Home Decor

New Video: How to Install Shadow Box Trim

Posted by John on August 28th, 2015

In today’s post, you’ll learn
– How to Install Shadow Box Trim

It’s been a while since we’ve finished any home improvement projects and although, this latest one is pretty quick and simple, it feels great to wrap up another project nonetheless.  Lisa and I had been planning on adding some sort of decor or charm to our front entry for some time now and we settled on shadow box trim since it looks great and won’t break the bank.  Between paint and trim (both chair rail and base cap molding), we probably spend around $150.

shadow box trim pinterest

To make this tutorial even easier, I put together a video for you to help demonstrate the process.  Check it out:

(Click here if you don’t see the video to be redirected to YouTube)

Here’s what tools you’ll need for this shadow box molding project:

– Base Cap Molding
Miter Saw
– Tape Measure
Brad Nailer
– Adhesive Caulk
– Nail Sets
– Painter’s Caulk
– Wood Filler

I wrote a how-to post for eHow.com, which explains this whole process in written form along with an explanation for the angle cuts on the stairs.  You can read that post here.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when you are thinking about installing shadow box trim.  For starters, when you are trying to plan the layout and figure out how many boxes and how big each one should be, smaller walls should only get one box.  Longer walls can get more than one, but try to get an odd number as odd numbers tend to look better, although we weren’t able to squeeze in odd numbers on our walls.

You’re also going to need some sort of top cap like a chair rail molding before you install the shadow box trim.  Luckily, we have a post and a video on how to install chair rail, which you can check out first.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment on this post OR on the YouTube video.

If you think my shadow box trim looks good, do me a favor and share this post.


This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

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

Instagram Christmas Ornament Party

Posted by John 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 John 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 John 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 John 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 John on April 28th, 2013

***UPDATE: The plans to this built-in cabinet are now available for free to our newsletter subscribers.  If you are interested in subscribing to our free newsletter to get access to these plans, just sign up using the form in this post.***

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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 ,, ,

How to Hang and Level Odd Shaped Decor

Posted by John on April 21st, 2013

It’s nice to be back in the swing of things.  Lisa and I are adjusting nicely to life with two kids.  So far so good.  The real challenge will be when they both can walk or climb.  That will be an adventure.. an exhausting adventure.  This weekend we started catching up on some projects that got shifted to the back burner when we started making preparations for baby #2.  One of those projects is a large wooden key Lisa bought at Hobby Lobby.  It’s an odd shape and doesn’t have any straight edges for a level to rest on.  Plus, it needed some modifications to mount.  Here’s how to hang and level odd shaped decor…

hang and level odd shaped decor

wooden key

This key came with a small bracket on one end.  I guess it was designed to be hung vertically.  That’d be cool, but we thought it would look better if we hung it horizontally.

large wooden key

To modify the key to hang horizontally, I needed to add two additional brackets.  I couldn’t find the exact same one that was already one there, so I just bought something similar from Lowes.  I started by drawing a center line down the back of the key using a straight edge.  The center line will help me align the two brackets to each other and will serve as the line which the piece will be leveled to.  I then traced the outline of the bracket and the screw holes.

brackets on decor

Since the bracket needs space for a fastener, I needed to drill out the space where the center hole is located.  I also pre-drilled the holes for the two screws that keep the bracket onto the key.  Then I just repeat those steps for the bracket on the other end.

key hole bracket

To mount the key onto the wall so it’s level, I transferred the locations of the brackets to the actual level using a pencil.  I also marked the center point of the level.

leveling decor

With the level marked up, I place it against the wall and line up the center mark of the wall with the center mark of the level.  Now all you have to do is transfer the lines on the level to the wall to indicate where the brackets will be located.  Don’t forget to level the actual level first (awkward sentence ay?).  The wall marks for the bracket locations should be a plus sign and not just a horizontal or vertical line.

Now I just use my favorite drywall anchors and mount the key onto the wall.  The key doesn’t have a straight surface on it, so I can’t really check to see if it’s level once it’s on the wall.  However, the marks we made were level, so that’s good enough for me.

decor on wall

key decor

Cool piece.  We really like it.  Lisa bought it on sale too, which makes me like it all the more.  So, what to take away from this post?  Using a level to transfer marks from art work or decor to the wall.  It’s a guaranteed way to get it level every time regardless of the shape.

Anyone else adding any new decor?

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

Coming Soon: A Custom TV Stand

Posted by John on April 10th, 2013

Sorry if it seems like we’ve been blog slacking lately.  Things are busy with baby #2 almost here.  I suspect a media blackout for a few days is forthcoming.  I’m hoping to sneak an instagram pic or two of our newborn so stay tuned.  No promises though.  If you haven’t noticed, Lisa and I are sticklers about keeping our kids off of the internet so we won’t be posting about the delivery or anything.  Sorry.

The rest of the week I’m going to be wrapping up the trim on the built-in cabinets to make it look more “built-in” and less free-standing “cabinet.”  I’m planning a thorough How-to on adding crown molding to cabinetry, similar to what YHL just did with some variations in the process.  Since this is a slow week around here otherwise, I thought I’d reveal our next build project.  We’re going to be building a custom TV stand to match our built-in.

flat screen tv hiding power

I’ve been browsing Pinterest for a few ideas in terms of layout and came across a couple ideas.

tv standI like the look of the baseboard molding wrapping around the bottom, but to keep it similar to the built-in I’d skip the round cut outs.  We’re not sure if we’re going to have the electronics exposed or not.  We only have a Playstation in the sitting room, so it’s not like we need a ton of open shelving or anything.

white tv stand

We’re planning on keeping some DVDs for our daughter (and some first person shooter games for me) in there.

Just like with the built-in project, we’re going cover the entire build from start to finish.  This time however, I’m adding a twist.  I’m going to try to build the stand out of what material I have left over from the built-in.  Specifically, I have a good amount of plywood leftover and I don’t want to buy anymore.  I’ll need more poplar, but that’s not a big deal.  Plus it’s relatively cheap compared to the plywood.

So that’s what’s coming to a blog near you.  It won’t be as exciting as the Star Trek sequel, but I hope we’ll all get something out of it.

Any exciting projects on your horizon?  What summer movies are you looking forward to the most?  I’m looking forward to Star Trek 2, Superman and Iron Man 3.  No rom-coms. 


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

How to Install a Built-In Cabinet

Posted by John on April 7th, 2013

Hey everybody!  Hope you all had a great weekend.  We’ve made some major progress on our built-in project which, if you follow us on Instagram, you may have already gotten a peek of it.  We still have a little bit of finishing work to do yet, but we expect to wrap that up by the end of the week.  So let’s get right to it.

Here’s how to install a built-in cabinet.

We started with the wall where the cabinet was going to be located.  I had my neighbor, Mike, give me a hand with installing it since Lisa is out of commission at the moment.  Being 39+ weeks pregnant will do that.

built-in wall 1

I marked the center width of the wall, the stud locations and drew some vertical and horizontal lines to index the location of the outlet.

arking the wall

To get the bottom cabinet to butt up against the wall, we removed the baseboard molding with a box cutter and a pry bar and transferred the outlet marks to the back of the cabinet.

marking the cabinet

To cut the hole for the outlet, I used a small drill bit to drill a hole in each corner from the back and then used a larger one from the front.  Large drill bits tend to burst whatever they go through, so by drilling from the front first any bursting will be on the back.

Then it’s just a matter of centering the bottom cabinet onto the wall and using some long drywall screws with finish washers.  The finish washers keep the screws from digging into the wood.

base cabinet installed

finish washers

The top cabinet sits on the bottom and gets secured to the wall with a few screws as well.  I waited until this point to install the doors.

bottom cabinet close up

built-in cabinet

built-in shelves

side profile

built-in installed

We still have to wrap the bottom cabinet in baseboard molding and the top in crown.  I’ll probably throw in some door pulls  too.

Lisa is pretty happy with it and has already started adding some stuff to the shelves.

Wrapping up any projects on your end?

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

Built-in Shelves

Posted by John on March 27th, 2013

Well we’re pretty much done the major carpentry portion of the built-in project.  Last time we posted about it we added the counter top and trimmed it with poplar to hide the exposed plywood edge.  Today we’re going to talk about the built-in shelves.

Here’s what the built-in looks like with the top cabinet added.  It’s just resting on the bottom cabinet. Once we install it in the sitting room, we’ll secure it to the wall and the bottom cabinet permanently.  We didn’t show the top cabinet build in any posts since it was less complicated than the bottom cabinet build, which we did show.  It’s just a face frame attached to a plywood box with two sides, a top and a back.

built-in no shelves

I actually thought this piece looked pretty weird without any shelves.  The shelves definitely balance it out.  To add the shelves, I started with a shelf pin jig I bought a while back that’s made by Rockler.  It’s a clear piece of plastic with a series of holes in it and it comes with a special drill bit.

rockler pinner

To make shelf pin holes, you just hold the jig up to the plywood and drill into the holes.  The drill bit is designed to prevent you from drilling all the way through the plywood and making a mess of things.

shelf holes

You can add shelf pin holes the entire length up the cabinet or you can take it easy and just add a few.  I opted to just add a couple on the bottom, middle and top of the cabinet.  I also repeated these holes on the opposite side of the cabinet.  With the holes drilled, I slip in a 1/4″ shelf pin that I bought from Amazon.

shelf pin

These particular shelf pins are nickel in appearance and have a little hole in them to secure them to the shelf with a screw.  You don’t need to screw them to the shelf, but with a couple kids running around here soon, I don’t want the pins to slip or fall out and end up in somebody’s mouth.

shelf pins

With the shelf pins in place, I cut the shelves from the plywood I had leftover from when I built the cabinets.  They were sized just to fit into the opening of the top cabinet.  I left some space in front of the shelf too for another piece of poplar to hide the plywood edge.  Here’s what the cabinet looked like with the plywood shelves and no poplar.

built-in front view

Here’s what it looks like with the poplar attached to the front of each shelf.


Looks better right?  The poplar does a few things: it hides the plywood edge, it gives the shelf a beefier appearance since it’s 1 1/2″ wide and it adds some structural strength that will prevent the shelf from sagging over time (kinda like an I-beam).

Here’s what the shelves look like up close.  To attach the poplar to the plywood, I just used glue and biscuits, but you could use nails.

shelf with front

I also added some magnetic door catches I bought on Amazon to keep the doors closed.  They’re specifically designed for inset door applications and they work great.

inset door stop

So here’s what’s left to do:

1. Sand and paint
2. Install the cabinets to the wall
3. Add the crown molding
4. Fill with books and other stuff

This has been a fun project and loads faster than a few of the other carpentry projects we’ve tried (wainscoting, drawers)

Anyone want to help me paint this?  I hate painting. 

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

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