Archive for November, 2013

Call It Vanity, Call It Shelf-ishness

It has been nearly a month since we talked about stenciling the floor in our sink nook (we’re all over the place lately – Clara’s room, outdoor tiling, installing our stair runner, landscaping adventures, starting in on the kitchen, etc) but that doesn’t mean we were done in there. We had a few more bullets to check off:

So to knock that first bullet off the list, Sherry used a small foam roller to apply two thin and even coats of SafeCoat Acrylaq to the floor (that’s our favorite non-toxic eco poly). She rolled those on about 24 hours apart, and wore a respirator just because it wasn’t fully odorless. It went on pretty fast, and she started in the furthest corner of the closet and just rolled her way out of the room. Then we blocked it off while it dried so we didn’t end up with puppy paw prints in it.

It has been a nice protective final step that has made us less worried about any chips or drips (heck, I was even able to scrape off a dried staining splatter later without damaging the stencil).

Once the floor sealer was fully cured (we waited around 72 hours) we could load in the closet, and this time we tried to be more thoughtful about what went where, and what would be the most functional. Bringing in a dresser and a mirror as well as a laundry room basket to use as a hamper really helped to make it a lot more storage-friendly than a bunch of random bins and piles. Although this dresser will probably end up in the nursery and our new West Elm dresser will most likely make its way in here after we add that wall of built-ins around our bed down the line.

Here’s a shot of Sherry’s side:

And my side (note the difference in shoe quantities):

Just as a refresher, here’s what the closet looked like when we moved in and threw everything down. It’s amazing what some fresh paint on the walls, trim, floor, and ceiling along with some much needed organization and some old furniture (the dresser’s a hand-me-down and the mirror was a $5 yard sale find) can do.

So with those first two bullets checked off, it was shelf o’ clock. They were actually a pretty easy build. We just had to keep two things in mind as we planned them out on paper:

  1. how to build supports for two shelves (function!)
  2. where to create places to attach the front-facing boards to make it look pretty (form!)

So here’s what we came up with (we like to map things out on paper together, and then we usually divide and conquer, so in this case Sherry did the polying and most of the closet organization, and I was happy to do the shelf building and staining, especially since the stain isn’t without VOCs). Then Sherry swooped back in and tackled the hinges and reattached the doors while I switched out the drawer and door hardware.

As for the building step, I started from the floor and worked my way up.

Step 1: I nailed a small piece of scrap wood into the side of the vanity (and another just like it into the baseboard on the opposite side) with one side resting on the floor and the other set back 3/4″ from the front of the vanity’s toe kick.

Step 2: This created a spot for me to attach a strip of plywood that would effectively extended the toe kick all the way across.

Step 3: Right above this, I nailed in matching strips of 1 x 2″ board (that I ripped in half on my table saw) that the bottom shelf could rest on. You’ll see in Step #10 why I didn’t line it up with the bottom of the vanity.

Step 4: I placed my first shelf, which I cut out of a piece of plywood I had leftover from the sunroom ceiling. It was such a tight fit I didn’t bother nailing it into place.

Step 5: After carefully measuring for the middle of the space, I nail-gunned another set of small strips on all 3 sides. I hadn’t done a back strip on the last shelf because it (coincidentally) rested perfectly on the top of the baseboard. Note: in this photo you can see how the vanity is a little dinged up in a few places, hence our desire to refinish it, which would also help us match the new wood with the old wood.

Step 6: I added my second shelf, cut from the same piece of plywood scrap.

Step 7: We wanted to add a face board at the top of the opening too, since we were trying to mimic the spacing and the look of the existing vanity. So by putting a face board here, it’d continue the strip of wood between the drawer face and cabinet doors that’s already on the left side. So, just like I did for the toe kick, I nailed small pieces of scrap wood here, set slightly back from the front of the cabinet.

Step 8: Time to start adding face boards. I started with a vertical one against the wall, which was a 1 x 3″ board (which really measured 1 x 2.5″) that I ripped on the table saw to be 1 x 2″ to match the width of the existing face boards. I glued and nailed it into place against the supports and shelves.

Step 9: Since that vertical face board got nailed into the small piece of scrap that I had placed at the top, I no longer had a place for the horizontal face board to attach. So I screwed another piece of scrap into the back of the vertical board to create one again.

Step 10: Now to put in all of the horizontal face boards, which were from the same 1 x 3″ board that I ripped to be 2″ wide. I was able to glue and nail these into the supports and the front edge of the shelves too. I wanted the bottom edge to match up with the existing vanity, which is why in Step 3 I had to account for the 2″ face board when placing my shelf support strips.

Here’s a pulled back shot of the whole thing once it was constructed. Putting it together was pretty fast (maybe an hour?). It was triple-checking all of my measurements and cutting my pieces that took the longest. I was certain I was going to mess something up along the way – like forgetting to account for the thickness of the plywood shelf when placing my support strips – so I tried to do the whole measure twice (and think twice) before cutting once thing.

Obviously the next challenge was getting the new shelves and the old vanity to be the same color. We wanted to maintain some semblance of wood grain texture, but also had some darker toned wood items in our bedroom (like a big leaning wall mirror near the doorway to this sink nook) that inspired us to go a little richer/darker with our new stain choice. We also learned from painting the vanity in our half bathroom that a deeper, less-orange shade can tone down the yellow in the sink top. So after having such a good experience with PolyShades on our stair railing (and having half a can leftover) we decided to go that route with the vanity.

The other can pictured above is some stain that we had leftover from Clara’s dresser makeover, which we first brushed onto the new shelves (to get them closer to the existing color on the left side of the vanity before PolyShading the whole thing to be uniform). I stupidly forgot to take a picture of that step, so unfortunately we’ll just have to skip ahead, but the color wasn’t a perfect match at all – just sort of within a tone or two instead of one side being bleach blonde. Apparently it was enough of a similarity that one coat of Espresso PolyShades (applied with a brush) did the trick in fully bridging the gap. Oh and before I brushed on the PolyShades, Sherry lightly sanded the existing vanity side so it was stain-ready just like the fresh wood was.

Before Sherry reattached the doors and put the drawer back in (all of which I had removed to make staining easier) we updated the knobs with some cheap ones (under $2 each!) that we found at Target. We thought that the octagon shape was a nice step-up from completely basic but the color would blend in nicely with our dark stain, so the knobs won’t compete with the patterned floor. In addition to using four of them to replace the existing knobs, I also drilled holes to add two more in the dummy drawer face that sits under the sink for a more balanced look.

And with that folks, we have a completed vanity. Wait, but let’s reminisce about what we started with:

And where we ended up:

I realize the dark stain color makes it a bit hard to see some of the detail in photos (in person it’s more wood-grain-ish without looking quite as goth-dark), but I’m happy to report that the new shelves look like they’ve always been there. We only did one coat of the PolyShades because we didn’t want it getting any darker, so there’s a little variation in the wood tone throughout the vanity. A second coat might’ve evened that out, but we both decided we like how the variation maintains the wood grain (although if you’re going for consistent overall coverage, we’d probably recommend two coats).

The best part is that the project was super cheap for us. Thanks to having the plywood and both types of stain on hand, our only costs were a 1 x 2″ board and a 1 x 3″ board ($12 total), along with the knobs ($12) and two pairs of new ORB hinges for the cabinet doors ($6). So this entire vanity update came to a grand total of $30. Note: if you don’t have plywood and stain on hand, you might want to add $30 to the budget.

Between this, our half bathroom, and our stair makeover, we’re starting to notice that we’re really gravitating towards high-contrast, almost monochromatic color schemes in the smaller nooks and crannies of this house. I don’t think it’s an indication that we’re ditching color (our adjoining bedroom has blue walls, a green rug, bright yellow pillows, and a patterned headboard – and we can’t forget Clara’s recent wall & door makeover) but I do think we’re appreciating the impact of some dark accents in the mix.

And just for fun, here’s a before shot from that angle from before we moved in:

So I’d say we’re getting pretty darn close to calling Phase 1 of the sink nook complete. Which is probably a good thing since we’re halfway through stripping wallpaper in the dining room and ready to start rolling on some kitchen updates before the chaos of the holidays (along with the showhouse kicking into high gear). What did you guys do this weekend? Any building? Sealing? Staining? New hardware? Closet organization? As boring as the closet organization part sounds, it’s pretty nice to finally have a real spot for all of our stuff after feeling like we were living out of bins and sorting through random piles since June.



Lookin’ At Lights

Our exterior light situation is a little ho-hum, as evidenced by this tiny fixture outside the back door on our garage (don’t mind the grimy green brick that’s screaming out for some scrubbing).

And yes, I realize the door itself is looking a little rough. It originally sported a rusty, loudly-banging storm door (not just a medium bang, this was SCARE-YOUR-NEIGHBORS LOUD) that we removed. So we’re getting ready to repair some of the trim and prime/paint it white to match the door in the sunroom veranda that we already updated.

But let’s turn our attention back to the light. It was too small and very weather-worn, so we decided it was time to make an upgrade. Choosing the fixture to upgrade it with proved a bit more challenging than we expected. Maybe because we’re not really used to shopping for them. I think we might have bought three exterior lights in the course of seven years. So after hitting up a local outlet and some big box stores without anything screaming “I’m perfect!” at us, Sherry took the hunt to a few online sites to see what she could come up with. After about an hour of clicking around (and waaaay too many windows being open at the same time which led to not one, but two browser crashes) there were eight contenders:

  1. Black lantern $69 here (inspired by the ones here)
  2. Seeded glass lantern $75 here
  3. Outdoor wall lantern $87 here
  4. X-Lantern $37 here
  5. Bronze cross-cross sconce $35 here
  6. Bronze lantern $79 here
  7. Antique copper wall light $219 here (purely just for eye candy, since it’s way above our budget)
  8. Bronze lantern $117 here

Making that mood board didn’t give us a eureka moment either. But what did was strolling through the lighting aisle at Home Depot and Lowe’s again, and discovering that Option #1 had gone on sale (down to $59). It had been my favorite all along anyways (Sherry was really into #6, but it was significantly smaller) and my argument for #1 was that we were looking for something large and in charge, and it was the second biggest of the bunch while also being among the three most affordable ones in the roundup. Sherry gave me one of those “hold on I’m thinking” faces and then said “ok, let’s do it.” And into our cart it went.

Installation was just like installing any other fixture:

So installation went nice and smoothly, and you can see from this photo that it’s a big improvement. Well, not the door. Or that green wall. But at least the light is no longer rusty and small.

You think I’m joking about the size difference, don’t you? Here’s a side-by-side with the old fixture so you can see just how much more substantial the new fixture is compared to the old one.

We personally like an outdoor fixture that has lots of visual presence, so this guy is doing the trick for us. Just imagine this with a freshly painted door and non-green bricks and a nice welcome mat and some plants on either side. I know… that’s a lot of imagining. We have a long way to go back here.

I like this shot the most, since it helps to show the size of the light, along with the traditional shape, which we think is pretty fitting with the exterior of our house (we’ve admired it on a lot of our neighbor’s homes, and also were inspired by this photo of an outdoor space with similar ones). At one point I suggested that we put them in The Artist Formerly Known As Prince The Veranda Formerly Known As The Sunroom (we’re looking for four sconces to go on the posts in there to provide some eye-level light) but after holding them up they didn’t look right – so we’re still on the hunt for what might work in there.

I’ll share just one more “after” photo of this guy because when I came out to take this picture I opened the door to find a herd of deer standing right outside. Of course they ran away at the sight of me.

But they didn’t go far and still make an appearance in the background of this picture.

Here they are, just giving me the ol’ deer staredown, when I stepped a little closer. If you’re on the edge of your seat for more of my stellar wildlife photography (or are just a fan of Where’s Waldo: Deer Edition) we’ve got this post on Young House Life for your deer-loving pleasure.

Sorry I keep getting sidetracked. Lights. We’re talking about lights. And obviously that back door isn’t our only outdoor fixture. We’ve got one more wall-mounted one above our garage. It was also looking a bit worse-for-wear and was also on the diminutive side.

So we purchased a second one to match the one we added to our backdoor.  And… the results were a little less impressive.

Even though it felt nice to have a sparkly new light up there – and the ORB finish commanded a bit more attention than the rusty gold – the size wasn’t reading as much of an improvement between those two giant garage doors (we’ll be painting those black or charcoal if that helps you visualize where things are going). And yes, we have more green stuff to attend to on that concrete driveway pad. Yeehaw, I smell some power-washing in my future…

But back to the light.

It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly what we were hoping for. It just looks kinda lost on that big brick wall with those big garage doors. And I’ll admit we’re feeling a little defeated because of all of the lights that Sherry mood-boarded, it was among the largest of them all (it’s about 19″ high, and the biggest – and most expensive – was only 20″). Update: We also have a pergola planned for over the double garage and we want to add shutters to all of the windows on the side and back of our house eventually (as seen on Listy McListerson) so those are things to consider for this side of the house too.

Part of us feels like we should just stick with this one for the time being and withhold judgement until we can do some other things to the garage side of the house (like the paint the doors). And the other half of us feels like we should just return it if we don’t love it there, and not settle for something that we might later end up regretting.

What do you guys think? Would you keep it or return it in the hopes of finding something better? Any tips for where else to look besides local lighting shops, Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Overstock?


As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by crabandfishblog by blucas by Gnomelover by rentalrevival