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Friday, October 23, 2015

Craiglist console table


The desk project inspired us and we've been hard at work revamping the first piece of furniture we bought for the new house: a console table.  Our realtor cautioned us not to buy any new furniture until the papers were signed.  I waited and waited and waited and finally the week of closing bought this teal console table with great curves off Craigslist for $60.

At pickup, the seller let me know that the table only had 1 drawer, an immediate downer.  I was already in love so I bought it anyway.  When I brought it home, my boyfriend went into "super critical mode" and declared that he hated the wooden table top because of the small army of poorly placed screws.  After a small spat, we agreed that the table top and terrible hardware would have to be changed.

Once I decided that the living room color scheme was going to be blue, gray, and white, I realized that the teal (my favorite part of the table) would have to go.  I already had some gray paint that I didn't end up using for another project, so we went with that.  Next we set to work deconstructing the table.  We started with the 7 million screws in the desk top.  I was able to get out most of them with a manual screw driver and a drill.  My boyfriend removed a few remaining ones with some "special" drill techniques.  And for the 2 or 3 that we stripped or that were buried too deep, we were able to rip off the boards despite their presence.  I used a putty knife to pry off the fake drawer fronts.  We then used a jigsaw to cut out the inserts for the new drawers, slightly smaller than the drawer fronts.  We screwed together a few leftover pieces of wood to make small drawers and glued the drawer fronts to them.  Here it is in various stages of deconstruction:

Next we set to work on the new table top.  While I had hoped to salvage the original boards, they were simply destroyed.  So back to Home Depot.  This time I got some nice poplar 5.5 inch wide by 4 feet long 1/2 thick boards ($8 apiece).

The boyfriend and I had some disagreements about what to stain the boards.  I wanted to stain them the same dark walnut as the desk, particularly since I had plenty of stain leftover.  He wanted a lighter look, even considering whitewash, which I know he hates.  We agreed on a weathered gray look.  I did have some concerns about the contrast between the boards and the gray table, so I did a layer of whitewash as well.

I looked at several tutorial on Pinterest before decided on a stain and technique.  This one from AKA Design came the closest to what I was looking for but these other tutorials from Owen's Olivia and Ella Claire had some great suggestions as well.  Ace Hardware only had Miniwax Classic Gray in stock.  I wiped a small amount on the boards with a towel and it was super easy and already looked great.  I wanted a bit more depth as well as contrast, so I did a layer of whitewash as well.  I mixed 1 part white paint and 2 parts water and wiped it on with a towel.  It dried very quickly so I only used a little at a time, as suggested by Owen's Olivia above.  I then sealed it with the same Miniwax Low Gloss Stain wiped on, also used on the desk.  It really makes the surface smooth without too much gloss or change in the color.  Here are some pictures of the process:

                                      Left board - stain only            Right board - stain and whitewash

All three boards with stain and whitewash

We reattached the original tabletop (upside down so that the crown would rise up and out to meet the boards and screwed in the boards from underneath.  The boyfriend had a real problem with any screws showing on our fabulous new desktop, but I felt that a few symmetric screws would be ok.  He won this round though.  I sanded the corners and edges after the boards were attached.  Here are a few close ups.

Finally, the pulls.  I found some decent ones on Amazon for a great price that came with screws of different links.  I might replace them with some patterned blue ones after some searching at Anthropologie.  Any floral ones were immediately vetoed by someone else in the home.  The boyfriend screwed them on while I was at work.  Pretty good for our first furniture buy for the next house.  Voila!


A close up of the pulls

Bob already likes it.  :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

DIY Wooden Desk Top

Hello there.

I think we've gotten to know each other well enough that I can share my first big DIY project with you in the new place.

In our old rental, I had a separate room with a door for my crafts and office stuff.  I would leave the door open when I was working on things from time to time, and the cats would come in, explore, and leave me in peace.

As you will see from these pictures from the original listing, in the new place, the layout is a little  The office is between the bathroom and the front bedroom.  The rest of the house was beautifully decorated by the previous owners, but the office space felt a little too modern for me.
Photography credit: Jaime Gervasi & Associates of Long & Foster Real Estate
Photography credit: Jaime Gervasi & Associates of Long & Foster Real Estate
Photography credit: Jaime Gervasi & Associates of Long & Foster Real Estate

So now that the cats can enter my office space at any time, furniture that is a little more "cat-proof" is needed.  I already got an all seasons cover for the white ottoman. It is ugly but it keeps the cat hair and cat vomit away.

I then started working on a desk.  I really wanted a custom wooden desk top for the space that would stretch across the entire back wall.  Boy, was that expensive.  But they were so pretty - see this one from Etsy.  So I decided to make my own.

Pinterest to the rescue!

I followed directions from Lindsey Stephenson's blog for the wooden desk top and used materials from IKEA as suggested by Bryn Alexandra (love the inspiration picture!).

Quick trip to IKEA for the cabinets and Home Depot for wooden boards for the desktop.  I had HD cut three 10 inch width by 10 feet long boards in half (approximately $15 apiece).  The boards were already sanded and planed.  We decided to make two desktops for the entire space for easier building, transport, and future removal purposes.

Here are the original boards:

They were still a little uneven even though we had them cut at the store.  Instead of having them cut in half, we should have had them cut them to 60 inches.  Anyway, I sanded the boards down.  I only sanded the corners since the boyfriend wisely suggested that I might want the boards to fit together flush and sanding the edges may have caused a slight gap between the boards.
                                                          Before:                     After:

Next, I stained them using Miniwax Dark Walnut stain.  I used a brush but in the future I will definitely wipe the stain on.  I put on too much in places and did not wipe it off in time.  It took forever to dry, especally on the edges.  Lesson learned.  Still looks great though.  I like the variations in color.

I put together the IKEA cabinets and put them into place in the office.

Then I brought up the stained boards.  We bought some additional wood that I tested the stain on and used that to screw the boards together.  I did need a little extra boyfriend elbow grease to hold the boards together as the screws needed to be as tight as possible to stop any movement.  We did a dry fit and then screwed everything into place.

We lined up the "cleats" with the drawers so that the board would not move size to side.  The boards were also flush with the wall so they are pretty stable in that way.  If it's too mobile, I will do as the other blogs suggested and screw the boards to the cabinets.  It's good for right now though.  I also added some Miniwax Low Gloss Finishing Stain.  It didn't change the color or gloss at all, but it made the surface feel smoother and was easy to apply and quick drying.

Here is the finished product!

And the boards up close and personal:

Catproofed! Now all of my office supplies are behind closed doors.  I am still working on styling the desk, the bookcases, and a few other projects in there.  Very excited to share the finished space.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Hi again.

This post could also be titled #FirstWorldProblems or #Mo'HouseMo'Problems.  You have been warned.  Another disclaimer: we are not experts in any way.  We rely on YouTube and our local hardware stores (Ace, Home Depot, and Lowe's) to figure out what we can and cannot safely do.

So when we bought our house, we went to a picnic for my boyfriend's job about a month into new homeownership.  One of his work colleagues, after the usual new homeowner accolades, asked us this wonderful question: "So what have you had to fix?"  This conversation was the inspiration for this post.

1.  The microwave.

We have already been warned about the microwave being sold "as is" by the previous homeowners.  However, during the inspection, the microwave turned on and off and was deemed fine.  A few days into the move, my boyfriend tried to heat up some coffee in it.  Nothing got hot.  The timer and light worked but the heating mechanism did not.  I decided it was not a priority item to fix until a few days later when I tried to eat some leftover Chinese food cold.

The microwave also served as the vent for the oven, which seemed to be working fine.  The warranty had expired a year ago on the old microwave per the manual left by the old homeowners.  We are absolutely not handy people and after pricing out the cost of a new vented microwave with installation (about $400, not including additional parts they try to get you to buy), decided to roll up our sleeves and jump in.

My boyfriend had the excellent idea of buying a microwave that was the same make and model as the currently installed one, in order to be able to use the same brackets already installed for the old microwave.  We found one with the right dimensions for about $260 on Amazon with delivery in 2 days.  The reviews were solid and installation seemed similar to our model.  Bam!

Next we went to work uninstalling the broken microwave.  Which was actually pretty easy, using a YouTube tutorial from  We had it out in a few minutes and no one got hurt.

Then we installed the new microwave.  It actually came with the same exact brackets as the old microwave, so we did not even have to remove our old brackets.  We were able to tie it into the existing ductwork and re-secured everything with some tape leftover from the old microwave.  It works great and we saved some money.  Which we promptly spent on the rest of the list below.

2.  Changing locks.

Everyone says you should change the locks when you buy a new house.  I knew we would be changing the locks when the old homeowners handed us the keys and said they collected several from their neighbors on the block.

I called a few locksmiths and got some astonishingly high price quotes.  I mean, just ridiculous prices.  I had the most reasonable (not cheapest, but not charging me $150 just to come to my house) person come to the house.  I explained to him that I wanted new keys for 3 locks.  He recommended that we not do that, as it is more secure to have different keys for all the doors.  More secure, but more annoying.  He also recommended that we upgrade the locks on our back door and basement door.  We haggled a little on price but I ended up paying about $450.

I then spoke to a colleague of mine whose daughter had just bought a house.  Her husband had gone to Home Depot and bought all new locks and installed them himself.  My boyfriend said we needed a locksmith to get a master key for all the doors, but apparently they also sell multiple locks that work with the same key.  And we didn't get a master key after all.  Womp womp.

3.  Window upgrade.

While we were haggling over price, the locksmith (really nice and patient with me as I hyperventilated over the price) mentioned that our back door window seemed a bit "flimsy" and that we should probably replace it.  He was correct, it was a very thin piece of plexiglass that provided no security whatsoever.  We had used a nearby window and glass company previously to buy a glass table top for our outdoor table from craiglist that we refurbished and they had the exact size we needed a a better price and better thickness than Home Depot and Lowe's could provide.  We ordered it online and it arrived in perfect condition a few days later.  We took out a few screws and out with the old, in with the new.

4.  Security system.

So people, we live in Baltimore.  Our neighborhood is safe, but I truly feel more secure with a system in place.  You also really do not want to be the only people on the street without a security system sign in your house.  Easy target.

We had ADT in a previous rental, because they allowed us to have a clause in the contract to get out when our lease was up.  We really liked their services and everything was very easy.  Unfortunately, we really did not want to be locked into a contract and their installation and monthly fees were just too high.  We found out later that our neighborhood has a deal that would allow free installation, but the fees were still very high.  ADT also continues to cold call me and ask if I want their services for my new home, which is very annoying.

Instead we went with Simplisafe.  No contract and a very low monthly charge.  The installation price for the individual pieces is high, but I like that we can install everything ourselves and take it with us when we leave.  We also got a deal on a refurbished system.  Everything runs on battery, has a 3 year warranty, and a 60 day guarantee.  It took some time to install things, but we couldn't be happier.

Well, technically we could be happier if we didn't need a security system at all.  Oh well.

I hope this post was informative for some of you.  We are in the process of handling a leak in our fridge and some water seepage in the basement and then plan to tackle the items on the list from the inspection next.  Let me know if you have any other "immediate fixes for new homeowners".

Next post coming soon: A DIY Desktop for my new "cat-proof" office area.  Yes, nothing is truly cat-proof, but a girl's gotta dream...