A site about our home, doing it yourself, science in schools, and the ramblings of a girl who appreciates a joy in her life.

Wednesday, March 28

Creating a Gallery Wall

Poor Blank Wall
Design is not my strong suite, so I love to copy other peoples great ideas. I had seen a couple of people create gallery walls in their homes. There were also some examples on Pinterest and Young House Love. The gallery walls spoke of like a cultivated collection of art and I thought it might work in our house. Plus, it meant that we used frames we had, and hopefully it would not be a great big expense.


We have this nice space above one of our IKEA bookshelves on the side of the fireplace that needed some love. The wall originally was the lovely canvas for some stunning 12 inch glass mirrors with gold speckles. Those mirrors really made the house feel like a million bucks, or not. Anyways, we need something that would fill the space without overpowering the nice chocolate color of the fireplace or our hug mirror on the other side. I like the look of black and white photos, and its something I had not seen before, so we decided to go with that instead of color photos. It makes a nice contrast to all the color on the walls and does not compete with it. Instead of picking a specific type of picture, like family, people, places, we went more whatever made a nice photo. Yup we were that picky!
Yup, there are indeed empty frames 
To make the gallery wall, I gathered up all the black and silver frames that we had. I ran out to IKEA and picked up a few more that had different thicknesses. We had some frames from a much smaller collection I had tried to make, but was too small. I liked the matched frame look that most gallery walls have, but instead of trying to make all of the frames exactly the same, I thought it might look a little more me to instead have the same color of photo (black and white) with lots of different frames. 

Schroder helping select picture groupings


The awesome husband hanging up the pictures
I picked black and silver because the room has quite a bit of silver in it already and the black frames make black and white photos look really crisp. I laid the frames out on the table to mess with the placement and relativity to other frames. I put in all the frames we would use, even ones not filled yet. So for the rest of the blog post, please ignore the one picture with the creepy child who is not mine. 


Once I knew where I wanted them to be located, the handsome husband just put them up. We started left to right and just placed them keeping the same configuration and relative distances. I know some people like to hang guidelines up no the wall, but that takes sooooo long and I have nooooooo patience. It worked out just fine anyways. 


I think that the collection looks great. It was a cheap decorating thing that filled up the wall space well. The shape to the whole wall is interesting and makes the wall feel taller. See that's me, looking out for the feelings of the wall. We printed the pictures with a matte finish, so we would not get a shiny look in the light. My only other tip would be to put pictures in them quickly so you don't have to look at creepy photos of people you don't know. 
Close-up of final wall

The wall all hung up

Monday, March 26

Framing Art Cheap

I was really surprised how expensive it was to frame artwork. I guess I thought that it would be similar in price to buying a frame at a store. Yes, I know that’s naive, but it’s my first house and up until now, all the artwork that I had consisted of posters pinned to the wall with push pins. 



So you may have noticed that in our house there is a lot of colour. For example, when we painted our dining room, we choose a really rich dark blue. We were trying to break free of the white that had pervaded our old apartment. However, after painting the room twice! Yes twice!, we needed some colour to break it up. (On a side-note, when we painted the room, it took the entire gallon. After a couple of weeks I noticed that we had a couple of touch ups. I went to Home Depot and bought one of those tester bottles they had after the Home Depot employee told me it would match and was the exact same thing. I went home and touched up all the spots to find out that the tester paint only comes in flat, not the eggshell we had. So now I had four walls that looked speckled with dull spots on the shiny. There was not a good way to fix it, so we re-painted the entire room. ) 


So anyway, after we repainted the room, we wanted to lighten it up some by adding some white. We thought that it might make the room feel a little less blue. Someday, we would like to add white wainscotting around the bottom of the walls. I had wanted to frame some of the pictures that Erik and I had taken in the past. Even though the pictures are not perfect, I think they look great, and we get lots of compliments on them. Honestly, I am not sure what would make a perfect picture. When we started to look at getting the pictures framed we were floored to find that places wanted more that $100 dollars a picture. That seems way to high for us. 


We decided to go the cheap way. We went to Joann's and found these great wide white frames. The frames has some nice understated detailing that complemented the rest of the room. The frames were even on clearance, so with Erik's extra 15% off teacher discount we got each frame for $9. The frames were originally meant for a collage of smaller pictures. We took out the frames and measured the opening. Since the opening was 13 inches square, I went to Costco and printed the pictures on the 12 by 12 scrap-booking page size for $2.99 each. I called around and found a small frame shop down near our house called Framing for You. I took one of the frames down there and asked them to cut a mat for the picture. It was great, she cut the mats out of scrap mat-board and only charged me $5 a mat! I was also impressed by how quick and nice she was. 


I slapped the mats, pictures and frames together and they looked great. So in the end, I had our art work matted and framed for:
$9-Frame
$3-Picture Printed
$5-mat-board
Total: $17 a picture!
It also felt really nice to support the local frame shop, even if it was only in a small way. The pictures look great and for only $34 dollars we have a nice wall of art that does not look too busy or detract from the great blue colour in the room. 

Friday, March 23

Pinterest Fail and Spray Paint Save


So I have found a new love in Pinterest. I had resisted joining for some time as I was worried about getting sucked in by all the great stuff, but when my mom joined and conned me into joining too, I fell in love will all the great ideas. In fact, it’s kind of why I started the blog. One of the great things about Pinterest is you see they really neat DIY projects. I love a project I can do myself, especially on the cheap! Since my house has mostly silver, and nickel finishes, it tends to be the decorating color of choice for me. One of the projects that I saw was this DIY project making brass items into a silver finish. I first saw the project on “Our humbled abowed” here. It looked like something that I could totally tackle.
The project has you take Blue Magic Cream and steel wool, rub it into a brass piece and then you get a nice silver finish at the end. So I gleefully (mind you gleefully) went to Goodwill and the Salvation Army to pick up some brass pieces. I want to grab a couple because when I was online looking at how to the project, some people said that it was hard to do with solids brass pieces and worked much better on pieces only with a brass finish.



I ended up picking three pieces; a brass bowl that had a really lovely shape, a small brass vase with some nice detail work, and a rounded brass bowl with cutouts. They cost $1, $2, and $2 respectively. So I was only into the project $5 so far.

I tried to find the blue magic cream at Napa and O’Reilly auto parts, but since neither store had it I ordered it online from Amazon for $5.63. I also picked up some fine steel wool for $2.33. So now I am into the project $12.96.



I am keeping detailed notes here. You can just tell its going to have a bad ending right? So anyways, I start scrubbing the brass items. I scrub and I scrub until I get a nice black residue just like the instructions say. I wipe off the goop, and all I see is nice shiny smooth brass. I repeat everything, same result. I do it again and get the same result.  I throw a small hissy fit. At this point, the frustration is making the scrubbing a little easier. Rather than give up, I tried to pick out what I did wrong, maybe the wool is too fine. 


So I head to Fred Meyers and pick up a variety pack of wool for $2.50 and try again. I used three different grades of steel wool and the items only got cleaner. At this point, I figure that the items are solid brass; the only problem is that they all feel too light to be solids brass. Also, as I scrubbed the tall vase, I was getting a silver color, but it was so tinted yellow that it was hard to call it silver. I even used our Dremel to buff the cream into the  items. It was a smoother application, but did not make them any more silver.





Finally, after talking to my mom, and remembering some good advice. I went to Home Depot and bought a can of chrome spray paint. I mean anything can be fixed with spray paint right? The can cost me $4 and if I had just skipped to that in the first place I would have saved $14.50.
I spray painted the three items outside. I also spray painted a black candle holder that I already had. I thought the chrome might make it stand out a little better. After I let them all dry, I brought them in and put them out in the living room. I love the bowl. Right now we are using it to hold our head phones that we need when we go running. It keeps them from getting lost. The other items I placed out and about as some nice silver touches against all the blue items that I have.
So here is the lesson that I learned; Spray Paint is king!
Ok, ok, not everything goes as planned, but it was sure fun trying it. Plus I ended up need the steel wool to scrap off the silicone finish from the blue magic cream so I could spray paint my stuff. That was useful! J


Monday, March 19

Special Olympics Basketball 2012

The team ready to go!
We are taking a break from house stuff today and talking about my great family!

So this weekend was the 2012 Basketball Games for Special Olympics in Hillsboro Oregon. I love this time of year, because every year my mom and my sister drive out for her games. It’s great, we have a blast watching the games, and I don’t have to drive six hours to see my family. My twin sister is the shortest one on the team, but she is fast! This year my mom coached a 3 on 3 team. She originally had four girls on the team, but one of the girls got sick and was unable to make it. With three players, we were a little worried that they would be exhausted as they had to play three games in a row without and breaks or relief.  
3 on 3 team and the Individual Skills Athletes and Coaches

Passing the Ball


Making a great shot




The twins ready to rock!

Those girls rocked the court. I have to admit that my sister should have been the MVP for her game. She was all over the court, defending, taking shots, stealing the ball. She was speed lightning. This year the team looked great and did a good job with their plays and defending the ball. They were also on top of stealing the ball back and wearing down the other team. I was so proud!

The twins

Getting ready to accept the silver medal
The team did great and won two games and lost one. They played really hard even though they were exhausted. I was yelling so much my throat was sore. At one point, my husband has to run to the store to grab a knee brace for my sister so she could still play. Nothing was going to stop her. My mom did a really great job this year training them on their plays. You could tell that it was that training that helped them do so well even though they were down a player and really tired.

Hope getting her medal


The team and their medals!

Also, a quick note; I believe strongly that we should stop saying the word Retard. It’s demeaning, disrespectful, and quite honestly just a stupid word. People only say it to say something negative. I believe strongly in the mission of the group, Stop the R-word. If you want more information, go to www.r-word.org. They have lots of great information about how to let people know that the word is hateful. Beside, it the federal government can pass a resolution to take that word of its use, I think that people can to. It’s no longer ok to say racist terms, or sexist words, let’s take the derogatory words about people out too.

Friday, March 16

Chair Repair-Part One

 A couple of days ago (link here), I wrote about our chair situation. We suffered from a lack of seating arrangements and though the use of spray paint and guilt (thanks mom and dad!) we achieved a nice little dining room set-up. It’s been a great dining room, but since we still have the “death” chair, you know the chair that threatens to break every time you sit in it, we were still on the lookout for more chairs. We were not looking for anything in particular, just nice, solid, simple chairs that must at the very least come in a pair. Over the last President’s Day in February, the Salvation Army store had 50% off everything. When we stopped by, we found two great solid oak chairs that were similar to the ones my parents fixed for us. The chairs were priced at $14 each, and with the sale, it made them only $7 each! We quickly decided to purchase the two chairs and figured we would either strip and stain them, or give up and spray paint them.

I did some digging around on the internet, and I think that the chairs were made in the 1920’s. Both chairs have a metal tag on the back for Murphy’s furniture. They also have a Murphy’s furniture stamp on the underside of the chair. The chairs also have nice wood plugs that look hand craved. I don’t know about you, but I get a great feeling from reusing something rather than buying it new. Plus, it was neat for me to think about all the stories that must have happened on those chairs and the history behind them. The chairs are coming up on 100 years old and still are in great shape.  


The chairs were physically in great shape, however cosmetically they looked really rough. It looked like someone had tried to stain them darker, and rather than stripping the old stain applied the stain on top and then tried to dry it with a fan. There were dark drips of stain running down the sides and blobbed on to the seat. This first thing I did was call my parents and ask them what to do. Yup, I admit, I have no shame; I called my parents to tell me what to do. Hey, why not go to the pros, right? Since the chairs are a solid oak, they suggested to first remove the stain as best as I can, sand the snot out of those chairs, and then seal them with a clear coat.

I went to Home Depot and picked up the smallest can of stain remover that I could find. It cost $7. I decided to get the kind that goes on a little thicker. I applied a coat of the remover on the chairs using an old paint brush that I had. I would recommend doing this outside and on cardboard due to the mess and smell. The stain requires a metal or glass container to work from. I just used an old can that we were going to recycle. After letting the stuff sit on the chair for 30 minutes, I scraped each chair with a plastic scrapper. This was a huge mess. I wore gloves but I kept ripping them. I finally just shoved my hand through a plastic bag. It removed the top layer of stain pretty well, but did not remove the original layer very well.

After wiping the chairs down, I got out the belt sander! This is an old belt sander that my parents gave us, and I believe weights 800 pounds. Since the chairs were solid oak, they can stand up to a lot of sanding/abuse. I used a 80 grit belt to strip the chairs. The belt sander was amazing! It took off the stain really well. To get at the smaller spots that sander could not fit into, I used a smaller Ryobi sander fit with first 60 grit, then 80 grit sandpaper.  I then went over the details by hand. It took me about 5 hours of two days of sanding to finish one chair and mostly finish another chair.  It killed my back. Don’t worry I am surviving.
Restoring the chairs is not an easy project, nor is it for the faint of heart. However the project does not require a lot of skill, just a lot of upper body strength. I was unsure if I could do it, but have been pleasantly surprised that its worked. Sometimes I start a project and don’t’ know how it will end up. The good news with the chairs was that if we had trouble removing the stain we were more than willing to spray paint them the same color as the other chairs. It was nice to have a safety net in a sense. Next week, I will share the pictures of the chairs all finished. First I have to go stain them! So here are my following tips on how to sand a chair and do it better than me.
  1.  Place the chair up on a sturdy table so you give some relief to your back.
  2. Not sure that the stain remover helped all that much. Seemed like using the sander worked great and did not use messy toxic chemicals.
  3.  Use a dust mask!
  4.  Place cardboard under you work areas and work outside.
  5. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Wednesday, March 14

Using what you have-Dinning Room Chair Make-over

The cat is asking why can't all dining rooms look this great?
So, dining room chairs are super spendy. I mean, how much can a simple chair cost? Way too much! It's just a simple chair, right? Right? Well, let’s start at the beginning. When we first moved into the house, we had a simple round dining table. It fit four people and looked a little abused, but it worked. However, my husband and I really like to play board games. No, not Monopoly, but games like Settlers of Cattan, Ticket to Ride, and my husband’s favorite-Agricola.

Me playing Ticket to Ride on the Old Table
So, after we moved, one of our first goals was to purchase a great big new table. After much searching, we found this gorgeous simple solid wood table from Ikea in the “As-Is” department. I think its Oak, and we got this great table for $100 dollars down from around $300 I think. It has a nice leaf and is really solid and simple, exactly our style. We looked at matching chairs, but were not impressed with anything that we found. So we started the chair hunt. That’s when I found that chairs are crazy spendy.


http://www.target.com/p/Windsor-Chair-Set-of-2/-/A-10639770


The husband and I really like a simple look, so we mistakenly thought that a simple chair would not be too spendy. One of the first styles that we kinda liked was this really simple Windsor Chair from Target. It’s a common style. However at $68.99 for two, we would have spent $206.97 for chairs that we only use when guest come over. We felt that for that much money we should be getting something that we liked better and looked great.
 


http://www.target.com/p/American-Simplicity-Oslo-Side-Chair-Black-Set-of-2/-/A-10099398
 I really liked the look of these Oslo Side chairs. They looked really stylish, modern yet slightly retro. However at $149.99 for two we would have spent $449.97 on chairs! Wait, what, $450 on chairs? I am way to cheap to spend that much. If I am spending almost $500 dollars I am buying myself a new camera, or a kayak, or a couple night stay at the coast. See, it’s not that I am really cheap, it’s just that my priority on spending money tends more towards great play dates and such. So spending money on the chairs was going to be a problem. 
http://www.buy.com/pr/product.aspx?sku=219163695
  
After we looked around, we took stock of the chairs we already had and came up with some solutions. We already had two of this white and oak Windsor chairs. These chairs were in really bad shape. They needed to be painted and also repaired. (Ok, we were lazy and one of these chairs is still a death trap. When our friends come over, it’s always a game of musical chairs to avoid this chair. It wiggles and wobbles and is just one step from crashing to the floor. We still have it though, because it makes life interesting right?)

Now thats what I call style!
We had two solid Oak chairs that we given to Erik when he was in college from his parents. The chairs were a great style, but not in great shape. My parents like to work with fixing up old furniture; in fact my mom has sold some furniture pieces that she and my dad fixed up. So for Christmas, we asked them to fix the old Oak chairs by doing some minor repair and stripping and restraining them.  They very kindly obliged, and did an amazing job.  The chairs look like brand new and are so sturdy. However, while those chairs were out visiting in my parents to be repaired it only left us with two chairs in the whole house.  This was not a good situation, so my parents gave us two old bar wood bar chairs they had found in the dump in John Day, Oregon. And before you go thinking anything weird, there is no trash service in John Day where they live, so they have to take their trash to the dump. While they were there they saw a couple of these solid wood chairs and rather than let them go to waste, they grabbed them in hopes that they could find a use for them. I was really glad that they did. The chairs were in great shape and did not require any repair just some paint.
Whoops, this chair needs some touch-ups
So, now we are past the back story and onto the actually what she did part. So I took our two old Windsor chairs and the two “new” black bar chairs and primed them with a spray paint primer. I primed two chairs per can of spray primer. They make primer for wood and for dark colors. It looks like this weird red/pink color. After I let them dry overnight, I painted them a dark chocolate brown.  Again, I could spray paint two chairs per can of spray paint. I even painted the undersides. I used the chocolate brown color because in the living room, the fireplace is a chocolate brown, and this helps to tie the two rooms together. I only did one coat, and as you can see in the picture, it could use some touch-ups. When we painted them originally we had guest coming over the next day and needed chairs. You can’t tell in person, but with the camera flash the spots stand out. Guess I will go do those touch-ups when I get home tonight.

 
I added matching chair seats that I got at Ikea for $5 each to make them all feel more like a matched set. Aside, from the one death chair, all the chairs look and work great and only cost us a whopping $36 dollars total ($16 for two cans of spray primer and two cans of spray paint, $20 for four chair seats).


The chairs may not all match, but they still work, and it makes a neat eclectic feel. Besides, it’s hard to beat all these chairs for only $36 dollars. We recently picked up two more oak chairs from the Salvation Army for $7 each. I am in the process of refinishing them and it really makes a new appreciation for my parents refinishing the other chairs. It’s back breaking work; however I really like the idea of reusing something and reducing consumption. (And after I am done hugging the trees, I do a happy dance because it’s cheap!)

Monday, March 12

Quickie Bathroom Remodel


So when we moved into our house, the bathroom was one of the rooms that had been redone the most recently. It looked new in that dark eighties kind of wood. It had a great linoleum with pastel blue accents. There was the large oversized mirror and a wood grained laminate countertop. You can see more before pictures on the “Our House” tab.

This past year we knew that we were going to re-do the bathroom, but in the meantime I got impatient and wanted to update it. I wanted to try out painting cabinets, as we are thinking of painting our kitchen countertops this summer.  I wanted to see how they would hold up to general wear and tear, plus I was hanging out in the paint aisle at Home Depot (everyone does that right?) and saw that there was laminate paint. I thought that how cool was that? I could update my lovely, and I do mean lovely, fake wood counter to something more neutral. Plus the paint for the countertop was only $20, and we already had the white paint and brushes.
 
First we removed all the old hardware. I also used TSP to wipe down/clean the countertop and the cabinets. That actually took a while. It’s not that they were really dirty; everything was just shaped funny and hard to get at. I pulled the drawers out and painted those in the garage. Here is the handsome husband helping me with removing the old doors. Also, checking things out is our cat Schroder, who wants to make sure that the bathroom will still be his domain when its all done.





  I used a small roller to roll the primer onto the countertop. I also used the same small roller to roll the laminate paint on. I did two really thin coats on the countertop, and two thick coats on the cabinets (hey, I did not want to be there all month!). I let each coat dry for 24 hours, which is a lot harder to do than you think when your house only has one! bathroom.
Since we were just going to pull everything out of the bathroom in a few months, I just tapped off the sink and the trim. It actually worked great. I know shocker right? I was surprised too. I just picked a grey blue color for the countertop as it mostly went with the tile already in the bathroom.
 

I went to Lowes and bought the cheapest door pulls that I could find. All told they only set me back about $15 dollars. When we renovated the bathroom, I kept the new knobs. I need to think up a fun project to do with them.

I still had most of the quart left after painting the countertop, so a little goes along way. The project only set us back about $50 if you count the cost of the rollers (hey those are expensive!). It was a fun way to immediate change and update the bathroom without any serious remodeling.  Plus, it only took about a week. 

Here are pictures of the bathroom after the painting was done. It actually looked way better. It also looked quite a bit larger.

  



Now, here is the honest truth though, I hated the painted countertops! That laminate paint did not work! Anytime the cat jumped on top of the counters, he scratched it. Fingernail polish remover just wiped it away. Husband placing items on the top of the counter-scratched it. Maybe I did something wrong and it needed more layers, but that counter did not hold up under pressure. It was totally fine though, because we only had it for 6 months.


 
Just in case you lost hope over that laminate paint, here is a sneak peak at our new bathroom! New countertop, new vanity, new everything. We literally ripped that bathroom down to the studs and put it back together in three days. However that information will just have to go into another post. For right now, I need to get started working on my thesis. My master’s degree is calling me and letting me know that it needs to be finished soon!