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Instagram Christmas Ornament Party

Posted by on December 2nd, 2013

It’s that time of the year again around here.  Lisa is digging through our Christmas decor bins and dressing up the house.  While holiday decor isn’t really my thing, I do enjoy laughing at some of our older ornaments as we pull them out of the bins.  It’s a fun tradition.

Since we could use a break from the whole cabinet construction thing, we’re going to do something fun this holiday season.  We’re kicking off an Instagram Christmas Ornament Hashtag Party.  Here’s the theme: Weird or Funny Christmas Ornaments.

I’ll start..


If you’re not sure what that is, there’s nothing wrong with you.  I promise.  It’s Captain Kathryn Janeway from the TV series Star Trek Voyager.  My folks bought it for me back in Christmas of 1998.  Why I’ve kept it this long is the real question here.

So here’s how this Instagram party will work.  Take an instagram photo (or Twitter) of the weirdest, oddest or funniest Christmas ornament you own.  Use the hashtag #WeirdestOrnament2013 or #FunniestOrnament2013 when you post it.  You can also post it on our Facebook wall.

In a week or so, I’ll share the photos in a post.  Let’s keep it lighthearted and safe for work, if you know what I mean.  Okay?  Cool, have fun.

Posted in Blogging,Holiday,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Lighting Ideas

Posted by on July 8th, 2013

Hope everyone had an outstanding holiday weekend. We spent the last few days hanging out with family and hit up the shore for a little while. Other than some sunburn, we couldn’t have asked for a better time.

Since we finished the built-in in our sitting room a few months ago, we’ve been spending a lot of our down-time there as we intended. The space is cozy and ideal for relaxing at the end of the day. The only problem is the lack of lighting. There is plenty of natural light when it’s early, but we often find ourselves sitting in the dark once the sun goes down. We’re looking to buy a simple room light or two that will let us read or do computer work without straining our eyes. I’d prefer something under powered that adds some soft light without flooding the room like search lights at Alcatraz.

ektorp couch

We recently did a quick online survey of a few retailers and came up with a list of potential options.  Here’s some lighting ideas we like…

Wall lights:

clapton swing-arm sconce

1. The Clapton Swing-Arm from Pottery Barn.  $130 each or 2 for $240.  We love the idea of mounting a couple wall lights above the couch.  We haven’t remounted  our reclaimed wood frame, but when we do, these would look pretty snazzy next to it.  Pro:  It’s not a hard-wired light, meaning I can just mount the light and plug it in.  Con:  It’s $130 each.  Yowza.  Probably going to pass on that price.

simplicity wall swing arm

2. The Simplicity Swing Arm Wall Lamp from Target.  Retails for about $80 each.  Lower priced alternative to the Pottery Barn model with the same effective design.  Pros:  The cost is tolerable, although not ideal. The metal work is nice.  Cons:  The shade looks like something out of a mid-80′s Whitney Houston video.  We’d need to replace it.  It’s also a hard wired model, which means permits and inspections, etc.

alang wall lamp

3. The Alang Wall Lamp from Ikea.  Retails for only $20 each.  A similar overall design to the first two options with a fixed neck.  Pros: It’s extremely inexpensive.  It doesn’t require any wiring and it’s Ikea, so it probably matches our Ikea couch (matching stuff isn’t my department).  Cons:  Lisa isn’t crazy about the shade, but I don’t mind it.  We could always replace it.  More of a 5-10 year solution and not a long term option.

Floor Lamps

We’re also considering floor lamps.  They’re dead simple.  No leveling or molly bolts since they don’t need to get mounted.  The only problem is a certain energetic 2 yo may decide she wants to knock it over.

sutter floor lamp

4. Sutter Adjustable Lever Floor Lamp from Pottery Barn. Retails for $180.  Pros: Not a terrible price.  Classic look.  Simple design.  I like.  Cons:  Possibly too dark for the space.

arstid floor lamp ikea

5. Arstid Floor Lamp from Ikea.  Retails for $40.  Pros:  It’s a very basic design with a low price tag.  Cons:  It lacks personality.

barometer floor lamp ikea

6. Barometer Floor Lamp from Ikea. Retails for $40.  Pros:  More interesting than the Arstid and great price.  Cons:  The light has an arm that overhangs on one side.  That overhang probably will limit the light to one side of the couch only.  Bummer.

julian apothecary lamp ballard

7. Julian Apothecary Lamp from Ballard Designs.  Retails for $100.  This is my favorite floor lamp.  Pros:  It has a sophisticated look (or at least it’s staged that way) with an adjustable neck.  $100 isn’t bad for high quality.  Cons:  Will require shipping since I don’t live within 500 miles of a store.  Will need to talk Lisa into spending $100 for a lamp that I’ll use to stay up late reading.

So what’s your take?  Like any of these options?  Which would you buy?

Posted in Home Decor. Tagged in ,,

Doll House Repair

Posted by on May 29th, 2013

A few months ago, Lisa picked up a shelf shaped like a doll house from Home Goods.  She thought it would look great in our daughter’s toddler bedroom.  It was slightly damaged so she managed to swing a decent discount on it.  Luckily, the damage wasn’t too severe.

doll house shelves

The base is MDF and it looks like a couple corners had been busted up.

doll house repair

doll house repair (2)

So, how to fix it… I thought the easiest way to repair this type of damage was just to cover it with a thin piece of wood.  We popped into Michaels a little while back and grabbed some thin pieces of Birch wood.  The wood was probably only about 1/8″ thick.  After ripping it down to roughly the same width as the bottom block, I cut it to length and gave it some miters on the chop saw and attached it with some wood glue and brad nails.  It was just easier to wrap the whole bottom section with the good wood than to just cover the busted sections.

doll house fix

We used some pink craft paint to color the bare wood and we were done.  Quick project.  Sat around much longer than it should have.

I anchored the shelf to the wall so she won’t be able to knock it over.  To do that I just used  a couple of 1/2″ thick pieces of plywood and screwed them into a stud on the wall and then screwed the shelf into the plywood.  The plywood is the same thickness as the baseboards, so I’m able to butt up the shelf right to the wall.  You can barely see the shims from one of the sides.

doll house shim

Our daughter has been keeping some stuffed animals and books in there.  She seems to like it.

doll house installed

doll house shelf

One day I’m sure we’ll either buy her or make her an actual doll house, but for now, this little shelf is pretty sweet.

Any repairs on your end?

Posted in Carpentry,Home Decor,Repairs. Tagged in ,, ,

Hang Mod Podge Letters the Easy Way

Posted by on May 14th, 2013

With my spring grad class finally over, I get a lot more free time back.  It’s awesome.  As much as I love learning, I also love… not learning.  Lisa has a long laundry list of things for me to do around here, which mostly consists of finishing projects I either already started or promised to start.  yay.  Today we’re going to show you one of those quick projects we already managed to finish.  Here’s how to hang mod podge letters the easy way.

We started out with white letters that hung above our first daughter’s crib in the nursery.  When we moved her into her new toddler bedroom, we wanted to move the letters with her, but decided to dress them up a bit.  Lisa traced them onto some scrap book paper from Michael’s.  We used a different pattern for each letter.  I think it’s the same paper as the birthday pennants she made some time ago.

mod podge letter

With the patterns traced and cut out, she applied a liberal amount of mod podge to the face of the wooden letter and the back of the pattern paper.  Then they get pressed together until dry.

wooden letter with mod podge

mod podge on paper letter

Now for leveling and mounting them… When we had these letters over the crib in the nursery, we used screws and the holes in the back of the letters.  It wasn’t hard to install, but it was a giant pain to get them all level, since the screws holes in the letters were all in different spots.  Plus, these letters didn’t come with a template or anything.  Not fun.

command strips

This time around, we skipped the screws and just used double sided command strips.   How about leveling them?  That part was easy too.  We took the sticker off the command strip and just rested them on a level.  Once we got the spacing right, we firmly pushed the letters onto the wall.  They’re not going anywhere.

letters on level

So much easier this time.  Those command strips are pretty sweet and this isn’t even a sponsored post or anything.

Have you found easier ways to do things the second time around?

Posted in DIY Projects,Home Decor. Tagged in ,

How to Make a Built-In Cabinet

Posted by on April 28th, 2013

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Monday is my first day back to work after two wonderful weeks home with my amazing wife and two beautiful daughters.  Fastest two weeks of my life.  It’s amazing how a little time away from the hustle and bustle puts your life into perspective.  Helps to prioritize what’s important.

Today is also the day we’re sharing the reveal of our completed built-in project.  Last time we discussed this work, we shared the installation procedure and the door pulls.  During my paternity break, Lisa and I managed to finish the trim work, paint and fill it with toys and books.

built-in cabinet

Let’s do a quick recap..

How to Make a Built-in Cabinet

We started with a couple overview drawings after brainstorming on some ideas we pinned. After some thinking, we ended up shaving the width down to 48″ from 60″ to make it fit into the space a little better.

built-in front view

From the whole assembly drawing, we drew out the plans for the face frames and then built those using pocket screws.

pocket screws

With the face frames built, we filmed a video on how to make shaker style inset doors for a unique custom look.  Installing the finished doors to the frame was the trickiest part of the whole process for me.  Not impossible, just annoying!

After the doors were done, we moved onto the plywood box portion of the work.  We used 3/4″ Birch because it’s great for paint grade projects and 3/4″ gives us a strong, sturdy cabinet.  To make the plywood cutting process easier on ourselves, we drew up cut sheets.

cut sheets

The cabinet boxes were assembled with dados and grooves made on my table saw.  I prefer grooves over pocket screws for the box portion of cabinet work due to the strength of the joint, plus the grooves help keep everything aligned.

grooves and dados

The cabinets were assembled with some wood glue and then clamped to the face frames.  I also used a biscuit jointer to keep the fasteners completely hidden (optional).

cabinet clamped

At this point in the process, both the top and bottom cabinets were essentially done.  I just needed to add a plywood countertop and throw in some shelves.


After some sanding, priming and paint, it was time to install the cabinets to the wall with the help of a neighbor and add the door hardware.  The cabinets were painted with the same semi-gloss latex as the trim work in the rest of our home.

built-in installed

The very last thing we did was tie the cabinet to the wall with baseboard and crown molding.  The molding helps to transform the look of the cabinets to something more custom and built-in.  It helps if you caulk the seam where the cabinet meets the wall as well.  We’ll be bringing you a how-to on trimming out cabinets later this week.  We just decided to jump the gun and bring you to the finish line a bit early.

Here’s what it looks like now…


crown molding on built-in

built-in front view

built-in molding 2

inside the built-in

The built-in is in our sitting room and it looks like we’re going to be using it for kids books and some other… stuff.

What tools do you need?  You absolutely DO need the following:

1. Miter or chop saw
2. Table saw
3. Drill
4. Pocket hole kit
5. Work table and space to build it
6. Cabinet sized clamps
7. Preferably a brad nail gun
8. Circular saw
9. Straight edge or level

How much will this project cost?

Here’s what I spent on lumber and hardware (approx):
1. Doors: $32
2. Plywood: $152
3. Frame: $30
4. Shelves: $15
5. Primer: $12
6. Hardware: $20
Total: $261

I already owned the hinges and the paint and I may have left off a purchase or two accidentally, but you get the idea.  Definitely under $300.

How much would it cost to buy instead of building?

Good question.  This cabinet set from Pottery Barn is somewhat comparable.  It’s almost 2 feet shorter though.  Costs about $1800 not including shipping.  Yikes.

pottery barn Logan cabinet

(via Pottery Barn)

So hopefully, after reading this series, you have an understanding of what it takes to make a custom built-in yourself… from scratch (pun intended).  Don’t be afraid to build something from a drawing you make yourself.  Yes, I’m planning on uploading the plans for this project this summer and all the projects I’ve done so far, but you don’t need those.

It does take some experience and a modest amount of carpentry skills to pull off, but at the end of the day, a built-in is just a couple of cabinet boxes.  You can build a box.

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Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,