white painted wood that would be behind them (and we really wanted to maintain a clean and airy look, even after the “distressing” stage).
So after just saying no to the tea-staining process, we moved on to trying to rough up our prints with some good old fashioned elbow grease. First we placed one of them on a slightly textured (ie: nubby plastic) cutting board. Then we simply ran a sponge over it to wet it down and slightly wear away at the perfectly printed finish. We thought it might smear the ink, but happily it just buffed the surface for a pretty convincing timeworn look.
Next we rubbed a paper towel across the surface, being careful not to rip the paper but doing it vigorously enough to rough up the surface of the dampened piece of paper to further wear away at the formerly crisp appearance.
Then it was time to break out the ol’ hairdryer to get rid of any remaining moisture so the sign was ready to be attached to its designated wood plank.
It dried a bit lumpy bumpy but that’s all part of the plan. Of course at this stage we thought it might be ruined but we just went along with it and what do you know, it all worked out in the end. Trial and error is the name of the game here. Anyway, this is a detailed shot to show you what the sponge + paper towel technique did to the finish of our prints. See those worn down areas and those slightly rubbed off spots? These babies were looking less freshly printed already!
Then it was Mod Podge time. We already owned a big tub of it (and actually used one of our paint brushes) so this step was also free like the printing and distressing phases. We flipped the paper over and applied a semi-thick coat of Mod Podge to the back of the print and then flipped it over again, carefully placed it in the center of our wood plank, and applied a thick layer of Mod Podge to hold everything in place. The great thing about the stuff is that although it looks like white Elmer’s Glue going on, it actually dries clear, so not only did our top coat of Podge hold our print in place, it also created a glossy hardened appearance (which is perfect for a bathroom since it “sealed” the sign from any future moisture-related problems).
Once everything was dry we flipped over each sign (on an old towel so as not to scratch the front) and gently hammered in two little nails to secure 98 cent picture hangers that we already had in our hardware drawer. Presto, an easy way to hang our new bathroom art for zero dollars and zero cents. Note: If you don’t already own white craft paint, Mod Podge or Picture Hangers, they can all be picked up at a craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby for around five dollars total.
Here are our new “vintage” wood signs hanging happily in the bathroom. One of the coolest things about the fact that our prints were a bit bumpy from the wetting, distressing, and drying stage was that when we Mod Podged them they each got a wrinkle or two which looked oh so worn and weathered (see the one through the D in Ditmars and the G in Grand Central?). This was, well, perfect for the imperfect look we were going for and once the Mod Podge dried it was seamless and sealed (so there wasn’t a big wrinkle that stuck out from the wood or anything- everything looked flush, flat and pretty darn fantastic).
There you have it. The story of our $6 homemade wooden sign art. We hope you guys are inspired to try your hand at something similar. And you don’t have to stop at subway sign ideas either, you can always pick a small shop in your hometown that has special meaning to you, create a message of some sort (like a “please remove your shoes” reminder by the back door), or even whip up a personalized sign for your son or daughter’s room with their name on it. The possibilities are pretty much endless.
So we’ll leave you with this detail shot which further shows our gently distressed signs hanging happily above the toilet (a place that all art aspires to be hung, we’re sure).
Isn’t it funny how two pieces of paper that we taped up on the wall could so easily turn into this with six bucks and a bit of let’s-see-what-happens spirit?
But enough about our little Mod-Podge-Meets-Ace-Of-Base DIY fest. What kind of art have you guys been whipping up with your own two hands these days? From painting colorful canvases to framing collections like bottle caps and matchbooks, we’d love to know what made-it-myself masterpieces hang proudly on your walls.
Psst- Speaking of DIY art, here are a few other homemade art projects you might enjoy: making a magazine monogram, whipping up custom pet art, making free inspiration art, using chalk for freehand wall decor, painting pop art over old art, and creating a bunch of other cheap wall art.
When Courtney sent over her awesome entertainment center transformation we just had to share the goods. Here’s her letter:
YHL always inspires me because you find ways to tweak or repurpose the resources that you have rather than blow the budget on something expensive. I’m not a fan of clutter and have tried multiple ways to hide the shame that is the DVD collection in my entertainment center (I’ve covered the glass doors with wrapping paper, but this required opening the doors to use the remotes for the cable box and DVD players). Then I came across these cut-outs at Michael’s that are used for scrap-booking and thought they would make great stencils. Down came the wrapping paper and up went the stencils (I used 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive to hold them in place) so I could frost the glass to hide the mess but still allow for remote controls access. I protected the wood frame of the door by placing plastic bags around the perimeter and just sprayed Rust-O-Leum Specialty Frosted Glass spray in a semi-transparent finish (about two coats while still wet). Ten minutes later it was dry and ready to use (see more details over on my blog). Thanks so much for your dedication to YHL and to your followers; it makes my day to see what you two accomplish and it inspires me to do the same in my own rental! – Courtney
Here’s one side of her entertainment center before the big transformation (see the door on the right?). The left door has the stencil stuck in place but has yet to be sprayed…
… and here’s everything after the frosting spray was applied and the stencils were removed. Pretty darn amazing, eh?
Wasn’t that functional and beautiful solution a stroke of genius on her part? Thanks so much for sending the photos our way Courtney. We love that the remotes still work through the newly frosted doors and it all looks so chic and high end. The entire piece is elevated by this crafty little solution. What do you guys think? Didn’t she use that frosting spray like a champ? Anyone else out there interested in frosting their entertainment center doors after seeing this stunning transformation?
Psst- Speaking of frosting things, check out this step-by-step tutorial on how we frosted the windows in our very own basement.
Oh happy day. We’re here to share all of our bathroom after pictures complete with a full timeline and a budget breakdown to detail every step of this month-long weekend and evening project of ours. First we should remind everyone what the room looked like at the bleakest moment of the makeover. When it comes to most major renovations, rooms usually have to get uglier before they turn the corner and start looking good, so let’s take a moment to appreciate just how un-aesthetically-pleasing our bathroom was when it was all stripped down after John demo’d the entire thing by himself over the course of about 24 hours spent in the bathroom (my hero!):
Now look at the same room all put back together again. We’re thrilled that everything seemed to click into place in the home stretch, and now our bathroom is honestly one of our favorite rooms in the house. Weird, but true.
You can see that we hung a dark wood mirror (which we scored for $27 on clearance at Target) above the similarly toned vanity. We love that it also picks up the rich mocha color in our discount marble flooring (which you may remember we snagged for around $2.50/square foot at Lowe’s on clearance).
You’ll also notice some art on the wall… and you know we weren’t about to pay for something when we could make it ourselves, right? John actually came up with the idea of creating vintage-looking wood signs (he’s the brains of this operation, I’m telling you) after I lamented that the thought of square frames next to the rounded mirror could look a bit chaotic. So we picked up one $6 piece of wood, had it cut into two equal pieces right there in the wood cutting area of Home Depot and took them home to transform them into something worthy of our brandy new bathroom.
We took inspiration from our time spent in NYC (where we met and fell in love) so we thought making signs that mimicked the look of old NYC subway signs (like these that we hunted down on google) would be a special way to add more of that customized feeling that we love in our home. Of course we adapted ours to be a bit less dark to complement all the white in our bathroom (and in our house for that matter). We also picked two subway stops with the most meaning to us (we met working together near Grand Central and both lived in Astoria Queens at different times).
After bringing home our pre-cut planks of wood it was as easy as painting them white with craft paint that we already owned (it was thinner than latex wall paint so some of the wood grain still showed through) and designing two “signs” in Photoshop (we printed them out ourselves for free). Then we roughed up our prints for a weathered, creased, and vintage look and Mod Podge came in handy when it came to attaching them to the wood planks (the waterproof protection it added was also a plus since they live in a bathroom). Note: we’ll be doing a follow up post with more step-by-step sign making details for anyone who wants to take on this project themselves so stay tuned.
But on with the bathroom tour! If you look at the photo above, you’ll see that we actually opted to attach a simple chrome toiler paper dispenser to the side of the vanity since we didn’t want it attracting attention from the hall (which it would do if we placed it on the other side of the toilet under the window). We also picked up a simple white ceramic tray for the top of the toilet (we actually cut a thin strip off of one of our rubber rug-pads to form sort of a grippy buffer between the toilet and the tray to keep it “stuck” in place for the long haul). Then we used the tray to corral our favorite soap pump (which we waxed poetic about here) along with a cute little shell ball and a leafy green plant.
Although there was room for a soap dispenser on the back corner of the vanity behind the sink we thought it looked cuter a few inches to the right on top of the toilet- so while we know other people might want their soap pump right on the top of the vanity, we personally liked it on the tray (to each his own, right!). It really keeps the top of the sink uncluttered and sleek looking, and we always have the option to simply move the pump over to the sink if weeks of use make us rethink our nearby toilet-top placement.
We also love that we were able to save the vanity’s drawer by shortening it (read more about the process of building the vanity here) so we can still fit a few staples in there: toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant in a bamboo tray along with contact cases and John’s hair stuff.
We love that our vanity also allows us to store a bunch of extra bath towels (picked up for just $6 each at TJ Maxx) along with a few cute decorative items like a loofah in a faux clam shell and a pretty scalloped plate with Dove soap on it for our guests (we use a bar of organic stuff in the shower, but when guests stay and want to shower/wash their face we can just mention that the soap under the sink is all theirs).
We also rehung our existing white waffle floor to ceiling shower curtain (read more about that project here) and really love that the shower tile now goes right up the ceiling to meet the bar for even more height and drama in the room. We’re so glad we spent the extra time tiling all the way up… the ceiling seriously feels over a foot taller. You’ll also notice that we snatched up a simple inside-mount bamboo blind from Home Depot for just $25. We love the texture and mocha color that it adds to tie in with the tones in the marble floor and even the vanity and the mirror.
At the very end of our renovation we also had our tub professionally reglazed for a completely convincing like-new look. The tub was actually already reglazed when we inherited it with the house and that treatment lasted over 12 years (we received the original paperwork from the first time the job was done years ago from the last owners). And this new reglazing job should last just as long even with everyday use. The key is finding the best professionals who use the best equipment and the best formulas for a long lasting finish that looks amazing (we call for references, look them up with the Better Business Bureau, etc).
As for why we opted to get ours reglazed instead of replacing it, we love the large, deep, original cast-iron tub. It was too great to send off to a landfill (and too heavy and expensive to try to remove & replace). We’re all about working with what we have, so because we couldn’t salvage the bathroom’s old tile, the least we could do was salvage the tub by refinishing it (to the tune of $399- oh and it would have only been $299 if our tub hadn’t already been reglazed for anyone out there looking for a cost estimate). Oh and because we’ve lived without putting shampoo bottles around the edge of the tub for years (since it was previously refinished and that’s not recommended) that’s not an adjustment for us at all when it comes to the newly reglazed finish. Note: we used this top rated family owned local company and are extremely pleased with their work.
Here’s a shot of John’s amazing tub to ceiling subway tile. Doesn’t it look like the work of a pro? I couldn’t be more proud of my man and his first attempt at tiling! We also opted to add a simple chrome shower caddy (although we debated adding white porcelain corner shelves or even creating an enclave for shampoo and soap before we tiled) since we don’t mind the look and love that it kept our first tiling job sweet and simple.
You might also notice that we replaced the shower fixtures with an insanely affordable $69 chrome set from Overstock since our old fixtures felt a bit too cottage-y with our new sink & faucet. The best part is that we Craigslisted our old fixtures (since they were only used for a few years and were in mint condition) and actually made back $30 of the $69 we spent on the new ones. Not bad, eh? Gotta love Craigslist. And on another note, how delicious does that twenty cent subway tile from Home Depot look up close? It’s so bright and shiny and clean looking- perfect for a tub surround. Mmm.
Oh and this is one project where we weren’t afraid to call in the pros. We paid $100 for an hour of an expert’s time so he could remove our old fixtures (they were soldered in place behind the wall) and put in our new ones (also soldering them in place for long-lasting durability and performance). It was totally worth it to avoid any potential plumbing issues down the line and after receiving many $300+ estimates for a simple shower-hardware switcheroo we found a great local plumbing company (Advanced Plumbing – 804.358.1616) who gave us a much more reasonable price- so we’ll definitely be using them again in the future.
We also have our doorless linen closet (learn about how and why we removed the door a while back) which feels even more integrated into the room since we removed the threshold and tiled the floor of the closet (which used to be wood) so the entire bathroom now has seamless mocha stone squares underfoot. The difference really is amazing! It’s like it was always meant to be an open nook instead of a disparate linen closet. It’s a great place to store all of our extra towels, my hair dryer, my make-up bag, and other linen-closet stuff. But thanks to pretty boxes and bins (that we already had laying around) all the ugly stuff is hidden away for a clean and inviting look that’s organized and still super functional.
Oh and you might notice the tags on a few of those woven baskets (which we made back in the day). They keep us even more organized and John can’t claim he doesn’t know where anything is or fail to put things back in their places- gotta love a foolproof system that costs zero dollars and zero cents.
Here’s a shot of the other side of the bathroom with our new $6 TJ Maxx towels hanging on the back of the door (see a close-up of our personalized towel hooks here). We also hung a small towel bar next to the sink for easy hand-drying. We actually adapted that towel bar to fit our bathroom so stay tuned for a follow up post with those details from John…
It’s the little things that really make a room feel finished. It was amazing how adding some towels and a few accessories seemed to bring the entire space from “in-progress” to “thank goodness we’re done!” And those last-minute touches only seem to emphasize and complement the more major materials like the veiny marble flooring, the crisp white trim and the soft taupey-green walls. Oh and speaking of the details, we scored our bath mat for $9 on clearance at our local West Elm (which is sadly closing its doors but that meant everything was marked down like crazy). It adds so much softness to the dark stone floors and the cushy texture is so inviting for bare feet.
And now for the budget breakdown. First we should mention that we got two informal bathroom estimates from contractor friends of ours (so we would have a pro price to compare to our DIY price) and both of them came in right around 10K for the entire demolition, room rebuilding, floor and shower/tub tiling and vanity installation (which they knew would be harder than a more modern redo since our 50 year old house had mortar and metal-mesh behind those walls – not to mention some old floorboard rot).
Of course we knew that we could save a significant chunk of change by doing everything ourselves but we also knew that just because a job is DIY doesn’t make it free (thanks to materials and supplies) so we headed into our bathroom makeover assuming that we’d spend around 3K on everything from demo to the final stage of accessorizing- especially because we were replacing everything from the floors and the walls to the vanity and the tile. Needless to say we were thrilled when we crunched the numbers and found out we came in blissfully under budget! Here’s how it all shook out:
- Demo: $67 (for the rental of the demolition hammer and a few other simple supplies)
- Subway wall tiles: $101 (from Home Depot for 21 cents a pop)
- Marble floor tiles: $120 (thanks to an amazing clearance price of around $2.50 at Lowe’s)
- Grout, spacers, sealer, caulk: $70
- Drywall, furring strips, hardibacker, plywood, nails: $136
- HD truck rental to get the big stuff home: $19
- Trim, quarter-round & supplies: $100
- Thinset & notched trowel: $75
- Manual tile cutter: $15 (we went halvsies on it with John’s dad)
- Wet saw: borrowed from John’s dad
- Circular saw: borrowed from John’s dad
- Miter saw: borrowed from John’s dad
- Drywall mud, tape, sandpaper & spackle knives: already owned/borrowed from J’s dad
- Primer: $11 (Valspar Drywall Latex Based Primer)
- Paint: $26 (Olympic No-VOC paint color matched to Benjamin Moore Dune Grass)
- Vanity: $410 ($165 Crate & Barrel nightstand after coupon+ $119 Overstock sink + $109 Overstock faucet + $17 Low-VOC eco-varnish)
- Shower Fixtures: $69 set from Overstock + $100 installation
- Toilet: already purchased a few years back
- Professional tub reglazing: $399
- Towels: $30 from TJ Maxx
- Mirror: $27 on clearance from Target
- TP dispenser and towel bar: $37 from Target
- Art: $6 for the wood (we already owned the paint/Mod Podge & printed ‘em ourselves)
- Bath mat: $9 on clearance from West Elm
- Blinds: $25 from Home Depot
- Other small accessories & miscellaneous expenses: $67
- GRAND TOTAL: $1819.00
* It definitely bears noting that we were fortunate enough to get to borrow some tools and a few other supplies from John’s dad (ex: the wet saw, circular saw, and miter saw). If you were to purchase these items they’d probably come in around $450 but you could also rent them for far less from places like Home Depot and True Value.
Yeah we’re pretty excited about that final number. There may or may not have been some geeky high-fives being thrown around when we finally hit “=” and saw it come up on the calculator. Not only did we come in over eight thousand dollars cheaper than a professional most likely would have charged, we even came in more than 1K under our original budget. Thank goodness for clearance tile and places like Overstock, Target, and TJ Maxx for affordable accessories. And boy were we ready to have our new and improved bathroom back in action after exactly 40 days sans shower (although showering at the gym and John’s sister’s house weren’t all that bad after you got used to it).
Of course it wasn’t 40 solid days of work, it was more like four and a half weekends and a few evenings spent gettin’ her done. And we can’t forget that Christmas and New Years were thrown into the mix so we spent quite a bit of time taking a break with family and friends. Here’s a more detailed timeline rundown:
- Pre-project planning & shopping: 5 hours or so
- Removal of toilet/vanity before demo: 2 hours
- Tile demo: 24 hours (two twelve hours days)
- Getting supplies and installing drywall, hardibacker and new plywood floor: 42 hours (three and a half twelve hours days) Note: this step can be substantially shorter in newer homes where you’re not dealing with furring strips to build out walls to match old mortar depths, for example John’s dad tackled this step alone at his house in less than one seven hour day.
- Tiling the shower surround: 17 hours (one seven hour day and two five hour evenings)
- Priming and painting walls: 2.5 hours
- Tiling the floor: 11 hours (one seven hour day and one four hour evening)
- Grouting & sealing the shower & floor: 3 hours
- Buying, cutting, installing & painting trim: 9 hours
- Reinstalling toilet: 30 minutes
- Building and installing the vanity: 5.5 hours
- Hanging the mirror, art, shower curtain, towel bars, etc: 1.5 hours
- GRAND TOTAL: 123 hours (which breaks down into a little over five weekends of work)
The bathroom was definitely the biggest DIY projects we’ve taken on to date. We had never demo’d tile, used a wet saw, tiled anything, or even used a miter saw before! So we love to point to our latest big makeover as proof that anyone can tackle something like this in their own home with a good amount of research and some tireless enthusiasm and determination (for more info on how to evaluate whether a project is too big to DIY, click here).
So we’ll leave you with a photo of our bathroom as it looked when we purchased our sweet old house three years ago. Can you believe the previous owners actually had gross matted carpet covering the old basketweave tile?
You’ve come a long way old friend.
Would we do it all over again? Heck yeah. We’re interested to see how much faster and more efficient we could be now that we’re not such newbies in so many areas of the bathroom renovation process. But would we start another bathroom remodel this weekend? That might be stretching it. While we love the pride and self-satisfaction that our big bathroom project elicited, we’d be flat out lying if we didn’t admit that it was hard work and we’re happy to take a little break from sledgehammer swinging and tile cutting for a little while. We’re not robots, ok? In fact, a nice long bath sounds about right after all that blood (some), sweat (lots) and tears (just a select few).
So what do you guys think? Is there anyone out there who recently took on a similar DIY bathroom project? Any first-time tilers who are about to take the plunge? We promise it’s not nearly as scary as thinking about it. Really, once you stop dreading the whole thing and dive in it’s kind of a relief to be “doing” instead of “anticipating.” Happy renovating to one and all!
Wanna read each detailed post about the big bathroom makeover? Check out Chapter One (Planning), Chapter Two (Demo), Chapter Three (Wall Reconstruction), a little teaser post, Chapter Four (Tiling), Chapter Five (Grouting), Chapter Six (Trim) and Chapter Seven (Building The Vanity).