Our Current House
After victoriously completing the two end sections of our three-piece DIYed console table (explained here), I turned my attention to the middle portion. You may recall that this piece will be entirely hidden between the other two (and sandwiched between the back of the sectional and the wall) so I could’ve gotten away with a very simple platform on which to lay the long tabletop that will span across all three pieces that we’re planning to make out of our already-around reclaimed pallet wood. But we figured that would just be wasted space, so we took the less simple route of creating some hidden storage in the middle piece. Allow my sketch to explain:
Who am I kidding, my sketching skills haven’t improved so allow me to explain instead. Basically the piece is a 41″ long table with an opening in the middle of the top. Under that is a platform shelf that will act as the bottom of the storage “area.” We considered building sides out of wood to enclose the entire storage “box” (where I’ve “shaded” on the sketch) but to save money and keep the weight of the piece down, we’ve decided to just staple taut fabric around those four sides instead (again, since no one’s gonna see it). Basically it’ll be a fabric box with a strong wooden frame and a solid wooden bottom.
Maybe this will make more sense once you see it being built. Here are my supplies – a bunch of 1 x 4″ boards and one 1 x 12″ board. We had a lot cut at Home Depot again, but didn’t worry about getting them cut nearly as precisely (since I can easily cut 1 x 4″s with my miter saw at home).
First up was the process of creating four 24″ tall legs. I of course was reminded that cutting a 48″ piece of wood doesn’t leave you with two precise 24″ pieces (notice the uneven tops). The width of the saw blade leaves you with one that’s more like 23 7/8ths. But I managed to work around it, so don’t worry about that for now.
Then I added a long rail at the top to connect two legs together (I lined it up with the 24″ leg, not the slightly shorter one, which ensured that it would be level and the right height when it was complete). Again, all of this was done with my beloved Kreg Jig, which I also used to make the other two sides of the console table that I shared on Monday.
Next I used those two shorter boards (seen on the floor of the picture above) to connect these two pieces. These pieces would also become the support for the bottom shelf.
I sorta forgot to photograph the next step (boo me), but it was creating that lower shelf. To save money I just laid two 1 x 4s flat across the piece (resting on the support shown above). Obviously this didn’t fully fill the 16″ space, which is where that 1 x 12″ that I purchased came in handy. I just laid it on top of the newly attached 1 x 4″s (centered on top of them) to create a nice solid shelf.
You can sort of see what I’m talking about in the finished pic below:
As for the top, it’s just some of that 1 x 12″ that I had leftover from building the two end pieces. I affixed it to the top on either side – leaving the hole in the middle that we wanted.
Not the prettiest piece in the world, but once we get the fabric stapled to the sides to enclose the storage “bin,” it’ll do the trick (heck we might even drop some storage baskets in there for some separation/organization). And it doesn’t have to be that pretty since we’ll be adding our long reclaimed pallet “counter” on top of all three consoles (with a small and flush lift-off-able piece to access the storage compartment whenever we’d like).
I know it’s really hard to envision how we’ll make the rustic countertop – and how we’ll keep that top-entry storage area accessible from above – so we’ll share those details when we tackle it along with lots of photos (we’re still not 100% set on a specific plan of attack) .
Oh yeah and obviously we’ve moved all of the pieces into the room (even though they still need to be stained and countertopped):
Admittedly it was a bit jarring to see everything shifted like that. But after one night living that way, it felt like a big improvement. The relationship between the sectional and the too-small-just-for-now media cabinet seemed cozier and sitting 17″ closer to our pretty small TV certainly made it easier to read subtitles and weather forecasts. Plus when we finally ditch the awkwardly placed floor lamp on the end of the sofa and bring in two chunky table lamps on either side of our huge console table it’ll feel even more balanced and connected to both the wall and the sofa. They’ll help us bridge things and add function and some height on either side of our big frame grid, which should be really nice. And you know Sherry’s already on a serious lamp hunt. She’s crazy like that.
But there was one let down to the whole thing. It’s not level. Not because of the way I built it, but because of the room. The floor in there is a bit “wavy” at points. We noticed it from our very first walk through of the house, but our inspector assured us that there’s nothing structural to fear – just a little settling (which is apparently why they installed parquet, instead of less “flexible” and forgiving hardwood planks). So even though they’ve made my console adventure more challenging, at least Clara has figured out one plus to the situation: it makes playing with her ball a lot less work (she found a “magic spot” on the rug where her ball always comes back to her, no matter which direction she rolls it):
So I knew going into this that expecting a piece of furniture spanning 140″ (almost 12 feet!) of uneven floor might be asking for trouble. Luckily it wasn’t too bad. There was mainly just this one spot where two of the pieces didn’t line up.
Enter these little fellas to the rescue:
They’re basically like those adjustable feet you find on appliances. I opted for them over felt pads alone because the ability to tweak the height by spinning each foot ’til everything was perfectly level would be invaluably time-saving.
Installing them was pretty straightforward. Just drill a big hole in the bottom to fit the plastic guide and then screw the foot in. Since the hole was so big (nearly 3/8ths of an inch) I worked up from a small pilot hole to the big kahuna (which even required me breaking out my bigger drill) so I wouldn’t crack the wood.
I also realized that using an even bigger drill bit to make the opening at the top a bit wider would allow the top lip of the plastic guide to sit flush in the wood. So with the padded leg screwed in it looked something like this:
After adding these to most of the corners (and couple of flat felt pads to others that needed less of a lift), I eventually achieved what I was going for: LEVELNESS! (or is it levelocity? leveliciousness?)
I have to admit that I was a bit nervous that getting it level would be impossible, so I was pumped when it happened – and relatively quickly. Plus this wasn’t the only time that luck was on my side. We also realized that we serendipitously built this center piece so that we still have access to the wall outlet behind Karl (which will be imperative once we buy table lamps for the console). Gotta love happy accidents.
It means we’ll have to be a bit creative when it comes to stapling the fabric sides on, which we still plan to do so we don’t lose remotes or baby toys down that crack between the wall and the console (thanks to the baseboard that keeps them from being perfectly flush- but that smidge of space is imperative for lamp cords anyway, so it’ll all work out in the end).
But we’ll cross that bridge – and the staining and top building bridges – when we come to them. You know we’ll take a ton of photos to share too. For now I’m just basking in the glorious totally-level situation we have going on now. Ahhhh….
I thought it might be fun to walk around the house with the Flip cam and show you guys how each room can look on an average day. You know, before we pick the clothes up off the floor, put away Clara’s toys, and fold the big blankets that we snuggle under on the sofa. So here’s an impromptu house tour (while John and Clara ducked out to the post office and grocery store) in all of its average everyday glory:
Things to note:
- Ugh, I have a cold. Sorry about my annoying voice. Who am I kidding, my voice annoys me even when I’m not crazy congested.
- I’m terrible at walking around, talking, and holding a camera (too much multitasking, pardon the Blair Witch Project-esque jolts).
- For those who requested updated office photos in this post, you can see it in 3-D (well, almost) in the vid.
- Burger is so cute. I love how he comes running in and steals the show (and is later seen relaxing in the window).
- I have no idea why I take the time to explain Clara’s music class kit. It’s so weird what you think is noteworthy.
- You can sneak a peek at John’s behind the sofa console project’s progress. Oh and when I say it’s not level and it slopes away from the wall, it’s because our floors are slanted, not because John’s work is shoddy (more pics and details on the big console build this afternoon).
- Yes, my ceramic pooch is still sitting on on the back patio. I just can’t bring myself to let go of him yet. But I’m working up to it. One day at a time.
- You can sneak a peek at the two 30 x 40″ canvases that we got super cheap at Michael’s (more details on our plans for them soon).
- I have no idea why at the end I’m talking about other rooms while walking back through the house and aiming the camera at the dining room and the kitchen (it’s just odd to show the kitchen and say “the messy playroom”). It’s official: I’m no Spielberg.
- My dramatic ending on my purse is beyond weird. What is wrong with me?
Here’s some bonus “ordinary day” behavior. We always tell people how Burger sleeps like a human (with his head on the pillow and his body tucked under the covers) but people rarely believe just how hilarious this is. So here’s some visual evidence that I snapped this morning. I promise this isn’t staged. John got up first today, so I reached over and took some pics after Burger crawled up from the bottom of the bed to “steal” John’s place and sleep in at least four more hours. What a life.
What about you guys. What would people see if you randomly shot photos (or a shaky nausea-inducing video) of your house before cleaning up? Anything embarrassing out there like a teddy bear in the bed or a man-thong on the floor? Thank goodness I put John’s leopard one away before filming that video. Haha. Kidding. Sorry honey. I know just reading that is gonna make you all flustered.
Q: I have an idea for a blog post. “Design mistakes we won’t make again.” As I look through pictures of all the beautiful work you’ve done, I’m thinking of choosing many similar styles & purchases. But then I wonder, over time – did you ever regret a design choice? – Shannon
A: That’s a good one. And now for 1,970 words on the subject. We’ll start by saying that we definitely don’t always know what we’re doing when we do something (us = so not experts) so we just try to take things one day at a time and learn as we go. We make tons of mistakes. You’ve just gotta feel your way around and course-correct along the way. Doing something, even if it’s a bad something is so much more of a learning experience than doing nothing and being frozen in indecision. So here are a few live-and-learn mistakes of ours that come to mind:
1. Buying an expensive-for-us Pottery Barn sofa. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to buy a sofa without seeing it in person (and sitting down on that baby). The reason we got a PB one for our first house’s den was because we ordered a cheaper sofa from target.com and then it arrived and it was terrible. The scale and proportion was all wrong and it was hard as a rock. Thankfully it was fully returnable, but we were left feeling like “maybe you have to spend a lot on something to get something good” so we saved up and ordered the PB Basic sofa after sitting on it in the store (to the tune of around $1300 with delivery at the time).
But in all of the 3+ years that we spent with it, we never really loved it. It’s totally just one of those personal preference things but it always felt kind of baggy and frumpy. Here’s a less glamorous glimpse of those top cushions from this old old old post from back in the day:
It just never felt/looked as nice as the living room sofa that we actually paid $400 less for from Rowe (read about that here). Even Karl the sectional (who is three times bigger) was less expensive! He’s also more comfy and looks more like “us” than our old PB sofa (which we craigslisted for $500 before the big move). So I guess the lesson that we learned was that just because something is more expensive, it’s not always better.
2. Black trim in the bathroom. Bad idea. But I’m glad we tried it. I had this cool graphic Domino vision and it was not just working. But it only took about two hours to paint it…
… and then unpaint it. And it didn’t hurt to eliminate a few other odd items like the blue plastic shower curtain, my blue pashmina window treatment (that was definitely a work with whatcha got oddity), and those funny old shutters on the windows (among other things).
So the black trim was definitely a mistake worth making, just to learn that it wasn’t the right move so we could get past it and find out what we really liked. Turned out white on white on white made for a nice spa like effect until we could reno the entire bathroom (up close the original tile was a disaster, so it sadly couldn’t be saved).
3. Not bringing enough furniture into a room. Like our stark and completely non-functional living room in the early days:
This mistake was pretty easy to remedy over time. We just saved our pennies and slowly added items to fill out the long skinny never-used-it-at-all room. Here’s here’s how it looked a few years into the whole evolution (adding a dining area off of the kitchen was a lot more functional, so we used the room a lot more).
4. Going too crazy with our whole house color scheme. At first we thought every room called for a different color of the rainbow- read more about that here).
The black trim bathroom debacle taught us to try something, even if it doesn’t always work out. And this is more of that lesson. Slowly over time we tried a bunch of colors, identified the ones we loved best, painted over the rest, and ended up with a sea-glass inspired palette for our first house that was really welcoming and serene.
For our current house we’re in the mood for something a bit more moody, risky, and sophisticated (who wants to clone the same house twice?). Could be awesome. Might suck. Only time will tell!
5. Dinky, not-big-enough items. Even if your space is small, we’ve learned that lots of small furniture or art & accessories can actually make it feel smaller (and more cluttered) – at least through our eyes. Yup, we’re definitely fans of a nicely sized sofa or a large scale art item to add a little something extra. Some might say we like things too big (that’s what she said), but the drama of a giant light fixture, like this one in our current bedroom…
… or an oversized vase, like this one in our hallway…
… seems to add interest and presence to spaces that might not feel as special without them. Whatever tickles your pickle I guess (one more time, that’s what she said). Of course when Clara gets a little bigger we might have to nix the giant glass objects, but we’ll
cross that bridge hide that vase when we get there. Ha.
6. Growing grass everywhere. A bag of grass seed is definitely cheaper than a bunch of bushes, and the easy-care regional grass that we use doesn’t need much water or weeding once it’s established (we don’t use fertilizer or sprinklers or anything). But it’s still a lot to mow. It used to take John at least an hour and a half to mow the front and back yards of our first house. And in the summer it would grow like crazy so it definitely ate into our “fun family time.”
Keeping a more naturalized landscape with a few areas of grass for the pup and the kiddo(s) is more of the plan when it comes to this house. So we’ll definitely add some grass in a few places for t-ball and picnics, but we hope to leave other areas au naturale (and add low maintenance wildflowers, grasses, ground cover, etc).
7. Not relying enough on craigslist and thrift stores for furnishings. Some of our favorite items, like our old living room coffee table (which is now being borrowed by John’s parents), the white slipcovered chair from the den (which now lives in the sunroom), the white pedestal table from our old sunroom (which now sits in the living room by the window) and Clara’s old dresser (which still resides in her room) are secondhand finds that cost less than $30 each. Yup, we paid under $120 for a giant 6-drawer dresser, a large white pedestal table, a crisp slipcovered armchair, and a two tiered glass and iron coffee table. Insanity.
We’re so glad we didn’t end up dropping $200+ for each thing from a big box store. And since moving into our new house we’ve added eight dining chairs from craigslist (scored for just $25 a pop) along with two $35 chairs from a secondhand shop, and all of the fun thrifted finds seen here. Secondhand treasures = yes please.
8. Not building things. It’s not that hard. Even though we’re the first to admit that it sounds intimidating (it took us three months to work up the nerve to tackle our latest build). But everything from our custom door-topped desk and our postcard shelves to the book ledges that John made in the nursery were so affordable and doable when we think back.
And now that John’s tackling our 140″ console table (he’s still hard at work – details soon). There’s something sweet and poetic about making furniture together at home (even if you’re just the cheerleader, and even better if you’re the one slinging the drill). Petersik-style romance is building something under your own roof (or outside in the yard). Sawdust + teamwork (even if it’s just me watching Clara and cheering John on while he works) = amore.
9. The whole matchy-matchy crime. In our first house we learned that we love a mixture of dark wood and white painted pieces along with brown faux leather upholstery mixed with white slipcovers and and even a few soft painted pieces (like a celery toned bookcase or bench). And in our current place we’re having fun switching things up by adding more boldness, different wood tones, and even things like gray beams or deep saturated walls. But one thing’s for sure. We’ll never have a room full of furnishings that are all the exact same wood tone or the same upholstery fabric. It’s just too much fun to switch it up with things like a green luggage-rack-turned-side-table (see how we DIYed that here)…
… or create a two-tone dresser like Clara’s (that we DIYed here).
10. Buying things that don’t work with anything else in our house. We thankfully never bought a giant piece of furniture that didn’t fit in with anything else that we own (other than the PB sofa we never really loved), but we’ve definitely picked up pillows and accessories that never felt quite right with other items in our house (and eventually they made it into the Goodwill/yard sale pile). Read more about trying to avoid grabbing tons of stuff that doesn’t work with the rest of the stuff that you already have here.
11. Refinishing the floors of our first house with traditional materials like oil-based stain and polyurethane. It stunk for months. We both got headaches for weeks and it felt really unhealthy, even though we ran fans and cracked windows (even in the dead of winter). Thank goodness it was two years before Clara was born (read more about that floor refinishing process here and here).
Moving forward we’d only use green products like just-as-amazing water based stain and eco sealants that aren’t full of nasty VOCs and odors that hang in the air for months on end (a local place called Eco Logic here in Richmond sells that stuff, which we plan to use when we redo our floors someday).
12. Buying a boob lights (yes, that’s a technical term). Or buying any interim item for that matter. For us it’s usually best just to wait and get something amazing that we love when we can afford it instead of rushing to buy something just to fill space until the real purchase is made later (read more on that here). We bought a boob light for something like $10 to get rid of the old never-used ceiling fan in our first house’s tiny guest bedroom.
The switch instantly made the small space feel ten times bigger, but we later switched El Boob out for a nicer long term fixture (learn how we made it here):
So if we really plan things out we’ve learned that we can save a step or two (and some money, even if it’s only $10) and not introduce boob lights to begin with. Or any other just-for-now-and-we’ll-upgrade-later item.
And so ends our little hope-we-don’t-make-these-mistakes-again-but-will-probably-make-others roundup. Of course all of these “errors” are subjective. You know what they say: “one man’s decorating ooops is another man’s decorating booyah.” Wait they don’t say that? Oh well. These are just a few of the things that came to mind when we looked back and tried to come up with “stuff we don’t wanna do again.” We’re sure there are probably fifty other decorating and renovating whoopsies looming in our future. But I guess I’ll be corny and
say whisper “bring it on.” How else will we learn what we love (and don’t) if not by trial and error? Happy mistake making to one and all!